I’m a little tired of winter right now. What I want is a little tropical vacation. Of course, I can’t fly south for the winter – TSA would not like the fact that I can’t take any shoes off and all the birds I know that go that way have already left. So instead, I snuck into the Tropical Display House.
Now I don’t know tropical plants very well, so whenever I go in there it is a whole new, warm world for me. Of course one of the first things you really notice is lots of green foliage and splashes of bright flowers. A tremendous variety of begonias are scattered around the pavilion – small white and pink flowers sprinkled against a green background. Some stand upright, others sprawl like lazy teenagers and others trail hanging flowers in grand cascades of color. When the sunlight streams in and hits begonias like the Red Dragon Wing, it is hard not to be impressed with their colorful flowers.
Other flowers compete very well for your attention. Phalaenopsis blooms covered in misty dew always stop the pedestrian traffic in the pavilion. Brilliant red and white heliconias are another crowd pleaser. An orange clivia has no problem standing out amongst the greenery surrounding it. The pink flowers of the Silver-Vase bromeliad stand over their leaves like a spiky tussie-mussie. Definitely hard to miss amongst all the foliage. The leaves near the center of the Neoregelia bromeliad try and make you think they are a flower, but they really aren’t. The flower is in a shallow depression in the center that catches water. However the Pitcairn bromeliad, Pitcarnia rubro-nigraflora, is truly flowering and just now is pushing out airy spikes of red and black flowers as implied by the name.
But any visitor should not ignore the great variety of foliage in this space, from the giant fans of the Bismarck palm to the small pink-veined leaves of the Silver Net Plant. The gardeners have done a nice job of mixing up the foliage types to create interesting combinations. The round silver and pink leaves of the Harmony’s Pink Satin begonia are dramatically emphasized by the linear foliage of the caterpillar fern growing next to it. A croton creates its own color combination within its leaves, mixing shades of green, yellow and pink all on the same leaf. Other leaves display interesting patterns that grab your attention, such as the Albuquerque midnight sky begonia or starbright dieffenbachia.
But before you leave, stop to take a third and even closer look at some of the plants. The brilliant pink flowers of a euphorbia catch your eye the first time you walk by, but a more thorough inspection of the plant will reveal some viciously thorny stems. Now you can understand its common name of Crown-of-Thorns. A curly leaved rex begonia is another plant that proves interesting at first glance but a closer look creates a little sense of wonder and joy when you notice red spiky hairs covering the stems and holding water droplets underneath the frilly leaves.
So if the winter blahs have got hold of you, take a short vacation to the Garden’s Tropical Display House. You’ll find me relaxing near the back, with my sunglasses on.