Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Bromeliads: They're Tougher Than You Might Think
There was never a noted time when I set out to collect bromeliads. Even as I write I can't say I intentionally collect them even now although there are hundreds of them throughout my gardens.
As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I take them completely for granted.
Around here they are such reliable plants in every season and I get so used to seeing them everywhere that I hardly notice them.
Until the last couple of months.
When this neo's foliage has morphed into the most brilliant red I catch myself staring at it uncontrollably.
Which got me to thinking about the numerous other bromeliads that live here.
Knowing this is a 'neo' of some sort is about the extent of my ability to name any of them. So forgive me for that (please) at the outset.
The cobalt blue glazed pottery is a perfect complement to these remarkably vibrant colors in autumn.
To minimize dragging watering hoses, to the gazillion (hyperbole) container plants located in and around the gardens, efforts are on-going to replace flowers with foliage in a great majority of them. It's taking me a good while to accomplish this idea. But approaching it as a gradual project makes it feasible.
Don't get me wrong. There will always be container plants with flowers. But minimizing their numbers and keeping those that do have flowers closer to the water source makes life a bit simpler.
In the course of this re-design project, I'm discovering bromeliads make a great substitution for flowers in outdoor container arrangements. Mixed with other low maintenance, drought-resistant, less-thirsty plants some creative combinations can fool the eye into thinking just as much color is present as flowering plants provide.
As a terrestrial plant they seem to work beautifully for ground cover at Hoe and Shovel. A concentration of them are tucked in groupings along the tropical pathway and mixed in with other partial-shade-loving tropicals. Sending out pups they multiply themselves.
Many years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing, it dawned on me to stop throwing them away when there were too many coming over the sides of the front walkway. That's when I started placing them at the base of the oak trees in the back gardens.
There wasn't much else back there at the time. They've multiplied like mad. Which makes me happy.
Many bromeliads are epiphytic or capable of absorbing nutrients and moisturr through their leaves. Others are terrestrial and some are both.
They are as diverse as any other species in the plant world. The array of colors, sizes, bracts, and flowering they produce is vast.
The detail found in their foliage of dots, stripes, striations, bright tips, bracts, and flowering characteristics is innumerable. As a matter of fact, often the actual flowers are quite small and insignificant.
In no way do I consider myself knowledgeable about them. If you read the information available referencing what they need it all seems more specific/particular and somewhat more cumbersome than what I've experienced.
In general, the success I've had with them has been purely from ignorance and willingness to make mistakes. It's kind-of refreshing not to complicate matters concerning them given the number of plants that don't allow that same simplicity.
There is no fussing or research done to figure out which-ones-do-better-where when it comes to initially siting them. Although in most years I was told that the neos and aechmeas like lots of sunshine and have tried to heed that advice.
Through some trial and error I've taken note of other types that do well in dappled light but take on a more beautiful glow given greater doses of sunshine.
I suppose they probably do require and might even appreciate more specific conditions according to cultivar ~~ more than I know.
My best guess is the tree cover here sustains the atmosphere most of them need to at least perform satisfactorily.
Truthfully, they are one of those plants that I depend on to fill in bare spots without hardly a thought to their care. Remarkably, very few of them were lost even during our harshest freezing winter weather.
Almost all the bromeliads growing here have been passed along to me by friends and neighbors. I truly love receiving them knowing they will take care of themselves.
I mean, seriously, they don't even require "watering until established".
Bromeliads should be much lauded for any garden that supports their basic needs with ample humidity and good circulation. They truly have so many wonderful attributes.
Realizing this now that I've stopped to deeply appreciate their dependable functionality once again.
One additional observation worth noting is the way their leaves collect water like a holding tank. At the beginning of each autumn when our rainy season often comes to a screeching halt I've noticed dozens of bees flying in and out of the largest colonies of bromeliads in the shadiest parts of the garden.
At first I question whether they could be building a nest deep in the shadows. But I've come to the conclusion they are drinking water from these reservoirs during times of lack of rain. Anyone out there know for certain?
See the tiny flowers emerging in the center above. The hot pink bracts are surely the star and the flowers the supporting role.
I'd love to hear your experiences with bromeliads. They really are easier to maintain than you might think.