Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


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.


Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Plow Breaker Roots Revealed



Even though the enormous spiny foliage of plow breaker was such a show in the warm months, I had suggested that there was another show developing below-ground.  After all, this plant's roots become so thick, so large, and so woody, that they were not only not dislodged by the plows of 19-century settlers in South Africa.  They defeated the plows, which lodged so securely in the roots that the plow's wooden frame could be fractured as the animal continued to pull.  Or the metal plow blade itself could bend or even snap. 


No surprise, I guess:  If a plant's common name is "plow breaker," the below-grade action must be even more exciting than the above.  By December, Erythrina zeyheri has long since become dormant.  It was time to unpot the beast and take a look.


After a minute of fingering away potting soil, I had exposed this cantaloupe-sized root mass.  This plow breaker is still juvenile, and the roots, large as they are, are still tiny.  Thumb-thick, they prong downward ever deeper; when mature, they'll be as thick as arms, even as calves.  They'll be part of an overall mass as big as a suitcase.


No plant with the potential for roots as big as luggage is very practical for long in a pot.  This plant is just two years old, and its root mass is already the size of a melon.  Sure, I can pot it up yearly for a few years.  What size pot would be needed in a decade? 


It was time to be pro-active, not to mention exhibitionist.  I could slow the need to repot into ever-larger containers if I didn't replant the root mass very deep.  Its smaller feeder roots emerge mostly from the bottom; as long as they remain largely underground, the entire woody majority of the roots could be raised above-ground.




Exposing weird roots is a centuries-old specialty of bonsai and succulent fanciers.  If the plant doesn't mind, why not?  You miss a lot of the action in your garden if all you care about are flowers or fruit or leaves or stems or bark or overall (above-ground) habit.


How many plants are also doing something interesting underground?  And how many of those are amenable to having that subterranean show brought up into the light?  Just this past Summer, we saw that the young runners of lotus have tips that are pink.  What other rooting wonders are out there to be discovered—and, with adventurous cultural practice, to be revealed?


Here's how plow breaker looks in leaf.  Here's how grow plow breaker.


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