Editor's note: This is the first of two parts on stories on landscape designers' favorite - and underused - plants. This week: pointy plants. Next week: Soft plants.
Getting tired of the same old, same old in your yard? We asked local landscape designers what kinds of plants they'd like to see grace Tucson landscapes more often.
They offer up a bunch that have one thing in common: spikiness.
We're not talking blood-drawing types of plants. At least not all of them are that way.
More pointedly, the experts suggest plants that provide a sharp look that contrasts with leafy bushes and trees.
Take Euphorbia rigida, for instance. Known as gopher plant, this low evergreen perennial sports arms of pointed gray or blue-green leaves and chartreuse blooms.
It is "not the boring tiny-leafed shrub look that takes over Tucson," says Kathryn Prideaux, owner of Prideaux Design.
Pointy plants add an architectural and textural form to the landscape, says Jason Isenberg, owner of Realm. "They can be almost like statuary in a space," he says.
Many pointy plants don't show up in Tucson landscapes much partly because of the cost, Prideaux says. As specimen, or showcase, plants, they can start between $25 and $50.
However, because they generally are desert-adapted plants, they require little water and infrequent fertilizing, Isenberg says.
Some also require a bit of planning. They may be cold-sensitive and need placement in warmer parts of the yard. Some also grow large, so you'll need to make sure they're in spaces that accommodate their mature sizes.
The payoff for the cost and attention is "year-round interest and year-round color," Isenberg says.
Says Prideaux: "One really beautiful plant sitting next to a boulder can have far more impact than five or six common shrubs."
Here are other suggestions by Prideaux; Isenberg; Diana Turner of Turner Design; and Lee Mason, director of general services for Tohono Chul Park:
• Agave parryi truncata (artichoke agave). This rosette really looks like a giant artichoke with black spine tips.
• Nolina. Four native species have long, narrow leaves that grow out of its trunk like hair. Like a yucca, it sprouts a bloom stalk. "It is just a good all-around specimen plant," Mason says.
• Agave deserti (desert agave). Turner says the 3-foot native blends well in a garden with penstemon, fairy duster and chuparosa.
• Acacia cultriformis (knife leaf or knife blade acacia). Triangular leaves on this shrub or small tree just look sharp, but they really aren't, Isenberg says. It blooms yellow puffballs.
• Agave oatifolia (whale tongue agave). Serrated-edged leaves form a rosette with a blue tint.
• Calibanus hookeri. It looks like long, wide blades of grass growing out of trunks, but it's a succulent.
Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at firstname.lastname@example.org