Agaves are evergreen succulents that thrive in low-rainfall areas. The leaves end in spines and most have toothed-edges to combat thirsty animals.
Everyone knows century plants, evergreen beauties that reputedly live 100 years, then send soaring flower stalks into the sky and die. Actually, the plants bloom as early as ten years but the spike is wonderful and subsequent demise true. This bloom and death habit carries across the family, with the length of life varying according to the species.
Agaves grow in many shapes and sizes, ranging from Central America through the American Southwest. Some even thrive in sandy coastal soil in the Southeast. Cold hardiness varies, some are hardy to the low teens.
In Texas, where making a good Margarita is a necessary social skill, folks think of Tequila when they think of agaves, although no one I know has tried to grow Agave tequilana, which is grown by the thousands in the Jalisco area of Mexico.
I hate to say I've forgotten the name of the variety pictured at the top (a forgetting not as bad as locking myself and the baby out of the truck on Monday), but it will grow ten feet tall and wide in time. If the bucks don't wreck it with their antlers each fall. Next year we'll remember to get the fencing up in time...