More Inspiration From Kanapaha

Earlier I focused on the Kanapaha fall plant sale, but today I'll focus on the gardens themselves.  Here are some of my favorite areas, such as the entrance garden, ginger garden, rock garden, fern cobble, and a few mini gardens throughout.  I know many of you will never visit, but I've learned a lot just by which plants make it through their winters.

Entrance Garden
You're blown away before you even enter the doors to Kanapaha, and its a great place too see some of the tougher cold tolerant bromeliads like this large neoregelia, and even some treats such as the painted feather calathea!  Some plants didn't make it through the record breaking winter, and I noticed a few broms and a red mangrove were missing this visit.

I'm almost positive that the plants to the right are aechmea distichantha, and they look pretty well established!  I have this one at the base of my oak tree as well and its nice to get an idea of how large they'll get in due time... meaning that I'll have to give them some room!  They have a variety of other cold hardy bromeliads planted, including the nidularium pictured below.

I've limited myself to only one nidularium so far since I've already started collecting other types, but their freeze hardiness definitely makes them worthwhile in zone 8.  They're also very shade tolerant and have unique bloom spikes that can best be described as a cross between guzmania and neoregelia.

The Ginger Garden
There are so many varieties and species of ginger to observe, and the garden has the effect of a lush rainforest when all the deciduous gingers have leafed out.  Early fall is a great time to visit since they're all in their prime and haven't begun to go dormant.  To the left is a Southern classic, pinecone ginger!  If you live up north and want a tropical looking summer bulb, this one should be your first.

Peacock gingers are exquisite groundcovers with a large variety of leaf shapes and patterns, with some having calathea like foliage with herringbone patterns.  The flowers aren't inconspicuous, just not too extravagant.  I think "cute" is a good word to describe the violet like flowers that nestle in the leaves, and the foliage usually steals the show anyway.

This "blue ginger" Isn't really a ginger at all, but rather a huge member of the spiderwort family from Mexico.  I would love to see this planted in a bed of the related "purple heart" and maybe some other plants with cool hues for a vivid display!

There are plenty of hedychiums too, though this one was found in the hummingbird garden.  I don't even know why I bothered with the related and comparably boring white butterfly ginger, when I could have enjoyed other varieties with orange, red and peach blooms!  The fragrance is every bit as yummy as the white butterfly too, so keep the other colors in mind!

The Fern Cobble
This is one of my favorite places to take a break from the long paths, and I often sit beside the gurgling water feature and admire the Japanese birds nest ferns, or asplenium nidus.  These are the hardy kind from Japan, and the fronds have a "V" shaped cross section and a narrower shape.  I grow one in my garden too, and if you follow the link you'll also see how they looked in spring after temps in the teens, though I think the bleaching is from the extra sun in winter.

The Rock Garden
Above is another birds nest fern, but growing as a lithophyte in the dry rock garden!  I have seen photos of Balinese spas with the tropical version growing like this, and I would love to emulate that look.  Maybe hypertufa is the way to go...
To the left is a dyckia brevifolia growing similarly, between two boulders.  I love seeing the bromeliad's dramatic form against the lichen encrusted rocks!

More dyckias!  The one on the left is another brevifolia, though a diminutive one with a much tighter form.  The one on the right looks just like my "red planet", though it wasn't labeled so its just speculation. 
Below is a shot of their huge ponytail palm, which was unfortunately unlabeled. 

Herb Garden
While the variety in knot garden of medicinal, aromatic and edible herbs is extensive, I always run straight towards the few tropical fruits, such as this pink velvet banana!  All but one of my seedlings died from drought, so it was nice to see their huge specimens for a little motivation.  The fruit's pulp is technically edible, though maneuvering through the seeds is tricky.

Would you believe that the big tree in the photo above is an avocado... in ZONE 8B?  Its looking pretty great considering the temps in the mid teens this winter, and I actually found a way to buy its progeny.  "Southeast Mushroom and Edible Plants" in High Springs sells them, and while my garden doesn't have room for one, hopefully someone can try it and let me know how it does!  Their email is and you can also visit them at Kanapaha's spring festival or at other plant sales in the area.

Unfortunately the huge multitrunked papaya plant didn't last this winter, though it was impressive enough for it to survive last year's cold!  I wonder if its a special variety.

Anyways, Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on how to make the "Gack O' Lantern"!  Here are some more pics from throughout the gardens, in case you haven't had enough by now...


  1. Thanks for featuring the plants in the garden. They are just so beautiful.

  2. Thanks for the tour through Kanapaha. I must get there in person one day. I sure hope the bird's nest fern I purchased this year is the Japanese one. It wasn't labeled and I can't really see much difference except mine has ruffly leaves. Hmm...

  3. Great tour! It's nice to know there are some more cold hardy bromeliads I've not found out about. Outstanding botanical garden.
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  4. Very lovely! I think I need to move to the tropics.

  5. Ya know, I passed by signs to Kanapaha this past week when headed to Georgia. I so badly wanted to take a detour! But alas, I was not alone in the car, and we did have a destination. Thanks for giving us another tour. Love those broms and gingers! Nice to see so many exotic-looking, cold-hardy specimens. Papayas were damaged here in my neck of the woods as well this year, but those huge old avocados didn't flinch an inch.

  6. Solitude:
    Pretty impressive for a temperate climate, huh?

    If the birds nest fern has ruffly leaves like lasagna, then its likely a Japanese cultivar. Do you have any pictures?

    If you need any specific names, let me know! I'd also send a pup or two to you guys if you wanted...

    Considering the types of plants you grow, I would say that yes, you do need to move to the tropics... but if you're growing stuff like that up north it makes you more of a renegade!

    I really need to get in touch with someone from kanapaha to ask about their experiences. By the way, there's actually a cold hardy cultivar of avocado called "Gainesville"... i wonder if thats what they have?

  7. Where is this garden? It looks amazing.


  8. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Kanapaha. I just came across your posting while surfing around. I care for the herb and bulb gardens and would be happy to send you a bulb of Musa velutina if you still want one and haven't replaced your drought-dead seedlings. Or, I can dig you one if you visit again. Either way, you deserve it.

    The avocado tree is 'Del Rio' and has made lots of little fruits this year -- each good for about a tablespoon of flesh.

    Jonathan -- fatsia1234-a5(at)


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!