Thursday, February 10, 2011

Make new friends but keep the old.

Meeting new people and getting to know them is a wonderful thing; I love realizing I’ve met a new friend. However old friends, the ones I’ve had for years, are indisputable treasures. Nothing beats spending time with a friend you haven’t seen for awhile and instantly falling into short-hand speak again (you don’t need full sentences or back-stories when you’ve known each other for 25 years).

New friends, combined with old, make for a rich life; it’s the same in the garden. While there is an undeniable thrill in discovering a new must have plant, and eventually acquiring it, there is also nothing quite like discovering one from the past and realizing you’ll be spending another year together.

Yesterday my eyes came to rest on my Gunnera, or more accurately on the burlap and leaves piled on top to protect it from the cold. I realized the pile wasn’t a soft dome any longer, no; it had turned into a sort of pyramid. Something was definitely going on under there. I peeled back the layers and discovered this! My Gunnera not only made it through winter but was already coming to life (complete with lots of new roots it seems)! Last year it didn’t start to show any signs of life until mid April and even then it was so pathetic that I finally broke down last May and bought another, thinking if I wanted leaves of any size I was going to have to augment. They both are very much alive and growing this year. This happy discovery got me wondering about my Melianthus …peeling back the covers I discovered things are looking mighty fine! Check this out… Sprouts! My Melianthus not only alive but it is already growing! In February!

All of this spring type energy makes me think I should be unwrapping the Musa basjoo…I wonder what’s going on under that burlap???? That discovery is going to have to wait for another day. After all we’ve had a few cool nights with another couple predicted. It’s one thing to throw cover over the Gunnera and Melianthus, but I’m not sure I’m up for rewrapping the banana, or losing the pseudostem this close to spring.

So are you wondering if I have any new plant friends? Remember the Genista aetnensis I was lusting after at Garden Fever? Well I had the opportunity to visit Xera last week and was able to select one from their stock. I love this plant! Genista aetnensis Zn7b (5º to 10ºF) Papillionaceae
Mt. Etna Broom, from the lava covered slopes of Italy and for that matter Europe’s tallest volcano makes a wonderful “shade-less” tree for hot sun. Rush-like weeping stems actually have tiny leaves that are barely noticeable. In summer you will notice the clouds of golden yellow pea flowers that emit the powerful perfume of Jasmine. To 14’ tall, best in full hot sun and poor, well drained soil. Little summer water when established. A great small tree for a see-through vertical effect, without being oppressive. Grows quickly, and is best without extra encouragement.

Why do I love it? Well it’s a “shade-less” tree for hot sun (it’s going in the front garden, currently staged in a protective spot behind the garage) and it is probably the closest thing I’ll ever be able to grow to a Palo Verde (I know…it’s a poor substitute) but it’s from Italy!!! That earns a few bonus points in my book, I always need more friends from Italy!


  1. It appears the burlap has worked very well for your plants this winter....congrats on your shadeless tree...

  2. And it's fragrant!!! This alone would sell me on the the Genista. Great find! Your melianthus looks full of hope--way better than mine. No Gunnera or banana yet but I have lots of hope. Our winter hasn't been too bad, knock on wood.

  3. I love the gnarly look of your emerging Gunnera leaves. It's so heartening to see these old friends return! As unexcited as I am about the broom family, your Genista sounds like one to have. A shadeless tree...hmmm: it's an interesting concept.

  4. Love the prehistoric looking...and you are just tempting me to break down and get a Melianthus...I've come so close so many times...this may be the year my resistance crumbles :-)

  5. Darla, I like burlap because it blends into the landscape...there are usually leaves and/or bubble wrap involved too.

    Grace, "knock on wood" indeed. I am trying to not get too carried away out there...especially with the weather folks getting all giddy talking about one more "snow event"...

    MulchMaid, it's pretty cool huh? Yes I know the broom's are an evil group...but I hope this one will be ok...

    scott, I can hear your resistance crumbling right now! I predict a purchase at the spring HPSO sale...

  6. My surprise friend was indoors, actually, a top cut of of an alocasia cuculata that had begun rotting last year. I thought the top cut never rooted, but I just didn't get around to moving it until this week. I checked closely before tossing it for good, and sure enough there was a leaf beginning to sprout from deep in the center. Good times!

    I haven't taken the bucket off my gunnera yet. I will give it a few more weeks.


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