For the Edible Garden festival last April, I have a little stand-up talk about what vegetables to plant during the summer. As a prop, I bought a little pepper plant at Publix for $3.95 because hot peppers can really take our heat. It was called Sweet Heat and it was a sweet-to-spicy pepper that was developed by Burpee. After the talk, I took it home and planted it. It has produced peppers all summer long, as many as 25 at a time, and it still is loaded. It got whitefly at one point, and so we sprayed it with soapy water. The insects never did go away completely, but that hasn’t stopped Sweet Heat. The little peppers are about 3 or 4 inches long. If it quits producing after this harvest, it still will be the best producing pepper I’ve ever seen.
Denis Rotolante’s Anthurium plowmanii ‘Grande’ greeted you at the entrance of the International Aroid
|Prize-winner Anth. plowmanii
Society’s 35th show and sale this weekend in the Garden House, and it was a whopper of a greeting. The enormous, crystal trophy-winning plant had leaves at least six feet long rising like a green Old Faithful, spouting plant exuberance for all to see. Nearby Don Bittel’s exquisite, long-leafed Philodendron Spiritus-sancti won a blue ribbon and nice piece of crystal. This plant has more specimens in cultivation than are left in the wild on a farm south of Rio de Janerio. A specimen was collected in the 1980s, and it has been divided and coveted ever since. Don’s prize-winning specimen was not for sale, but the piece that was brought $1,000 at the society’s annual auction following the Saturday evening banquet.
Alocasias shown and sold over the weekend had glorious forms and colors, including the Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Lutea’ that horticulturist Ellis Brown grew at Redland Nursery. Ellis also had alocasias with strawberry red stems and pink stems. Ivan Portilla, the banquet speaker, also brought sale plants from Ecuador, where beautiful anthuriums and philodendrons seem to hang from every tree.
|Alocasia macrorrhiza 'Lutea'.|
Alocasia longiloba ‘Watsoniana’ with its broad shield-like leaves in deep green with silver veins is always a feast for the eyes. For Amorphophallus fans, many different tubers were for sale. Amos Tan brought cuttings from Singapore. Speakers, too, came from abroad: David Scherberich showed aroids growing at the Lyons Botanical Gardens in France; Genevieve Ferry told of building an aroid collection at the Botanical Garden of Nancy; Hoe Yin Chen reported on his master’s thesis investigating the beetle pollinators of Homalomena species in Malaysia, for which he received the Monroe Birdsey Memorial Award of $1,000. Tom Croat, who has identified more Central and South American aroids than anyone else in the world while at the Missouri Botanical Garden, talked about gardens in Taiwan and Thailand. Dr. Croat stayed for the banquet and described all of the plants auctioned by Tom Moore for the benefit of the society.
As the show was being set up on Friday, I talked with John Banta
of Alva, Fl., who has collected, grown and hybridized plants for 50 years, and is a long-time aroider. I asked him about the secrets to growing these plants. His answer: good water, the right light and sufficient humidity. Miami’s water is good, he said, but many people are collecting rain water or going to reverse osmosis systems. Humidity above 80 percent is needed for the plants that grow on the rainforest floor to fully expand their leaves, he said, so a mist system – an irrigation system that periodically sprays mist throughout the day – is a good thing to install. Potting mix is “where the art comes into the story.” Many aroids need to drain quickly or they will rot. He grows anthuriums in bark, for example. For beginners, Banta recommended plants from the genera Philodendron, Raphidophora and Monstera.
This Dendrobium has the funny
Dendrobium phalaenopsis plants have matured their leaves and now are blooming in my garden. These are the dendrobiums with flowers that resemble flowers in the genus Phalaenopsis, but they are not related. These dendrobiums have tall canes, and predominant color is purple, but they can be any color. We have purple, striped, deep maroon with yellow undersides to the flowers and white dendrobiums in bloom now. Shorter days are a signal for them to produce their flowers. They’ve grown nicely all spring and summer, on the trees and palms in the yard. Dendrobium phalaenopsis types like a lot of water and fertilizer during the growing season, and less in winter, even though they are evergreen. They love to be attached to trees. Tabebuia aurea (formerly Tabebuia caraiba) has the perfect rough bark for orchid roots, as do live oaks.
Another wonderful orchid blooming now is Trichoglottis atropurpurea, with a streak of fuzz running down its lip. This vandaceous orchid blooms off and on all summer, but seems to have a lot of flowers now. We grow them on trees as well as wired to a large piece of cork because they like to climb. Morning sun is just fine for them. They have a slight perfume.