Contents of the Spring 2014 Northants News
Agave victoriae-reginae Tina Wardhaugh
Agave victoriae-reginae - Why we should all grow one
to give it its correct full current title, is probably the most popular agave in
collections. It has been in cultivation for well over 130 years.
species was first described in 1875 by Thomas Moore, who said that ‘this
remarkably distinct species of Agave
was first seen in public at the International Exhibition held in Cologne in
September last’ (i.e. in 1874). He went on to say that ‘the name adopted by
Mr. Peacock has been given by the express permission of Her Majesty the Queen’
It is a very slow growing attractive Agave which is considered to be one of the most beautiful and desirable species. It’s found in habitat in Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Durango, Mexico. Normally a solitary individual but some will offset heavily when young. It grows up to 45cm in diameter but this size does take a long time to achieve so it will be a long time before it outgrows its welcome; if you keep it underpotted it will take longer to attain full size.
|Agave victoriae-reginae 'Compacta’|
first agave was an A.
I purchased more than 23 years ago, it’s in a 12 inch pan; I was lucky that
this plant is actually a green/pale green ‘Marginata’ form. Cultivation wise
they are easy to keep and young plants grow best if they are regularly repotted
and given plenty of water when in good growth, it’s surprising how much water
they will take up. Mine have a light feed very often during the summer; I use
Chempak No 8 low nitrogen feed at about half the recommended dilution. They will
happily grow in greenhouses at 5oC, it’s best if they are kept on
the drier side if you keep them at this low temperature. The majority of my
agave collection is housed in a 20 X10 ft. greenhouse with the temperature set
at 10 oC.
the British weather is so variable, and I grow a lot of variegated agaves, I
keep the bubble wrap up in the ‘agave end’ all year as I have sometimes had
variegated agaves scorch when we have had a sunny day after several grey days;
it’s just not worth the risk for me to remove it.
I have many forms of A. victoriae-reginae with the larger portion of my collection being variegated, some have cultivar names official and unofficial; there are white, yellow, pale green marginated forms and yellow, white mediopicta forms and even one which is a very rare striated form.
|Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Large Yellow ’||Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Striata’|
also have two which are photosensitive forms which grow green during the winter
but once exposed to some sunlight you get random patches of variegation. All of
them are very beautiful and no collection is complete without one plant in your
greenhouse. If you like the really unusual then I even have a crested A.
is seriously ODD looking, as well as being very rare as agaves rarely have
crested or monstrose growth.
|An unusual cristate Agave VR.|
and pests for these plants are very few as they are very tough plants. They can
sometimes sulk for up to a year when repotted so when I do this I try to disturb
the root ball as little as possible so it’s potting on really.
other problem I sometimes find with ‘Mediopicta’ forms is they are
very slow growers and more prone to leaf split (see picture), this seems
to be true of all variegated agaves and the mediopicta plants are the
slowest to grow and rarely offset so no swaps.
sometimes get root mealy but I tend to treat mine twice a year with
Provado vine weevil treatment just to be careful. I have had some unusual
brown marks that showed up on new growth which I have put down to Western
flower thrips (after advice) but I’m not positive. It was suggested that
this is the damage caused when they overwinter in the crown of agaves, it
only happened to a few plants.
in all a must have for the cactus connoisseur or even the Agave
Moore,T. (1875) New garden plants. Agave Victoriae Reginae sp. n. Gard. Chron., 4: 484−5.
Ernest Hepworth F.R.H.S. Doug Rowland
he passed away Doug wrote this last piece as a filler. And guess what? It just
fills this space, (well on the printed page). Thanks Doug.
Over time, our society has produced
quite a number of characters. Chris Pitcher, who invented caudiciform plants,
and “Euphorbia” Young come to mind. In the mid 1960s Jimmy Machon and Harry
Smith arranged a visit to the Ernie Hepworth establishment. These were members
of the Cambridge branch. Jimmy working in printing in the city, Harry had been
part of air crew on Lancaster bombers during the war. Ernest used to advertise
in the journal and grew Lithops plants from seeds. Jim and Harry travelled to
the south of England and met Mr Hepworth. His garden was full of bric a brac,
with many old boots and shoes with the toe cut off sprouting Sempervivums as
‘toes’. Further into the garden Mr Hepworth had a large heated greenhouse
with a collection of South American, green, topical, tree frogs which Harry and
Jim enjoyed as Ernie gave a short talk on these creatures. Eventually the lads
visited the Lithops growing houses and bought a selection of Lithops species. It
had been an enjoyable day out. Ernie used to do a postal service and I bought
from him several times. The plants were all of good quality but occasionally
rather small. This being due to the fact that you can sell plants much faster
than you can grow them.
I also bought plants from Ernest Hepworth in my early days in the hobby. I still
have a spreading Haageocereus after 30 years which has survived my mistreatment.
Seeing a superb plant of this from the same source in an Isle of Wight
collection I was prompted to repot mine. Members of the Northants Branch visited
his nursery and the story goes that one of the wags attempted to try on a
concrete boot. Ernest was alleged to have said, “You can’t wear that, it’s
made of concrete.” It was what passed for humour in the 60s.