When we built our bed and breakfast in Albuquerque we did it right here in the home we had owned since 1985 and also in the house next door that we acquired in 1992. Our good neighbors, Michael and Julia, had been living there for several years as renters and when their landlord died the house was to be sold. We had been looking for income property, and we loved M & J so we made an offer and the house never even went on the market. That is how we got our fantastic yucca plant.
Michael took to gardening like a duck takes to a pond, and he had a very green thumb. He scavenged plants from everywhere. He had planted a yucca against the back of the house, along with many other ominous and very tenacious native plants, like the Sacred Datura, the Prickly Pear Cactus, and the native bamboo that is actually a member of the cane family and grows wild along the irrigation ditches in the valley here in Albuquerque. My poor husband, Rol, had to deal with Michael’s plants before he began excavation to build on to that house to create Adobe Nido’s two back guest rooms and patio.
To the Prickly Pear we bid adieu and it went to the dump. I am sure it survives there now. The bamboo has shallow roots and the grove was dug up, replanted and corralled with 18″ of corrugated tin set below ground level at the south end of the property. It won’t wander that way, as it is prone to do. The Sacred Datura, (D. wrightii, aka Jimson Weed) was a REAL presence to be reckoned with. Rol dug until he could dig no more, because 40 feet from where the plant rested above ground, the roots were still as thick as his arm below ground so he just gave up. It resurfaced in several places and is still a spectacle in the late summer after dusk when it blooms.
The beautiful yucca was moved out to the front easement at the north end, where it also thrives to this day. This year it produced three large flower clusters atop its spike.
The yucca is a New Mexico native and was adopted as our official state flower in March 1927. It is resilient and can grow in the poorest of soil in the worst conditions. As a member of the Agave Family of plants, it is related to the plant that yields tequila. The southwest’s native peoples have many uses for the Yucca, such as making soap from it’s roots, using the fibers from the leaves for fabric, rope and paint brushes. Some of the most incredibly intricate pottery graphics are created by the Acoma Pueblo people using Yucca brushes. I have watched them do it. You can too, by visiting Acoma, Sky City.
While there are over 49 species and 24 sub species of yucca – ours is the very common Yucca elate – the soaptree yucca. I think it is common because it is soooo carefree. It starts out as a bush low on the ground and matures into a tree sized plant that reaches for the sky leaving all preceding year’s leaf growth lying flat and dry against its trunk to insulate against heat and cold. The newer growth reaches out and upward to possibly produce many spikes and flowers. The flower stalk resembles a giant prehistoric looking asparagus before the flowers form, and grows out of the center of the spiny plume of pointy leaves. They ARE a “Kodak moment” in all stages of growth. Come see ours!
Note: I have published a video of the Sacred Datura blooming in the evening on YouTube. It is about five minutes long, but well worth the time to hang in and see their very special night visitors – the Hummingbird Moths – and it is set to a tune by Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton, “The Calling” from Supernatural – a very pleasant way to spend a few moments of you busy day! You can read a bit more about this flower and it’s moth in a previous post from May 09.
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Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!