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'Trumpets and Daggers' mesmerize with texture
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
'Trumpets and Daggers' is what I call one of the more unusual plant combinations we’ve created at Mississippi State University’s Truck Crops Experiment Station. It is always on striking display this time of year.
As you might guess, the trumpet is the angel’s trumpet, or brugmansia. The flowers are spectacular, reaching 12 to 18 inches in length and hanging downward. These angel’s trumpets are yellow-gold and fit the tropical and exotic style garden. They have been a faithful perennial for years without getting much attention from us.
Brugmansias come from Ecuador, but they couldn’t look more at home in zones 7-10. If you are like me, you’ll find it hard to believe these plants are actually related to tomatoes and peppers.
Remember I called our combination “Trumpets and Daggers.” The dagger in this relationship is from Garland Gold, also sold as Gold Garland yucca. The creamy yellow-gold foliage is variegated and sword-like, and it grows underneath the trumpets, giving the appearance of holding them at bay. The greens and yellows of both plants create a harmonious marriage, yet this combination thrills with the incredible difference of textures.
Gold Garland is a variety of Yucca filamentosa, and you may think you don’t want a desert plant in your landscape. This yucca species, commonly called Adam’s Needle, is native to 29 states. I didn’t believe it, so I looked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site and sure enough, the Yucca filamentosa is native from Texas to Michigan, and from New York and down the East Coast to Florida.
It is an extremely drought-tolerant plant that requires good drainage. In our display gardens, we have them planted on raised beds and used in a variety of nontraditional ways. Besides angel’s trumpets, they have been partnered with bananas and perennial daisies. A gardener in Belzoni really pushed the comfort zone and had red spider lilies (Lycoris) coming up through the needle-like foliage of her Gold Garland yucca.
Anyone who has made a trip to California comes back wanting to grow New Zealand flax or Phormium because the plant’s long, dagger-like leaves make such a bold statement. Unfortunately, this plant doesn’t really do well in the rest of the country, but we can achieve a very similar look using yuccas.
There are green, green and gold, and also great blue selections that allow even more creativity in combinations and mixed planters.
I’ve only talked about the foliage of the Gold Garland yuccas, but each spring to early summer, several of ours have incredible blooms borne on 6-foot-tall bloom stalks. As is typical of the agave family, it dies after blooming, but new pups (lateral shoots) form around the edges of the dying plant.
You can recreate our Trumpets and Daggers in your own garden, or better yet, come up with your own dazzling combination and then send me a photo. You’ll be amazed at the versatility of the native yucca and the named selections.