Amsonia (aka: bluestar) are one of the best temperate genera (18 species) of blue-flowered perennials for the spring garden. We’ve offered quite a few different species and selections through the years, rotating them in and out as propagation successes allow and as sales dictate. All but two of the species, (Amsonia orientalis from Europe and Amsonia elliptica from Asia) are North American natives. Most are extremely drought tolerant, while others like Amsonia rigida and Amsonia tabernaemontana can tolerate very wet soils.
Amsonia montana is a commonly grown plant of mystery, having just appeared in horticulture, but never been documented from a wild population. A few of the amsonia species have flowers so pale blue that they appear white in the garden with only a hint of blue on the flower corolla. Amsonia are quite promiscuous in the garden, so if you grow more than one species nearby, you will have hybrids from seed. We hope you’ll explore this amazing genus of perennials.
The genus Hesperaloe is a small genus of just 7 species that are related to aloe, yucca, and agave. All 7 species of hesperaloe are native to the Chihuahuan desert in the southern US and the area around Coahuila in northern Mexico.
The “red” part of red yucca is the flowers that appear on spikes held well above the foliage during summer. Hesperaloe flowers are tubular too, just the way hummingbirds like them. Unlike agave and yucca, hesperaloe leaves do not have spines and are better for tight spaces or gardens that have children and pets running through them. Hesperaloe clumps are packed densely with narrow leaves and from a distance look like ornamental grass.
As with all desert plants, hesperaloe must have full sun and excellent drainage, especially in winter, to prevent root rot. They are also salt tolerant plants. Try pairing hesperaloe with other drought-tolerant colorful plants such as alstroemeria, crocosmia, and gaura to create a drought-tolerant wildlife haven.
We posted this a few weeks ago as our Agave ‘Mountain Man’ (A. gentryi x montana) prepared to open. We’ll, the big moment is here…below are a few shot from today.
The seed were wild-collected in Mexico in the late 1990s by our friends at Yucca Do, and our seedling was planted in May 2000, so it took 17 years to flower. Fingers crossed for good seed set, and fortunately we have many more agaves in flower (and a tall ladder) to help the process.
In a matter of two days, most of our region went from abnormally dry to saturated, when an unusual weather system tracked across our area. Not to worry…we’ve loaded two each of every plant on the green arc for safe keeping.
We tallied 5.5″ of rain at the nursery, while areas a few miles away registered almost 9 inches. As you’ve no doubt seen on the news, areas in and around creeks and rivers are underwater. Fortunately, we’re fine as all our time spent on water management preparation paid dividends.
The gardens looks absolutely fabulous, so we hope to see you at our 2017 Spring Open Nursery and Garden which starts today (Friday). We’ve prepared a special display of the new xMangaves (agave x manfreda hybrids) on the deck area, so we hope you’ll stop by and check out this amazing new category of drought-tolerant succulents for both containers and the garden. See you soon!
Look what showed up in the garden. Our specimen of Agave ‘Mountain Man’…a hybrid of Agave montana and Agave gentryi decidied to flower for our spring open nursery and garden. This unusual hybrid starts its flower spike in the fall, which stops for the coldest part of winter, then starts growing again in spring. The spike showed no damage despite a winter low of 13 degrees F. Be sure to check this out when you visit…located just behind the welcome tent.
x Mangave is an intergeneric hybrid combining the leaf spotting and perennial flowering nature of Manfreda and the leaf spines and evergreen nature (above freezing) of Agave. Like both parents, x Mangave is drought tolerant and has an aversion to winter moisture. In areas where x Mangave is not winter hardy, it makes a great container specimen.
x Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’ in the garden
x Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’ is a 2016 introduction from Walters Gardens with fleshy, olive green leaves heavily spotted with purple. Pineapple Express will form a rosette 18″ tall x 24″ wide. Above is Pineapple Express in the garden and below is Pineapple Express in our sales house.
We have an exciting array on new varieties of x Mangaves in production with varying leaf shapes and variegation patterns, so be sure to look for them in the future. If you are not already growing x Mangave be sure to check out these horticultural gems.
x Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’ for sale in our sales house
We are very excited to see that we have at least 9 agaves so far that will be flowering in 2016. Above is a recent photo of Agave victoriae-reginae where you can see the bud forming in the center where the leaves have become reduced in size. While we lose the agaves after flowering, we are able to make crosses and create more new and unqiue agaves. We also share pollen with plant breeder Hans Hansen, who crosses them with manfredas to create some amazing mangaves as pictured below, which we are pleased to introduce for 2016
Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’ makes a superb container plant where it isn’t hardy in the ground. It should be fine outdoors from Zone 7b south.
Mangave ‘Moonglow‘ with its large dark purple spots is the smallest of the three. The foliage of all is incredible pliable unlike most agaves.
A third introduction for 2016 is Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’…the fastest growing of these three. These will fill out a container in no time and are great for summer patio containers.
One of the fun projects our JLBG research division has been working on for several years is breeding for winter hardy century plants. One of our latest crosses is between the two plants pictured above, Agave x protoamericana (blue) and Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Bellville’ (green). These are the two largest agaves that are winter hardy for us, and we were able to cross them in 2014. We are offering seed grown offspring while they last under the name Agave ‘Bluebell Giants’. In most cases, our other hybrid agaves are larger and more vigorous than the parents, which in this cases could be HUGE! These seed-grown plants have now filled our 1 qt pots and we’ll be planting our first plants in the garden in spring. If you like giant agave and love to experiment along with us, don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.
It’s been absolutely amazing to watch the swarm of honeybees, ants, and hummingbirds feeding on our giant 30′ tall flowering agave. Here’s an updated photo of the blessed event from yesterday. This weekend’s final summer open house is the last chance to see it in person.
Here’s our research staff getting the giant ladder in place for breeding as the giant Agave salmiana x asperrima begins to open. And here’s Jeremy, who heads up our Research Division, gathering pollen and making crosses. Breeding agaves is a little different from breeding daylilies, iris, and hostas. We hope you’ll join us during our summer open nursery and garden to see this monster in person.