Garden Diary - October 2012

Monday, 1 October 2012
Tropical Delights at Clark Botanic Garden

On our way to Old Westbury mansion and gardens Barbara and I drove by yet another garden. "We'll stop on our way back." she promised. "That's Clark Botanic Garden and I'm sure you'll like it." Right on. She was right. I did like it.

Not as grandiose as the other Long Island Gold Coast gardens I toured, Clark Gardens
(or rather, the part of it I did see) was a tropical luxuriance of foliage color and abundance.

Bananas, of course, cannot have a tropical garden without them, even if you live
where winter is a chilly certainty. But imagine the hurried digging when frost comes!

I'm very taken with this Colocasia 'Mojito' with its bold, marvellously black splashed
chartreuse leaves. Colocasias are the elephant ears that point downward, while alocasias
are just the opposite and point upwards from the petiole. Either way, sun, warmth, water.

In temperate climates Acalypha provide wonderful foliage, rich in color for the summer garden.

No wonder this one, seen in the background above, has the common name of copper leaf.

An area of succulents and cacti outdoors for the summer, their pots sunk in the ground
and hidden under gravel mulch. I especially liked the sunlight on this kalanchoe and its
innumerable offspring, ready to drop from the leaf notch and begin independent living.

Gardens, alas, do not happen on their own, untouched by human hands. And their required maintenance
explains why gardeners are the ones with dirt under their fingernails, grubby clothes, and creaky knees.

Chile pepper 'Black Pearl has coal black leaves and
glistening black fruits that ripen to red. Edible too.

. . . .

Who dares say there's no color without flowers. Just look at the violet purple of Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea', (once known as
Setcreasea pallida 'Purple Heart'), or the intense, almost metallic color of Ricinus communis 'Deep Purple'. Just fabulous.


Leaves don't have to be other than green to have that wow! effect in a garden. Just look here.
It's a papaya. Maybe in Florida bananas and papayas and colocasia are ho-hum. Not here where
they provide us with that lush exuberance we associate with tropical isles. I'll have a mojito, please.

Yes, I wrote "Consider the Leaf: Foliage for Garden Design" Foliage builds a solid foundation against which flowers may display.
Play of shape with shape, in shades of green. Diversity of colors other than green, from silver gray to yellow, red to purple, perhaps
blotched or spotted or striped in wild variegation. Green in winter when gardens are bare of flowers. Autumn's transient fiery hues.
And with terrific lush diversity of tropical foliage in hot colors here at Clark Botanic Garden in summer's waning days. Just consider.

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