Sunday, July 21, 2013

Brilliant Bromeliads For Winter Colour

ONE of the few benefits of possessing an overgrown garden is the treasure it can turn up, seemingly out of nowhere. Bromeliads are my particular booty and in the depths of winter when deciduous leaves are long gone and colour can be thin on the ground, these striking ground (terrestrial) and tree (epiphytes) dwellers stand out like dazzling jewels.

It’s the twinkle of winter colour I love best but members of the Bromeliaceae or pineapple family, also provide the solution to a host of site challenges. These exotic American perennials lend themselves very well to creative and unusual displays, especially in the shade of a tropical garden.

Provide interest to a leafless deciduous tree in winter. Epiphytic bromeliads happily grow up a trunk and can be tied into forked branches, spilling leaves from nooks and crannies along shady lower boughs. For even greater effect, dress with delicate silver tufts of a very different bromeliad sub-family, Tillandsia usneoides, the dreamy air plant, Spanish moss.

Create beauty on the move and pot up bromeliads to provide a dramatic accent of sculptural interest, indoors or out. Use a light, open potting mix with good drainage.
Often hardy, many bromeliad genus require little maintenance other than the removal of a spent mother plant to allow her offsets (pups) to thrive.

Bromeliads In Bloom Now

With a greek name meaning `spear tip’, the Aechmea genus is ideal for beginners and offers many species ranging in size from 30cm to 1m, all featuring colourful foliage and flowers.

A clumping habit makes Aechmea gamosepala (Matchstick Plant), a cold hardy, epiphytic species from Brazil, versatile as a groundcover and tree adornment.  
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Cultivated in Europe since 1828, the shade-loving slow grower, Aechmea fasciata (Silver Vase), grows to 1m, both on and off the ground. Wrap roots in moss and wire to rough bark for a stunning vertical display.
Named after Swedish botanist Gustav Billberg, the Billbergia genus offers several species of colourful rosetted epiphytes, however some flowers, like those of Billbergia pyramidalis, are relatively short-lasting.
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Beautiful and practical, Billbergia nutans (Queen’s Tears) forms a dense weed suppressing ground cover and requires plenty of moisture.

THE pineapple, Ananas comosus, is the most famous member of the Bromeliaceae family and the first one to leave the New World after Columbus took it to Spain in 1493. It is the only one of 3,000 species grown for its edible fruits. All the rest are tropical American ornamentals highly regarded for their varied, architectural forms and vivid flowers. Over 99% of bromeliads will flower only once, soon after producing multiple pups to continue their life cycle. The family is named for Swedish botanist and medical doctor, Olaus Bromelius.

Happy planting!


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