It was nice to go from bone-chilling cold to warm and humid weather and be among a variety of very bright, colorful and beautiful tropical flowers. Now, back to the cold climate and inches of snow on the ground, the longing for the site and the scent still lingers. Working on photographs I took during the trip helps a little. Here are a few to share with you.
Sala (Couroupita guianensis) or Cannonball tree has quiet beautiful flowers that look like anemone. The flower has very sweet fragrant. I wish I could grow it here.
As much as I don’t really like Bougainvillea, I have to accept that the color combination of this plant at the place we stayed, is really something to be seen.
They look fake but they aren’t. Waterlilies comes in so many shades and colors here, some are even fragrant. Talking about fragrant tropical flowers, Plumeria is one of my favorites. It also comes in a variety of colors but I love the nuances in the white variety the most. The one below is from the rows that grow in front of the resort we stayed at, between us and the beach.
I love fragrant flowers and try my best to collect them in our garden. Many of them have to stay in pots as they are tropical plants. As we are running out of space in the basement, I try not to get a new tropical plant. I also try not to propagate plants I have. It’s hard to do since I regularly prune them in spring when I take them out in the garden. I don’t want to throw healthy branches away so I stick them in a new pot and they take root. Some plants have been with us for many years and have grown much bigger so space is getting tight down there.
I couldn’t pass up the Cashmere Bouquet (Clerodendrum philippinum) when I saw one in a nursery offering a couple of years ago. Even though I know how fast it can grow and its need for space, but one is enough.
It a big leaf plant with white, sometimes pale pink clustered flowers. It’s fragrance is lightly sweet and musky and cannot be replicated. It reminded me of home, of childhood. I think it’s the same reason why I grow jasmine and have been collecting varieties of them.
I mentioned that one plant is enough, but they are two now. The old habit is hard to get rid of. I repotted it in spring to give it some legroom but I also split it at the same time. I wish I could grow it in the garden so I could have a whole patch. It can be grown out side in warmer USDA Zone 7 and up. But be warned, they can produce suckers and develop a colony very fast.
If you wish to grow it in a pot, it may not bloom as it likes direct sunlight. But if you have a window with plenty of light, it’s doable. One year I had a plant light right on it, to my surprise it bloomed in winter. Keep the soil on the dry side otherwise it will rot.
There is not much to see in the garden other than white snow on the ground that’s not leaving us anytime soon. We just had a snow storm today and another one is due in two days. Then the temperature will drop into single digits again. When the weather is this unforgiving, so many birds come around to the feeders, even crows. Deer and rabbit tracks crisscross the garden and yard looking for food. I was tempted to feed the deer this winter when I saw seven of them drop by one day to root in the snow for seeds dropped by the birds. Any edible leaves and branches above the snow were nibbled off. The thought of feeding them stems from wanting to protect my plants from them, but I know if I do they will continue to return. There will be more of them too once they know where an easy food source is. They are fast learners.
Not much I can do outside but refill bird feeders and birdbaths. I check on plants in the basement once every couple of days and they keep my spirits up. The tropical plants are doing poorly this winter since it has been much colder than previous years. Many have dropped leaves and have gone into a semi-dormant stage. If it’s going to be like this next winter I may consider putting a small heater down there.
Some of them , however, still bloom at this time. The Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergerahybrid) has continued producing flowers since December. The Gerbera started a new flower bud despite a spider mite infestation. Myrtle is also blooming. A little color, a little scent, that’s enough to keep me going. Spring will come around the corner soon.
What’s left blooming in our garden now are just some hardy roses, calendula and the broccoli that we let bloom for the bees (though technically a vegetable). The re-blooming iris are just producing flower buds which may or may not bloom. The weather has been staying around 50º F during the day and drops down below 40º F at night. Last week it dropped below 30º F for a couple of nights and that stunted the growth. The iris will bloom again if the weather stays above a frost. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
There may not be much left in the garden but down in the basement where the tropical plants reside in winter there is still activity. I can smell perfume wafting up the basement stairs from a variety of jasmines every time I open the door. I’m thinking of taking a table and chair from the garden and putting them down there so I can continue the joy of being in a tropical garden in winter.
The Night Blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) are doing well this year. I re-potted the largest one to its benefit. I also propagated a few plants from the main one and gave some to friends. They perfume the basement now, competing with the Orange jasmine (Murrayapaniculata).
Jasmine ‘Poet’ (Jasminum grandiflorum) loves cooler temperatures and started to bloom profusely outside, but it continues to bloom down in the basement.
One of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera hybrid) bloomed as soon as it got inside. This is a hard to kill plant. No matter how negligent the treatment I give them they never miss producing flowers year after year.
I took this Orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata) photo back in June when it enjoyed sunlight outside. It still blooms here and there until sometime in the middle of winter when it will bloom heavily again.
It can grow more than 30 feet in a single season, climb and entwine on everything within its reach. The UPS, FedEx and USPS people no longer drop shipments off on our patio since they are not sure they can go under the thick overhanging vine covering the walkway. My fault! I draped the young vine over the walkway without thinking of the resulting consequences.
I was describing our Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora). It covers two sides of our patio, providing us with a green screen from summer to late fall. Around late summer and early fall it is blanketed with small white, lightly fragrant flowers, lots of them. The fragrance is much more pronounced when the temperature is on the cool side. The flowers are so abundant that my neighbor thought I had covered part of our patio roof with a white cloth. We sat outside enjoying the flowers and a little wine during the last full moon. It was quite a show: a blanket of fragrant white flowers under the moonlight. It was a wonderful way to unwind after a long day at work.
More pluses: It doesn’t require much care, just feed it and give it a good pruning once a year in spring. The bees, butterflies and moths love it. It also provides a hiding place for birds. When there is not much else blooming late in the season, this clematis brings life as well as providing food.
There is a walkway to the patio, bottom left, that was reduced down to a four foot high gap. This happened in just one season!
It’s a little bit too cold for mid-September this year. Some nights the temperature has gone down below 40°F and hovered around mid 50°F during the day. But it has gone up to 70°F during in the last two days. The thirty degree gap between high and low temperatures makes it difficult for me to decide whether to move the tropical plants back down to the basement. Although it’s not yet freezing, these plants don’t like to stay in a temperature below 50°F, but I do want them to get real sunlight as long as possible. I think I’ll move them this weekend if it doesn’t rain. Better safe than sorry since many of them have been with me for many years. They have been putting up with confinement (in a pot) all these years so I shouldn’t discomfit them further. The weather may not have been on their side this summer but they still offered fragrant flowers throughout the summer and some of them are still pushing to bloom even when it’s a little bit too cold for them.
‘Azores’ jasmines (Jasminum azoricum) have just produced new flower buds that will blossom when they’re already in the basement. They flowered through mid-winter while residing in our basement last year.
‘Poet’ Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) seems to like cold weather. It started to bloom more when the temperature dropped and is still blooming.
‘Belle of India’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) really struggled this year. Its’ leaves dropped at one point when it had been raining for a several days and it was forced to sit in water for a bit. It managed to produce a couple of flowers anyway.
I repotted, changed the soil and trimmed the roots of the ‘Maid of Orleans’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) this year. I gave them a close pruning as well. It’s a ritual I do every couple of years for all the potted plants so they can have fresh dirt and more leg room. They respond well by producing bigger flowers abundantly.
Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is happy after receiving a crew cut early this spring. It can grow pretty lanky and floppy when it doesn’t get enough sunlight. Now it’s a little more compact and blooming better too.
Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) produced a lot of flowers earlier this summer and is still flowering here and there. Their three inch tall offspring seems to want to flower as well. Maybe because they are closer to the house and warmer.
I’ve been buying one or two stems of Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) at the Union Square Farmer’s Market for the last couple of years. I love its fragrance, very sweet and unique. The scent brought me back to my childhood when my grandmother grew them in her garden. The memory of walking in the garden when they were in full bloom will always stay with me. The long stems with pure white flowers that opened up, one or two at a time, like a small version of Gladiolus. I was allowed to cut them just to make an offering, nothing else. I guess it was because it was mainly used in a funeral arrangement over there at that time. The name in the local language means ‘to hide a smell’. The locals probably used the flowers in the temple during a funeral ceremony before embalming existed, hence the name. When you put a lot of Tuberose together, you won’t smell anything else but the sweetness of the flowers. It’s like being in a room full of Oriental Lilies or Hyacinths, if you’re not sure how strong Tuberose is.
Anyway, I was warned by the farmer who sold me the Tuberose flowers about the difficulty of growing it in this latitude. He said I can grow them but they won’t flower because the hot season is not long enough for the plant to develop flower buds. He added that in the Northern part of the US it’s grown successfully only in a greenhouse. His answer discouraged me from trying to grow them for a few years.
What have I got to loose? I can’t get Gardenia and Ginger Lily to flower but I still grow them. Hopefully one of these years they will give me a break and flower. I decided to try growing tuberose this year with three small bulbs. They have taken their sweet time to come up from under the soil but, to my surprise, one of them bloomed. There are just two flowers on the long stem but they are enough to give me hope.
Summer flowers in our garden are easy to grow and most of them are drought tolerant. Having a full time job I have to be practical about what I plant in the garden. I water the vegetable garden regularly since most of the vegetables don’t do well without constant care. The opposite goes for the rest of the garden. Most of them are doing fine being left alone. I weed, prune and feed them when I have time.
So, summer flowers for bees are the ones that will bloom even when neglected. Here’s some of what I grow..
Black-eyed susan ‘Gold Sturm’ (Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Gold sturm’) helps brighten up the garden even when everything else wilts. Bees and butterflies love them. The seed buds become finch food. It is also much more compact and mildew resistant than other varieties.
Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) lives up to its name; it draws butterflies in like moths to a light. It has a lovely sweet fragrance. The down side is that it’s very invasive if you let the flowers set seeds.
I should have classified Echinacea under herbs since it has herbal properties. This one is a native that will grow wherever the seeds drop. The birds also like the seeds.
Well, a lot of people see this Goldenrod (Solidago) as a weed but I found the bright yellow flowers really beautiful. It can take care of itself even along side the road where nothing else would grow.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is another flower that lives up to its name. The fragrance is sweet to the point of intoxication when enough of them bloom at the same time. The white one above is called ‘Vanilla spice’ the pink one below is ‘ Ruby spice’.
I grouped a variety of zinnia together this year and they came out really nice. I also planted them where they can get full sun all day long. That helps the flowers to stay longer and suffer far less mildew on the leaves.
Aside from the Rugosa roses that bloom early, some of our climbing and rambling roses are also blooming. The sad part is most of them bloom only once a year. All of the ‘once blooming’ roses in the garden are ones that I planted very early on when I had no idea that some of the roses in this climate bloom only once a year (I grew up in the subtropics where they bloom all year round). I select more carefully now.
The once blooming rambling rose that’s worth growing is the ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk.’ When it’s in full bloom, aside from a sea of small pink flowers, the honey scent is lovely. It can grow around five to six feet a season and can grow more than thirty feet in length. This rose and it’s cousin – Himalayan Alba- are the ones that give me grief every spring. Pruning rambling rose is not an easy task. I gave both of them a crew cut this spring and they have already filled up the empty spaces.
Both of us attempted to dig out the Blaze many times because all of the leaves drop off after it finishes blooming, mostly from black spots and in some years, mildew as well. But it manages to change our mind every spring when its branches are cover with bright red flowers. It is another of the roses that I originally planted. One of these days, either I figure out how to deal with the black spots or I’ll just dig it out and plant a different rose that will bloom all season. It’s a heart wrenching decision.
Zephirine Drouhin is an Old Garden climbing rose that will bloom throughout the season and is highly fragrant as well. The deer ate most of its new shoots last year but this year I managed to discourage them so it bloomed profusely in gratitude.