I got a good dose of the tropics last Saturday. The Mid Atlantic group of the Hardy Plant Society organized a tour of the Michael Bowell garden down near Philadelphia. Michael is the owner of Create-a-Scene, a florist/indoor-outdoor landscaping/container planting/nursery owning/seasonal decorating service which is well known around the country, and in addition to the business Michael is both a long-time Philadelphia Flower Show fixture and an in-demand speaker on all sorts of plant topics. My intro may be somewhat lacking and vague but hopefully the garden pictures tell a better story.
The focus of the visit was Michael’s extensive (addictive maybe?) collection of tropical plants which are arranged throughout the gardens. All of them out for the summer and then in for the winter, and even with Michael’s four greenhouses the task seems overwhelming. Plus on top of that it’s not just a handful of coleus and a potted mandevilla, it’s all kinds of species and families and rare cultivars….
This autumn garden visit by the HPS seems to be an annual tradition and is the setting for an informal cutting swap of whatever members bring along. The icing on the cake however was Michael’s generosity with his own cuttings. As long as care was taken, members were allowed to take cuttings of any particularly irresistible plants they came across along the way. I tried to show restraint but then as soon as the formal tour ended I had to run around one last time to snip a few begonia, geranium, and coleus cuttings. I’ll let you know how I make out 🙂
For as interesting as I found the garden, it took me a few minutes to work through my anger issues before I could really enjoy the garden visit. I was a little irritated with that the powers that be for sending rain showers on the one morning I wanted to do an outdoor tour. Nearly three months without any serious rain and there we were driving an hour and a half through steady rainfall and then later dodging puddles and soggy lawn. Luckily we only dealt with one brief shower during the tour and then clear skies thereafter (of course my own garden received nothing more than a light drizzle all day).
My pictures really don’t do the garden justice and the recent downpour had plenty of autumn leaves falling down on everything, but I hope you can get a good impression of the plants and plantings. My impression of it all has inspired me to evict the sunflowers and bring the tropical garden back to its full gaudy lushness next year!
The tour doesn’t end with the garden, Michael is also an expert on orchids and has a couple greenhouses set up to entertain this passion. Oh and did I mention the two story high greenhouse which abuts the house?
The garden is a treasure chest of ideas and creativity. To me it seems like someone came up with an idea and then ran with it, whether that meant carving out a new garden, training a new plant, or scaling a 60 foot tree to hang a little sculpture. Most of the sculpture is metal and neon art by Simple and it’s hung throughout the gardens. I bet it gives off an awesome atmosphere at night when all lit up.
Oh and dogs, fish, parrots, and poultry also share the garden. What better construction to place at the end of the vegetable garden than a poultry house?
The majority of my photos were out of focus, overexposed poo-poo, so I’ve got nothing on the vegetable and fruit gardens, but let me slip in one last picture which shows some of the main tropical beds. These included several areas of full and lush plantings, stuffed with all sorts of exotic goodies… I thought they were perfect 🙂
All this tropical inspiration gives me plenty of ideas for next year. I think it’s time again to pack a bed full of completely unreasonable, inappropriate, overblown leaves and flowers. I’ll ignore the amount of work it takes until it’s too late and see what happens.
These are the dreams which will keep me going until we finally get some nice rains and good planting weather. I’m sick of this dry, dusty crust that passes for soil and it’s a shame to be thinking next summer when I should be excited about tulip planting and perennial dividing. I’m sure it will come soon enough though!