Kept inside by the cold

While everything's slowly melting away in the cold, I've been occupying myself by doing a little planning as well as container gardening.  The plants are all off the balcony and enjoying a bit of warmth indoors, so the gardening continues!  My encyclia tampensis hybrid is still flourishing with its fragrant blooms, my ginormous spaghetti plant (actually an epiphytic rhipsalis cactus) is flowering and a Surinam cherry seed just sprouted, so there always seems to be something new to find joy in.  I have also found that winter is a great time for bargain hunting on plants!  My search for affordable lady palms has been exhaustive over the last couple of years.  Last winter I scored two $7 specimens at Kmart of all places, and though one has been gracing our living room, the other died in spring when an ant colony took up residence.  Those were small plants, but this year I found a huge clump with seven stems and ten suckers for $10!  The unfortunate nursery owner was trying to make room in his heated tent for other tropicals, so I lucked out.  I also found a trunked cordyline australis at another nursery for $5!  Both of my bargains are actually quite hardy, but I'm not as cold tolerant as they are.  In my apartment they will stay.

I am now planning new foundation plantings for the front yard to replace the crape myrtles that were planted too close to the house anyway.  Every year I try to limb them up so that they'll branch out above the roof line, and every year the lawn people hack them down despite my pleas for mercy so in response to this botched up pollarding job, the traumatized trees end up sprawling out into the driveway and against the house in one bushy mess with growth so vigorous that it requires weekly pruning.  So, we're avoiding that headache and picking something that will grow upright, does not need all the pruning, and effectively frames the house.  Sounds like a job for crape myrtles, if only they didn't just scream to landscapers "Destroy my naturally beautiful vaselike growth habit and amputate me to the nubs!!! Do it! Do it now!!!"  Its as if you gave a beautiful woman plastic surgery that she doesn't need and will only look awful down the road.
Now that I'm done ranting, lets explore the possibilities for replacement.  On one side of the house I have already planted Mediterranean fan palms, giant spineless yucca and coral bean.  These will grow taller and bushier to hide the dumpsters in the side yard, yet don't grow so fast that they get out of control. I will also plant my new purple cordyline there to make a nice contrast and to provide interest.  These will all be underplanted with chartreuse sweet potato vine to form a contrasting backdrop until the other pants fill in.  Eventually I would add some of my cacti that I have started from seed, making sure to place them in well drained pots.
Though normally planted as container accents to add height, the giant yucca and the cordyline will both grow to be stunning trees with fascinating wrinkly trunks in time if allowed.  These three architectural plants are evocative of the desert, and make the transition that much stronger when rounding the corner into the very wet rainforest themed garden in the back.  Stepping past the spiky desert plants into the side yard you would escape the searing summer sun and step into the deep shade of a loquat tree.  Beyond that would be a verdant forest of giant ferns, gingers and elephant ears, and the effect would be heightened by the strategic placement of a "desert" garden. 

The crape myrtle on the right side of the house doesn't just frame the house, but specifically frames the entry to the house.  Keeping that in mind, I want to plant the far right end densely so that the path the front door seems to open up before you.  This also provides a degree of privacy from the closely placed neighbor's house, but does so gently without becoming a sharp division.  The existing plantings are as follows: A rectangular foundation hedge of azalea beneath the window, schilling's dwarf holly in five mounds in front of that, a border of lily of the nile, and a bed in between it all to be planted with low perennials such as bromeliads, blood lily and pineapple lily.  The two lantana bushes will be removed for their weedy and unkempt nature.  Underneath the as yet to be named tree I will plant my lady palms to form a tidy tropical looking backdrop.  
Whatever tree I choose to plant has to handle full sun in the summer afternoons, and will also have to handle some shade since the live oak will probably shade that spot in a couple of years.
It will have to be evergreen to shield tender plants from the cold, and so it doesn't drop all of its leaves into bromeliads in the fall.   Here are my candidates.

Weeping Yaupon Holly
Orchid Tree
Chinese fan palm
Windmill palm
Paurotis palm

So I've managed to do some planning, found some great deals, and got to enjoy some of my container plants again.  Speaking of which, I finally figured out what seedlings had been growing with my coontie and magnolia... wild coffee!  I never would have given it any thought if I hadn't taken that pot in for the cold.  



  1. Hi! Your plan for your garden is wonderful. I especially liked the idea of juxtaposing the desrt plants to highlight the tropical garden. All the best in the new year!

  2. Hi, Steve! I'm new to the blogging world, so thank you so much for checking out my blog and turning me onto yours! Your landscape is so beautiful and tropical! Looking forward to more in 2010!

  3. Hi, Steve! Are you into bromeliads? I love them as well! It is too bad about losing the crapes...they are such special little trees! My vote would go toward a tabebuia or weeping bottlebrush...As I drive around town, they grab my attention like no other trees when in full bloom.

  4. Thanks for all of the encouragement! Floridagirl; I am VERY into bromeliads and have searched all over florida to find cold hardy varieties. Any recommendations? I am leaning towards the tab and the bottlebrush, partially because they make excellent epiphyte hosts.


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