Sunday 29 September 2019

Finally time for a mangave update: part 1

So as those of you who have followed for a while will know, I LOVE mangaves.  Sadly in the UK these are few and far between. So, over the last couple of years I have made a concerted effort to get as many as possible, including a shared order to Plant Delights nursery in the USA. It has been a successful couple of years and I now have over 30 varieties.

So time for an update on all the mangaves and manfredas, it may be a little photo heavy.

Where to start, the first plants were the manfredas. There used to be a lot more, but I managed to leave most at the last house.  There are two forms of manfreda undulata: chocolate chips and cherry chocolate chips which was new this summer.  The chocolate chips flowered last spring which set the plant back, but at least it has produced offsets.

They need a good re-pot, maybe come spring. I overwinter them in an unheated greenhouse and they have been fine down to -7c when kept totally dry.  I'm not sure they would like it any colder.

Then there is the manfreda guttata that flowered over last winter.

The flower started at this time last year, it flowered once, then a second time, then a third and then bulbils appeared on the stalk, so it really is the flower that keeps on giving .

Again it seems fine if kept dry over winter, so I've 3 planted out at various places around the rockery. The bulbils and offsets mean I have a lot of these now.

The manfreda maculosa below is new this summer.

The last one seems to be listed as manfreda or mangave guttata "jaguar".  Again a new one this summer. It has been slow to settle in but is finally starting to grow.  It's supposed to be one that would cope outside in London suburbs, but will be pampered this winter and planted out once I have spares.

The ones that were left behind were manfreda virginica which was planted in the garden for about 3 years and a form of manfreda guttata called "Spot" which as the name suggests has larger spots.  If you have either of these to trade please let me know.

Onto the mangaves.  There are two that you can get relatively easily in the UK: mangave bloodspot and magave macho mocha. I have two m. bloodspots.

The plant on the left I've had for years and it's never actually grown.  I now know that it's probably to little space and water that is the issue. The one on the right was new this summer and is a slightly different colour and grows at a much more managave like rate.

They seem to be fine in my unheated greenhouse so will be there again.  If I ever get another I'll try one outside as I've heard of others in the the UK doing well in the ground.

The same goes for mangave macho mocha.  Since last year I have been treating the mangaves less like agaves and giving them more water and space.  The result has been dramatic and it has easily doubled in size. Finally looking like the stunning plant I've seen in photos.

You can see in the photo that I also have the variegated form mangave espresso.

The variegation is definitely stronger in bright sunlight, almost losing it in the greenhouse over winter.

During the search for new plants, a friend announced he had an un-named form, he said it hasn't done much for him, and sure enough it has sat there for me refusing to budge.

So the UK mangaves. My good friend Paul produced two before he died. They are nice compact plants, making them good for a small garden. They also offset nicely so over the years I have been giving them to good friends and trading to collectors.  They are both crosses with agave obscura (is that the old or new name I can never remember). The first is a. obscura x manfreda maculosa.

It has a nice upright form and the leaves have a triangular shape to them as you can see the brighter the light the better the spotting.

The second is a. obscura crossed with manfreda virginica.  This as you would expect has longer more drooping leaves.

These are marginal for me, in terms of hardiness.  Even kept dry they suffer in a bad winter, although they do come back.  This one flowered last spring and had nice compact flowers, not as big or many as agaves, but better than manfredas.

A friend had two agaves in flower at the time; agave mitis, and a suspected horrida.  I managed to get pollen from both and hand pollinated the flowers.  The seedlings are now at the end of their first summer, and out of 40 that germinated I managed to keep 18 alive.

 There now seem to two distinct forms: the mitis ones

The second form is perhaps the more interesting, it has a good blue colour, nice spines and more upright shape.

Next year should see these properly develop and then I can decide which ones are worth growing on. Either way I'm excited about having my own mangaves and maybe even naming them if they show promise. As both agave parents are planted out in the UK so hopefully the offspring will have some hardiness.

Then through contacts the Walters Gardens forms started to arrive. If you don't know them, go to Mad About Mangaves page (link here) and look at the amazing variety of mangaves they have produced. Most of the forms from now on originate from this amazing mangave producer. The first lot started arriving last summer, in no particular order.

Mangave bad hair day. I'm still undecided on this one, it probably gave me the most trouble. Firstly it didn't like being inside over winter, so had to be moved into the greenhouse. The it didn't seem to like being in a pot.  So finally given it is supposed hardiness I planted in the new rockery.

It is perfectly happy, but given its form I can't decide if it works in the ground or should be put back in a pot. What it does have going for it, is that it should be totally hardy for me. 

The mangaves seem to fit into different groups around leaf shape, colour and offsets.  I had thought the wavy leaf forms would be some of my favourites they have proved to be quite slow growing and a little awkward to decide how to pot. The first two that turned up were mangave catch a wave and mangave falling water. They both behave very similarly, I would say a medium growth rate, not offsetting.

First up mangave catch a wave.

Then mangave falling waters

I'm guessing these two may be ones that improve as they get bigger.

Not all the plants have been so restrained, mangave kaleidoscope seems to want to take over the garden, I only got it in August last year and have already taken off four offset and there are 3 more.

I wish it would put more effect into growing and less into offsets, but it's getting there. It is another one that I want to test for hardiness, not that is is listed as totally hardy for me, but I have so many offsets I can afford to test the main plant. Again like m. bad hair day it probably needs to be in a pot where it can flop over in a natural way.

Those that know me won't be surprised by my view of the looser less structured forms, I do like the structural plants and this runs through all my succulents.  The exception in the first set of mangaves is m. moon glow.  The reason is the colour, even young it really lives up to its name.

That's the closest I have managed to get to the colour, it is properly blue.  It has grown at the same speed as the wavy forms, and like those hasn't offset yet. I think this one is going to be one that deserves being somewhere on display. Not quite hardy for me, and given that it hasn't offset it will be put somewhere and kept above -5.

The ones that have stood out from last year purchases are the more structural ones, the faster grower has been m. mission to mars. 

It is already a decent size and a good structural form and colour.  It will make a really good focal point but will no doubt also stand it's ground if grown among other plants. It should be hardy for me, although sadly it has not offset so I am not sure I would risk it until I know I can get a replacement.  The growth is going to be a bit of a problem with the rapidly growing collection.  As mentioned above it makes a huge difference how they are grown: large pots and more water gives you much more growth.  I am now considering restricting both he pot size and water to try and slow them down a bit.

The other fast grower is m. pineapple express. This has to be one of my favourites and it offsets nicely as well which is a bonus.

I love this one and I've had it in one of the most prominent locations in the garden. I would love this to be hardy and to be able to plant a few in the garden.  Sadly I don't think it stands a chance in a bad winter and may struggle in an average one.  Given I have a few spares I am actually going to see how it copes in a cold frame this winter. Fingers crossed I would love to be able to grow a few larger ones and don't have to space to store them somewhere warmer.

From one that has really performed to one that is ticking along, m. lavender lady.  You can really see the parentage in this one and sadly that means it is not hardy at all.

You can see the potential in this one and also that the colour is going to vary greatly depending on where it is grown.  I think I will probably move it to a smaller pot, it hasn't grown to fill the pot like the others, plus it would make it easier to bring inside over winter.  It has no hardiness at all, listed as Tropical, whatever that means.  It is sad that it needs to be inside, hopefully it will be worth it.

The the final one from last years searching is m. silver fox.  This is the most agave like of the first group and has an even better colour than lavender lady.

As you can see it is a fast grower, sliver blue in colour as the name suggests.  Another one that likes to send out pups. It's marginal for me apparently, so I'm going to try one in the cold greenhouse to see how it copes.  I'm looking forward to seeing this one develop into a specimen plant as it will be a one to have out on show.

So that was up until the end of last year. I will get onto this year in a second post.

Sunday 7 July 2019

What's left behind

I've been taking lots of pictures of the agaves recently. From different angles, close ups, almost everything execpt the whole  plant.

One of the sets of photos has been around the spines. At this time of year they are at their best. This agave parryi 1684 has a range of colours from yellow to almost black as they age.

Looking at this photo the bud inprints really stand out. These depressions produced by the previous leaf before they unfurl, leaving the perfect impression of what is no longer there.

Not all agaves produce them and some are better than others. They come in different forms, the depressions like these, then there are some where pail powder hasn't formed as thickly like agave ovatifolia.

Combine the impression with a bit of powder and you get really defined inprint, like agave montana.

It gives a pretty special look to the leaves.

When the spines are more ornate the effect is even more special.

I believe in art they call it have a term negative space, and it's thought that the space left between what is draw / painted is as important as the what is marked.  It seems with agaves that the space left by what was there can be as dramatic.

Sunday 30 June 2019

The sun is out at last.

It's been a glorious sunny weekend here, the first of the summer sadly. Lots of work in the garden, so expect an update soon. In the mean time, over lunch I noticed the sun shining through the edge of the agave parasana fireball.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Succulent rockery revamp

I mentioned in previous posts that the main succulent rockery needed a bit os a revamp, the post can be found here. At the time the rockery looked like this:

The agave salmiana had already been removed along with the other plants being dug out, or moved to other locations in the bed. The rock was ordered, set out and finally we had a break in the rain and it was possible to plant it up. First filling the gaps in the exisiting section.  Where the aloe striatula was we planted a catus, a trichocereus pachanoi.

What looks like the wire cage around it, was testing out things that could be used to provide a cover for winter protection. There's still a couple of gaps to be filled, but they can be filled with pots until I decide what will fit.

Where the agave salmiana was there is now a little agave asperrima. My plant is only small so here is a photo of the mother plant at Crete Lodge.

The new plants still need to fill out to make that section more balanced with the left hand side.

As you can see the aloe polyphylla is flowering nicely this year.

The other side of the railway sleeper is the new extension to the bed.  The first plants to go in were the aloe polyphyllas, just infront of the post you can see the one that has been planted.  In the pot next to it, is the tripple headed that will stay in the pot this year and be planted next year when better established.

The main plants in this section are the twin yucca rostrata. This looks so much better now it is in a gravel bed and can be seen more clearly.  A good trim helped as well.

The second larger plant was suppose to be an agave montana. Again thanks to Melissa at Crete Lodge.  She found them for sale marked as agave montana, but they are obviously not pure montana, so either a hybrid or something totally different. Sometimes you find plants which are just being sold with the wrong name, and then you find plants which are just oddities. As we have no idea what it is, we have no idea how hardy it is, or how big it will get.  It all adds to the fun.

Also in the bed you can see the agave mitis var albicans.  This is a lovely form of A. mitis, much rarer and probaly not as hardy. It has been fine for me and as the idea will be to cover this bed to some degree I though it was worth a try.  The aloe saponaria variegata has proven hardy in the existing part of the rockery.

The other larger plants to go in here are the manfredas and in the future possible mangaves.  I have planted two manfreda gutattas as an initial test.  They have been fine cold wise when kept dry.   Plus with the flowering plant offsetting I have lots of them.

There are already quite a few smaller alpines mixed in, the great thing about rockeries is the play you canget between the plants and rocks.

Lots of space to fill out, which this year will be filled with pots.

It all looks a bit small compared to the established parts, so you will have to imagine to picture it all equalled out in a few years time. I'm pleased so far and if it ever stops raining it will look great in the sun.

Saturday 15 June 2019

I may have over done the propagating

So the last post showed the set of echeveria comptons carousel. Those are not the only plants I've been propagating.  In fact there is one shelf in the greenhouse that looked amazing

It was probably a bit of an ebayers dream, on the right we have the e. compton carousel, on the left agave filifera marginata. Probably not as commercial are the middle rows of mangaves.  These are the manfreda virginica x agave obscura produced by a friend and the one that flowered last year. Given that Paul died shortly after producing them and didn't give out many, that is probably 30 - 40% of all the ones in existance. The seedlings are coming along and are just hidden behind the larger agave filifera marginatas.  There are definitely at least two distinct types forming, so once they have grown a bit more I'll have to update the post on them. Then in the back are the manfreda gutatta bulbils.

The agave filiferas came from my large bowl. It had been left alone for two years and had got a bit out of control.

The main problem was the weeds growing up between the plants. It was getting too painful pulling them out, so time for a quick repot.

I have kept three interesting ones, the largest, a good medium sized and a very pale one. They should look great as a set once the smallest one has filled out a bit. I decide to keep them separate as the large one has turned in to such a feature plant it deserves to be displayed a bit more prominently.

The sad thing is, on the other side of the greenhouse there are another two shelves full of gasteraloes, aloe vipers and more mangaves.  I think it is fair to say i have a porpagation problem. This was not all for nothing, I have realised I don't like selling plants on Ebay as it is a hastle, so instead prefer to sell / trade on mass. So during my trip to Norfolk I unloaded most of these. So now I have lots os space again.

Saturday 8 June 2019

Anual trip to Crete Lodge exotic garden

So yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Crete lodge exotic garden again.  Melissa and Keith have continued their tireless work in the garden and it was looking better than ever.  Sadly the memory card in my camera seems to have got scrambled, so I lost a lot of the photos, but some had been downloaded first.

The sunken garden is a good place to start as there is always something in flower.

Look at the size of that agave ovtifolia. Sadly it is starting to suggest it may flower, the same for the agave weberi and with the horrida in the first photo already flowering that would be three flowers in that section of the garden alone!

Ther are so many sections to the garden and that is before you even get to the cactus house and other greenhouses.  The biggest section is the main succulent bank and the new sections the other side of the path.  Looking down from the sunken garden you get the first glimpse over the green roof.

Melissa is particularly proud of the new pot.

The bank has some of the largest agave montanas scattered across it.

A bit further down and you come one of the newer parts of the garden.

I love the combination of the succulents with the traditional UK gravel garden plants.

Every angle gives you a different set of plants

The bank carries on around to a section full of yuccas and palms, these photos didn't make it, so back up to the terrace, via a lovely little olive bed. Keith does all the main structural brick work and then Melissa does the decorative fronts.  The whole garden is covered in these lovely little sections meaning no planting opportunities are missed.

The terrace has some feature agaves as well.  The larger one maybe about to flower but this time I had lost count of the number.

Annoying all the other photos were lost.  So I'll juts have to go back another time and re-take them. Those on facebook can go to their page, found here. It is always an inspiration to visit and obviously I always leave with a plant or two, even if I'm not allowed to liberate everthing I would like.

I'll leave you with one last photo looking down the main succulent section, it is hard to believe this is the UK.