Get Inspired!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Plants, Plants, Plants! From stunning shrubs and large trees to tiny succulents and a rainbow of flowers, you’ll find it at the Show. Angel wing begonias, cyclamen, ‘Snow Princess’ Lobularia, and cineraria are just a few of the many annual plants at the show that can bring spring into your home and garden in a snap. Maybe you have a particular plant in mind for a gift, or simply want a suggestion for a new flowering tree to welcome spring outside the kitchen window. It could be that you collect ferns or pond plants, or cannot wait any longer to start tomato plants. The dark red of Australian canna, bright green ferns, huge tropicals that clean office air, perennials native here and around the world – our professionals grow it all better than anyone, anywhere. A garden full of plants from spring through summer and fall without missing a beat will be yours with the tropical plants at the show. Angel trumpets, ‘Sun’ coleus, Sunpatiens, and copper leaf plants can be combined with purple fountain grass and ‘Fireworks’ pennisetum for exuberant color until frost. You can choose a colorful pot and fill it with ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia and ornamental sweet potatoes for stunning contrast and flowers all summer. Small space and container gardeners will delight in plants that are perfect for their garden style. Not always dwarf, but decidedly compact in size, this group lives large in small spaces. Look for dwarf canna lilies with big, bold leaves and flowers to rival their larger relatives on plants between 2 and 3 feet tall. Combine cannas with ‘Sunville Rose’ mandevilla, a bushy baby covered in trumpet flowers, for perfect contrast in plant forms and flower shapes. Gardeners who have watched butterfly bushes soar above the border will enjoy the dwarf ‘Buzz’ that bloom in purple, sky blue, and velvet shades on a 3’ plant. Red hot poker plant is just too big and ungainly for many garden beds, but the flamboyant ‘Papaya Popsicle’ puts on a gang of pokers at less than 2’ tall. It has skinny strappy leaves in a neat clump even when it is not in bloom. ‘Baby Tut’ papyrus grass makes a neat compliment to these flowering plants in pots and garden beds. Take time to visit the specialty plant booths to see hardy roses, bromeliads, orchids, and bonsai and get information about growing these beautiful plants. I’m excited that there will be banana plants for all! You can use banana plants to transform any garden space into a tropical niche, surrounded by cannas, elephant ears, and ginger plants. Or create a privacy baffle and summer shade for your pool or patio with an elegantly upright row of 3 different and equally dramatic bananas plants: For sheer size and cold hardiness (to 20 degrees or lower with mulch), look for Musa Basjoo banana, also called Japanese fiber banana. With an impressive growth rate of up to 2 feet a week in summer, Basjoo reaches for the sky with wide green leaves more than 3 feet long on stalks that reach 15 feet with ample water and fertilizer. Black Thai banana is a big beauty, too, as tall as Basjoo but with narrower leaves for a rather more refined look. The deep, dark purple trunks carry the plant’s signature color all the way up to the base of each dark green leaf. Fast-growing and robust, Black Thai banana gets taller every day and will sucker to increase its clump with new shoots all summer. To complete the banana trifecta of colorful, very big plants, you will find Red Abyssinian banana at the shows. Its trunk and leaves are dark red, topped by stunning, iridescent leaves that are red with green undertones. Even container grown specimens can top 12 feet tall in well-drained soil with ample water and fertilizer. But there’s more! Little Prince can take the rigors of summer without missing a beat, quickly forming a stumpy trunk and unfolding plenty of fat leaves in a hurry. Bold and shiny, the leaves are more club-shaped than svelte and sprinkled with red markings. Even smaller stature and often more strongly marked leaves deliver huge tropical flair in Truly Tiny banana plants. There’s no mistaking this cutie’s beauty – perfect banana shape and pure tropical elan in a plant no more than 2 feet tall. Garden Living. Among the many benefits of attending the shows is the chance to see this wide array of plants displayed by professionals who are ready to share their designs with you. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these clever and timeless designs are here for you in 3D. You’ll see how to use plants and hardscape garden elements together successfully in wildly different examples. Grand ideas and very small ones fill the hall, from gazebos and every style of patio furniture imaginable to wind chimes, candles, and food ideas to set the mood. The architects and designers of MNLA are smart, easy to talk to, and celebrated by their peers – and you can see what they do and ask questions. Speaking of questions, I’ll be doing radio at the Show and answering your questions in my booth all three days. I’d be happy to sign a book for you and introduce you to some great organic products from the South. Stop by and we’ll talk plants!

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