Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring. That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in. The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground. That’s why I say ‘officiallythe first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.
Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up. Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves. The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight. But they are Siberian, they should be fine. Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.
Inside the house is another story. Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers. Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom. I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.
Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower. I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are. I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.
But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.
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.
Winter is my time for basement gardening. Where we live we have to put our tropical plants in the basement for the winter. It’s a lot of labor to go through twice a year. We take them in when we know that the night temperature will drop and stay below 45°F, usually around late September or early October. Then take them back out in spring when the temperatures will stay above 45°F at night. It was easy when they were small but it gets much harder once some of them grow taller than us. But it’s always a pleasure to have them around. They keep me going in winter and give us fresh herbs even when the ground is covered with snow outside.
Tropical plants that are taller than us in addition to Kaffir lime and the Ficus, are the Water Jasmines (Wrightia religiosa), of which we have two, one over six feet tall and the other is around 1.5 foot tall. I grew both of them from seeds. I did try air layering once but that plant survived only a couple of years.
They never flower when they are in the basement. I guess it’s not quite warm enough and perhaps not enough light. The taller one gets very finicky with temperature changes too. It drops 95% of its leaves when we first take it outside or when we bring it back inside. Leaves and flower buds come out again after a month in full sun. The tiny white star-shaped flower has a light, soothing fragrance. Each flower blooms for just one day but there clusters of replacements ready to bloom in its place.
When they are outside and in full bloom, various types of bees, honeybees included, come for the nectar during the day and the moths take over at night. Its seed pod is also interesting, it looks like a wishbone. Once it’s matured the pods split open and release seeds with a silky thread attached that the wind will catch and carry to a new place. That is how I propagate it, by the seeds. The plant grown from a seed takes a few years before it will flower. Air-layer and cutting are recommended for faster flowering.
Water Jasmine is easy to grow in a pot, as I do. It needs a warm temperature and plenty of sunlight to bloom. It can be planted outside in USDA Zone 8 and up. If planting outside it can be used as a hedge. It can also be trained to create a Bonsai.
It seems to have no known pests when growing outside, however Spider mites are the main problem when growing indoors. I use an insecticide soap to get rid of them and mist the plant with water weekly. I’m looking forward to germinating some of these seeds in March and hope to have a few more to create Bonsai from.
I try to grow a couple of new plants every year. One of the plants I added to our tropical collection last year was Yellow Jasmine ‘Revolutum’ (Jasminum humile). I didn’t expect it to bloom this year especially during the winter. All the tropical plants reside in our basement under daylight fluorescents that stay lit for 12 hours each day. The furnace provides just enough heat for them too. I expected it to go semi-dormant like the other tropical plants, but to my surprise….it bloomed.
I have spent time sweeping the leaves up and pruning branches off the other plants in the basement. Then, two days ago, I spotted lovely bright yellow flowers. They have a very subtle scent, not as strong as other jasmine. A lovely treat. Now I have good reason to go to the basement more often than just to water the plants or to do laundry.
I have taken leave to the other side of the world for a couple of weeks. Though I didn’t have much time to look around as I usually do, still common tropical flowers were the cheerful sight to be seen. Nothing much in North America but bare branches and snow. So, sharing some colorful images of these common tropical flowers wouldn’t hurt.
Plumeria (Plumeria obtusa) flower has a very soothing fragrance. This plant in the photo is around two stories high but Plumeria can be grown in a pot and kept short and tidy.
Paper Flower (Bougainvillea) is another common tropical flower that can take negligence and drought in stride. It comes in many colors, from white, bright pink, orange, yellow, red… It blooms throughout the year and is great for trellises or climbing on a fence.
Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) is another flower that does well in heat and negligence. It comes in both single and double petals as well as in a variety of colors. I attempted to grow it here once, but too much pampering with food and water, I killed it. I guess they call it ‘Desert Rose’ for a reason.
The flower of Paraguay Jasmine (Brunfelsia australis) aka Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow is slightly fragrant. The flower first opens up in violet then fades to pale pink and white at the end.
This lovely violet flower-Wild Petunia (Ruellia tuberosa) is classified as a weed with herbal properties. Since people tolerate them because of their beautiful color, they can be seen along side local roads and highways.
I’m not advocating growing non-native plants but most plants above can be grown in a pot in USDA Zone 3-8 or in the ground in Zone 9-11.
Yes, someone named this jasmine ‘Poet’ or ‘French Perfume’ (Jasminum grandiflorum). I’m not sure I like the name or the scent best. I can see why it get this name. One whiff of its scent and you can write a few lovely lines of poetry. If you keep sniffing it, you may be able to pull a Robert Frost act.
It’s a lovely vine with very dark green leaves and 1.5 inch white flowers. Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the Jasminumsambac and seems to do well when the weather gets a little colder. The temperature has been hovering around 50 degrees or lower at night and gone up to 60 or 70 during the day here. It started to bloom as soon as the temperature dropped and blooms profusely now while the Jasminum sambac like Maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany areproducing less and smaller flowers than in the heat of summer. The Poet flowers also last longer than a day, but are not as fragrant when picked and taken into the house. So, using it as an air-freshener like the Jasminum sambac is out. Well, at this time of year we can sit and enjoy it outside longer since it is too cold for mosquitoes to fly around. Maybe that was nature’s intent.
After a flood of “Maid of Orleans” jasmine (Jasminum sambac) a couple of weeks ago, there are still some flowers to pick for the house everyday but not as many, not until the second wave of flowers bloom. They are forming new flower buds again and won’t slow down until they are back in the basement wintering over.
Now it’s the time other jasmine give their performance. The “Belle of India” jasmine (Jasminum sambac)blooms next. Yes, they are “sambac” as well. The delicate white flowers are bigger than the “Maid of Orleans”, around an inch in diameter, with longer petals, and they smell just as sweet. Some of the flowers are even double-layer petals.
The “Grand Duke of Tuscany” jasmines (Jasminum sambac) also start to bloom. They are really grand when they bloom. Each flower has one inch diameter with multi layers of petals and strong jasmine scent. I have this vision of them in a small delicate vase on a dresser or on a jacket lapel. I did cut some flowers and brought them in the house, their fragrance got even stronger in the evening. The good thing about them is that unlike other jasmine, the flowers will last a couple of days instead of blooming for only one night. They are too big to just pick the flowers off the plants so cutting them with their stem attached is a perfect way to bring them in the house.
Next to bloom is the “Azores Jasmine” (Jasminum azoricum). This jasmine will wind up a small trellis very well and produces flowers in clusters. Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the “sambac”. It’s also a fast grower and can stay in a small pot as long as you feed it well.
I’m not done with the jasmine yet, still have a couple more to go. Yes, I collect as many varieties as I can find. I’m still looking for one particular jasmine, English name unknown to me. I’ve seen them in Thailand but nowhere else I’ve been. It has very small flowers that like stacked up stars.
I also wish I could capture their fragrance as well because the photographs alone just can’t do them justice.