Gardening

A bonsai discovery

Visiting public gardens – both local and in other regions – is one of my favorite past-times. It’s not unusual to pick up a design idea, gain insight into plants growing in different regions, or discover something unexpected. Wandering among garden beds and greenhouses with camera in hand helps capture these visits, one of which I share here … a bonsai discovery.

Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce, Florida

Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce, Florida

During a recent brief escape to Florida I visited Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. The weather was chilly for Florida, very windy, and not conducive to sitting on the beach to soak in February sunshine … but just fine for wandering through gardens.

Heathcote Botanical Gardens main entrance

Heathcote Botanical Gardens main entrance

The entrance to this five-acre garden welcomes with colorful tropical plants under mature palms and leads to a gift shop where you pay the $6 adult entry fee, pick up a map to guide your visit, and learn a bit about the garden displays and structures.

One of the main gardens is the Bonsai Gallery. This form of garden art never necessarily intrigued me, not because I don’t appreciate it as an art form, but because my focus and interest has always been with full-size gardening. But, wandering through the meandering paths of this Bonsai Gallery where most trees can be viewed from all sides and angles, gave me new-found respect for the knowledge, patience, and care that goes into creating bonsai.

Bonsai Ficus retusa, in training since 1989

Bonsai Ficus retusa, in training since 1989

The Bonsai Gallery features over 100 trees on permanent display such as this ficus. Each specimen is labeled with its botanical name and how long it has been “in training” as a bonsai … in the case of this ficus, since 1989.

Though I’ve cared for many plants, some houseplants that have been with me for decades, the wonder of training a plant into a beautiful, balanced miniature tree is fascinating.

The collection in the Bonsai Gallery was created by James J. Smith who, according to information in Heathcotes’ brochures and website, is a bonsai master.

I don’t begin to suggest knowing anything about the process of training bonsai, but do want to share some of the specimen in this garden.

Though not able to see all 100 – during the visit garden caretakers were in the process of securing frost protection over most of the trees and moving more tender bonsai to shelter – studying just a few shows the nature of this art form.

Green Island Ficus (Ficus macrocarpa) in training since 1979

Green Island Ficus (Ficus macrocarpa) in training since 1979

Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) in training since 2003

Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) in training since 2003

Neea buxifolia in training since 1990

Neea buxifolia in training since 1990

Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) in training since 1978

Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) in training since 1978

Jaboticaba (Eugenia cauliflora) in training since 1973

Jaboticaba (Eugenia cauliflora) in training since 1973

This view of one of the paths with bonsai tented in frost protection gives an idea of how much work the Bonsai Gallery staff faced on the day of this visit. All 100 trees needed protection.

Bonsai Gallery being protected from frost

Bonsai Gallery being protected from frost

The rest of Heathcote Botanical Gardens is filled with peaceful paths,

A path in the Palm & Cycad Walk at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

A path in the Palm & Cycad Walk at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

colorful plantings,

Plant bed at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

Plant bed at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

and wonderful palms.

A trio of Areca palms at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

A trio of Areca palms at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

The visit was a soothing, refreshing, and educational way for a northern gardener to spend a couple of hours and become intrigued by the bonsai art form. It just may be something to learn if my aging body ever prevents me from continuing full-size gardening.

 

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Fern sex

Ferns are amazing plants in their beauty alone. They’re even more amazing when you begin to understand how ferns propagate. They have no flowers to entice pollinating insects so … how does a fern have sex?

fern fronts as they open in spring

fern fronds as they open in spring

Gardeners who know and love ferns realize that spores – the brown structures that arise on the undersides of mature fern fronds – are a fern’s reproductive cells. Once mature, these cells leave their parent fern to venture out and multiply. What’s fascinating is how the spores leave the parent plant.

As described in a December 31, 2014 article in the Wonderful Things series in Scientific American, ferns use a technique called cavitation catapult to disperse spores.

The article provides drawings and a video diagram explaining how this process works. But here’s the best part for plant geeks … a video showing actual fern spores being launched by the cavitation catapult process.

This kind of stuff happens in gardens all the time, right under our noses as we merrily tend our plants. Gardening is not only one of the best ways to connect with nature, it’s a constant learning experience for those with curious minds and … it’s sexy.
But don’t just watch the video … follow the article link to better understand the whole process. Aren’t we all lucky to have scientists who take the time to question and learn about fern sex, and science writers such as Jennifer Frazer to explain it in a way average Jane and Joe gardeners can easily understand?
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Go bananas over ‘Going Bananas’ daylily

Do you love yellow? Do you love daylilies? If you answer yes to both these questions then, like me, you’ll go bananas over ‘Going Bananas’, a Proven Winners perennial that grows beautifully in my Zone 6, south-central Connecticut garden.

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’ arrived on my doorstep in a 4 1/2 inch pot in July, 2011. Since its mature size is less than two feet, I planted the young ‘Going Bananas’ in full sun in front of a mounding Japanese holly, Ilex crenata ‘Helleri’, figuring the small, dark green holly leaves would perfectly offset the daylily’s yellow blossoms.

The first season ‘Going Bananas’ gave a hint of what was to come. At this young age the large blooms were a bit out of scale with its leaf mass, but it showed potential.

Hemerocallis 'Going Bananas'

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’

By 2013, it had grown to a respectable size …

Hemerocallis 'Going Bananas' in 2013

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’ in 2013

 

… and the yellow of the blossoms had deepened.

Hemerocallis 'Going Bananas' blossom 2013

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’ blossom 2013

By 2014, its third season in my garden, ‘Going Bananas’ really showed its stuff. It was in full bloom from late June through mid-July and bloomed intermittently in late summer.

Hemerocallis 'Going Bananas' in 2014

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’ in 2014

I loved that Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ and ‘Going Bananas’ bloomed concurrently last season. One can never go wrong combining pale yellow and deep blue.

Hemerocallis 'Going Bananas' with Phlox paniculata 'Blue Paradise' in 2014

Hemerocallis ‘Going Bananas’ with Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ in 2014

Proven Winners’ plant description lists the height of ‘Going Bananas’ as 19″-22″, but the blossoms reach to about 2 1/2′ in my garden. The flowers emit a sweet fragrance and the leaves remain attractive into autumn. During the three years growing it I’ve seen no disease or insect problems.

Outside of regularly removing spent blossoms – advisable for all daylilies,  ‘Going Bananas’ is very low maintenance. My one caution, don’t expect deer to ignore this or any other daylily. If you garden in deer-browse regions, plant ‘Going Bananas’ in a protected location.

Want more ‘Going Bananas’? Watch Proven Winners’ video and read their overview.

Disclaimer: I received this plant/shrub from Proven Winners as part of their garden writers plant trial program. I have received no compensation for growing or writing about these plants. My reports are based on how the plants/shrubs have performed in my Zone 6 garden in south-central Connecticut.

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