The root of 3

Three plants that look good together: Agave americana Lotus maculatus Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'

The Mexican Agave americana is an architectural plant with few equals, its bold, spiky shape drawing the eye in most settings. It is an excellent choice for a pot on a sun-drenched patio and creating striking combinations with other plants is child's play.

A desert succulent, it is well adapted to periods of drought, so there will be no need to get the neighbours round to water every time you go away. The thick, fleshy, broad, sword-shaped leaves (the source of rope fibre and tequila) are bluish-green and covered in a feint bloom, as though they have been lime washed. They are arranged in a rosette and can reach 6ft in length in the wild, snaking skywards like fossilised cobras ready to strike. Here they usually reach half that height. Whatever their size, they are tipped and edged by vicious, skin-tearing spines. You have been warned.

Owning an Agave has other drawbacks. In most areas of the British Isles they will not survive the winter outside. They can deal with a certain amount of cold, but the combination of low winter temperatures and high rainfall is a lethal mixture. To ensure their survival, put them in a greenhouse, porch or garden shed and always plant them in gritty, free- draining compost.

Agaves are usually given a pot to themselves, and they look splendid in their isolation, but they also look good if you grow other plants that are finer and softer in texture in among their broad leaves.

Parrots' beak, Lotus maculatus, an evergreen, shrubby trailer from the Canary Islands, makes a good contrast. Its leaves are a similar colour to the Agave but utterly different in shape - clumps of short needles on trailing branches that will encircle the Agave and spill over the pot. In summer, they produce strange, exotic, fiery, golden-amber flowers an inch long and the shape of a lobster's claw. In our climate, treat them as annuals and renewed each season.

The final and most familiar plant to British gardeners is the evergreen, perennial wallflower, Erysimum "Bowles Mauve".

This will need a pot of its own and will make a mound a couple of feet high. It usually needs replacing every couple of years as, quite literally, it flowers, itself to death. Its small, cross-shaped, mauve blooms clustered on tall spikes and produced relentlessly are the reason for its inclusion here. Their colour adds intensity to the Agave's blue leaves and in turn seems to be deepened by the association.

John the Gardener

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

    £12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders