Thursday, December 11, 2008

Broms of December

The surprise of tropical color on a gray winters day should be enough to convince anyone in the coastal South to grow bromeliads. I've watched many a woman stop in her tracks and ask me what that beautiful flower is and may she have a piece. Aechmea gamosepala has that effect on people. The blue flowers on a pinkish-purple spathe screams "hello" while the thornless leaves are gardener friendly.

The above picture shows the plant crawling up a live oak trunk providing both the shade and shelter from frost that this plant needs. White frost will damage this plant but I've seen it undamaged by 22f under an evergreen canopy. Just place it at the base of a tree and this plant will make itself at home with a minimum of care. As a small ground cover it is so dense few weeds can penetrate.

Another great one is Aechmea distichantha (above), with its bright pink spathes that remain brilliant for months after the flowers fade. The plant is wickedly thorny and depending on the variety can be huge, with leaves over two feet long tipped with a spine that can penetrate leather.

Easy to grow whether in a crotch of a tree or as a specimen on the ground all the plant requires is part shade and a well drained site as do all broms . Under the canopy of a tree the plant has taken temps down into the upper teens undamaged. There are three different forms on the market that vary in size from 1' tall to a variety that has curved leaves that are 3' long. The bloom season varies but it is always at the darkest time of year.


Cosmo said...

Oh, I'm envious! We have to grow them as potted plants here--though I've never thought about the possibility that a tree might protect them--hmmm. NOTHING in bloom outside right now--the deer came through and took all the blossoms off the pansies. Sigh.

Pam said...

Okay, I need to try this. My garden always seems cold - I'm north of Charleston (an area I affectionately refer to as LA, or 'Lower Awendaw'. But I've got lots of live oaks - and the 22F thing makes me feel optimistic! I saw lots and lots of them during a recent James Island/West Ashley garden tour - one garden in particular was overflowing with beautiful bromeliads. I was envious!