Been Watching the Stones

We’ve tried growing living stones (Lithops) a few times over the last decade in the garden, but could never get them to last longer than a couple of years. We weren’t loosing them to cold temperatures, but to moisture. So, when we built the crevice garden, lithops were one of the first plants we wanted to try again. We designed the crevices with overhangs to keep water completely off certain special plants, and that’s where we planted our seed-grown living stones.

For those who haven’t grown these irresistible gems, Lithops are South African succulents in the Azoiceae family, native to very dry and mostly tropical regions. They are prized for their odd appearance that consists of only two camouflouged succulent leaves.

We’ve never been able to coax a lithops to flower until last week. In their new crevice home, several finally decided to bloom this fall, with a sucession of flowers that still continues. We are currently growing only one species, Lithops aucampiae, but now that we’ve been successful, we’ve planted seed of more species to try. It takes us about 18 months from seed to get a plant large enough to go into the garden.

Despite everything written about lithops being tropical, we have not found this to be the case. Like so many plants, not enough people have been willing to experiment in colder climates in the right conditions. Of course, if you believe everything written on line, you’ll know for sure that they can’t take anything below 40 degrees F. Hint…ours have made it fine in the garden to 13F, so we expect them to tolerate even colder temperatures if kept dry. Wish us luck and be sure to check out the stones growing in the crevice during our next open house.

Cooperi…Aloe, not Alice

Our patch of Aloe cooperi has been beautiful in flower this summer, but every time I see it, my mind automatically associates it with rocker, Alice Cooper. I guess he made quite an impression on me as a child. Aloe cooperi is the hardiest of the aloes, first cousin to the better known Aloe vera. Aloe cooperi has been fine here in Zone 7b for decades, but we doubt it would be winter hardy much further north.

Upside down in Dry Shade

At our home, we have a very wide overhang which never sees any moisture, so we were looking for plants that would stay low, ideally evergreen, and would tolerate seriously dry shade. The answer was Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’. These patches of the Northern Mexican succulent, with blue-green foliage, have absolutely thrived here. While they probably wouldn’t be happy in deep shade, they love this high canopy with good light, but no sun. These were planted in 2018. We’d rate these as Zone 7b/8a if kept dry in winter.

Hot as Ice

Here are more delospermas (ice plants) looking great at JLBG this week. The first two are the most moisture tolerant, Delosperma cooperi (purple), and Delosperma ‘Kelaidis’ (peach). At the bottom is Delosperma sutherlandii, which is a species that we’ve never been able to keep alive in our wet summers prior to building the crevice garden.

Delosperma cooperi (purple), Delosperma ‘Kelaidis’ (peach)
Delosperma sutherlandii

Take a Look at Our Fall Bloomers!

For many, fall is the best time of year to garden. The heat of summer has finally broken and the crisp autumn air is a delight to work in. Fall perennials take over for the summer flowers and keep the garden showy as the days get shorter.

Here are some fall bloomers from the garden this week. Be sure to check out all of our fall blooming plants during the Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days, September 18-20 & 25-27, 2020.

Hardy Cactus…thoughts

We’ve got a thing for hardy cactus in the garden, but haven’t propagated many to offer yet. One of our many favorites is Notocactus apricus.  Above is our 17 year old clump in the garden, which is 4″ tall x 15″ wide.  We’ve grown a few from seed, but are curious how many folks might consider purchasing one?  We’ve only been to 7F since 2000, so we don’t know if it will take colder temperatures or not.  

Visitors to our spring Open Nursery and Garden this year got to see the amazing Trichocereus ‘Irridescent Watermelon’ (bred by local cacti specialist, Mike Papay) in full flower (hardy so far to 7 degrees F).  Offsets are almost non-existent, so we decided to grow some from seed. Each plant will be different, but all should be quite nice.  So, if we offered these as a seed strain, would you purchase some, knowing each will be slightly different?

Agave Mountain Man – the big moment

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. 

Ark, Ark…is that rain we hear?

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!

A View from the top – Agave flowering 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. 

The Marvels of Nature!

So what do you get when you cross Manfreda and an Agave?

Wait!!  Is that even possible?

It is!!  And, voila… we present… x Mangave!

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.

picture of x Mangave Pineapple Express-garden

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.

picture of x Mangave Pineapple Express-sales

x Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’ for sale in our sales house