Garden Design

Today we’re on the road with Colleen. We’ve visited her home garden before, but today she’s taking us along on a tropical vacation.

I escaped my usual New York winter for a trip to South Florida and some glorious weather this month. I can’t help but think that I’ll go home and view my potted tropicals as slightly pathetic.

palms at the beachIconic South Florida palms at the beach

traveler’s palmI believe this is a look up at the dramatic leaves of the traveler’s palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), which is not a true palm at all but has a somewhat similar look. It is called traveler’s palm because, apparently, the leaf bases catch rainwater, and so it can be used as an emergency water supply for thirsty travelers.

parrot heliconiaThe blooms of a parrot heliconia (Heliconia psittacorum), one of the many tropical ginger relatives grown for their showy flowers and bracts, are brilliant.

Spathoglottis plicata is an orchid with showy flowersSpathoglottis plicata is an orchid with showy flowers and dramatic pleated leaves. Unlike many tropical orchids, which naturally live perched on the branches of trees, this variety grows on the ground.

Another tropical ginger is the red ginger (Alpinia purpurata). The actual flowers are small, white, and only last a short while, but these showy red bracts that grow around the flowers are brilliant and make a long-lasting display in the garden.

Ti plant with colorful crotonThat’s ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa) in the back and colorful croton (Codiaeum variegatum) in the front. Grown all over the tropics, the ti plant is especially known from Hawaii, where it was brought by Polynesian explorers and has a wide range of uses, including the making of leis.

Thanks for taking us to Florida, Colleen! If you’ve had the chance to visit a botanic garden or other garden destination, tropical or not, I hope you’ll send in photos so we can include them in our “GPOD on the Road” series!

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