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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Castor beans and Cannas doubled in height over the past 3 weeks!

July is an amazing month for tropical gardening. My castor beans which re-seeded themselves from last year are now taller than ever (clocking in at about 8 feet tall) and to top it off the Robert Kemp cannas are growing just as fast. Together the purple, lobed castor beans and the thick green canna leaves make one spectacular combination. Mother Nature knows what it's doing!

Late June/ Early July about 3 weeks ago

This was last week

A few days ago

Today! They are now 8 feet tall and blooming!

Last week

This week (use the Schefflera for scale).

Tibouchina, a new favorite for me!

Tibouchina are a beautiful genus of flowering plants native to South America. Many are invasive in the tropics but are not at all an issue up in northern climates. They grow as large shrubs, small trees, even vines - depending on the species. If they came in more than just 1 flower color, you could landscape a whole yard with these!

T. urvilleana can often be seen as a tree in warm climates like Central and Southern Florida. At that size you can't see just how beautiful the fuzzy leaves are, but the flowers are enough to set it apart from just about anything else. This is one of my favorite new additions to my yard this year. I got them from the Annual Rutgers Plant sale which often has very interesting tropicals. These are not easy plants to find in a northern climate, but if you're lucky enough to find one - get it! Not sure how it will overwinter but right now I am enjoying the heck out of it!

There it was back in May,  between the silver Agave Parryi and the sprouting elephant ear, no more than a foot tall.

Here it is just a few weeks later. It's as tall as me with new flowers every single day. 

The flowers are so cool!

Another Beauty are T. Grandiflora. These also get huge in warm climates but are definitely shrubs, not trees. The leaves of T. Grandiflora are usually much bigger than T. urvilleana and the flowers much smaller. The flowers last longer and have a completely different growing habit though. I believe that this year I have T. heteromalla, not T. Grandiflora which I had in the past (but lost indoors because of under watering). Still absolutely beautiful!

This is definitely a T. Grandiflora in my yard in 2014. The leaves are much larger, the plant did not branch as easily, and the bloom heads are more compact and larger as well. 

So the verdict - this genus is absolutely beautiful and so underused up north. Like Plumerias, they do great in pots, easy to start from cuttings, bloom profusely, and can overwinter indoors without issues but are also nearly impossible to find in nurseries up north. As beautiful as tropical hibiscus are, I think that these would be a quick sell out at nurseries if they were sold!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

You NEED Hardy Hibiscus to add the tropical look to your yard!

Hardy hibiscus are probably the best investment you can ever make to your tropical yard in a northern climate. They can survive in just about any climate the US has to offer. I've heard of people successfully growing them in zone 4 where temperatures can reach -30F every winter (unfathomable cold to me!). The flowers and foliage come in so many shapes and sizes. Some are very small shrubs, others can grow to be large trees. Mine range from 3 to 6 feet tall. Here are some photos of my hardy hibiscus. All these varieties are pretty easy to get!

Hibiscus "Fantasia"

Hibiscus "Kopper King"

Hibiscus "Summer Storm"

Hibiscus "Robert Fleming"

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Just Palms & Sunshine

Blue skies and palm trees can really take you away to a vacation mind frame even in the middle of the week on the edge of the largest city in the country. All the hours of hard work in the yard during the spring (and the hours of hard work up ahead in the fall) become instantly worth it when you can go for a swim and look up to see this.

My Elephant Ears and Trachycarpus from the pool. The fence is 6 feet tall for scale. You can see the rouge banana canna between them is already at 7 feet tall. So excited to see how tall it will get. Might be my tallest canna EVER!

Contrails and upper level cumulus.

Cirus clouds are one of my favorite clouds and Christmas Palms are one of my favorite palms. 

I tried to get some of my plumerias in this shot from the pool.

A familiar vantage point with my plumerias and palms.

My Kopper King Hibiscus is pretty large and getting ready to bloom. I love what's going on with the portulacas and lantanas. Completely covered in blooms.

That's all for now. Thanks for looking!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Things You Can Do With Zucchinni

I'm pretty new to the edible gardening game, but with all the hard work I put into the yard it's nice to get something physical out of it as a reward every once in a while. My zucchini have been putting out absolutely massive fruits which have let me scrambling for things to do with them.

This post is dedicated to the things that a 21 year old guy (me) can cook with a zucchini plant!

Here's my massive zucchini fruit. Unfortunately the watermelon is from the store and is for scale (it's a normal sized watermelon, not a mini).

I made "baked" zucchini fries which were meant to be a healthy twist on fried zucchini. They were nice and crunchy and best of all, healthy. What you see in this picture is from 1 zucchini! 

When I'm up early and have time in the morning I pick zucchini flowers. Usually I'll collect 10 - 20 which is enough to do great things. Like Quiche Frutti Di Zucca (Quiche with zucchini blossoms). I filled it with egg white and gouda cheese to try and make it healthy. Next time I'd just use eggs yolk and all! 

I also make stuffed zucchini blossoms which is ricotta cheese and basil inside zucchini blossoms which are then battered up and fried! Here's some photos of the basil I use from my yard to make the stuffed blossoms. Basil has to be the most rewarding thing you can grow in the yard without a doubt!

 Lettuce Leaf Basil is amazing!

Genovese Basil is quite a beauty too. Check out the glass for scale, these leaves are massive!

My Newest Orchid!

Recently I bought a friend for my staghorn fern, a Phalaenopsis Orchid! I love this orchid in particular because I remember when I was a kid we used to stay at this hotel that had an orchid stand and a very similar orchid was always blooming on the stand. I'm so happy to finally have one of my own! Unfortunately it wasn't labeled so if you have an idea on what type it might be I'd love to hear your thoughts. It has a sweet fragrance.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lots of July Photos around the yard

Here's a collection of the photos you haven't seen of my yard this month!

A Few Close - Ups
Hibiscus "Mandarin Wind"

Hibiscus flowers look especially beautiful in the early morning when they first open up.

Another hibiscus closeup

A close up on some of the elephant ears and cannas in the front yard bed.

Colocasia "Nancy Revenge" Looking very full and healthy

These lantanas survived the winter well inside the house and are blooming beautifully!

Water makes a great back drop for anything, especially these canna blooms!

Cleome closeup

The butterflies love these fuzzy blooms

Passiflora incarnata is definitely a winner! 

My potted confederate jasmine did most of its blooming in March but it is throwing up a few blooms now which is great! I love the fragrance.

I got this oleander on clearance last fall. It's a heavy bloomer!

Underneath my Crape Myrtle, daylilies provide some extra color.

I got these orchids in January and they won't stop blooming. There are lots of new buds ready to open. They are in full shade.

New Things

It's Gardenia season! I got this Frostproof Gardenia from home depot a few weeks ago for only $30. There are a ton of blooms on it and the fragrance is really incredible.

Chuck Hayes Gardenia only blooms once a season, but when it blooms you can barely see the leaves. Here are a few of the blooms. 

A local nursery had heliconias in stock so I had to get one! They did not label them, but it looks like it may be Heliconia psittacorum "Lady Di"

Some NYC Winter Survivors

My Livistona Chinensis is coming back from another NYC winter. It completely defoliated this winter as it does every year, but they are very good at coming back. The Purple hearts have also survived 5 winters. 

Petnas, azaleas, camellias, and hardy hibiscus. A surprisingly nice combo and other than the petnas, completely hardy! 

Can't remember the ID of these striped shade loving plants but they survived their first winter and are coming back with a vengence. They are in complete shade so I highly recommend these for bringing the tropical look to the shade garden.

Here is my Sabal Birmingham and Cleomes and some very dwarf cannas. The birmingham really struggled with it's first winter. The cannas survived without any issues. 

One of my Sabal minors survived the winter without any issues but this one struggled a lot. I've had it for 6 years now and it's very tender but also fast growing.

These are "Summer Storm Hibiscus" which are supposed to be an improvement to "Kopper King" (which you wouldn't think even needed improving!). I got them last summer and they were sending out blooms into NOVEMBER which is really impressive for a hardy hibiscus. I am excited to see what these plants are capable of! 

These castor beans are volunteers from last year. They are a purple variety but look green right now. I think they'll become purple now that they are starting to outcompete the cannas for sunlight. I might have to move my basil since it's very close to the castor beans and castor beans are very posionous! 

Southern Magnolias are about as southern as it gets. My tree has been transplanted several times in the past 4 years and is still in some shock. The foliage is pretty sparse, but it is definitely blooming normally!

Other Scenes around the Yard 

My potted Livistona and bottle palms.

My Staghorn fern is filling out nicely. They can't get enough of our east coast humidity! 

My front stairs.

Definitely disappointed with the growth rate on my Musa Basjoo in the front yard. It's newly planted and already has a lot of pups which is great. I think it will start to push out more growth as the season progresses but I am not expecting it to be too impressive this season.

These cannas will hopefully cover up this machinery by the end of the month. It's a bit of an eyesore right now.

My favorite spot to sit and relax! 

Everything is starting to fill out but there's definitely more growing to do!

I counted 9 plumeria plants in this photo! 

I will end with one of my favorite views in the yard this year. The Ensete banana is doing amazingly well in its second year especially considering how hard of a time I have getting them to overwinter. I feel the spanish moss and farfargum add a lot of texture and character to the scene.

A close up on my Ensete banana with a combination of potato vine, begonias, and caladiums underneath. The potato vine always gets way out of hand so this year I planted it in its original nursery pot to keep it contained.

Thanks for looking!