Monday, May 26, 2014

Meet Vanzie, our new whale’s tongue agave

On Saturday I picked up the newest family member: a whale’s tongue agave named ‘Vanzie’. Actually, ‘Vanzie’ isn’t its real name, it’s the cultivar (Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’). ‘Vanzie’ was selected by renowned plantsman Kelly Griffin for its deeply channeled leaves and subsequently put into tissue culture. After years of waiting, larger specimens are now available.

I had a 6 x 6 ft. area in the backyard to fill and I wanted to start out with a larger plant. Fortunately, Village Nurseries, the wholesaler where I bought many of the plants for our new desert bed, had 15-gallon specimens in stock.

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Now the ‘Vanzie’ in the photo above may not look very large, but let me assure you, it’s a monster when you have to handle it. It’s 2 ft. across, and the pot is 18 in. tall.

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What a beauty it is!

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I was able to drag the pot by myself, but lifting it without help seemed foolish, especially since the spines are sharp. Fortunately, my wife was around to help, bless her long-suffering heart.

Instead of trying to lift or pull the agave out of the nursery pot, I decided to sacrifice the pot and slice it open with box cutter. This allowed me to carefully remove the root ball from the pot and lower it into the planting hole with a high degree of precision.

Here is the space where it went. I actually planted it to the right of the shovel so it’s a little more than 3 ft. from the fence. Agave ovatifolia has the potential to grow to 6 ft. wide by 4 ft. tall. If mine does, it won’t be crammed. (Check out Pam Penick’s Agave ovatifolia nicknamed ‘Moby’; it’s 6’4″ in diameter and 4 ft. tall!)

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And here is Vanzie in its new home, between a potted dwarf green-stripe bamboo (Pleioblastus viridistriatus) and a potted ‘Spaghetti Strap’ agave (Agave geminiflora ‘Spaghetti Strap’).

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It gets about 2 hours of direct sun from 11:00am to 1:00pm and is in the shade otherwise. That’s a little less sun that it might ideally want, but hailing from elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 ft. in the Sierra Lampazos in northeastern Mexico, Agave ovatifolia definitely appreciates some protection from our afternoon sun—which at an elevation of 17 ft. is very, very hot in the summer.

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Agave ovatifolia is hardy to 5°F and tolerates more moisture in the winter than other agaves. If you’re in zone 7b and above and have the room, Agave ovatifolia makes a fantastic landscaping plant.

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‘Vanzie’ is our third Agave ovatifolia. We also have a regular Agave ovatifolia as well as a bluish cultivar called ‘Frosty Blue’. The other two get quite a bit more sun than ‘Vanzie’, and it will be interesting to see which will grow faster.

14 comments:

  1. Now another A. ovatifolia to find! This is a nice one with interesting texture. The mound is good for times when you do get rain. Mine does get a little sunburned in August but I don't have to worry about it in the winter.

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    1. I saw a variegated Agave ovatifolia (called 'Flipper') at Greg Starr's nursery in December. What a beauty! I'm also looking for one with pronounced ridges on the underside of the leaves, as seen in Greg Starr's agave book. I love the chase!

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  2. Pretty! I just planted a Vanzie a fee months ago, but mine is tiny. I hope it grows up to look as nice as yours!

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    1. The 1-gallon A. ovatifolia I planted in March has already put on visible growth. These are fast growing as far as agaves goes. I think you'll see progress by the end of the summer.

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  3. Beautiful specimen Gerhard..I can't imagine trying to plant this without help, not to mention elbow high puncture proof gloves !

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    1. I've learned to ask for help. Hurting myself aside, I don't want to damage a plant I've spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, acquiring. A sign of my new-found maturity: I was ready to sacrifice a perfectly fine 15-gallon nursery can instead of pulling on the agave to get it out of the container, potentially tearing off part of the plant, catapulting myself into the planting hole, etc.

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  4. 'Vanzie' is a real looker, what a fabulous addition to your garden. I too have taken to cutting nursery pots to make it easier get the plants out, especially since most of the time I'm doing it without help (and I have the arms/scars to prove it).

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    1. I think my Vanzie has grown already, but it's hard to know for sure because I visit it so often. It has become my favorite agave, at least at the moment.

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  5. Vanzie is stunning and you've put her in a perfect spot too, with lots of room to grow to it's full potential. Fabulous addition to your garden (and another one on our wishlist...).

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    1. If the pup of my Vanzie is big enough to be separated from mama when the time goes, I'll bring it to you in July!

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  6. Wow! stunning agave. I may have to think about adding one to my (Portland zone 8) garden if you think it could handle the wet winters...what do you think??
    Lovely...thanks for sharing!

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    1. Definitely! Loree (Danger Garden) grows Agave ovatifolia successfully in Portland. Check out her 2014 agave report here.

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  7. I bought this plant more than a decade ago from YuccaDo Nursery and planted it outside of my greenhouse. I live in Washington State, just south of the Canadian border, where winters are moderate in temperature but wet. I had a wood/plastic cover built that I would use in the winter- no heat benefit but the rain was kept off. It has grown huge- wider than 6'- to the point that I worried for the structural safety of the greenhouse. Last winter, for the first time, I did not cover the plant. We just realized that some of the inner leaves had begun rotting, and yesterday my husband took it out. What a monstrous job! We got 7 contractor bags filled with the leaves, bags that could only be moved on a hand cart. I don't know if the lack of cover caused the rot, but be forewarned if you live in a colder climate. I have lost a magnificent friend.

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    1. Carol, I'm so sorry to hear. I would be devastated,

      I have to imagine it was the extra moisture that caused it to rot. Agave ovatifolia can deal with wet winters better than most agaves, but it seems that even it has limits.

      Are you going to plant another one? That's what I would be inclined to do.

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