elephant ears

Four acres of gorgeous gardens under glass at the Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Last week, my friend Pam, who blogs at Digging, and I embarked on a garden adventure unrivaled in my garden travels. Nestled in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania, we toured three public gardens, Winterthur, Longwood and Chanticleer.

I took thousands of pictures (in part because the hot summer sun kept me adjusting my light settings). I’m sure I collected enough photos to blog about for several months!

As a lover and collector of tropical and exotic plants, the Longwood Conservatory is high on my list of the gardens within the gardens of our trip. It includes 20 different gardens (yes, all inside this giant conservatory), and more than 5,500 types of plants. It was spectacular. While it included all the typical plants you’d find in most conservatories, there was so much more — an amazing array of plant combinations, beautiful design, and attention to detail at every step. I can’t even fit all of it into one post, but I’ve decided to just jump in and cover part of it as my first post of the trip.

The Conservatory was built in 1919 by Pierre S. du Pont, and was designed to be an indoor eden. The collection of conservatory buildings covers 4.5 acres. (The entire garden covers 1,077 acres.) Yes, 4.5 INSIDE acres of stunning gardens, including the Fern Floor and Alcoves, seen here, the Patio of Oranges, Waterlily Display, Silver Garden, Orchid House, Mediterranean Garden, Bonsai Display, Palm Garden, Desert House, Cascade Garden, Banana House, Camellia House, Green Wall, Indoor Children’s Garden (so amazing that this will get its own post soon!), Rose House, Tropical Terrace, East Fruit House, Garden Path, Peirce-du Pont House and the Exhibition Hall.

The grand entrance, pictured above, provides a preview of this massive sest of structures. Beautiful and unusual bromeliads are given a place of honor in this section of the garden.

Many of the water features were surrounded by bromeliads, as well.

I have a number of bromeliads in my house and in the cabana in pots, but the volume and diversity of these was astounding. Clearly I have a way to go in the collecting department!

And then there were the ferns. I was taken by the Mexican Tree Ferns, delicate and ephemeral, yet strong and sculptural, all at the same time.

And then there were these stunning Staghorn-like ferns.

Of course, no prehistoric journey would be the same without cycads.

This male cycad was sporting a new cone.

I love this grey species. It’s a shame that the light prevents me from reading the tag that I photographed — I’d like to find out if I can grow this one in my Zone 8b-sometimes 9 garden.

This gigantic Sago palm (though not a palm at all) dwarfs the sizeable Sansevieria below it.

I believe that these elephant ears are Colocasia amazonica – which means they are sure living up to their name here under the black bamboo.

I can’t name this one, but I love the black stems which mirror the black bamboo as well.

Great color combinations under this bamboo.

And, who can resist the appeal of this black bamboo? It’s so striking and exotic.

With 4.5 acres of conservatory gardens to cover, this will have to be it for your first peek. Thousands more photos and lots of blog posts to come, about the conservatory and Longwood’s other 1,000+ acres of outside gardens!

Winter warm up — hot colors in the garden…

Even here in Central Texas, our winter’s freezing temps and cold, damp, grey skies are hanging on.  I’m done with it.  And  I know my gardening friends to the north are exasperated by the volume of snow that continues to plague them.

At the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland last spring, I was struck by the overwhelming use of color in the gardens there.  Plants, pots, furniture, you name it, vivid colors perked up each and every garden.  With a climate filled with its share of grey days, these pops of color  their gardens not only brightened up the space, they brightened my mood. 

As I’m sure they were consciously or subconsciously intended to do.

So for everyone who is exasperated by the lingering blanket of winter that covers our souls and our gardens this year, here are some of my favorite photos of tropical style gardens, plants and decor.

A little garden statuary can help to enhance your garden style.

Even if you’re in a drought, a pretty rain chain can make it seem like you might be having a late afternoon tropical shower.

With only a few exotic-looking plants and the right leaf shapes, textures or forms, you can create your own resort-like retreat in your back yard.

Hot, contrasting colors embody the tropical style.

Bananas, crotons and coleus are true tropical plants.

Even if your design doesn’t include many tropical plants, you can add some pops of color with garden art and decor.

While most coleus are shade plants, there are new sun-loving varieties that you can use in sunny spots.

Texture, second only to color, typifies traditional plants of the tropics.  Big, bold foliage with exotic patterns and texture abound in this section of the world.

Elephant ears can set the mood in your island oasis.

Giant planters filled with eye-popping color can seem tropical, even if the plants in it aren’t. 

Tropical style is all about big, bold design that packs a punch.  Simply looking at these hot colors warms me up and gives me the itch to garden.

We’re back!

I’m back to blogging after a few weeks of taking care of family, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

No, not eight tiny reindeer!
But a slew of new plants and blooms popping out in the garden — back after the winter’s hiatus to show off for me.
Above, a full 3 months ahead of schedule, I have a beautiful blooming Pride of Barbados. Our incredibly mild winter kept it from dying all the way back and so it got a big jump on growth. Which is great with me, because I just love those wispy, exotic blooms.

Caladiums are popping up in the shady beds in between other things.

This tiny Lobelia is a volunteer that decided to grow in the crack on the edge of the steps to the rock bed.
This is a salmon/pink Gladiola that is growing with a cluster of others behind the greenhouse and in the cutting flower bed. It’s the first one to open and I can wait to CUT it!
Here we have a cluster of Larkspur, given to me by MSS of Zanthan Gardens. In spite of my late planting of the seeds, they have proven to be winners and are so pretty — the first seeds to bloom in the cutting garden.
Here is a new bloom on my Carefree Beauty rose, also known as a Katy Road Rose.
Another shot of the amazing and HUGE display of Winecups in the rock path. They are growing so much that they have obliterated the entire pathway! I am happy to step out of their way and into the grass, though my DH thinks it’s quite foolish.
This Sago palm is very excited that it’s spring and that summer is on its way. This male is producing its cones, which are torpedo shaped and produce pollen. In the wild, the male pollen is spread by wind or insects to the female cycads, which produce a cabbage shaped reproductive organ with seeds that receive the pollen. Cool, huh?!

The Mexican Oregano is blooming profusely. It loves our sunny climate.
The black Elephant Ears are happy right now, but they may have to be babied some in the heat of the summer.
I love the orange bloom on this purple canna that showed up this week.
And these daylilies are lining one side of the pool bed with their deep, burgundy, velvety blooms.
Some Esperanza or Yellow Bells, have already been blooming around town, and mine have caught up. But it’s still pretty early for them.
My Rock Rose is showing her pretty flowers, too — next to the Indigo Spires Salvia.
These little Veronicas are growing nicely in their second year.

So, these are all my new friends that are back in the garden this year. So nice to be able to see them while walking around.
And my Mom is home and healing nicely ~~ thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers.


Oh – it was a back-breaking day in the garden today.

I brought home 10 bags of mulch and compost yesterday in my DH’s truck, and he was going to haul it to the back in the mower and cart for me.

But a bad mower battery but a monkey-wrench in that plan. So after getting a new battery today and a mower driving lesson, I set about to haul 18 plants and 10 giant bags around to the back of our property.

Thought about taking a picture of the mower and cart, but I was too focused on getting the hauling done before it rained on me.

Which, of course, it did not, because it’s not ever going to rain here again — I’m quite sure of it!

So, I survived big rocks and a lumpy path and even backed the mower and cart on several occasions to get my #$%&*@ stuff where it needed to be.

The first photo is a bloom on my Tangerine Crossvine — I found it by accident while standing next to the corner bed thinking about what a good place it is for Oxblood lilies.

So, this is the bed I ripped the two giant, over-grown Primrose Jasmines out of last week. (Well, if you read my blog, you know that I didn’t really do it, I had it done!) As you can see, the grass is dead where the vines covered it up, so it needs to grow back up.

And, Dakota Blue, Missy Hound dog that she is, thinks this bed of dirt is JUST for her! She’s been digging holes in it, so I’m in a big rush to get it turned into a bed. And I sprinkled Cayenne pepper in it yesterday to try to keep her out. I think she got a snootful yesterday as I saw her rubbingher nose in the grass and pawing at it, so I am hoping that helps.
I got two big plants – a nice Sago palm and some black Elephant ears to be specimen plants on this corner that you see more often.
I am also planting two Maggie roses, since this is a full sun bed with no deer access! They smell just wonderful and I am so psyched about getting to have roses. They have bright pink blooms. I hope I can keep them happy in there. See the hold back there where Dakota was digging? A toad lived there. He’d be wise to move!

Across the yard, I have a nice collection of tomatoes coming. I had to shoot this up inthe air as they are in cages about 6-8 feet tall and trailing down!
And it’s finally cooled off enough for the nasturium to bloom a little. I just like having these little guys in my garden and some of my window boxes. They’re perky — and sometime we eat them!

And this, to my surprise, is a yellow Skullcap. I didn’t know that’s what I’d gotten until it started to bloom this week. I’m very excited, because it grows so well and the deer leave it alone. I’ve been looking for a lavender variety with no luck. I’ll keep my fingers crossed – sure wish I could remember at which nursery I bought this.