Gone to Pot

All kinds of interesting plants are growing in pots on the deck. Many of them are here via Kent Russell, “The Garden Guru,” who spoke at a Garden Club of Irvington meeting in April. He brought a truckload of container plants that made us Garden Club ladies ooh and aah and take out our wallets. Perennials in tropical parts of the world, these patio plants, he assured us, will do well on sunny windowsills in the winter.

The beauty above, with lime-green bracts with white flower spikes, is Shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea. In Florida, I’ve read, it will spread into a golden meadow in the garden. Here in the Northeast we can be happy with a specimen in a container. I’ve surrounded it with Boston Fern ‘Rita’s Gold,’ another Kent Russell special.

This one, above, looked a lot prettier during Kent’s demonstration, when iabutilon_striatum copyt was dotted with lantern-like red-orange flowers—now coming into their second bloom. It’s Abutilon striatum, commonly known as Flowering Maple or Chinese Bellflower. In warmer climates they can grow to be tree-like. The maple-like leaves are lovely, and in a few days the new buds will open and look like this:

And then there are the elephant ears, below. Not like my mother’s elephant ears, Colocasia esculenta, which took over the back yard in California, Kent brought us Alocasia ‘stingray,’ from a genus of broad-leaved rhizomatous plants native to tropical and subtropical Asia to Eastern Australia. Cool!

Fizzle-Sizzle

The Garden Club ladies went nuts over Albuca spiralus ‘Fizzle Sizzle.’  The sizzle is the curly bottom, above, which would have been quite good enough. But all of a sudden a tall stem shot up, below,  and it began to bloom!

Fizzle-Sizzle Bloom

And if that weren’t enough, I’m finally growing a dahlia, Dark Angel ‘Pulp Fiction’ is her name. And she doesn’t seem to mind the partial shade.

Dark Angel Pulp FictionAnd what about more long-lived plants that have over-wintered in my little greenhouse and come back to the deck year after year? They are doing very well, thank you. I’d like to reintroduce you to my donkey tail plant, Sedum morganianum. Two summers ago it was one little tail. Here it is today. Not bad, eh?

Donkey's tail

Last winter, I spotted an irresistible small olive tree, ‘Olea Europaea,’ below, at Carlson’s Greenhouse in White Plains. I’ve pruned it up and am training it as a standard. (That little trunk looks like it needs more straightening with a stake and ties.) Will it bear fruit someday?

Olive tree standard

Hanging in woven baskets are the only annuals I plant every year. Begonia Bonfire blooms all summer. In the background is Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight,’ a great color contrast and trailer.

Begonia Wildfire

Below, with elegant gray-green, fuzzy leaves, is Tradescantia sillamontana ‘White Gossamer.’ Grown from a tiny plant I bought at a flower show, it’s about 18 inches in diameter and now has two offspring of its own. In late summer, all three of them, I hope, will show off a plethora of purple-magenta blossoms.

Tradescantia sillamontana

My polka-dot begonia, Begonia maculata var. wightii,  is doing fine, too. It’s always glad to come out of the greenhouse and repose in a shady spot where its dots get bigger, brighter and happier.

Polka-Dot Begonia

And then there is the cutting I brought home from a trip to Italy two years ago. It was a tiny little offshoot from an incredibly huge spider plant growing up a wall at a bed-and-breakfast where I stayed. Not your ordinary Chlorophytum comosum, with its green edges and white centers, this one had green centers and white edges. I couldn’t resist asking the proprietor for un pezzo piccolo. I wrapped it in a damp paper towel, tucked it in my carry-on, and did not check the customs form question about live plants. Today, it’s getting huge itself, with a span of about six feet, counting the many offshoots, and it has three strapping young offspring. Leave it to the Italians. And to Kent.

Italian Spider Plant Family

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint, Salon.com, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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2 Responses to Gone to Pot

  1. lkrivitz says:

    Ellen,
    I am a volunteer working on this year’s Friends’ School Plant Sale in St. Paul, MN. This sale has grown to be the largest annual plant sale in Minnesota; it raises a good deal of scholarship money for the school and has for over 20 years. We have a wonderful print catalog each year, but it can only accommodate photos of a small percentage of the plants we offer. Our goal is to have a picture of each plant offered on the website. I am a volunteer tasked with finding the pictures for new plants and I am have a difficult time finding good photos of Albuca spiralis Frizzle Sizzle. You have a beautiful picture on your blog. https://writedesigner.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/gone-to-pot/
    Might we use it? Proper attribution would be given.

    If we find a few others that we need, might we use them as well?

    If you would like to know more about our plant sale, here is our website: http://www.friendsschoolplantsale.com/history/ or you can ask me!

    Please contact me if you have any questions,

    Laurie Krivitz
    lkrivitz@comcast.net

  2. Hi Laurie, OK, as long as you credit “Photo by Ellen Shapiro, courtesy dig-it-blog.com”
    Good luck with your sale!

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