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.
Not your average porch plantings, this one comes with a ton of tropicals, fancy pottery, and random art. The hanging baskets are filled with what I think are those odd tropical pitchers (nepanthes) which end each leaf with a bug-unfriendly pitcher trap.
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….
The sheltered side garden of Michael Bowell’s garden. Art, ponds, fountains, arbors, pergolas, and plants… lots of plants. I think most of this garden around the house is mobile and the plants will soon be trimmed and the pots moved back under shelter.
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 🙂
I felt like it was a garden that almost required entertaining. Seating areas and enclosed spaces really defined the different parts of the garden.
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).
I think I should finally get myself a lacebark pine (pinus bungeana). My garden is short on evergreens and I love this bark. It’s a clumsy looking tree though and might need quite a bit of pruning and training….
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!
I resisted taking any flowering maple (abutilon) cuttings since I have no faith in my ability to overwinter them…. but this tall, red veined flower was delicious and when it showed up in front of a purple ornamental grass I knew I’d need something similar 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?
How cool is an outdoor deck enclosed by the greenhouse? A dinner out on the deck in January amongst the tree ferns and palms sounds like a good antidote to snow.
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.
I think this is my first garden tour where an invite was extended to go out through a window onto the roof (future enclosed sunporch) in order to get a nice overview of the gardens. An in-training weeping katsura (Cercidiphyllum) dominates and encloses the far end of the garden.
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?
A real beauty or plain ugly? Regardless of your opinion I’m sure this display would melt the heart of any turkey hen.
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 🙂
I need to give my own variegated miscanthus more room next year to develop, and definitely put it close to some dark leaved cannas and elephant ears. Cool.
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!