This little spot in my border has been left empty after this winter, after the blood banana and tree fern sadly bit the dust. The little bush to the right of the birdbath is a gardenia and its handled the cold and waterlogged soil for the last couple of years, but its a compact variety. I went to my local Ace Hardware nursery and they gave me a great deal on some "Mystery" Gardenias, marked down for their lankiness. I even got a very affordable bottlebrush since it was scrawny and a bit rootbound. I actually like the trunk's ancient form more anyways!
The bottlebrush will simply be trained to grow several contorted trunks by pruning and shaping with twine. It isn't big enough to cut the leader yet, but I can slowly limb it up so that it focuses its energy on getting taller.
Here's another before picture...
You'll notice that the bottlebrush is pretty close to the picabeen palm, and it was intentional! I planted it there to help protect the cold tender palm and I'll also wrap the palm's trunk in winter. My weeping bottlebrush is on the other side of the palm as well, so the palm's crown should be okay.
Because the soil is rather waterlogged, I sat the rootballs at only half their height and mounded up the soil around the roots.
I even raised up the soil to one side of the dead tree fern trunk and planted some bromeliads in leaf mould. My hope is that they will eventually climb the bottlebrush. Oh, and to the left you can see my turmeric and shampoo gingers popping up! Just imagine seeing bright red Vriesea flowers and shampoo ginger cones in the same scene! The more canopy I get in there, the more bromeliads I can get away with growing on the trunks.
I'm really excited because now I have another hardy evergreen tree to shade my rainforest garden and protect the plants from frost. I guess I do need trees to emulate a rainforest after all...