Monday, February 14, 2011

Tropical trimming

This past weekend I was busy cutting down most of our tropical plants that had gone dormant for the winter. I like to keep the dried up foliage through early spring because it provides extra protection for the crown of the plant, or its rhizomes or corms, depending what it is. However, spring is here so it decided it was time to trim the tropicals. (I probably just cursed ourselves, saying that spring has arrived.)

110213_tropical_bed_before
Our tropical bed before I cleaned it up. It’s located on the south side of our house where the front yard meets up with the back yard (that’s the fence you see on the left in the photo). It’s a small space, and it went unused for many years until we built an L-shape raised bed specifically for large-leaved tropicals such as a gingers (alpinias, hedychiums, curcumas) and elephant ears (both colocasias and alocasias), with some trailing plants like creeping wire vine and tradescantia thrown in for good measure.
 
110213_tropical_bed_leaves
This bed gets buried under the leaves from two ornamental pear trees, an Aristocrat in our back yard, and a Bradford in the front yard. Leaves make great compost so I left most of them. I added a bag of composted chicken manure and then about four inches of topsoil left over from another project because the soil level in the raised beds had dropped quite significantly over the last couple of years.
110213_tropical_bed_after2
This is what it looks like now, after removing the dead foliage and topping off the soil.
 
110213_tropical_bed_ginger_buds
Guess what I found under all those leaves? The butterfly gingers (Hedychium coronarium) are already budding out.
 
100703_tropical_bed
Just to give you an idea of what this area looks like in the summer: this is our tropical bed last July (the nice lady is my mom).

5 comments:

  1. It's always a little depressing cutting down the old growth, leaving so much empty space. It looks like you won't be waiting long for it to fill back in though.

    Will everything come back, or will there be some empty spots ready for new plants?

    Also, what's that large plant right in the corner behind the potted banana?
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  2. Alan, I'm with you. In a way, I prefer the look of dried leaves to an empty flower bed.

    Everything should come back, it did last year. It'll just be a while. But if I end up with holes, I'll gladly find replacement plants :-).

    The large plant in the corner is a variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata'). We have another one in the back yard, and they're among my favorite foliage plants. Some leaves got nipped a bit by the frost but overall the plants were unaffected.

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  3. That's quite a lush display you've got there in the summer Gerhard!

    I know it looks barren at first but it's nice to just get stuck in and clear out all the dead growth from last years.

    I do like Alpinia zerumber 'Variegata', used to have one but lost it frosts after an unguarded moment (forgotten to bring in the pot one frosty night!). It did try to comeback but it took ages and was weak so have given up on it. I love the scent of the leaves though when you crush it :)

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  4. Mark and Gaz, here Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' has proven to be hardy enough in our climate. Some leaves end up frying each winter but those are easily cut off.

    However, at temperatures much under 27°F I'd attempt to cover them up--not easy seeing how large they've gotten. The one in the backyard is 5 ft tall by 6 ft wide. It had quite a few flowers last year.

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  5. Mark and Gaz, here Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' has proven to be hardy enough in our climate. Some leaves end up frying each winter but those are easily cut off.

    However, at temperatures much under 27°F I'd attempt to cover them up--not easy seeing how large they've gotten. The one in the backyard is 5 ft tall by 6 ft wide. It had quite a few flowers last year.

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