Like most people the preparations for winter have started to gather pace, and this weekend saw the pots put in the greenhouse to start drying them off.
It was a lovely autumn weekend, lovely and warm in the sun, then cold as soon as it goes in. It made moving everything in easy, but is sad as summer is over.
Putting the plants away is an important time for me; as each pot goes in it gets a little health check looking for bugs and damage. Then once they have dried out, they get a final water for the year this time with a dose of anti vine weevil stuff.
I've had a big cull of plants over the last year or two, getting rid of plants that no longer held their own and a lot of duplicates. The only set of plants that has been totally unscathed are the manfredas and mangaves. You can see my largest manfreda in the photo above, a manfreda guttata.
Manfredas are a great family of plants, very underestimated. In the UK there are two or three more common ones you can find if you search for them: M. Virginica, M. undulata, M. elongata. They seem to come and go in popularity and at the moment M. guttata seems to be in favour.
I'm not surprised as the colour is great and the leaves have good spotting. There is a form called "spot" which have really big spots, but I have not seen it or sale in the UK. This big plants came from a nursery earlier this year, I was a bit worried about the state of my little plant and wanted a spare. Expecting to find a small plant you can imagine how quickly this one jumped into my car on seeing it for the same price as all the little ones on the shelf. I'm pleased to say my little plant which had been struggling for the last couple of years, has finally started to take off as well.
The other manfreda really strutting its stuff is manfreda undulata chocolate chips.
It is living up to both parts of its name: good spotting on the leaves and rocking the crinkle.
I'm hoping for flowers on both these plants next spring. Unlike agaves they are not monocarpic so the flowers are not something to worry about. It is the repeat flowering that make them an important feature to agave collectors as they hybridise with agave to produce X mangaves. The most common being X mangave bloodspot which is thought to be Agave macroacantha hybrid x Manfreda maculosa.
My plant is only little and seems quite slow, but they are beautiful once established and well worth tracking down.
The other common one is the mangave macho mocha. I'm still struggling to find the best conditions for this one, it hasn't liked being ignored, so will be getting a lot more attention from now on.
The colour on these tend to be really good, especially if given less water. The variegated form managave espresso seems just as temperamental for me.
Both forms are snail magnets, they love to take the top layer off the leaves. It is always the case that just as they are getting back to no damaged leaves new damage occurs.
Just recently there seems to be a lot more mangaves hitting the market in the US, sadly they have not reached the UK yet so it is more pot luck finding someone who has made their own hybrid and is happy to let you have a seedling or seed. I managed to get two different hybrids from a friend, the first M. maculosa x A. obscura.
This plant has very triangular section leaves and good spotting. It was one of the plants that I almost lost due to negligence last winter. Strangely not because of cold, the reverse, it was so mild and having no water for such a long time in the green house almost killed it. Thankfully it is quite a strong grower and so has recovered and with a bit more care over this winter will be back to it's best next year.
The second is M. virginica X A obscura. A more relaxed plant and initially I was not really taken with it, apart from the purple colour it was a bit too floppy for my liking. Then this year it has really started to come into its own, the leaves have become more upright and the spotting has developed.
If it carries on with the same growth rate next year and the spotting continues to develop it will be a stand out plant. It is the joy with X mangaves you really don't know how they are going to turn out and a batch of seeds can give you a range of different forms. Sadly Paul passed away two ago and so we'll never know how all the other seedlings turned out
Hopefully a lot more mangaves will become available in the UK soon, along with better availability of manfredas.