Odd Couples

Posted by & filed under Formal Gardens, Perennials, Trees.

By Dandy Lion

Crabapple fruiting in front of a banana leafI had a dream the other night that I was walking through the Garden. People usually dream about flying, but for a plant, walking is just as fantastical. Anyway, I was walking through the Garden, enjoying all the wonderful plants.  Suddenly I stopped, because something seemed odd.  I noticed two plants that didn’t seem quite right next to each other.  A crabapple growing next to a banana?  Surely I had to be dreaming.  But now in the light of day, I’m not so certain.

That is the wonderful thing about where this garden is located.  On the very northern edge of zone 8, we can grow tropical and semi-tropical plants here.  Yet we can grow many temperate climate plants as well.  It certainly makes for some odd but interesting pairings in the Garden.  Sure enough, if you walk along the path between the Annette Kagan Healing Garden and Cobblestone bridge, you will find an old crabapple surrounded by Japanese fiber bananas, Chinese dwarf bananas and a sprawling clump of devil’s tongue.  It is a little funny to see a twig of ripening round crabapples surrounded by broad luscious green leaves of a banana.

These odd combinations can be seen all over the Garden.  At Renaissance Court, the classically formal Italian cypress Italian cypress and dwarf palmettoshares a space with the robust dwarf palmetto.  It is a great juxtaposition between the tall narrowly sculpted Mediterranean tree and the shorter, more broadly exuberant foliage of our southeastern native. At first mention it might seem odd, but they do work well together.

The Tropical Garden along the canal is full of these odd couples.  As you walk along the path, look up and see the broad, smooth leaves of a Japanese fiber banana next to the spiky, smoky-blue needles of a blue atlas cedar.  What an interesting combination.  However, when you stop and think that the banana comes from southern China (not Japan as indicated in the name) while the cedar is from the Atlas mountains of Africa your synapses may start to smoke as you try to figure out how this combination came together.

Rice-paper plant with a black willow overheadOther pairings, more head spinners.  Have you seen a bitternut hickory from the eastern US drop its nuts on a Prince Sago from Taiwan?  What about seeing the fine foliage of an American black willow next to the two-foot wide leaves of a rice-paper plant from Taiwan? You will if you come to the tropical garden.

Some couples may seem odd at first glance, but are not really.  Further down the path of the Tropical Garden is a bank of azaleas.  Across the path is a grouping of silver lance dwarf ginger, a wonderful plant from China.  Should that really be near the classic flower of the southeastern garden? It’s not so odd when you realize that the parents of this hybrid azalea are from China as well.

I could go on with other couples, but you get the idea.  Now it is up to you to come to the Garden and find your own odd couples. I’ll let you decide who is Oscar and who is Felix. Now back to this dreaming . . . if I could only walk.

2 Responses to “Odd Couples”

  1. Debra

    I think Felix is the formal formal Italian cypress and Oscar is the dwarf palmetto. But does the dwarf palmetto smoke cigars?

  2. Ashleigh

    Felix is the blue atlas cedar and Oscar is the Japanese fiber banana. I remember seeing that combo when I visited and thinking the same thing.

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