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by Monica Brandies


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Plants to See and Share

Variegated pinecone ginger has decorative leaves and these flower bracts that start out lime green and then turn red and last until cold weather.

When you come to my garden, the main thing you will see is a great variety of plants. I'll have labels on many of them, but there are always others that people want identified and our staff will either know or find you the answer if at all possible.

You won't believe it when you see it now, but my pipevine near the front door grew to gorgeous proportions again after being eaten to the stems last summer. Then in August, the Gold Rim Swallowtail caterpillars hatched again and ate the whole thing. Once again I brought some of the caterpillars into the porch and had them become butterflies in my new cage. The vine is again down to the nub, but leaves are starting to return. Butterfly gardeners do not mind when such caterpillars eat away. We have many kinds of butterflies all over the garden in spite of our few sunny spots. Watch for them when you come.

I keep adding more kinds of ti plants, Cordyline fruticosa. I bought the most common 'Red Sister' the first time I went to a nursery after we moved to Florida and have been making cuttings for 20 years. Now I also have an 'Auntie Lou', a 'Black Magic', one I think is 'Calypso', and my very favorite 'Dr. Brown.' I bought it before I met the man who has written a whole book on these flamboyant plants. I hesitated because that first one cost me $20 and I'm not only cheap but uncertain of how a plant will react to me and my garden.

This has been the nicest one of all. It doesn't get scraggly and the leaves seldom get those brown edges. Every time I go by one of these, I say, "Hello, Dr. Brown." All cordylines are easy to root from cuttings and the parent plants looks better after you take cuttings because that causes them to produce more of the new foliage that is much more colorful than the older leaves. I've started quite a few for this occasion.

White turnera only blooms for a few hours each morning but it is superb in its simple beauty.

I bought a nice size Turnera alata in the spring and it has spread to such great proportions that I've had to take many cuttings of it from the path and the driveway in the front. This is one of the laziest of flowers: it only blooms between 9am and noon at the latest, but the simple flowers of cream with a circle of yellow, then black and then orange in the center are among my favorites. Mine will be blooming near one of the cassias with its millions of yellow flowers, good companions. I'll have both cuttings and started plants of this one available.

There will be plenty of free starts of cranberry hibiscus for everyone. This one can be invasive, but it is edible and attractive and I put some of the dark red leaves in every salad. It roots easily and some will have roots on already.

The same with silver shrimp plants, Justicia betonia. I bought a 4 inch pot of these many years ago and it has spread to way more than I need. It is one of my favorite plants for flower arranging.

Devil's backbone and ti plants make a good combination in containers or in the ground.

Devils backbone, redbird flower, or Pedilanthus tithymaloides is one of my favorites because it is the only succulent I know of that does well in both shade and sun. This evergreen succulent shrub can grow 4' tall with zigzag green stems that drop milky sap when cut that can cause some people a rash. It has never bothered me.. The alternate leaves are brightly variegated with white edges that sometimes turn pink in the sun. Some are solid green edged in a light green. The flowers are inconspicuous, clustered near the tips. This is one of the several unlikely cousins of the poinsettia. The best thing about this plant is that you can stick a piece in a mixed pot or bouquet and it will root and grow without wilting. It is native to southern Florida.

Of course, I'll have an assortment of healthful and fragrant herbs, including my leaf-a-day plant to ward off colds and flu and dawn dewa to lower cholesterol. And there will be variegated leaved and regular pinecone ginger and hopefully some white butterfly ginger, perhaps even some pale yellow ones still blooming.