Wednesday, June 29, 2022

My Mangave Collection

I've been planning to inventory my Mangave collection for some time.  A Mangave is a hybrid of a plant with parents from two genera, Manfreda and Agave.  The mix varies, which in turn produces plants that vary in color, form and size.  I last surveyed my plants in June 2019.  At that time I had fourteen Mangaves.  I knew I'd accumulated a lot more since then but even I was surprised by how many I now have.  Every time I thought I'd identified all of them, I'd remember I had others in another spot - and then yet another.  While some of my Mangaves are grouped, there are others scattered seemingly everywhere else.  Even when I stopped counting home-grown pups, I tallied over fifty plants consisting of twenty-eight varieties.  

Before I share my favorites, let me show you some of the spots I've tucked them into.

My very first Mangave, 'Bloodspot', was planted in this north side garden in 2015.  'Lavender Lady' and 'Silver Fox' followed in 2017.  'Purple People Eater' joined the mix in 2019.  My first 'Silver Fox' lost its shape after blooming and I replaced it with a pup from a friend.  At some point, I also added a 'Lavender Lady' pup (still small) and, more recently, a 'Catch a Wave' pup from another friend.

Two Mangave 'Jaguar' found a home in this bed in the front garden in 2019

'Spotty Dotty', acquired in 2018, was moved to this area in the same front garden bed a year or so ago

I replanted this area on the north end of the back garden last year and, among other succulents, planted several Mangaves: 3 'Frosted Elegance', one 'Freckles & Speckles', another 'Lavender Lady', and a 'Blazing Saddles'.  The plant in the green pot is 'Mangave Cowlick'.

I've got Mangaves in pots all over the place.  This group of pots by the back door includes 'Black Magic', Praying Hands', and 'Aztec King'.

3 Mangave 'Pineapple Express' I picked up at my local botanic garden's spring plant sale ended up in a border near the back patio

I recently planted one 'Navajo Princess' and 4 other unlabeled Mangaves that might be 'Red Wing' on the south end of one back border


Many of my favorites are planted in the ground.

This is 'Blazing Saddles'.  I have a second one in a pot.

I have 3 'Frosted Elegance' in one bed and a fourth in a pot.  The one in the pot receives more shade and hasn't developed the pink tinge shown by those in the back garden bed that get more sun.

This is my one and only 'Freckles & Speckles' and I love it (despite the name)

'Jaguar' is vigorous, although I'm constantly fighting the ants that pile up soil around the plant's base, presumably trying to set up one of their honeydew collection sites in collaboration with aphids.  The foliage color of mine has a copper tone I haven't seen in the plant's publicity photos.

This is my largest, most stately 'Lavender Lady'

Without any intentional plan, 'Pineapple Express' has gained a foothold in at least 3 areas of my garden

I've got 2 'Purple People Eater' in the ground and a plant in a pot that lost its label I think is the same variety

I love the colors of 'Spotty Dotty' but I've concerned that her curved leaves and dried out leaf tips, combined with the pink flush, indicate that she's not getting enough water

I have several plants, purchased without labels or labeled (incorrectly I believe) as 'Blazing Saddles' I think may be 'Red Wing'.  The only plant shown here that was actually labeled as 'Red Wing' by a reliable seller is the one in the pot on the upper left.

Several of my favorites are living their best life in pots.

I tried planting 'Bad Hair Day' in the ground but it was not happy.  I have 2 in coordinating pots by the front door.

With its downward curving leaves, I decided 'Crazy Cowlick' was made for a pot

This 'Coffee Jitters' was received as a gift pup from Gerhard of Succulents and More.  It's done well in a pot, although its placement under a hose bib isn't ideal.

I've planted 'Kaleidoscope' in the ground with mixed results.  This one in a pot, a gift from a friend last year, is doing very well, although it may need a larger pot soon.

'Moonglow' is also made for pot culture

I fell in love with 'Night Owl' last year and a birthday gift card from a friend got me over my reluctance to purchase it in a larger size than I usually start with

Gerhard of Succulents and More picked 'Painted Desert' up at a plant sale in Northern California at my request and brought it down this way when he passed through.  After a year or so in a pot I think it's about ready to be planted out in the garden.

There are a host of others I really like but they've yet to grow into their potential.

Those in this category include, clockwise from the upper left: 'Aztec King', 'Mission to Mars', 'Navajo Princess', 'Praying Hands', and the 'Silver Fox' that replaced my original plant.  I saw a mature 'Mission to Mars' in a 3-gallon pot for $50 at my local garden center last week and was oh so tempted but I remain patient.  'Praying Hands' has an unusual form that I fell in love with the first time I saw it but it's a very slow grower.  (You can see it in its mature form here.)


There are a couple more I have mixed feelings about.

'Bloodspot' (left) was my very first Mangave but, with all the pups developing at its base, it needs to be dug up and divided.  'Tooth Fairy' (right) was one of my favorites but I think it wants to be liberated from its pot.

The remaining varieties are still too small to demonstrate their value in the garden.

Clockwise from the upper left: 'Black Magic', 'Catch a Wave', 'Falling Waters', 'My Dog Spot', and Hansara 'Jumping Jack'.  That last draws its parentage from Manfreda, Agave and Polianthes.  All were received as tiny pups and, although 4 of the 5 shown here were planted a year or more ago, they remain very small.  'Falling Waters' needs to go into a pot I think.

I've only lost one variety thus far, 'Snow Leopard'.  I had two plants in the same bed as 'Jaguar' and 'Spotty Dotty'.  The white margins of 'Snow Leopard' rapidly turned pink, looking more like 'Kaleidoscope' and, like 'Kaleidoscope', it didn't like the planting bed in the front garden at all.  It's admittedly a very dry area.  The plants shrank to a sad shadow of their former selves and I removed them.  I saved a small piece of one but whether I can resurrect it to its original form remains to be seen.

That'll have to do for this review.  Maybe I'll revisit my collection in another year or two.  I've already got my eye on another Mangave variety with Agave ovatifolia parentage, 'Permanent Wave', but I've yet to find a source for it.  If you'd like to see other Mangaves, I've got a portfolio of photos showing 52 varieties going on a Pinterest page you can find here.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, June 27, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Foghorns and falling leaves

As I collected materials for today's vases yesterday morning I listened to the call of foghorns from the Los Angeles harbor, as well as the flutter of leaves falling from the Magnolia tree in our front garden.  Mingled with birdsong and the clucking of chickens up the street, it was very peaceful interlude following yet another difficult news week in a country that seems bound and determined to ignore the realities of life in the twenty-first century in favor of some glorified notion of life 245 years ago.

I still have no dahlia blooms to share.  Aphids managed to compromise the first blooms of Dahlia 'Calin', a bush variety that had an early start on the rest of my tubers.  I thought I had the aphid problem under control but it's clear I was a little late addressing it.  I cut off the disfigured blooms.  Hopefully, the remaining buds will bloom soon, along with the other dahlias currently bearing buds.  In the meantime, I took advantage of three blooms from a group of lily bulbs I planted last fall.

Orienpet Lilium 'Friso' (aka 'Silk Road') managed to bloom despite our drought conditions and the appetite the local rabbits have for lily foliage

The back view is all about Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', my go-to foliage filler when I use flowers with red tones

Top view: I used Daucus carota 'Dara' again this week but these self-sown flowers came from a different clump in the front garden and have a much deeper color.  I also added one stem of the unusual blooms of Pelargonium schizopetalum (best viewed in closeup as shown below).

Clockwise from the upper left: Daucus carota 'Dara', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian White', Salvia lyrata 'Purple Volcano', Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), Lilium 'Friso', Pelargonium schizopetalum, and Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

My second arrangement was inspired by another round of blooms from my peach foxgloves.  I hesitate to say these are the last of them as the plants have surprised me this year; however, surging summer temperatures are clearly stressing the plants and their stems are getting shorter and shorter.

In addition to the foxglove stems, I cut a few of my shaggy Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum, variety unknown).  The daisies have made a very poor showing this year, which I'm blaming on the drought.

Back view: I used stems of Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' to give the arrangement more height

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Antirrhinum majus 'Double Azalea Bronze', Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Grevillea 'Superb', and noID Leucanthemum x superbum


Once again, I have a small vase of leftovers.

In addition to a stem of last week's Lisianthus, I tucked in stems of Corokia 'Sunsplash' and white-flowered foxgloves

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


All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, June 24, 2022


Another unexpected chore sidetracked my plans in the garden mid-week.  A glance at our latest water bill on Tuesday evening showed that we'd used 150% of the amount used during the same period last year.  As we hadn't done anything in the last month to explain that, it indicated a breakdown somewhere in our irrigation system.  After working diligently to conserve water, I was anxious to start our evaluation first thing Wednesday morning but Mother Nature threw us a curveball in the form of a thunderstorm.

Thunder rumbled for a few hours and there were periodic flashes of lightning.  I have a bad habit of ignoring both but better sense prevailed this time. 

A friend reminded me that it was best to avoid outside areas when lightning strikes were ongoing

A woman walking her dogs in Pico Rivera to the east of us was killed, along with her 2 dogs, by a lightning strike associated with that same thunderstorm Wednesday morning


When the thunder and lightning stopped in late morning, we checked the water meter and discovered that little blue wheel that indicates that water is running was slowly spinning.  My husband started turning off water valves in an effort to isolate the area of the leak.  We identified the main line from the street as the likely suspect and started looking for wet areas.  My husband noticed what appeared to be standing water in an area adjacent to the neighbor's driveway under one of our hedges.  The problem was more obvious when we viewed it from neighbor's side.  

It was evident that the soil was saturated


My husband cut away some of the shrub foliage, moved the chimenea and pots I had in the area, and started digging while I contacted our neighbor, who was out of town at the time of our discovery. 

The chimenea and pots formerly sat at the end of the flagstone path in front of the hedge

Removing the soil from the area around the pipe created a miniature pond

The pipe couldn't be evaluated or repaired without turning off the water

When we realized we couldn't turn off the city's water line, we started reaching out to plumbers.  The best option we were able to arrange was a slot almost one week out.  My husband suggested that I could scoop water from our new "pond" to water the garden.  I tried that but, after the pond refilled almost immediately every time it was anywhere near empty, I was worried about leaving things as they were for a week.  I leapt several hurdles after that to expedite service that I won't bore you with.  The plumbers arrived Thursday morning.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to turn off the city's line either.  Although I'd requested assistance from the water service administrator to turn off the city's line on Thursday morning, the service provider was delayed by more than two hours.  However, once the city line was off, everything went more smoothly than I'd anticipated.

The little water spout you can see in spurting from the middle of the pipe in this closeup photo is the result of what's called a pin-hole leak.  Given the sheer amount of water pooling up in the area, I was surprised there wasn't a larger break.

A pile of heavy wet mud was left behind

The pipe after repair

Based on one prior experience with a pin-hole leak, it could take two or more weeks for the soil to dry out so we can put everything back.  My husband and I need to wrangle with the cost versus benefit of replacing the copper pipe all along the main line.  How much of the garden would have to be dug up is a significant factor but so is the water wasted with each of these events.  With a house more than 70 years old, this kind of unpredictable surprise could very well happen again, wiping away the gains I make in conserving water in one fell swoop.

On a more positive note, the neighbor commented on how nice the plants along her driveway are looking with all that extra water.


May your weekend be free of unpleasant surprises.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Temporarily out of commission

Our backyard fountain, inherited with the garden, is a focal point.  It features prominently in many of my photos, particularly my quarterly wide shots.

This photo was taken in preparation for my last wide shots post, published in April

The fact that it's beloved by the birds is even more important.

One of many photos taken of the birds splashing in the fountain.  This one was taken in September 2021.


Regrettably, the raccoons like to hang out there too.

The most common sign that raccoons have paid us a visit are the scattered shells they drop in and around the fountain.  Occasionally I've caught them in the act.  This photo of a mother and baby was taken in 2020 through the living room window.  Once a raccoon even stole the fountain's filter, only to drop it yards away elsewhere in the garden.  It took us days to find it.

Last weekend, the fountain pump broke down. We had to take the entire fountain apart to verify that the pump was the problem.  This gave us the "opportunity" to clean it out.  Cleaning it is a tedious and time-consuming process.

We clean the bottom section in place after pumping out the water and scooping the sludge that's settled to the bottom after several months of operation.  We scrub each of the parts with a non-toxic cleaner and set them in the sun to dry.  This includes the concrete bricks we've used to protect the pump and the filter from tampering on the part of the raccoons.  I also clean the rocks and seashells, which provide the birds a perch on the top tier of the fountain.


We've replaced the pump three times before.  Getting a new one by mail order took a couple of days.  However, putting the fountain back together once it was received didn't take long.

The new pump is smaller and has no filter (which I find a bit alarming) so the addition of the concrete bricks is no longer necessary.  We did have some trouble calibrating the recirculating pump's flow to prevent it from spitting up into the air, however.  Once it was running, the birds were back in no time.

The time spent on the back patio prompted me to finally take care of the damaged Yucca 'Blue Boy' I wrote about in a "Should it stay of should it go?" post two weeks ago.

Earlier photo of my largest Yucca 'Blue Boy' showing insect damage

Cutting the trunk level to the ground was easy once I found the right tool.  I moved the pot that had been situated between the Yucca and the patio to the other side of the bed at the same time. The pot had been getting too much water from a nearby sprinkler.

Interestingly, as can be seen here, the Yucca's trunk is already showing signs of having sprouted 3 offsets from its base

I moved the pot of succulents contained Aloe brevifolia to an area that gets little to no irrigation.

I still need to properly level the pot in its new spot and fill it out with one or more additional succulents

Two chores down but of course other dominoes fell in the process.  In addition to tweaking the placement and contents of the succulent pot shown above, I need to overall the bed adjacent to the patio.  The area surrounding the fountain also needs a refresh.  While it looks fine in early spring when the Narcissi, Freesia and Iris are blooming, it looks somewhat sad at other times of the year.  It looks sadder still after being trampled during our fountain repair effort.  Both areas are among the driest in my garden but succulents aren't the best choice, at least not around the fountain given that it requires cleaning at least twice a year as well as periodic repairs.  I need to give some thought to alternative planting schemes.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party