Vacation in the Tropics

Posted by & filed under Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs.

August is the month for vacations so I wanted to go see some new plants and get away from the gardeners.  I headed to the Tropical Garden yesterday.  Since I am from a more temperate region, tropicals are not plants I know well and I feel very much like a tourist here.  Unfortunately there are still plenty of gardeners here.

One of the reasons I wanted to come here is that a lot of people are talking about the Century Plant in bloom.  That was my first “tourist destination.”  It is indeed quite impressive.  First of all, the flower is very tall and it makes me fell quite puny.  On the right is the photo I took and you can see just how tall it is – about 25-30 feet tall.  I’m not really sure – I’m not good at estimating heights over 10-12 inches.  The story of the century plant is interesting too.  The plant lives anywhere from 7-35 years and only flowers once – just before it dies.  But what a way to go.

Of course the tropical garden has a lot of interesting plants.  There are the usual palms and bananas (some of which have flowered and started producing fruit), and there are plenty of flowering plants.  Cannas brighten the canal banks and gingers are sprinkled all along the paths.  The Willow-leaved Jessamine is tooting its horn with small yellow trumpets while the Glory Flower stays cool with dark blue blossoms.  The Skyflower is also in the cool blue range while the Brazilian Plume flows with bright pink flowers.  The Mexican Flame Vine has twisted its orange flowers through several spots in the garden. Everywhere begonias pop out from the foliage with bright pinks, whites and reds.

Flowers will get your attention first, but don’t forget that tropical means lots of lush green foliage.  There is a real variety of leaves to be seen here – from the giant leaves of some trees to the delicate foliage of others.  Some plants have spiky leaves like the Cabbage Palm while others have fuzzy foliage like the Large-leaf Princess Flower.  A glance at some of the plant labels can be a good way to learn the names of these new friends.  I now know the Tung Oil Tree, Jewels of Opar and the Lipstick Tree.

I will have to begrudgingly admit that the gardeners have done a wonderful job since my last “vacation” here.  The main route through the garden is a wide mulched path lined with stones and many beautiful flowers.  It is a great way to sightsee in the garden without much effort.  A nice bench and many beautiful containers enhance the resort feel.  For those that who want a more adventurous walk, take one of the side paths they have created. Plants close in over the walk way, giving you the feel of walking through the jungle, but no machete is required.  It also gets you an up-close look at some of the other plants near the canal bank.

Yes, as long as the gardeners don’t mind the occasional vacationing dandelion, I just might give this garden a four-star rating in my vacation guide.