Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strange plant associations

Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' with a Silver torch cactus Cleistocactus species
 When you live in a climate which is relatively benign it is possible to grow a really broad range of plants though this often makes for some strange plant combinations. These are a couple of examples I saw recently. Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' is a hybrid shrub Salvia which is continually in flower until you give it a rest by pruning back hard in late winter. It is named for Phyllis Norris and it originated in the arboretum at the University of California Santa Cruz. It is a fairly tough plant and copes well with dry conditions so is perfectly at home clasping a clump of the silver torch cactus which originates in Bolivia.
Silver Birch, Betula pendula, with Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides
This is a case of Scandinavia meeting the Florida everglades. Silver birch growing in warm climates invariable suffer from premature leaf drop. The leaves turn crispy very early in summer and are shed thus leaving a dead looking tree for months on end. I have driven past a very attractive grouping of birches for years; they were placed just so right and were quite mature in size. Then recently I saw them chopped up and laying in a heap on the nature strip. Perhaps the message has got out that they are a better cool climate tree. As for the Spanish moss it has had a great season and has tripled in size over recent months and is happy to grow on any tree limb it takes a fancy to.

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