Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beltsville Library Garden: Musa 'Baajoo', Canna 'Pretoria', and Justicia carnea

(the small mound of foliage to the right of the banana against the wall is the Justicia)

I took this picture just to show the three "tropical", or near tropical plants that overwintered in this USDA Zone 7 courtyard. Looking at it though, I realize that it displays one of the interesting effects in this garden: the cool shadows! Because the walls are pale and the axis of the garden runs, more or less, north=south, there are wonderful shadows in the morning and again in the afternoon. Several of the plants were chosen because they produce interesting shadows and the Cotinus, back (left) is one of them. On the opposite wall, that is west facing, is a nice dissected elderberry. I won't be back to see those shadows this afternoon, but since I occasionally water on my way home from the Arboretum, I do see them.

Musa 'Basjoo' is completely hardy here, even in the open garden, so in this sheltered space I expect it to be very impressive next year and onward. 'Pretoria' is a canna that's usually hardy here in the Washington DC area, however this past winter, for some reason, they all seem to have died. Except this one!. Plants I've watched for upwards of 10 years seem to have died.I don't really know why but hardiness is a complex issue so I'm not going to worry about it! The real surprise is that Justicia carnea has survived three winters outdoors; a shrub in it's native environs, for us at the Library it's a die-back shrub, in effect a perennial. I've know the plant forever it seems; I remember growing it in my early teens. I never thought about its hardiness; you don't usually think about the hardiness of houseplants. I''m fairly certain that I recall seeing it as a Zone 9 or 10, so I was a little surprised to see that the literature now often rates it Zone 8. I guess maybe an enclosed courtyard in Zone 7b isn't such a stretch after all.

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