Tours, Tropicals and Look-alikes

Tours, Tropicals and Look-alikes

The organizers of the NSAGC Convention, to be held on June 3- 5, have just announced that an additional tour has been added to the schedule. The Gimby Property in Fox Point on St Margaret’s Bay, to the east of the convention venue, will be open to registrants on Sunday, June 5th, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The property consists of a century-old stone house and grounds that have been divided into small specialty gardens with a mix of perennials and shrubs. Walled gardens contain over 65 varieties of dwarf conifers. Directions for reaching the tour location will be available at the time of registration.

There are now four tours available to convention registrants. Three will take place on Sunday, at the end of the convention, and one on Friday afternoon at the start of the event. The Friday tour will provide a rare chance to see the well-known Risley greenhouses in East Chester. Tickets for that tour must be obtained in advance. Please see the registration form (Click on the NSAGC Convention, under Events in the sidebar of this blog) for details such as the time and cost of this tour. NSAGC members in the Chester area should check with their own garden club for additional information.

Although few of us have the opportunity to grow tropical plants in our region, we learned from Susan Davis, chief gardener of the Risley greenhouse, that we are already growing many tropical look-alikes and that, with care, we could do even more. By definition, tropical plants grow in regions that do not extend more than about 20 degrees north or south of the equator. The average temperatures in the Risley greenhouse range from a high of 72° to a low of 50° F. (24° and 10° C). Susan uses special soil (which resembles a very rich compost) and lots of humidity to maintain healthy plants.

The appeal of most tropical plants is their large size and vibrant colours. Whether it is the brilliant foliage or showy flowers, or a combination of lacy vines with the broad leaves of a sturdy shrub, the visual image makes a strong impression on us. While Susan encourages experimentation with “architectural” tropicals, which grow into a commanding presence, they need to be planted in pots so that they may be moved indoors during the winter. An easier task is to start with easy-to-grow tropicals like Ornamental sweet potato  (Ipomoea batatas), banana (Musa), Chinese hibiscus, Fiddleleaf fig (Ficus lyrata), and Ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa). These plants can be brought indoors to overwinter or simply treated as annuals in a temperate climate.
As for the tropical look-alikes, among many others Susan mentioned the familiar Coral bells (Heuchera), Heartleaf bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia), Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis),  Beard’s Tongue (Penstemon digitalis), and Soapweed (Yucca glauca). Many of the tropical look-alikes are available in local nurseries and are certainly worth trying if they are not already in your own garden. Catalogues from nurseries and seed houses are making the rounds and, as we are about to turn the page on February, planning for the coming gardening season is getting underway. Why not try a tropical corner in your garden?

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