An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 31, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Part II, Fruit, Flowers and Freaks

Although I was totally amazed by the trees at Fairchild, there were many other items fighting for my attention.

I am not sure which banana this was, but I loved its flower.

Banana (2)


As you might expect there were also many bromeliads.


Bromeliad and Setcreasea

The plant combo above was part of a much larger landscape, looked over by tall Bismarkii nobilis.

Fairchild Landscape (2)

Flame Violet (Episcia cupreata)

Episcia cupreata

Japanese Lantern (Hibiscus schizopetalus)

Hibiscus schizopetalus



Gold Finger Plant (Juanulloa aurantica)

Juanulloa aurantica

Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis)

Couroupita guianensis (4)

This waterlily had good company in the form of some Chihuly sculpture.


Chihuly in the Water

One of my favorite parts of Fairchild was the Madagascar garden. The thorny trunks on the left belong to Pachypodium lamerei.

Pachypodium lamerei (2)

I am not sure what this was lying on the floor of the rainforest garden.

From the Rainforest

Wax Jambu (Syzygium samarangense)

Syzygium samarangense

The size of jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) would make any man tree feel proud.

Artocarpus heterophyllus (2)

African rainbow lizards were all over the garden, and they are also starting to show up on Florida's ever-increasing invasive species list.

African Rainbow Lizard

This will end our visit to Fairchild Gardens, but if you would like to see more photos click here for my complete set. 

Up next from Florida, I enter a world far more foreign and exotic to me than any tropical garden - I go to a shopping mall.

July 29, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Pt. I, Trees

When planning our trip to Florida the one place I wanted to see more than any other was Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.  While visiting their website to get particulars, I noticed they were offering free admission on the first Wednesday of each month this summer, including July 4th, so there was no doubt as to where I would spend my Independence Day.  If you want to know more about Fairchild, I suggest you visit their website where their story is certainly told better.  However, I would just like to say that if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Miami, you must go, this is more than a pretty garden, it is a world class facility.

Let's descend the steps at the visitor's center and enter the garden.

Serpentine Handrail (2)

Being a tree person, I was immediately impressed with rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta). It has bark that can make men weep.

Eucalyptus deglupta (2)

Eucalyptus deglupta

There were many Ficus in the garden. This Ficus racemosa was part of an art installation from Yoko Ono, one of her Wish Trees. We also saw one a couple of years ago at MOMA in New York. It is hard to tell from the photo, but the diameter of this trunk was easily 10'.

Ficus racemosa (2)

Ficus racemosa (6)

Ficus subcordata

Ficus subcordata

This ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is not technically a palm, and may not even be a tree, but it was spectacular.

Beaucarnea recurvata

I could not find out what tree this was, but I love the womanly trunk flare.
* (Thanks to Barry for the subsequent ID of Pachira aquatica.)

Crazy Trunk

Care to climb the silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa)?

Ceiba speciosa

As one would expect, Fairchild has a fantastic palm collection, and if I was British I'd say it left me gobsmacked. Since I am not a Brit, and it was July 4th, here is a photo appropriate for the day.

July 4

Copernicia macroglossa, pettycoat palm

Copernicia macroglossa

These are Bailey palms from Cuba (Copernica baileyana). They looked to be made of concrete, and I could imagine planting of line of them to resemble a colonnade.

Copernica baileyana

Copernica baileyana (2)

I didn't get the name of these palms, but liked how they were underplanted with Philodendron.


The trees pictured below are Haitian oil palms (Attalea crassispatha). In the ecological nightmare that is Haiti they are extinct, and these 15 are the last ones left in the world.

Attalea crassispatha

We will end with yet another shot of the plant geek and his Bismarckii nobilis.

A Geek and His Bismarckii nobilis

We will continue our Fairchild tour in the next post with a bit more color.

July 23, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Victoria Park

While I was on vacation, one of my morning walks took me into a part of old Fort Laurderdale, Victoria Park.  This neighborhood was built on what was originally a live oak (Quercus virginiana) hammock, and this tree is still dominant in the city's canopy.  Hammocks are higher areas where a different set of species grow than in the vast surrounding wetlands.  These were choice areas for settlement in early south Florida before so many of the wetlands were drained and filled, now very little of either eco-systems is evident in the city.  When Henry Flagler was building his railroad down the coast of Florida, he wanted to route the Lauderdale portion through this hammock, but "the mother of Miami", Julia Tuttle, convinced him to take it further westward.

It appears that most of the houses in Victoria Park were built in the early decades of the 20th century.  Many of the homes are attractive, stuccoed, one-story bungalows that have been added to and renovated over the years.  As nice as the homes were, it was the landscaping that impressed this plant geek, and it was not just the species used, but how they were used.  I like lush full gardens, even when they border on being over-planted, and this neighborhood had lush full gardens in spades.

Ginger Hedge

Croton and Plumeria Fence

Warm Cottage

Cottage with Chenille Plant

Purple Shutters

Yellow Cottage


There were several Plumeria around the neighborhood that assumed small tree proportions.


... as do other houseplants.

Croton Palm

Schefflera actinophylla

Schefflera actinophylla

One house had pink pineapples planted near the driveway.

Pink Pineapple

An apartment buildings on the edge of the neighborhood had a Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) growing behind it that easily cleared the four story roof line.

Norfolk Island Pine (2)

As I mentioned in a previous Florida post, my favorite palm, (one that gives me serious zone envy), is the Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis), and I saw many fine examples on my walk.

Bismarck Fence

Bismarck and Hedge


Red White and Two Blues

There were also many fine examples of my new infatuation, the royal poinciana tree or flamboyant tree (Delonix regia).

Poinciana Cottage

Royal Poinciana (2)

Royal Poinciana (3)

Mangoes anyone?

Mango Tree

Not all the landscaping was good. The picture below was taken at a another apartment or condo building, so I feel comfortable saying this was likely a professional installation. Which makes me wonder why they would have left those two small strips of turf. This corner also makes me remember that rock necklaces look better on Wilma Flinestone.

Bad Corner

On my next Florida post we will head south of Miami to a botanical wonder, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.