March 11, 2024

In February I posted on Instagram a summer-memory photo of a mangave I love, and @plantsplantsen messaged me about it. “Nice to meet another mangave fan,” he wrote. We chatted, and he offered to send me some mangave pups in the spring. “Whaaaat? Are you a mangave Santa Claus?” I asked. Naturally, I don’t look a mangave gift horse in the mouth. I gave him my shipping address after a cursory look through his Insta to convince myself he was a legitimate plant person and not a weird stalker.

And then I forgot about it. A month later, two large boxes arrived on my doorstep. I thought it was a plant order I’d placed, but when I opened up the heavy packages, a mass of fleshy, speckled and striped leaves greeted me. Oh my god, look at all these mangaves! It was like Christmas in early March. The mangave Santa Claus had indeed delivered!

Each mangave was carefully potted and packed in a nursery tray and wedged tightly enough that very few of the fragile leaves had broken. I pulled 18 different cultivars from the boxes, exclaiming with delight over each one.

I confess I did not know who @plantsplantsen was until I Googled my mangave benefactor and learned he’s the esteemed mangave (and other plants) hybridizer Hans Hansen (I see what he did there with @plantsplantsen) at Walters Gardens, a wholesale grower in Zeeland, Michigan. While you can’t buy their plants retail, you can find them through online retailers like Proven Winners, Plant Delights, White Flower Farm, Bluestone Perennials, and more.

I soon had my mangave haul potted up in terracotta pots and top-dressed with fine decomposed granite. Turn up your sound a little on the video for accompaniment by Neko Case singing — appropriately, it seemed — Man. If you’re curious, the pink irrigation flags in the background mark newly planted plants, so I remember where to spot-water. Also, it’s live oak leaf-drop season, hence the brown leaves everywhere.

Mangaves are hybrids of agaves and manfredas, crossed into colorful, fleshy-leaved, spotted and striped perfection. They are far less spiky than agaves and generally smaller too. A very few have proven to be (semi) winter hardy for me in the ground in Austin, like ‘Macho Mocha’, ‘Espresso’, and ‘Moonglow’, but even these sustain damage during winters like the one we just had, often dying back and coming back from a pup hidden under the mother plant’s leaves. I’ll need to bring these potted pups indoors during freezes next winter, so we’ll see how long that lasts. But for now I’m in love with this fun assortment to enjoy.

The 18 mangaves Hans sent include ‘Silver Fox’ (pictured above), ‘Black Magic’, ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Catch a Wave’, ‘Spotty Dotty’, ‘Pineapple Express’, ‘Red Wing’, ‘Aztec King’, ‘Permanent Wave’, ‘Navajo Princess’, ‘Praying Hands’, ‘Inkblot’, ‘Bad Hair Day’, ‘Snow Leopard’, ‘Wavecrest’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, and ‘Lavender Lady’. Plus Hansara ‘Jumping Jacks’, a three-way cross between mangave, manfreda, and polianthes (tuberose).

Check out the Mad About Mangave Collection at Walters Gardens for info about each one.

Shaggy-leaved ‘Bad Hair Day’

Dark-leaved drama

Purple spots

Fun, right? Thank you so much, Hans — or should I say, Mangave Claus? And thank you too, Walters Gardens!

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Digging Deeper

March 16: Attend the third annual Budding Out Plant Sale & Festival on 3/16 at the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead. Rare and distinctive plants from the garden’s nursery and from select plant vendors will be for sale. Additional offerings include art, ceramics, jewelry, food, music, and presentations. Admission: $5 for members, $10 for non-members, children under 12 free. Hours: 10 am to 4 pm; members get early admission at 9 am (memberships available on day of event).

March 30-31: Come see the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Show at Zilker Botanical Garden on 3/30 and 3/31, from 10 am to 5 pm. Includes a plant show with specimen cacti and succulents, handcrafted pottery, daily silent auction and hourly plant raffles, and expert advice. Admission is included with paid admission to Zilker Garden, $5 to $8 for adults, $3 to $4 for children (under 2 free).

April 6: Come out to Austin’s Mayfield Park on 4/6 for the Mayfield Park Gardening Symposium & Fundraiser, 8:30 to 11 am. This annual benefit for the park includes a raffle, plant sale, and garden speakers.

May 4: Explore “brilliant backyards, perfect pools and pergolas, and outdoor rooms and gardens” on the ATX Outdoor Living Tour on 5/4, 10 am to 3 pm. Landscape architects, designers, and builders will be on hand to answer questions. Tickets are $33.85 for adults, $17.85 for kids age 10-17.

May 11: Save the date for Austin Home’s Great Outdoors Tour on 5/11.

June 1-2: Take a self-guided, 2-day tour of ponds and gardens in and around Austin on the annual Austin Pond and Garden Tour, held 6/1 and 6/2, 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Come learn about gardening and design at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, authors, and gardeners a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Stay tuned for more info!

All material © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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The mangave Santa Claus came in March! I got two boxes of fleshy, speckled and striped mangave beauties from Hans Hansen at Walters Gardens.… Read More
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