We are thrilled at the performance of the little-known banana, Musa nagesium var. hongii. Our plants are from the recently discovered population in Northeast India, which is a good jaunt from the formerly known populations in Yunnan, China. These sailed through our cold winter, and have exploded in growth during our hot summer. We love the chalky stems, like its close relative, M. cheesmanii. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share these one day. Hardiness Zone 7b-10b.
Flowering well in the late summer at JLBG is the florally magnificent banana, Musa ornata. Native to Myanmar, Northern India, and surrounding regions, it isn’t typically winter hardy in Zone 7b. This is Hayes Jackson’s selection, Musa ornata ‘Anniston’, which sailed through last winters 11 degrees F.
Looking great in mid August is Hedychium spicatum. This is a ginger lily species we saw throughout our late 1990s travels in Yunnan, China. Pictured below are our 3 year old seed-grown specimen, which has already become a massive 5′ tall x 10′ wide. The flower is much smaller than some of the more showy species of hedychium, but the overall garden impact is quite grand. Hardiness is Zone 7b-10 (guessing).
Back in the early 2000s, we grew the spiral ginger, Costus speciosus for many years, before finally loosing it in a very cold winter, but its potential hardiness has always fascinated us. In 2013, Georgia plantsman Ozzie Johnson collected a specimen near the border of North Vietnam and Southern China at 3,900′ elevation. Below is Ozzie’s collection this week at JLBG, after our recent winter of 11 degrees F. The same plant, growing in Atlanta, survived 5 degrees F this winter without protection, so I think we can safely say we have a Zone 7b hardy form. This exceptional clone has been named Costus speciosus ‘Wizard of Oz’. It will take a few years to build up stock, but we’ll get this one ready as fast as possible.
In July 2018, we flowered our first Titan Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. Our plant was # 594 to flower in its entire history of cultivation. Since that time, another 141 have flowered worldwide, bringing the total number to 735. If you’d like to see who else has flowered these amazing giants, here is our complete list, along with some great corpse flower trivia.
So, what makes these plants so amazing? The obvious answer is size and fragrance. Amorphophallus titanum is actually an endangered plant in the wilds of Sumatra. The tuber must grow quite large to have enough energy to flower, which is why flowerings are so rare. Also, it’s a bit oversized for most homes and apartments. While they aren’t hard to grow for keen gardeners, they are a bit exacting in growing requirements, so these should only be attempted by very keen gardeners..
If you aren’t familiar with the memorable fragrance of the Titan Arum, check out my favorite video on the subject.
In 2018, we pollinated ‘Peter Grande’, but as often happens, it died due to complications in childbirth. While many folks have tried to use other pollen to cross-breed using Amorphophallus titanum as the pod parent, most attempts were met with failure. A few people were able to set seed with pollen from another A. titanum, but most attempted crosses self-destruct. Reportedly, there is a hybrid of A. titanum x konjac from a 2017 cross, but we are still waiting to see it flower. That’s the same cross we attempted in 2018, with no luck.
The pollen from A. titanum does, however, work well when used on other species. The most famous of which is Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’, a cross of A. variabilis x titanum, which happened to have just flowered for us last week.
This years plant, Amorphophallus titanum ‘Homo Erectus’ is one we inherited with the passing of our dear friend, and amorphophallus guru, Alan Galloway. Alan’s plant is one that we originally grew here from seed.
This year, folks in the Triangle region of NC have a real treat in store as we have our first area Clash of the Titans – two Titan arums flowering; one at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State, and the other here at JLBG. Based on our calculations, the Raulston plant, named ‘Wolfgang’ should open between June 21 and 22. Our JLBG plant has an expected opening date between June 30 and July 4.
Below is JCRA’s plant on June 12, 2023.
As of June 12, our Titan Corpse Flower is about 10 days behind the JCRA plant.
So far, JLBG owns the regional record for height at 77″, only a shy 1″ over the 2016 flowering of ‘Lupin’ at NC State. Let’s see if the title for the tallest inflorescence is broken in this epic Clash of the Titans.
As we get a bit closer to flowering time, we’ll announce when we will be open for the public to visit and get a whiff.
I wish I could count how many times we’ve been told, “That won’t grow in your climate.”. Our contrarian streak has led us down many interesting paths, with quite a number of surprising results.
The most recent is Chrysophyllum oliviforme. Over a year ago, we planted seed grown plants, native to the recently hurricane-ravaged Sanibel Island, Florida. This species is native to Southern Florida, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and Belize. With that distribution, it should have no chance in our winters, but, despite die back during last winter’s low of 16F, it returned, and is now approaching 4′ in height. I should add that our plant was planted on a very exposed site, with no protection.
Is it going to be a long-term plant….probably not, but there is obviously more winter hardiness than most informational sites would lead us to believe. I should add that we planted two seedling, and the other one planted nearby, succumbed to the winter temperatures. If you never take risks, you’ll rarely get to experience the joy of amazing surprises like these.
In flower this week is the amazing ginger lily, Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’…our 1999 introduction, with its’ fragrant peachy flowers is still looking great! This is another of those plants that never sold particularly well, so we haven’t offered it since 2016. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.
We’re always on the search for new bananas that will be winter hardy without protection in our Zone 7b winters, and two that have looked great so far are the South Asian native Musa balbisiana (Northeast India to South China) and the Northeast Indian native Musa nagensium var. hongii. If these continue to thrive, we will propagate these so we can share.
I’m always amazed that so many people don’t realize that turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an amazing garden perennial. We’ve had our plants in the garden for nearly 30 years. This week, the flowers of this delightful ginger lily from Southern India emerge, looking like fancy pink pine cones. Curcuma longa is very easy to grow, as long as the soil is reasonably well-drained. Just mark the planting spot, since it usually doesn’t break ground before June. Hardiness is Zone 7b-10.
Due to having three consecutive mild winters, with no temperatures below 20 degrees F, we’ve actually been able to get a trunk on our Washingtonia filifera palm. Typically not hardy in our climate, our plant was grown from seed collected from a wild population in Arizona that had experienced 10 degrees F. We’ll see what this winter has in store.
Because we’ve had three consecutive mild winters, we’ve had some survivors that probably wouldn’t have made it through a normal winter. One of those plants is Callistemon viminalis ‘Light Show’, which is looking really superb this fall. Perhaps this year, we’ll get back to our more normal winter low temperatures of 5-10F, but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy these amazing trial plants.
The 7′ tall, and very floriferous Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’ is looking quite stunning today in the garden. Although they are commonly called ginger lily, they are not a true lily (genus Lilium) or a true ginger plant (genus Zingiber). Hedychiums are prized for their summer and early fall floral shows atop bold-foliaged stalks. The inflorescences are quite exotic looking, resembling clusters of orchids. Slightly moist, rich garden soils and at least 1/2 day sun are best for these hardy tropical looking plants.
This weekend marked our first flowering of the rare aroid, Pseudohydrosme gabunensis. We inherited this weird tropical after the passing of our friend and adjunct researcher Alan Galloway last spring. Alan had grown it from seed acquired in 2008 from the famed aroid researcher affectionately known as Lord P. Our staff describe the floral smell as stale potatoes…a far cry from the fragrance of it’s sister genus, amorphophallus. Pseudohydrosme gabunensis is from Gabon, where is resides in tropical rain forests.
We couldn’t be happier for Raleigh native, and former Plant Delights staffer, Ron Gagliardo, who manages the new Amazon HQ Rainforest. We’ve known Ron since he was a young teen, tissue-culturing carnivorous plants in his parents home near the State Fairgrounds. It’s so great to see him getting so much recognition in his role as Amazon’s “green” celebrity. Congratulations Ron! Below are a couple of articles about his amazing work.