Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Cordylines, my favorite plant in the garden this week…


This week’s favorite owes its recognition to the cutting back of the Rhody which I posted about yesterday. I knew these once dead plants were growing large again but I didn’t realize just how large until the Rhody was out of the picture (almost).

A brief history: I planted three plants labeled as Cordyline indivisa (but which, with help from Gerhard, I now believe are C. australis...see the comments section) when we first planted our front garden in 2006. They grew and grew and grew to achieve small tree status (in my eyes at least). You can just see one in the upper right of this photo from 2007 (look at those Phormium!!); eventually they were over 7ft tall...

The winter of 2008/09 took them down, completely. To the ground, dead. Or so I thought. Not knowing any better (meaning not knowing these might come back from the roots AND not knowing these plants aren't hardy here in Portland, by any standard) I planted another row of three just a foot or so forward. Those died the next winter. Fast forward to 2013 and two of the original three plants have come back as clumps and two of the second three (which only had a year to get established before getting froze to the ground) have struggled back as well.

All of a sudden I’m growing a bit of a Cordyline forest, the tallest is approaching 5ft...

The stats for Cordyline indivisa :
  • hardy in zones 9b – 11 (C. australis 9a - 10b)
  • can reach 20ft high by 6ft wide (C. australis 60ft tall)
  • likes full sun to part shade
  • evergreen

These plants are a reminder of how much I've learned, and how much I naively took for granted as a newbie gardener here in Portland. I would never plant them now and expect them to be an anchor planting, instead they would be an accent which more than likely would be doomed to die.

After cutting back the Rhody I realized some of the lower cordyline leaves were starting to yellow so I set about trimming them up when I discovered this in the foliage…

A toast to the cordylines, back from the dead and growing on…until a real winter revisits Portland.

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Edits made to original text after posting.

15 comments:

  1. I think what is commonly sold as Cordyline indivisa is actually Cordyline australis. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyline_indivisa. The real Cordyline indivisa has much wider leaves.

    I have two specimens, now the size of small trees, and they look just like yours. See here for comparison: http://www.bambooandmore.info/2013/01/revisiting-cordylines-in-our-backyard.html.

    No matter what, your cordylines look awesome and add a different texture to your front yard.

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    1. I am so glad you commented with this info Gerhard! I started out calling these Cordyline australis but then doubted myself and went to find the old tags, and both years plantings were identified as C. indivisa. I looked up that name (being unfamiliar with it) and found many pictures of plants with much wider leaves. Not feeling at all comfortable with my cordyline knowledge (lack of) I went with the label even though I wondered. So...now I am going with your identification, label be damned (or something like that).

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    2. Mislabeling is not uncommon in the nursery trade. And let's face it, 99.9% of customers don't care what Latin name is on the label. Only freaks like us do :-).

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    3. I forget now what it was, but just the other day I ran across something that was so wrongly labeled that I wanted to pull out my marker and fix all the tags. I didn't.

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  2. Those really are quite nice -- they look fantastic when they get so large! I'm not a fan of them when they're smaller though. They don't look as nice as the Phormium do though -- wow!

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    1. I miss my Phormium...they looked so fabulous...

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  3. I'd love to see a year by year progression of your front garden (if you're ever bored). I love the texture of the cordylines. Damn their not being hardy!

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    1. I wonder how close I could come to a year by year? There were some ugly years as I struggled to decide what to do after Mother Nature killed off my original design (the Cordy and Flax wonderland), so there aren't many pictures from those days.

      It's kind of funny to me now that I replanted that whole area thinking the cordy's were gone forever, it still "works" remarkably well considering.

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  4. Hooray for your Cordyline forest! So sweet that they came back for you! Wouldn't it be ironic if they actually reached 20 feet high by 6 feet tall and someone decided to take them out to make space for a rhododendron?

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    1. Bite your tongue! Of course you say that assuming Andrew and I will move before they reach their natural proportions, who knows maybe we'll grow old here?

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  5. Love Cordyline australis, at one point it became so common and staple here until winter 2010-11 came and nearly all specimens in inland UK were cut back to the ground, ours were not spared. We miss having them and have slowly introduced small ones back again. Recently we just planted another two. Such nice plants, tap rooted and once taller its easy to under plant :)

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    1. So did you guys dig out the roots of your cut back specimens? Or have they just not come back for you?

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  6. Those cordylines are beautiful! I love the shape and drama they give the garden when they get some size to them. I once kept a C. australis the purple one, overwintered for five years or so and it became a behemoth. I had to eventually let it go as it just got to big to keep indoors in the winter.

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    1. Oh the purple one...I had one too, loved that thing. Dead.

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  7. I've given up on trying to out fox Mom Nature. The best I can hope for is to roll with her punches.

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