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Tropical Paradise

Global warming isn’t happening fast enough for those of us who love the tropics. At some time in the future, I may be planting my perennial tropical shrubs and vines; but until then, I’ll have to make my tropical garden in containers.
I used to have a large brick patio adjacent to a two-story brick wall, with just the right combination of sun and shade to enable me to create a “jungle” each summer. Palm trees, hibiscus, all sorts of tropical vines, gingers, angel’s trumpet, jasmine, and many more colorful exotics were all jumbled together surrounding a comfy chaise lounge. A handy hose nearby made care for this tropical pot-scape easy. I could laze there peacefully, ignoring the weedy condition of my back lawn and the overgrown shrubs around its perimeter, working on my tan and its associated future skin cancers. I even had a little desert section for my succulents to summer in.
Now, in my tiny condo with its little gravel area beneath my front window, I have to be very selective in what I put in my containers. No more an equatorial riot, but a few well-chosen standards and a few bloomers like Lantana and the exquisitely blue Plumbago. But if you also love that tropical look, and are fortunate to have the space, you can create your own little paradise each summer.
The backbone of this little paradise should include banana trees, a few palms, some hibiscus, and a couple of climbing Mandevilla vines. There are many more wonderful plants to try, however, and I’m going to suggest a few that I would love to be able to add to my tiny space.
For part to full sun locations, a Queen’s Wreath vine (Petrea volubilis) is a beautiful, fast-growing twiner that produces long racemes of violet to purple flowers. We have one growing over our orchid table in the greenhouse and in here, where it is always summer, it goes into flower five or six times a year. Another wonderful vine is Butterfly Vine (Stigmaphyllon littorale) which has clusters of golden yellow flowers, which produce surprisingly large butterfly-shaped seed pods. Other great vines include Passion Flower Vine (Passiflora cultivars), Clitoria ternata with royal blue flowers, and the many glorious Bougainvillea cultivars. The Allamanda cathartica is one of my favorite vines with large golden yellow trumpets on wild rangy vines.
Sun-loving flowering tropical shrubs and trees include Oleander nerium, Spicy Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima) with pretty coral-red flowers, Butterfly Bush (Clerodendrum ugandense) with remarkable butterfly-mimic flowers, Night-blooming Jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) with tubular cream flowers very fragrant at night, and Allamanda schottii, a dwarf Allamanda bush with small but showy golden yellow flowers. Breynia nivosa cv. Rosea-Picta, or Hawaiian Snow Bush, is a large shrub with beautiful green, white, and pink variegation. Pigeon-berry (Duranta repens) is fast-growing with racemes of purple-blue or white flowers, and there is also a variegated variety with white flowers. And one last beautiful tree I wish I had room for is the Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala) with branched silky leaves and balls of dark pink stamens forming a powder puff.
If you don’t have sun, you can use many of the well-known houseplants, especially larger leaved plants like the Split-leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa), Tree Philodendron (P. selloum), and tree ferns. The Orange Jasmine, or Lakeview Jasmine, (Murraya paniculata) produces wonderfully scented white flower clusters. Bleeding Heart Vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) and the Java Glory (C. delectum) quickly grow long vines with large leaves and clusters of dainty red flowers dangling from white or pinkish-purple heart-shaped calyxes. And then there is Aristolochia gigantea, with a large, weird flower that looks a little like a big speckled slab of liver. And finally, fill in the spaces with brightly-colored Crotons and Cordylines, bushy shrubby plants grown for their attractive foliage. Cordyline cultivars include those with leaves of bright red, leaves striped in many colors, and dark green to almost black foliage.
There are many, many more “tropical paradise” plants from which to choose, and we carry quite a few of them. Think of all of these plants as annuals…they don’t all have to come inside at the end of the season. A whole summer of enjoyment doesn’t have to cost more than a few dinners for two out—plan on dining in the jungle.
Posted: 4/19/2013 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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