Wordless Wednesday – Hallelujah Bromeliad

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In A Vase on Monday- Spa Day

 

20190331_110422From time to time I make an arrangement that generates comments like ‘it belongs in the lobby of a spa’. I think there is a relaxation vibe from some of the more tropical plants in my garden. I have been gardening madly to get my pollinator/fruit garden finished before the rainy season starts, so I could use a Spa Day myself.

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Here is a close up, there is a lot of foliage in this vase. The flowers are; in red, Guzmania Bromeliad, in white, Lotus Leaf Begonia (Begonia nelumbifolia) – a recent addition to the garden, this Begonia gets 5 feet tall and wide. It has just started to flower and is really shooting up in size. The burgundy and green leaves are from Neoregelia Bromeliads, I am not quite sure of the variety. The thinner leaves are from a Varigated Minature Pineapple (currently bearing tiny pink pineapples). Bigger leaf behind is from the Ornamental Banana (Musa ensente). Ferns are from my driveway edge volunteer Boston Ferns (Nephrolepsis exaltata) and the volunteer Asparagus Fern. Vase is wrapped with a Pandanus leaf.20190331_124536-1

Here is my volunteer Boston Fern garden, I have a crushed shell driveway, the shells are held in place by wood timbers and there is an inches wide space between the driveway and my neighbor’s fence where the ferns thrive. I have really enjoyed this gift.

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Happy Monday.

In a Vase on Monday – Spring Salad Surprises

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Winter in South Florida (or as I call it, Not Summer) is winding down. As I was planting my last crop of vegetable seeds, I noticed the lettuces fading and bolting. I grew Red Romaine lettuce this winter and was surprised to see how pretty the flowers are. While picking them, I could tell by the scent that the Romaine had turned bitter, no need to taste it. Even the rabbits have quit eating it and turned to munching on my Bromeliads and eating the old green beans.

20190303_100841-1Another surprise in the garden was the emergence of 5 flowers on a Guzmania Bromeliad I left in a container for a little too long. I did not know Guzmanias would even put out multiple flowers, so I cut one since it went so well with the Romaine.

In keeping with the salad theme, I added some Copper Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) to the arrangement. The vase is a junk store silverplate heirloom from my mother, gaining patina (rust) with every use.

Here is the Papaya update: More surprises, six fruit so far. I think there will be more.20190303_162431

Bromeliads for South Florida Gardens

I first encountered Bromeliads as houseplants in the 1980’s. Winter Gardens, Atrium and Interiorscaping were popular indoors in Shopping Malls and Office Buildings. At the time, I worked for a large Architectural firm as a Landscape Architect and designed these gardens using flowering Bromeliads as color beds in large planted areas. The Bromeliads I used primarily in these indoor plantings were Aechmea fasciata (left) and Guzmanias on the right.

 

 

Many years later, my husband and I relocated to the Treasure Coast of Florida. I was excited to learn about all the Bromeliads I could use in my garden. Houseplants rule the outdoors in South Florida. Now I have Guzmanias and Aechmea fasciatas  in my garden.

Bromeliads have a broad range of appearance. They range from highly colored foliage with flowers prized in our gardens to Spanish Moss hanging from Oak trees common in the Deep South. Bromeliads may also be found at the supermarket in the form of a Pineapple. Some are epiphytes living on trees (Spanish Moss) others are considered terrestrial and root into the ground. Bromeliads use specialized cells to collect water from the air, they also use cups to collect rainwater and derive nutrients from debris collected in the cup.

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While we have several native Bromeliads in Florida (Tillandsias for the most part), most of the showy ones we use in our gardens are from further south in the tropical Americas, many of my favorites hail from Brazil. These are easy to grow, tough plants that lend a tropical touch to our gardens. I use them as the icing in the garden, like using flowering perennials further north.

Being of different origins than most perennials, Bromeliads require a bit of understanding-the plant originally purchased eventually will flower and die. This is called the mother plant generally. The mother plant flowers, then begins to decline; offshoots called pups then appear around the plant. Pups can be left in place around the mother or clipped off when they reach a third the size of the mother plant. Pups removed may be replanted and usually require staking or a rock to hold them in place until they are established. Aechmea ‘Chiantinii Surprise’ with pups.

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Chantinii Surprise

My transition from a houseplant tender to the garden Bromeliad enthusiast had a bit of a learning curve. Soon after moving to the Treasure Coast, the very common (here) Blanchetiana Bromeliad began blooming around town. Being a burgeoning fan of the garden Bromeliad, I nearly wrecked my car trying to get a look at the thing. Orange foliage, nearly as tall as I am with a red and yellow spike flower of a similar size. No longer in houseplant territory- this was some serious vegetation!

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Now I make wreaths during the holidays from the flowers:

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Seeking advice on the needs of these plants proved to be elusive and I began to just plant them. If someone said it needs “some sun” – this means it really needs partial shade. I charco-broiled more than one plant seeking the “some sun”. There are some reliable full sun plants; finding the right plant for the right spot is key.

Some favorite sun Bromeliads:

 

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Some favorite shade Bromeliads:

 

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Another key to success with Bromeliads is planting them during the proper time of year. Dividing and installing new plants in your garden should be done between November and March, the reason, to allow the plants to slowly acclimate to the sun – the sun angles in South Florida are dramatically different between summer and winter. Some of the more sun tolerant ones may be planted year round. Landscape beds near a north facing wall can be full sun in summer and full shade in winter.

Design tips:

Consider the big Bromeliads exclamation points in the garden, use sparingly. Everybody can’t be the star. Even stars need a chorus. This is Aechmea Blanchetiana in a pool of Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)!

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Restrain the color palette to three colors. My favorite color schemes are:

In shade to partial shade: Colors and varieties

Red/Green/Burgundy – Neoregelia ‘Maria’, Neoregelia ‘Angel Face’

 

Good companion plants: Coontie Palms, Ferns

Gold/ Green/ Salmony Red: Vriesea ospinae ‘Gruberii’, Neoregelia ‘Super Fireball’

 

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Combination of orange, red and green for sun; named from left to right

Neoregelia ‘Fireball’, Neoregelia ‘Bossa Nova’, Bird of Paradise (not a Bromeliad), Aechmea ‘Alvarez’, Aechmea ‘Red Candles’

The Bird of Paradise is shown as a companion plant example.

Bromeliads also make great container plants. Here are a few examples we put together at Pinders Nursery in Palm City, Florida for a talk I gave (about Bromeliads!) last Saturday. These container plantings last a long time, until the plant flowers or you need a change of view.

 

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Plants are: in back ‘Imperial Red’ Alcanterea (for sun – these bloom every 10 years), in the blue container for shade, Aechmea ‘Del Mar’, the brown bowl has Aechmea ‘Bracteata Red’ and Neoregelia ‘Donger’ would take Sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In A Vase on Monday – Frond Farewell

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I am bidding farewell to a flower from my Blanchetiana Bromeliad that has served me well. It opened at the end of November, I enjoyed if for a couple of weeks, then used part of it to create a wreath for Christmas. On Saturday, I cut the rest to use as part of a talk I gave about Bromeliads in the Garden.

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The wreath is still on my door and has dried to a nice brown, I am still mulling whether to get rid of it

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The frond in the arrangement is from a Chinese Fan Palm (Livingstonia chinensis) seedling that popped up between me and my neighbor. It gives a really tropical vibe to the area, so I left it. I figure I will long gone before it reaches full size (60 feet!)  Odd for winter in South Florida, it has been raining since yesterday afternoon. The vase holds about half of the frond, I went out in the pouring rain with Loppers in search of a bold bit of foliage to contrast with the Blanchetiana flower (at least 3 feet tall). Upon lopping the frond, I spied a wasp nest in the other half. For whatever reason, the wasps were not bothered by me and I left the other half of the frond where I found it, ensuring no homeless wasps and hoping for beneficial wasps. I cut the frond in half again – one quarter is hanging over the edge and the rest is in the vase upright.

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Farewell, fine Flower.