Saturday, January 27, 2018

xMangave Report - 2017/2018

Like many other people, i was enamored with the new xMangave introductions in 2017. I got several in 2017 - some from Plant Delights, others from various local-ish plant sales.

Ones that I added in 2017:
Purple People Eater PPAF
Lavender Lady PPAF
Silver Fox PPAF
Tooth Fairy PPAF
Mayan Queen PPAF

'Catch a Wave' PPAF - from the Huntington sale
Inkblot PPAF - from the Huntington sale

They joined some that were already in my garden:
Moonglow - in the ground
Kaleidoscope  - in the ground
I also have "Pineapple Express" but the gophers ate half of that one. It's trying to recover, so fingers crossed but it's been 2+ years, and it's still not very happy.

I really like these plants - they are so cool-looking! Plant Delights and other places call them "tropical" zones, or 9B plants, so i was a little worried what would happen this winter. Most of the plants are in pots, so i could take them inside. But i never did, and we've had some cool nights with lows of 23 deg in January and 20 deg in December. Here is what they look like at the end of January:

Mayan Queen, Inkbot and Catch a Wave are all newly planted in one of the tubes. This may turn out to be too much sun for them come summer, but so far, they are ok.

this is Catch a Wave - not very happy right now, but not due to cold damage. 

Inkblot is just happy to get into the ground

Mayan Queen is very purple! 
Moonglow has been in the ground for a while - and got about a quarter eaten by stupid gophers last year.
no cold damage, although the colors are usually more vivid than this. 
This is one of my favorites - Tooth Fairy. This one is in a pot, but sheltered by a big Agave 'Crazy Horse' on one side, and eremophila on the other side.
happy, and mostly not affected by the cold
While xMangaves are listed as full-sun plants, some sort of sheltering from full desert sun in the summer seems to be a good idea. Silver Fox (below) is also in a pot, but gets afternoon sun most of the summer. He hasn't always been happy about that.
very silvery right now- that leaf damage is more likely due to sun vs. cold
 'Lavender Lady' (below) seems to be the most finicky of the bunch right now. Also in a pot, she seemed less than pleased by the amount of water she got over the summer (too little - one of the other plants was blocking the sprinkler). I think the stress is what made her susceptible to cold damage:
new leaves seem to do ok - she might need a better spot
 Purple People Eater (i always want to call this one and Tooth Fairy by the wrong name...) is half hiding under a Callistemon and also in a pot. She's a lot happier since the summer, when she nearly curled up on herself for some reason.
such a pretty color!
It seems like in my garden, kept fairly dry and a little sheltered, but not with any special measures, these new xMangaves are solid zone 8B plants. Good to know!

Kaleidoscope (in the ground for 2+ years now) shows the most manfreda-like behavior in the winter, dying down to the roots in some cases, and showing a lot of cold damage. Scared me a bunch the first winter! This year, she looks like this - not great, but still showing some of that color. 
not as good as late spring though...
In addition to these, i have some manfreda (chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip) and Mangave Cappuccino, Macho Mocha and Espresso. I'll have to take some pictures of them next time - they look very different from these.

I remember my landscaper saying something about not having too many different plants - i'm not sure "one of every kind of xMangave" is what he had in mind... But i'm going to keep trying! I saw there were some new introductions for 2018 also! I tell myself that the scrubs & other large plants, and similar forms, keep it all from looking too hodge-podgy. (i might be wrong about that, but i don't care! :) )

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Front Garden Fall/Winter Project

For this fall/winter, i want to re-work the part of my garden that was the first bed i even put together. It's in the front garden - right up next to the house, and is about 6 years old now.

Funny story - when i first bought the house, the yard was horrendous. So bad in fact, that both of my very nice neighbors said some version of "hello, welcome to the neighborhood, when are you fixing your front yard?" Since i wanted to get it done quickly, i mostly followed what was already there (grass, a tree, etc) except for this area right by the house. I created a "stone pond" with a long, skinny planting bed around it. This gave me the chance to experiment with a lot of plants, even as the rest of the garden slowly took shape around it.

Here is what it looks like today. It's hard to capture the whole bed in one picture.

view from the front door walk way

View towards the front door walkway
You can see the "stone pond" in the middle, which worked out pretty well. There's a few "statement plants" in the bed - whether they started that way or not:

  • Furcraea foetida (mauritius hemp) - this one started tiny and was not supposed to survive. oops
  • Yucca recurvifolia - this one now has 2 heads, and has recovered from the accidental "pineapple treatment" the landscaper gave it
  • the grasses - whether the mexican feathergrass or the purple fountain grass
  • not quite as stand out any more, but there are 2 hesperaloes in the bed - one red and one yellow
  • that lantana is the only one that's survived multiple mojave winters...
  • Not really in these pictures, but by the front door is the Camillia sasanque 'Yuletide'.
The part of the bed that's closest to the house is a bit of an overgrown mess, but i like all the plants...
the camillia - i'm thinking clean up and new mulch?
 This part in particular is a mess:
remove the pups, mulch & maybe some low ground covers?
 There are also some plants between the house and the furcraea - i'm thinking of digging those out and replacing them with something lower? There used to be a path there too, but there's no point to that anymore. I'm thinking cramming this bed full of plants is better alternative, but mostly lower forms, so the spiky furcraea can stand out on its own. Maybe some more lantana?
that grass needs to move also - just to deconflict a bit with the other plants
The red yucca probably needs to be dug up, divided, moved a bit, and then replanted. And maybe some low sedums as a companion?
The other half of the bed has one big problem that has to get fixed before anything else - Bermuda grass! So I'll probably start by digging all that out. Then:

i like most of the plants around the yucca - i'm thinking clean up and wood mulch? 
 The front most part of the bed has the big purple fountain grass in it. I'm thinking the mexican feathergrass needs to be removed, and then the purple grass in it's place? This seems like too much grass.
the problem is that purple fountain grass looks horrid for 3 months each year
The feathergrass on the right in the picture above has been there since i first planted the garden (or some version of it). I've tried planting other things a few times, but they never "look right". So maybe it gets to stay?

This part of the bed also needs more low, round-ish shapes - too many spiky things right now. And i'd like something to "billow" over the gravel path in the front, to make it look more lush.

I really want this bed to be "cramscaped" (to steal a term from Loree!) so that it contrasts with the rest of the front yard, which is a bit more "desert-bare" (not really, but relatively...)

from the street

straight on - you can see how the rest of the front garden is more open
I think i'll start with a continued clean up & digging out the bermuda grass.The house will also get painted in February, so moving some of the plants near the house is probably a good idea anyway. Then compost, maybe some new mulch & rocks for the "pond", and then new plants! New plants is my favorite part :)

Any and all other good ideas welcome!