A Trio of Central American Beauties: Hot House Queens from the Tropics . . .
Native to the tropical Americas, Heliconia vellerigera’s (cultivar pictured: H. vellerigera ‘She Kong’), yellow blossoms are accented by Â fuzzy, red bracts that remind me of the glamorous, fluffy shrugs worn by Hollywood starlets. An important food-source for hummingbirds, the Heliconias require constant moisture, warmth, partial to full sunlight and rich soil.
Flower gardening in the Great White North is a seasonal affair. Unless you have your own greenhouse or access to a large-scale conservatory, there are few flowers to be enjoyed in New England during the months of winter and very early spring. For a hortimaniac, it’s hard to live life without flowers. Like many northern gardeners, I suffer from zone envy and I often spend my snowy evenings fantasizing about a heated glasshouse and dreaming of all the exotic beauties I’d invite to my housewarming party.
In the meantime, there’s always travel. And over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting some of my favorite, hot house beauty queens up close and personal, in their natural, tropical habitat at the Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue and Botanical Garden in Cahuita, Costa RicaÂ (learn more about this special place in upcoming posts).Â Here are three of my favorite, hotties from the tropics; brilliantly colored plants I adore, and regularly visit in my dreams. But although they can be enjoyed outside during New England’s growing year, these tender lovelies must have a warm, moist Â habitat year round. Large conservatories can grow large tropical plants without trouble, however most average, cold-climate homes can host only one or two. I can’t make a proper home for Heliconia or EtlingeraÂ , but the Crimson Passionflower Vine (Passiflora vitifolia), having long ago twined her way ’round my heart, will once again find a home at my front door this summer . . .
Â Native to Java, but cultivated throughout the tropics, Etlingera elatior or Nicolaia elatior (Pink Tulip Ginger) reminds me of the magical wands carried by good witches in fairytales. The torch gingers are large plants (up to 20′ tall) and require Â ample space, moisture and sunlight.
Â Native to Central America and Northwestern South America, Passiflora vitifolia (Crimson Passionflower Vine) is a hummingbird favorite that blooms on and off throughout the growing year. A great choice for vertical garden spaces, this vine can grow 20′ or more and requires ample sun, moisture and a trellis, pergola or arbor for support. Northern gardeners can grow this beauty as a tender perennial in protected spaces, and bring her inside to a bright, warm, sunny room to overwinter. This may be the perfect tropical companion for tropical lovers in the great white north.
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