In a Vase on Monday – Bromeliad Cachepot

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I decided to do something different this week. This is a pot of Bromeliad cuttings from my garden. The cuttings are in a 1 gallon nursery container double potted inside the cachepot. These Bromeliads are so bulletproof they are planted in old dried out potting soil and sand, a very well drained mix that will serve them well for months to come.

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Here is one of the cuttings, a Super Fireball Neoreglia, wonderful groundcover and hard to kill. One of my favorites. It grows almost on a runner (actually a stolon), the mother plant (on the left) dies and generally makes two or three pups like this one. The mother plant is cut off and  thrown away, I always feel bad about this. The roots are left intact and placed inside the nursery container.

Super Fireball Neoregelia in the garden, cold weather makes the red and peach coloration come out, these are closer to green in summer.

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Another  view:

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The cachepot is Portmerion, bought years ago on an antiqueing mission with my mother. The pot is a favorite of mine, but I rarely have houseplants as I have a strong tendency to kill them. The Bromeliads should last for months and root into the pot.

From above:

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These are all Neoregelia Bromeliads, grown primarily for foliage. The flowers are not very exciting. I know two of the four varieties – there are 3500 types of Bromeliads and I lost track of some or never knew the name ( i.e. bought at a garage sale for 5 bucks) The bigger chartruese plant with the red center (the center turns red with cooler weather) is a Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae). The Burgundy with green center and no spots is Super Fireball, the spotted ones I have not a clue the species. The grey plant in the foreground is a succulent – a Graptosedum of some kind that a friend gave to me, they enjoy the same soil conditions and I have a few in containers with Bromeliads on the porches at my house. Spanish moss is used for fill in the edges (and hide the black plastic nursery pot) is also a Bromeliad (Tillandsia usneoides)

Happy Gardening!

For more vases from around the world, visit Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com.

Bromeliads for South Florida Gardens

I first encountered Bromeliads as houseplants in the 1980s. 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 begin 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 the 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 – Contrasting Elements.

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My goal this week was to use an actual vase! Check. The vase is one of my thrift store finds that I have greatly enjoyed. As I was thinking of what to use in the vase I realized my native Firebush was starting to flower after  I cut it back in December, so that started the ball rolling. Here is a better photo of the vase:

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I had to bundle up to wander outside today. We are having winter today, when I woke up this morning the weather said it was 47 degrees (F) and felt like 37. There is also a gale warning and the wind blowing in from the north off the Atlantic Ocean is cold in January.

The plants seem perfectly content in the breezy cool, thus far and it always surprises me what I find when it seems not much is flowering. Since I started with orange Firebush flowers I remembered a professor from design school saying you always need a color jump (jump being from one side of the color wheel to the other) in your compositions. My color jump was to the blue Pom Pom Aster. Then I added a pink one and some Tropical Red Salvia. After that the color was getting pretty jumpy so I decided some grey was needed to cool things down. The Flapjack Kalanchoes are blooming and seemed just right.

Complicating my mental dilemma was another sacrosanct axiom from design school, all elements must occur in odd numbers. Ones, threes, fives and sevens are best. Fortunately, there were three Pom Pom Asters. A friend from school told me once he thought fours were best when planting a featured perennial because the fourth plant makes your eye go round in circles and focus on the plant. Perhaps my nearsightedness prevents me from perceiving the miracle of four.

Finding myself dangerously close to a self inflicted design lecture – I cut some different foliage for contrast. Dwarf Red striped Pineapple, Muhly Grass and Copper Fennel were added, coarse and fine texture and color all at once. Breathing a sigh of relief from all this thought I decided to make lunch.

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In a Vase on Monday- No Pansies Here

 

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I usually start with one idea and end up with something completely different. After suffering a planting design lecture from myself, I ended up with this. The Orange (called Dwarf Red) Ixoras have started flowering in earnest, so I plucked a few of those and began to make a posy (thank you, Cathy , our meme hostess at ramblinginthegarden) for the new term I love. A posy would be called a bouquet in the US, I can’t speak for anywhere else. My posy just wasn’t working out even though the design principles were solid (more lecturing) fine textured orange contrasting with coarser yellow flowers (Beach Sunflowers) the big coarse purple Solar Sunrise Coleus leaves edged in chartreuse picking up the color of the finer textured Boston Ferns. I give myself a headache thinking about these things sometimes.

After the failure of my posy design to gel, caused primarily by structural issues due to poorly considered stem lengths, I sought a small vase for my finely considered composition. The vase was my mothers favorite pansy jar. A none too fine pressed glass jar from God knows where that was frequently filled with pansies in the winter during my childhood. Perfect for oddly too short stems. My mother, not being much of an arranger, would have loved this one. The below photo is my mother (in 1948) overlooking the pansy jar.

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Pansies in South Florida are an ill considered indulgence. Lasting when temperatures are perfect, maybe two weeks, and requiring more vigilance than I possess I have forsaken them for more tropical flowers. So, no pansies for the pansy jar. But a few new plant friends have been made to grace this heirloom vase.

Piecrust Croton and Friends

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Piecrust Croton

I have been reworking  the design of my front yard because the access point for the septic tank was in a lawn area and actually needed access. What this really means is once a year a 3 foot circle in the lawn  is dug up and destroyed to clean the (ewww, yes) septic tank filter. The joys of country living. I am certain I did not know septic tanks had filters prior to moving to Florida. I also realized I would like to have a pathway to the side.

For many years I have advised my clients to live in their houses for a while to see how they move around the property as sometimes a good guess just really doesn’t do the trick. The upshot is I did not take my own advice and I like to travel to my side garden (ah, future garden) more than I thought I would. Design that originates with how you live in a place is always a good plan. This may be Plan B as I did Plan A. Who knew St. Augustinegrass wouldn’t be happy over a septic tank. Oh, well. I am liking the new bed thus far.

A nod to my husbands pie making skills was the purchase of a Piecrust Croton, a multi colored tropical shrub that hails from the South Pacific. These shrubs are easy to grow and ubiquitous in South Florida. There are a few stalwart standby varieties that are common, but of course I love the weird stuff.

Here are the standard varieties:

At the top of the post is the foliage of the Piecrust – it looks like, you guessed it, Piecrust!  The rest, clicking on the picture will give the name. Being the plant freak that I am, I couldn’t resist photographing several more interesting varieties:

I  love all of these, but I think Stoplight might be the next Croton purchase on my Croton bucket list. How many people have a Croton bucket list?

Yes, the beds are getting bigger. The good news is I probably have a quarter acre left!!

Back to the inspiration for all of this, the piecrust. Here are a few of my husbands pies:

I think these merit a celebratory Croton in the front yard.

Speaking of celebratory, Happy New Year to all.

Chopped Gardening

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Foodtv. I have a few favorite shows that are religiously recorded for later viewing, Chopped is one. For those of you not familiar with Chopped, a group of four chefs is given a basket of sometimes bizarre food items – say, venison, gumdrops, cinnamon liqueur, broccoli rabe and rice cereal, then the goal is to make a gourmet three course meal  (using the basket ingredients) within a certain timeframe. Other ingredients may be added, but all the basket items must be used. The chef’s food is reviewed on a course by course basis until all but one is left. That chef wins and the rest are chopped.

I was standing outside contemplating where to plant the odd assemblage of plants I had acquired when I realized that my garden is a continuous episode of Chopped. My ingredients are plants. Gardening in Florida adds a few wrinkles to the design process – interesting things just tend to pop up in the garden and there are numerous irresistible plant sales. Then a friend or neighbor leaves an interesting plant on the doorstep. It’s a dilemma.

After two years of dreadful well water, we joyfully hooked up to our public water system last year. I had left a blank spot down our side property line for the purpose of running the line to our house. After the water line installation was complete the plan was to finish the side landscaping.

Life intervened and I had to have hernia surgery. Doctor said in four weeks it should heal. Sounds great, by the way it could take up to six months. It took 5 months, two weeks and then I could move things around in the garden that weighed more than 2 pounds.

The side garden is now weed o rama and I have more than the usual stockpile of odd plants to use in the landscaping:

From friends:

American Agave

American Agave

Large  Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Large Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Things that have just popped up in the yard: Orange Clerodendrum, Pink Pentas, Boston Fern, White Spider Lilies, Pink Rain Lilies and Purple Oyster Plants. A Plant Palette I could not have dreamed up.

How to combine all of these plants in addition to my usual collection of 5 or so Bromeliads is taxing my brain. It’s a real episode of Gardening Chopped. I hope I make it through the first round.

Proper Attire for H***strip Gardening

I learned a new term this week: Hellstrip. Hellstrip refers to the baking hot area between the street and sidewalk or driveway. A book has been published about these gardens and there is a Facebook page. Hellstrip has hit social media! Usually narrow and not easily watered these areas require some special consideration and are difficult for gardeners to conquer.

I had not realized I even had a HELLSTRIP and the truth is I kind of like it. When my husband and I bought our house there was a Jacaranda in the strip that could literally be seen through. The top of the tree had been blown out and the crotch had rotted to the point you could catch glimpses of the house through the trunk from the street. Fearing an unstructurally sound tree, I had the Jacaranda removed. What grew under the tree might kindly be referred to as sand spurs.

The sand spurs took a bit of work to get rid of as nothing really kills them except removal and they reseed heavily. Gallons of vinegar later and with the construction of a new driveway, I had a blank palette.

With a bit of research and observation I determined the plant list and began to install.

First, a native and very drought tolerant tree, The Gumbo Limbo. Gumbo Limbos are wonderful Shade Trees but pretty basic. Then to the underplantings, I searched native beach plants and looked for extremely tolerant passalongs, here is what I found:

The Sunflowers and Muhly Grass are native, the rest are imports that are very drought tolerant. Worst comes to worst, I can make some tequila from the Agave..

Dune Sunflower Helianthus debilis

Dune Sunflower
Helianthus debilis

Painted Fingernail Bromeliad

Painted Fingernail
Bromeliad

Blue Agave

Blue Agave

Martin Bromeliad

Martin Bromeliad

Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass

The composition might seem a bit weird, but I have color year round and throw some water around every now and again. All the plants are doing well, with no irrigation whatsoever and growing in the poorest excuse for soil I have ever encountered.

Now, the question, the attire for Hellstrip Gardening, I propose this:

Animal Print Bustiers

Animal Print Bustiers

Maybe worn with Combat boots? I’ve been meaning to get a tattoo, maybe of my favorite Bromeliad….