Saturday, June 23, 2012

Manfreda gets eviction notice

Every now and then I look at a specific plant in my garden and I say, you’ve got to go. I’ve reached that point with my Manfreda ‘Spot’.

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What’s a manfreda, you might ask, and why is it getting kicked out?

The 20+ species of manfredas are closely related to the tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) which produces one of the most exquisite fragrances in the plant kingdom. They are also related to agaves, but unlike agaves they are deciduous and bloom every year once they’re reached a certain age (most agaves bloom once, after many years, and then die).

The manfreda I have is a hybrid called ‘Spot’. Supposedly it is a cross between Texan native Manfreda maculosa, often called “Texas tuberose,” “spice lily” or “rattlesnake agave,” and Southern U.S. native Manfreda virginica, sometimes called “false aloe” or “rattlesnake master.” (I wonder where the association with rattlesnakes comes from?)

I bought ‘Spot’ based on photos I’d seen on the Internet. In most of them, it looks stunning, like in this one. Yes, the new leaves that emerge in the spring do have spots but even they look nothing like those photos. And after a while the spots fade, leaving just the grayish green foliage, which I don’t find all that attractive. (I’d be curious to hear from other ‘Spot’ owners if mine is just a dud, or if they’re all like that.)

In April, I noticed the beginnings of a flower stalk. I was excited since ‘Spot’ had never bloomed before.

                                                                                                                                 
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The stalk shot to three feet, four feet and continuing growing. The tip looked promising.

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Soon the stalk was five feet, then six. Eventually the inflorescence began to unfold, revealing one of strangest flowers I’ve seen.

                                                                                                                                  
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The petals are small and insignificant, but look at that weird tangle of pistils and stamens. Doesn’t it look like something that could have come from outer space?

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Yes, the inflorescence is interesting, but the flower stalk is so top heavy now that it’s flopped over permanently—not an attractive sight. Coupled with the blah leaves, I just don’t see much merit in this plant.

So my time with ‘Spot’ is coming to an end. Like a roommate you just don’t get along with anymore, it’s got to move out.

As for me, I’ll plant an agave or aloe in its place. Something that will give me more pleasure. No point in holding on to a plant that doesn’t excite you.

7 comments:

  1. Have you tried Mangave 'Bloodspot' or 'Macho Mocha'? They are far more garden worthy than 'Spot'.

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    1. I have two Mangave 'Bloodspot' and love them. They're currently in pots where I can admire them up close.

      I've wanted a 'Macho Mocha' for a long time. In fact, I was considering getting one as a replacement for 'Spot'. I saw a semi-mature plant at somebody's house, and it was a stunner.

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  2. I love my "spot" the leaves are shorter and less floppy, more spotted. But you should definitely get rid of something that is'nt making you happy!

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    1. I think my 'Spot' is a particularly ugly specimen. All the ones I've seen in photos looked so much better than mine.

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  3. How long has it been in the ground? If it's been just a year, I might give it one more year to see what happens. Of course in your smaller garden you might not have the tolerance.

    BTW, Eryngium yuccifolium is typically called "Rattlesnake Master", and that's definitely worth growing.

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    1. It's been in the ground for three years, maybe four. It's started to send out pups so it's clearly happy where it is. But it's just not what I want for that spot (excuse the pun).

      I had to look up Eryngium yuccifolium. I'd never seen one before. I looks like a nice plant, like virtually all eryngiums. I'm particularly fond of Eryngium planum 'Sapphire Blue'. I have one in the succulent bed near the front door and love it.

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  4. Hmm...my 'Spot' keeps the spots. Bloom is beautiful, your photos of it are wonderful. So if nothing else you got some good pictures! :)

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