NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal


Must Have: Night-blooming Cereus

A climate milder than your own can be shocking: there, plants you may have known only on your windowsill are thriving right in the garden. More shocking: their sizes and habits are quite foreign to those back home.

 

For example, in New England, it's a surprise that any cacti at all survive, let alone enjoy themselves. They do—OK, not the fifty-footers you might see in Arizona—but, still, true cacti. Even under ideal conditions, though, few will ever grow higher than your kneecaps.

 

The picture below shows a tropical cactus that's the opposite of the ones hardy up north: it's a vine that can climb twenty to thirty feet into trees. 

 

Hylocereus undatus 031017 TWO 320

And—perhaps most important for this northern gardener—it can be grown as topiary.

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Today in Key West: Giant Yarey Palm

One of the indelible thrills of tropical horticulture is a palm whose beauty is even more startling than its rarity. Last year, I raved about one of the giant, blue-leaved fan palms, Bismarckia nobilis. This native of Madagascar is grown world-wide, and to name it "noble" is to damn it with faint praise: it is over- whelming, gob-smacking, head-spinning. Then again, Bismarckia gobsmackii isn't a latin name that would describe this palm any better.

 

This is one of the so-called copernican palms, and it says "See you and raise you" even to the bismarck.

Copernicia fallaensis closer 030617 320 

Most of the species in the Copernicia genus are native exclusively to Cuba, which accounts for their rarity in the US. But rarity (and politics) aside, it's the visuals of this particular species, Copernicia fallaensis, that make it the star even amid such stiff competition.

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Today in Key West: Pink-flowered Rain Tree

For a Northern gardener, each visit to the tropics is the chance to reconnect with plants that can be in bloom at almost any time of the year, and that flaunt colors and talents no Northern plant would dare. But where such extraordinariness is normal, the real shock can be seeing a familiar Northern plant that, seemingly, is just as comfortable in the tropics. How can any plant that tolerates minus-ten Fahrenheit back home also thrive down here, where it never drops below forty?

Albizia saman KW bee details 022817 320

Take pink-flowered mimosa, which is renowned as far north as coastal Maine for flowering at the height of summer. Is it the same species as the tree in bee-loving bloom here in Key West?

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Flower Buds of the Scots Elm

The winter flowerbuds of my dwarf weeping elm are all the more exciting for being so close at hand: the tree's entire canopy is still just three feet top to bottom. No such luck with the golden Scots elm. Free-range, it could reach one hundred feet—but even when pollarded, as below, new stems can lengthen to ten feet their very first season. Plus, they grow upward from the six-foot trunk, not outward or downward.

Ulmus glabra Aurea overall in elevation 022017 320

Short of a jet pack, any buds and flowers would be out of reach—and out of view—as completely as if they'd been at the top of the free-ranger. What to do?

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