Monday, September 8, 2008

Hot Plants for an Exuberant Garden

The last of summer (we are still officially in summer!) is the time to see the full size of many tropicals and summer annuals. These HOT seasonal plants around the Powell Gardens Visitor Center are exuberant this year! Come quick to see them because they will gradually be replaced in the next month or so with cool season fall plantings. We try to keep some of them out until Jack Frost pays his autumnal visit (usually in mid-late October).

The bananas are blooming! The banana flower is magnificent with the young banana fruit forming above as the flower opens from top to bottom.

The bananas are along the south side of Cafe Thyme. Bananas are NOT trees but huge tender perennials (there is no wood in their "trunks"). If you save the pseudostem "trunk" through the winter it will bloom next year. We cut off all the leaves before frost and save the trunks indoors, dormant in the greenhouse complex. We pot them up in spring and plant them outdoors after danger of frost has passed (usually by May 1). We do not have a long enough season to ripen bananas outdoors here.

The castor beans have reached tree-like proportions too! Hard to believe most of our plants are self-sown seedlings from this spring! This is the beautiful 'Sanguineus' or purple-leaved cultivar. It dwarfs the large Mexican sunflowers blooming in front of it.

On the north side of the Visitor Center you can see this "bed of fire." It is a fiery display of warm colors with ornamental peppers in the foreground, Profusion Orange zinnias in the middle and Cannas as a backdrop. This is not a composition for a place where you want to relax but it is invigorating.

The giant purple leaf Crinum has a nice color echo with flower of the Flowering Maple (Abutilon). Diamond Frost Euphorbia provides a sparkle of dainty white flowers.

This morning glory seedling has added some summer color to the Lacebark Pine on the north side of the Visitor Center. This little bit of vine does not harm the pine but if this plant filled in thickly we would have to remove it.

Lime Zinger elephant ears is in full size and here with a crown of 'Northwind' switchgrass is a great combination of a tropical and a native plant.

A mix of hot annual 'Buddy' globe amaranth (Gomphrena) with Missouri native Savanna Blazingstar (Liatris scariosa) sets off the beauty of both. Look for this combination in the Butterfly Garden, which envelops the Fountain Garden north of the Visitor Center.

Make your notes now for ideas of how to use tropicals and warm season annuals for next year. The catalogs for Spring 2009 will be arriving in the mail before you know it!


Mother Nature said...

I'm inspired with great ideas. Thanks.

Northern Shade said...

The elephant ears and switchgrass make a great duo, very eye-catching. I like the contrast between the broad leaves and slender elongated switchgrass. The purple grouping of Liatris and Gomphrena looks good, and not just to the butterflies, although I imagine they bring it to life.
Even though my growing season is too short to grow some of the tender plants, I enjoy looking at your combinations, and picturing substitutes that might work in my climate. However, there are no adequate substitutes for your gorgeous bananas.

Gardens by T said...

I love growing exotics. The plants at the garden are spectacular.
Love your blog!