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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Happy First Full Day of Summer!

Today's the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. While the days will slowly be getting shorter form here on out, the days will only be getting warmer and warmer for the next few weeks and the tropicals will really start to explode with growth! 

Here's a few palmy shots. Livistona and bottle palms make a good pair.

This view never seems to change and that's ok with me!

My largest plumeria goes through a lot of trouble to go outside every spring. It's recovering nicely and should look great in a few weeks. I am thinking of mounting bromeliads and orchids over all the branches so stay tuned!

Southern Magnolia flowers are a sure sign of Summer! 

My Magnolia has lots of buds but unfortunately it's a bit bare in terms of foliage. It has been transplanted so many times which it did not respond well to. 

Eastern Prickly Pears are native and yet so exotic looking. They require no care and are so rewarding. My front steps are filled with yellow blooms for the whole month of June.

The plant has a bit of a creeping habit which makes it a perfect addition to my large brick planter bed by my stairs. 

Speaking of blooms my Plumeria "Jenny" is blooming really well right now. 

My Plumeria "Crazy" will have a ton of flowers in a few more weeks.

 I've noticed my plumerias seem to all bloom at the same time. Last year they were all blooming and this year only a few are. It will probably be a quiet year for plumerias but I'll sill have some blooms all summer long which is perfect for me!

It's been years since I have seen blooms on my "Color Guard" yucca. It's a nice addition to the yard!

My oleander is getting ready to bloom.

Hibiscus "Mandarin Wind"

Hyacinth Bean

Salvia "Black and Blue". It survived its first winter with flying colors and is spreading beautifully.

Cucuzza is the easiest edible I've ever grown. The vines are beautiful and the gourds are very tasty especially in sauce. This section of the yard is dedicated to Cucuzza and Basil both for tomato sauce!

Remember when I said these vines were beautiful? They are also VERY FAST growing! These were in 4 inch pots earlier this month. Now they are pushing 14 feet long and are setting fruit This one is growing in an "Earth Box" which - although expensive - really do keep plants healthy and happy. 

I also have some zucchini growing in an earth box and it's about 3 times the size of the same zucchini in the ground. Now all I need is some fruit. I also highly recommend stuffing zucchini flowers with basil and cheese, it tastes great!

My sabals are looking a bit better now that they've had some heat. They finished pushing out their first damaged leaf of the season and are working on their second fronds.

My Trachys are growing much faster already on their 3rd frond of the season and the fronds are pretty big!

In a shadier spot of the yard I get to mess around with different tropical foliage textures. There is still a lot more growing to do here!

You can see my needle palm in this shot!

My blood banana needs to pick up the pace. It's put out about 3 or 4 leaves this season which is pretty good but it hasn't gotten a lot of height yet. It should pick up in speed soon!

Passiflora Incarnata taking a break from blooming and setting fruit. I'll definitely be trying out these seeds.

Can't wait for my cannas to grow large enough to block the ugly machine in this part of the yard. Hopefully this will be looking much nicer in a month!

My Ensete is looking a little beat up from the wind this past spring but once the old leaves are cut off it's going to look AWESOME. Patience is key! 

I love these fuzzy blooms and the butterflies do too!

I'll end with this AWESOME home depot purchase from last week - a Frostproof Gardenia. I already have 1 frostproof gardenia but it died back severely during our bitter cold winter 2 years ago. I was in shock to see Home Depot selling hardy Gardenias. They also had Kleims Hardy Gardenia for sale but they only bloom in early summer so I figured Frostproof was a better purchase!

That's all I have for now but summer has just begun! Thanks for looking!

Rhododendron 'Garden Rainbow'

Rhododendron "Garden Rainbow" is a really cool plant. While it is a deciduous azalea (meaning it loses its leaves during the winter), it makes up for it with incredible blooms during the spring. The blooms start off yellow and change to orange and pink over the course of a few days. The result is an array of colors. While it looks tropical it's really cold hardy and probably would not do well without a nice and chilly winter to go dormant! Sometimes us northerners get to have beautiful plants that you can't have in warm climates!

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Year of Growing Musa xishuangbannaensis "Mekong Giant" in Zone 7

This photo was from when I first planted my Mekong Giant in late June 2015. I got this plant off Ebay and could not be happier with the size and health of the plant. As soon as it was planted in the ground it took right off which is rare from my experience with banana plants.

By September my Mekong Giant had more than doubled in height. The fence is 6 feet tall. Notice the reddish tint to the underside of the leaves. this is one characteristic that separates this species from Musa Basjoo, another very cold hardy banana. 

Mekong Giants seem to be slightly less tolerant of frosts than other bananas.

Here it is in mid November 2015 covered with burlap but still looking very green overall.

Over the winter I cooked my banana to death with christmas lights in an attempt to try and protect the whole stem. When I went to check on my plant in the middle of our winter cold, the stem was practically too hot to touch. The whole stem died back. I was not expecting to see my Mekong Giant ever again, but just a few weeks ago I saw this...

That banana pup was over a foot away from the dead mother plant. Another defining characteristic of Mekong Giants are their long rhizomes so their pups are often feet away from the mother plant. Here's how my Mekong Giant looks now in the middle of June 2016, almost a year from when it was first planted. It is now 2 smaller plants instead of one large plant. 

I think this year will be a great year for my Mekong Giant bananas because although it is smaller than this time last year, it's growing very quickly. It has grown nearly 4 leaves in just a month. I probably will not be giving these plants any heated protection this winter.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Best of 2015

June marks the first official day of summer (meteorologically at least!) so I thought it would be appropriate to share what I think was the best of my backyard last year. I think it will be very difficult for the yard this year to outdo last year, but we will see!

I've been growing eastern prickly pears since 2009 and for many years they refused to bloom. Last year the clumps were covered in blooms and it looks like it will be putting on an even bigger show this year!

It's hard not to walk into the front door with a smile on your face with such bright yellow flowers. 

Up close the blooms smell a bit like Daffodils to me

Last year was the first year I really actively tried growing food in the yard. I can't say it was very successful, but it was a real treat to have white zucchini and caserta. 

My philodendron looked awesome next to the doorway

Here's the pool plants early in the season. Nancy's Revenge is the name of those elephant ears with the white markings on them. 

Later on in the season the colors by the pool area fizziled out a bit but was replaced by a wall of tropical greenery. The fence is 6 feet tall for scale.

My front yard would not be nearly as colorful without my crape myrtles. The rain weighs down the already heavy branches in a really beautiful way.

Night shot early on in the season showing those crape myrtle colors on a rainy and windy night.

Last summer was my best summer for potted palms. They looked so healthy, it was really nice!

My largest plumeria did not have it's best year last year, but it did look really nice!

I think one of the highlights for me last summer came from this corner of my yard. A gray tree frog, which was reintroduced into the forests in Staten Island just a few years ago after their local extinction lived in my yard all summer. The sounds from this frog were as tropical as can be which was appropriate considering that it lived INSIDE my bromeliad and rested on my monstera leaves.

This area looked great anchored by my adondila palm, cavendish banana, and livistona palms.

For years this section of my yard was one of my least favorite because it was so difficult to figure out how do it right, but this year it all came together. 

For comparison here is this section of the yard way back in my early days of this unusual hobby.



 I think I really got it right in 2015. We will see if I can keep it up for 2016!

This area became a new challenge for me. We needed a new piece of equipment for our house and it went smack dab in the middle of this piece of my yard. I was pretty worried about the gardening challenges of planting around this big eyesore, but I think I did my yard justice! 

In comparison this is how this section of the yard looked in 2014. You can see why I was so upset I had to get rid of this set up! 

I did keep the desert rose in the same arrangement in 2015 though!

 Hawaiian Flowers with basil as a backdrop, it doesn't get much better!

Sunflowers were a big hit among the pollinators!

My plumerias had an amazing year as well.

The only bad thing about having so many plumeria blooms is that it means less for this year!

Just in this one picture there are 6 plumeria branches in bloom. I think I had 9 or 10 around the yard total which might just be a record for me! 

Who knew that lantana and ginger made such a nice combination?

Spanish moss goes such a long way. And how cool are those cucuzza fruits hanging down from the tree?

This is my first year growing portulacas. They grow in tiny pots with little to no water and love the sun. My only question is where have they been my whole life! 

I really liked the placement of the ti plants and decided to keep them in this arrangement this year instead of by the back doorl. They add a lot of color where it is very needed!

My Mekong giant was a very successful banana purchase

 This is also by far the best my yard has ever looked from indoors. 

Even Autumn in my yard had a tropical look to it last year 

So as you can see my yard has a lot to live up to this year. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Thanks for looking!