Yes, it is very hot, but come anyway.
|Heliconias are lovely now.|
You’ll find yourself rewarded with an abundance of flowering plants. Flowering in the semi-shade of the Vine Pergola now are small heliconias, which are emblematic of summer in the tropics. The gorgeous tree bougainvillea is in flower as are many of the Madagascar plants and the big baobab.
Semi-dwarf hybrid heliconias are less likely to have their banana-like leaves shredded by wind, and when they travel, do so in baby steps compared with the big guys like Heliconia bihai or Heliconia caribea, which can reach 10 feet and spread over large areas before you know it. Hot days and nights are propelling heliconias to flower, and, I notice at home, use up their nutrient supply. Pale or yellow leaves are calling out for fertilizer. The small heliconias by the pergola have unspoiled leaves and new bracts, and may be at their most attractive stage now.
Alcantarea imperialis and Alcantarea odorata, those popular large
bromeliads that are practically must-haves in gardens today, have raised high their inflorescences at the garden. Several maroon and green A. imperalis at the Visitors Center are in full flower, as is the powder blue A. odorata by Founder’s Pool at the south gate. When these tank types of bromeliads start the flowering process, the inner most leaves tighten and become reduced. It’s a clue to what lies ahead.
Should you visit the Keys Coastal Habitat, you may spy the white-crowned pigeon hanging out there. This large, slate-gray bird with a white cap and iridescent green patch of feathers on its neck, is fairly shy but you can catch glimpses of it if you tread softly.
|At work in Jamaica's treacherous hills of the Cockpit Country, Melissa Abdo,
front left, Fairchild's Marlon Rumble and Howard Beckford, with the Forestry
Department of Jamaica.
Melissa Abdo, the garden’s international conservation projects officer, offered a wonderful overview of our scientific work being done in the Caribbean at the last members’ lecture of the season Wednesday night. Historically, she said, the natural habitats and forests of the West Indies have been plundered to support the development of economic crops, including sugar, tobacco, cotton and timber. According to coarse estimates today, Cuba has 21 percent of its forests remaining; Jamaica, 30 percent; the Dominican Republic, 28.4 percent, and Haiti a mere 3 percent.
There are about 11,000 to 12,000 plants native to the region, she said, with three families containing a proliferation of species. They are the wild coffee, aster, and orchid families (Rubiaceae, Asteraceae, and Orchidaceae).
Abdo touched on collaborative work being done with the Montgomery Botanical Center and institutions throughout the region in efforts to further conservation of palms, cycads and other plants, then she concentrated on Fairchild’s labors in the Cockpit Country of Jamaica. Her images of the extraordinarily difficult terrain clearly answered the question of why botanical exploration has been scant in this exceptional landscape, where 34 percent of the plants are found nowhere else. The garden’s scientists and horticulturists working closely with Jamaican counterparts have discovered two species new to science in the six years working there (Anthurium flemingiana and a new species of Syngonium), and Abdo believes more will be uncovered. A great deal of the area remains to be explored as the garden’s applied conservation research program continues, with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. The goal is to create a conservation strategy with Jamaican scientists for the tiny area that contains nearly 10 percent of the entire flora of the Caribbean.
|Fronds show cold damage.|
Cold damage is showing up on the blue latan palms. But it looks as if
|Ummm, a beeautiful catch.|
they will be able to grow beyond it. Cold took out the back of one lychee and continued down the fence line. A Latania closest to the lychee was protected, but those farther down the line were hit. I treated with copper and a fungicide, but the scars are just now showing up.
Meanwhile, on a tour of the garden this morning, I saw that a small crab spider caught a sweet breakfast: a honeybee. The bee was larger than the spider, but less lucky.
One of the best things about the show and sale of the Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society is just how exotic the plants really are. This year’s show includes ferns, lycopodiums, begonias, crotons, orchids and aroids. All of them are wonderfully grown – a remarkable feat after our coldest winter and then hottest May on record. The show is in the Garden House, and not only fills a display in the center of the room, but it runs across the stage as well.
Here are some of the delightful plants you will find Saturday and Sunday.
|The striking red flowers of the
monkey tail cactus.
Hildewintera colademononsis, a cactus sometimes called a monkey tail, has pendant stems covered with white hair, from which it sends out rose-red flowers, particularly on the southernmost ends.
Laelia purpurata ‘Schuster’ var. Rochelle has a seriously deep purple lip with striped throat against crystal white sepals and petals will knock your socks off.
Lycopodium gobellei, a gray-green fern ally, is full and proud and
|Royal purple is thie lip of this
obviously grown to perfection.
Doryopteris ludens is a Malaysian fern with broad, star-shaped shield fronds and tall, spidery reproductive fronds. Both types of fronds are hard to the touch and shiny, like polished jade.
Anthurium regale, is a lovely anthurium with, how else can we put this? really regal leaves. Dark green with yellow veins, the leaves are held on two-foot petioles, the better for your admiration.
|Anthurium regale's elegant leaf.|
A new, creamy-white and green croton is Codiaeum variegatum ‘Lucia’, and has crimped edges similar to those on Piecrust. Like the yellow form of Mrs. Iceton, it will light up shady parts of a garden.
Uncarina roesliana, from Madagascar, is a succulent with a caudex, or a swollen woody base, with fuzzy leaves and yellow tubular flowers.
Only at this show can you find such a weird and wonderful mix of plants.