Where the “Wild Things” Are: TGBGH

 

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Personally, I think enough is enough.

Enough cold rain, already.  Enough frozen over puddles and stuck car doors when we get up and out in the early mornings.  Enough chill and windy afternoons that just can’t warm up despite the clear and sunny skies.  And certainly, enough winter damage to our marginal evergreens.

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After a long and frosty January, I’m ready to see a little actionHorticultural action, that is.

I want to see healthy, green growth and vividly bright flowers.  I want to see unfolding leaves and creeping, snaking rhizomes claiming fresh real estate for a wildly healthy fern.

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My patience with winter weather has grown a bit brittle and threadbare.  It was 18F when I arose this morning, and only a meager 28 when I pulled out of the driveway, wrapped in sweaters and a wool jacket and scarves and hat, for my journey through the countryside to my mother’s estate South of the James today.

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It was only 5 degrees warmer when I arrived, a little before 11 this morning; but she was game to head out adventuring with me while my car was still a little warm.  After wrapping her up warmly, I hoisted her rolling chair into the back end and we set off for Richmond’s treasure:  The Great Big Greenhouse.

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She was a little stir-crazy too, perhaps.  After a week indoors, she was ready for big sky and a change of scenery.

She was happy to ride around in the balmy warmth and brightness of the greenhouse while I examined every Begonia, Philodendron, orchid, Cyclamen and fern.  We chatted about cultivars we’ve grown over the years, examined the bonsai on offer, admired the bright and unusual pots, and watched all the special goings on to kick off Houseplant Month at the greenhouse today.

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There is no happier place for me to spend time, especially this first Saturday of February, than in a gorgeous, bright greenhouse.  The happiness was freely shared among customers, vendors, and the GBGH staff as we all basked in the exuberant energy of happy tropical plants.

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Mother found a gorgeous purple Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis ‘Mijke’ already in bloom.  She loves Oxalis, and I brought it home for her.

One of the staff gave me a tiny, seedling Tradescantia zebrina that he had just plucked out of the gravel under the fern benches.  I’ve potted that up tonight, and look forward to planting it out in a basket once the weather settles in spring.

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What wonderful ‘weeds’ the guys were plucking out of the gravel this morning. The Tradescantia I was gifted with was a miniature version of this one.

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If you need a little respite from winter, as much as I do, you may find it here.   Assuming a trip to warmer climes isn’t already in your diary, you might just stop in at a nearby greenhouse for a breath of spring.

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The ground was still hard frozen when mother and I got back to her place this afternoon, the grass a sickly shade of beige.  At least her evergreens don’t look quite as burned and harried as ours.  She has a good crop of bright green moss covering bald patches in her lawn.  Her Mahonias are covered in buds and the first green tips of daffy leaves have emerged in the barrel by her door.

A happy red Cyclamen grows in the middle of her kitchen table, now joined by a purple leafed Oxalis. 

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I drove home admiring bare branches against a sunset sky, dreaming of bud-break and the first breaths of spring.

We find ourselves in full-on winter mode again tonight.  We expect a cold rain to begin overnight, and tiny snowflakes still turn up in our AccuWeather forecast app.

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But I found the wild things, today; growing happily despite winter’s worst.  It was just the fix I needed to remain calm through the weeks of winter yet ahead.  There is a little ‘wild’ in all of us, perhaps.  We just need to know where to find our kindred spirits…

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Leaf III: Decoration

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Unusual leaves bring great energy and interest to our garden.  Caladiums, like this C. ‘Gingerland’ offer a long lasting, bold accent in sun to partial shade.  Each leaf is unique, painted in clear bright color across its graceful, undulating form.

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A pot filled with Caladiums can be stunning.  But mix Caladiums with ferns, vines or annuals for uniquely interesting arrangements.  ‘Gingerland’ was our first Caladium in leaf this year from the new batch ordered in April.

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Caladiums also mix well with other Aroids, like Alocasia ‘Stingray.’  Their cultural needs are similar.  These C. ‘Sweet Carolina’ overwintered together with the Alocasia in their pot in our garage.  Heavy feeders, the more generous you can be with water and fertilizer, the larger and more lush they will grow.

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Newer Caladium varieties can take more sun than you might imagine.  I had this pot of C. ‘Moonlight’ and C. ‘Desert Sunset’ in partial sun until our recent spell of hot, dry weather.  It is photographed here in deep shade, a temporary resting spot until the weather moderates.

We enjoy the beacon like effect of these luminous white leaves shining from a shady spot in the garden.

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Alocasia ‘Frydek’

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Alocasia have just appeared on the market in recent years.  This unusual tropical plant also grows from a tuber.  One of the first commonly available was Alocasia micholitziana.  A widely marketed cultivar is known as A. ‘Frydek’ or ‘African Mask’ or Alocasia Polly.

These ‘elephant ears’  are often sold as house plants, and do well in normal indoor conditions year round.  Sometimes they will go dormant and appear to die back.  Just be patient and keep the soil a little moist.  You will usually be rewarded with new leaves in a few weeks.

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Alocasia are long-lived plants, which grow larger each season.  They enjoy a partially sunny spot in our summer garden.  Their deep green, substantial leaves last for months at a time.   Bring them indoors in winter, if only to a garage or basement, and you will be rewarded with additional years of beauty.

There are many new types of Alocasia on the market these days.  In addition to A. ‘Frydek’ and A. ‘Stingray,’ we also grow A. ‘Plumbea’ and A. ‘Sarian.’  

I recognized some plants at our local Trader Joe’s as unnamed Alocasia back in February, and bought two.  We kept them going in the dining room until it warmed enough to move them outdoors this spring.  they have put out prodigious growth and their leaves are now about 18″ long, each.

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Begonia Rex with fern

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Another genus with unusual and beautiful leaves, Begonia, also thrives in our summer garden.  Tropical, most varieties of Begonia enjoy heat and humidity.  Although they often pump out delicate flowers all summer long, we growth them mostly for their outrageous leaves.

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Cane Begonia

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Although not as large as Caladium or Alocasia leaves, some Begonia varieties have large, extravagantly marked and highly textured leaves.  B. ‘Gryphon’ appeared in local shops perhaps six years ago.  It will grow quite large by the end of summer, and the plants keep well from year to year.

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A newly unfolding leaf on B. Gryphon.  The red fades to a more even green as each leaf matures, though the stems remain red.

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B. ‘Gryphon’ can be propagated from stem or leaf petiole cuttings.  Simply stick a section of the trunk into a pot of moist soil, and wait.  I generally use a little rooting hormone on the cut end of the stem.  The stem will root in moist soil, with new growth appearing in just a few weeks in summer.  I overwintered a stem cutting in our garage last winter, and new growth appeared a few weeks after we put it outside this spring.

B. ‘Gryphon’ is grown for its beautiful leaves and tropical form.  It will eventually produce some small flowers in its second or third year.

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Begonia Rex come in hundreds of varieties.  Their leaves are beautifully patterned.  I’m seeing these offered at big box stores in spring along with annuals and other shade perennials.  Although perennial, they are tender and won’t survive freezing temperatures outdoors.  I normally grow these in pots to keep from year to year.

They grow from rhizomes, and may appear to ‘die’ at times.  Often, the plant has gone dormant due to stress, and will begin to produce leaves again if given minimal care and warmth.

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Begonias can be heavy feeders.  They like their soil to dry out a little before you water again, and thrive in bright shade.  They enjoy the humidity when placed under trees in our summer garden.

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Begonia

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Unusual and colorful leaves keep a garden fresh and fun.  Ours have the garden looking Fabulous this Friday!

Whether you have one wonderful pot of Caladiums, or a garden filled with striking foliage, you will soon be hooked.

When you realize how easy and resilient these plants can be for you to grow, and how long-lived and tough these tropical beauties become;  you may soon will find yourself collecting them, too.

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Alocasia ‘Plumbea’

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Unusual

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious, Let’s infect one another!

 

Leaf: Illumination

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Illumined leaves glow like Tiffany sculptures in the morning light.  How different they look when lit in this way, with a strong June sun shining through them.
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Colocasia ‘Mojito,’ center, has unusual purple patterns on the leaves and burgundy stems. C. ‘Tea Cups,’ behind, shows its elegant veins as its leaves tip upwards towards the sky. C. ‘Pink China’ also has reddish stems and sports a pink spot on its leaf to mark where the stem begins.  The red leaf at lower right is a Caladium.  Pitcher plants grow in the foreground and to the left.

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Sculptural tropical leaves, like these Colocasia, grow quickly to fill a space and make a statement.  Always interesting, their very size and subtle colors feel like living artworks at any time of day.  Catching the light at just the right angle, shining through them, creates even more excitement in this bit of our garden.
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Here, C. ‘Pink China’ is also backlit, showing its elegant veins and slightly wavy margins .  These are very hardy in Zone 7 and spread wonderfully.

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Beautiful leaves can stand alone; no flowers needed. 
In this new series, “Leaf,” I will share some of our favorite foliage plants.  Summer is prime time for big, bold, dramatic leaves.  I hope you enjoy seeing our favorites.  
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“The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea.
The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea.
It is the richest part.   We are the same;
our essence has gone into our children, our friends,
and the entire universe.
We have to find ourselves in those directions
and not in the spent tea leaves.”
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Thich Nhat Hanh
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Alocasia ‘Sarian’ returns in the green pot, after its winter in the basement. Caladium tubers idly poked into the potting soil last fall, return also. “What is that bright red?” my partner called from his resting place. He saw the garden from a different angle, and was intrigued by such bright color. Caladiums should always make us take notice.

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“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize
so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge
or floating lazily on a pond,
I could be doing the work of the world
while standing silent in the sun.”
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Robin Wall Kimmerer
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Woodland Gnome 2017
 

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