Friday, January 24, 2020

My Expanding xMangave Collection

xMangaves are intergeneric hybrids created by breeding Manfredas with various species of Agaves.  I didn't know much about them when I got my first one, 'Blood Spot', in 2015.  Sometime after that they exploded in popularity as more and more hybrids were created.  Unfortunately, few garden centers or nurseries in my own area offered them.  A few crept into the local trade in 2019 but the majority of those I've collected since 2015 have come via mail order nurseries and as gifts.  This week following a meeting, the South Coast Botanic Garden docents had an opportunity to tour the garden's propagation unit and I was pleased to see that volunteer propagators have created their own hybrid.

The plant on the left and its siblings in the next 2 photos are hybrids of a Manfreda and Agave potatorum.  The new creation reminds me a bit of 'Spotty Dotty' but this one has nicely curving leaves along the lines of 'Falling Waters'.


I'm hoping that one will show up at the garden's Spring Festival and Plant Sale in April.  In the meantime, I decided it was a good time to take an inventory of what I already have.

My newest and generally smallest specimens are tucked into what I call my bromeliad bed (even though there are now more succulents than bromeliads there).

This is 'Falling Waters', which I got by mail order from Mountain Crest Gardens

'Mission to Mars', one of 3 Mangaves Gerhard Bock of Succulents & More kindly picked up for me at a US Davis Arboretum sale.  I'm hoping it'll get enough sun in this spot to develop the red leaves it's known for.

'Pineapple Express' was purchased at South Coast Botanic Garden's Fall Plant Sale


There are larger and more well-established specimens in the adjacent succulent bed in my front garden.

'Bed Head', purchased by mail order from Plant Delights, is one of my favorites, although it's looked a little beaten down by the rain it received last year and again this year

My husband purchased 'Jaguar' and other Mangaves by mail order from Plant Delights for my birthday last year.  One of the larger Mangaves, expected to reach 2 feet in height at maturity, it's already looking great.

I moved 'Spotty Dotty' last year and she's been happier since

'Snow Leopard' was also a birthday gift from my husband.  With the return of cooler temperatures this winter, these 2 plants have taken on a decidedly pink tinge.

The same is true of 'Kaleidoscope'.  This one is the most prolific pupper among my Mangaves.


The dry garden on the northeast side of the house has some of my oldest specimens, including 'Blood Spot'.

A group shot of the collection in this area

'Blood Spot', the Mangave that started this particular collecting obsession.  This is the one and only Mangave I've obtained from a local garden center thus far.

I got 'Lavender Lady' by  mail order in 2017 but she's shown up recently in SoCal garden centers

'Purple People Eater' was part of my birthday haul.  It's looking a little scruffy at the moment.

The discoloration on a few leaves of 'Silver Fox' has me concerned about rot but the problem hasn't progressed so I'm hopeful


Other than another couple of 'Kaleidoscope' Mangaves on the front slope, the rest of my plants are in pots.

'Blazing Saddles' was a Christmas gift from a friend in 2018.  It's supposed to remain relatively small and seems perfectly happy in this container planted by my friend.

'Moonglow', part of Gerhard's shipment

'Red Wing' was another of the plants Gerhard secured for me.  It's supposed to tolerate a bit of shade.

I got 'Tooth Fairy', another of my favorites, from Mountain Crest.  It's reputed to be a slow grower so I've surrounded it with other succulents in this rusted steel wok.


I may have gotten off to a slow start with this particular collection but I'm catching up - maybe.  Breeders seem to be hybridizing new varieties every week.

Have a pleasant weekend!


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

January Projects

After the holidays, I threw myself into cleaning up my garden, focusing first on pruning plants I'd allowed to get completely out of control during our remodel, as well as pulling plants too woody or beat up to prune into shape.  I spent so much time pruning (admittedly using tools too small for the purpose on occasion) it appears that I threw my right wrist out of whack.  I don't have a medical term to describe what I did but I'm seeing a doctor on Friday to get an assessment.

I haven't stopped work in the garden but I did shift my focus to tasks that put less strain on my wrist.  Having reduced the large shrubs adjacent to the patio on the south end of our house by more than half, I mulched the soil, pulled out scraggly succulents, and filled in with a mix of succulent cuttings and California poppy plugs.

Reducing the height of the "dwarf" Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' shrubs, means I can once again see the harbor while sitting on the south patio (not that I sit much).  Although I expect the shrubs will flesh out again within months, the area looks a bit bare to my eyes at the moment.  I may plant more California poppies to provide additional spring color.


Next, I tore apart an adjacent area that had been overrun with Bulbine frutescens to make room for a Leucospermum that had been languishing in a large pot.

Bulbine frutescens is a succulent groundcover that spreads by rhizomes to form large clumps.  I planted 3 yellow-flowering and 2 orange-flowering plants in 2014.  This is what they looked like last May, when they'd gotten completely out of control, swallowing everything around them.

Digging the clumps out wasn't hard but it took a good deal of time to remove all their roots to clear the area for the Leucospermum

This is about two-thirds of what I removed

I saved a small number of divisions of the orange Bulbine for use elsewhere in the garden

I dug up that sorry-looking 'Amazing Red' Phormium and added planting mix to the bed

Leucospermum 'Sunrise' didn't bloom last year in its pot near the front door in partial shade.  It'll get full sun in this spot and I hope to see some flowers next year, if not this year.


Yesterday, I freed another Leucospermum that wasn't living up to its potential from its pot and found it a new home in a sunnier location as well.

I cut back and moved some groundcover Lantana to make room for Leucospermum 'Spider' here along the front slope.  The planting is "cozier" in this area than is ideal but I'm going to allow the plants to sort things out among themselves for the time being.


My next project will be filling the two pots left empty at the entry to the house.

At present, I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to put in these 2 empty pots


I'm lucky.  Winter in coastal Southern California allows me to work in the garden almost without a break.   We're looking at a nice stretch of mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-60s over the next 10 days, perfect for working in the garden (as long as the doctor doesn't put me on the sidelines).  There's no rain in the forecast for the rest of January but then we can't have everything.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 20, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Starting Over

I walked through my garden yesterday with some clear ideas in mind as to what I'd use in a vase this week.  Once I cut a flower as a focal point, the rest of my choices usually fall into place.  If I come up short, I make another pass through the garden and, more often than not, I can find something to fill out an arrangement.  When I carry my glass jar of cuttings back to the house I'm generally satisfied that I'll be able to pull together what I've cut.  That didn't happen yesterday.  I pulled out another glass jar and tried again.  When I'd filled that with pieces of this and that, I still wasn't happy.  So I re-sorted everything into two completely different mixes and went back outside to cut a few things to fill in the blanks.  The result?  Three vases.

The original inspiration for vase #1 was Grevillea rosmarinifolia, which I'd planned to pair with the first Alstroemeria bloom I'd noticed earlier in the week.  But the Alstroemeria was past its prime and I lost my intended focal point.

In the end, I recycled a stem of pink Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) I'd had in a vase in my office as a new focal point and used Leucadendron 'Chief', which has pink and red flower-like bracts, to tie together the colors in the Lisianthus and the Grevillea.

Back view: I picked a paler pink Lisianthus to dress up the other side of the vase and used Narcissus to echo the yellow tones in the Leucadendron

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), Coleonema pulchelum 'Sunset Gold', noID Narcissus, Grevillea rosmariniflia, Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', and Penstemon mexicali 'Mini Red Bells'


Vase #2 was going to be constructed using the white snapdragons in my cutting garden which, despite my best efforts, are once again covered in rust and are therefore living on borrowed time.  Without a lot of thought I picked a nearby foxglove stem to go with the snaps but, to steal a phrase from Marie Kondo,  the pairing didn't "spark joy."  I gravitated away from white toward purple flowers but didn't find a focus until I cut some multi-colored Violas.

The purple, white and orange Violas led me to add the orange berries and Grevillea flowers to the mix

Back view: The purple Sweet Pea Bush (Polygala fruticosa) flowers look better in person than they do in these photos, where they appear more pink than purple

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Viola, berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolium, Campanula poscharskyana, Grevillea 'Superb', Digitalis purpurea, and Polygala fruticosa (shown with Gomphena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy')


The leftover snapdragons went into vase #3, along with a few other things I picked to tie them together with the yellow flowers I'd picked during my first pass through the garden.

The florescent yellow weed, Oxalis stricta, picked up the bright yellow touches in the white snapdragons

Back view: I used 2 species of yellow-flowered Euryops here as well and added a couple of blue notes to the mix

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Oxalis stricta, Antirrhinum majus, Salvia 'Mystic Spires', Rosmarinus 'Gold Dust', Euryops chrysanthemoides, and E. virgineus


For more IAVOM posts, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.



All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 17, 2020

Fabulous Foliage

With flowers taking a backseat even here in sunny California, the foliage in my garden has an opportunity to stand out and demand notice.  Yesterday afternoon I took photos of a variety of plants that caught my attention.

Succulents hold up against all kinds of weather extremes in my climate but, cleaned of accumulated dust and dirt by rain, they really shine during the winter months.

Aeonium 'Mardi Gras'

Agave 'Blue Flame' and Agave americana 'Mediopicta alba' mix it up

My Agave 'Blue Glow' have gained size and presence

Agave vilmoriana and Agave ovatifolia backed up by Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' and Leucadendron salignum 'Chief'

Agave bracteosa, Agave 'Joe Hoak' and Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold'

The color of Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks in Fire' is at its most vivid in winter.  This one's been in a strawberry pot for 9 years.

I planted Mangave 'Tooth Fairy' in this metal container (a rusted wok) and filled in with a variety of other succulents while I wait for this slow-growing Mangave to bulk up

The succulents planted atop this stacked rock wall have settled in well


But my garden has more than succulents.  Here are some of my other foliage favorites:

I've featured this mix before but it bears repeating.  This is Centaurea 'Silver Feather' and Pennisetum 'Rubrum'

Echium candicans 'Star of Madiera' is months from blooming but its foliage still makes a splash

Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' has colored up as temperatures dropped

Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty'

Phormium 'Maori Queen' paired with Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash'

Back-lit Phormium 'Maori Queen'


I'll end my survey with a few relatively new additions to my garden.

This is Cordyline 'Can Can', which spent our remodel with its roots stuck in a pot

This was simply labeled "Earthstar' when I bought it.  I think its Cryptanthus bivattatus.

Pelargonium cordifolium 'Caroline's Citrine' managed fine during the summer and will hopefully cope with winter just as well


We had a little rain overnight.  My rain collection tanks are full once again and the air, at least for the moment, is clear.  I'm looking forward to the weekend.  I hope you are too.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party