Do You Rember How It Happened ?

plantman45(z5 IL Chicago)July 8, 2007

Thought it would be interesting to hear some stories of how all the wonderful people on this forum got started collecting these fascinating plants. For me it started with a clump of tillandsia ioantha on a piece of driftwood that I recieved with a shipment of tropical plants from Homestead florida. The lady sent it as a gift. I thought what is this strange plant on a piece of wood with no soil? and then it happened. I was bitten by the bug you know that bug that wonderfully infectious Brome bug and I must warn all newbies here that there is no cure for this LOL once it has You its all over with. I believe this virus is spread by computer you get online to get more info on these plants just a little innocent search and then bam there is this picture of this plant with this fantastic color lines and blotches and bars. Then you want to see more and you find more. Then you want this plant and that plant. Then it becomes I need this one and that one. Then you start driving to places looking for more and flying to places for more and spending looooong hours on the computer looking for more till you can' see anymore. Then you have all of these beautiful plants but you need something to put them in POTS lots and lots of POTS but don't forget the potting mix yes the potting mix lots of potting mix. Then the space where do I put them all? Well you put one here and there then there everywhere but you need more space well lets tear down the garage no lets buy the neighbors house and tear that down and build a giant greenhouse but just as you think it is all over with the doorbell rings your spouse asks who is it? it's the mailman Ups driver the fed ex guy and they don't look happy and they ask where do you want em you tell them bring em to the loading dock out back. Well gotta go now and unpack the 200 boxs that jut arrived and supervise my new four story greenhouse being built where the neighbors house was. Does any of this sound familiar to any of you?

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deju vue !!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 1:37PM
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It happened for me shortly after I moved to Hawaii and went on a field trip to see May Moir's garden. She and her husband, W.W. Goodale Moir, were bromeliad pioneers-- he was an orchid hybridizer, but also the first person to import bromeliads into Hawaii back in the 60s. Their whole yard was beautifully landscaped with bromeliads. The first thing you saw when you opened the gate was a sweeping bed of Till cyanea in full bloom, and then you looked around and saw all of the Neos and Billbergias, and the big spikes of the Aechmeas and Porteas that May used in her fantastic flower arrangements at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. There were Guzmania and Tillandsia seedlings in tree branches and on the roof, as well as the neighbors', blown there by the wind. It was positively magical, and I knew right then that that was IT!

I wish I had a good picture, but you can get some idea from the cover of her book:

Here is a link that might be useful: The Garden Watcher

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 3:52PM
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minibim(FL z10)

First, I have the good fortune of being able to grow everything in the ground (although this seems to really freak out some hardcore enthusiasts) and secondly, I have to say I am somewhat of a short term obsessive plant collector. Meaning, currently I'm obsessed with Bromeliads, but that could change tomorrow! lol

I'm definitely equally obsessed with Hibiscus, gingers and bananas as well.

About a year ago I was sent a flyer for the local Bromeliad Society's fundraising auction, and I have no idea what possessed me to go, because Bromeliads weren't interesting to me at all. Suddenly, a lightbulb goes off about how great these plants would be to fill in the low spots under all my nice tall gingers, Heliconias, bananas, Hibiscus etc. - and I've been *doomed* ever since! It's all that Neophytum Burgundy Hill's fault.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 5:25PM
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plantman45(z5 IL Chicago)

Yes minibim I know the culprit

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 6:30PM
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My in-laws' old house sat in the middle of a massive garden, which was filled largely with broms...thousands of 'em.

I used to go over once a week to help maintain it by cleaning up the gardenbeds, which involved the removal of many a dried up brom leaf.

I'd never been much of a gardener, but these plants were not only beautiful, they were tough as well, and easy to look after/hard to kill plants are my kinda thing! LOL

When the in-laws sold their house, they let friends and family raid the garden and take whatever they wished, so I ended up with a whole bunch of broms, and the rest as they say is history.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:25PM
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My interest in xeric broms was begun in 2004 after I had realized
that there was no more room for those monster Agaves and Aloes
which I had collected since the year 2000.
As the fascination of spiny rosette succulents,
I found Dyckia, Deuterocohnia or Orthophytum could go along well with my trend.

It must be the internet that gave me the great inspirations, especially this forum.
Most of you would recall that I began as a year newbie here in Jan 2006.
From only a few of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei and a clump of Dyckia fosteriana,
I have increased my collection madly with vast shipments,
via some help of my good friends around the world.
Today, I have more than 200 kinds of them,
yet with my own hybrid of ten thousands xeric brom seedlings !

Well...there gonna be no more room...again (^_^)"

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 1:17AM
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They say addicts always blame other things for their addictionsI blame Alcantarea for my Bromeliad addiction.

My mild interest in native and subtropical plants turned into a passion for Bromeliads at the sight of two impressive Alcantarea. About 5 years ago, I had called into a local garden to purchase a few agave, and was captivated by two stunning plants standing at the entry to the house. The owner proudly informed me, "They are Alcanatrea imperials Rubra" a form of Bromeliad.

I became fascinated with Bromeliads. Buying a few plants here and there was not enough to satisfy my desire, so I started propagating them from seed. A previous addiction was keeping and breeding tropical fish. I started with a couple of aquaria, quickly increasing to over 14 aquaria of tropical, marine and native fish. Some of the techniques used to maintain tropical conditions for aquarium fish have been useful to help achieve the ideal conditions to raise Bromeliad seedlings. I now have hundreds of seed raised plants, and maybe one day, 1 or 2 will turn out to be worthy of giving names, and registering. But for now, I am very pleased with my collection of Bromeliads, adding a touch of the tropics to my little corner of the South Pacific.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 3:17AM
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Patris(9 Gulf Coast)

I've been doing this for just a little over a year. My mother-in-law buys blooming bromeliads to set around her home and when the flowers would go she would send the plants to me to put in my new greenhouse.

I too collect Agave, Aloes, cactus and succulents so would stand to reason these beauties would find a (large) place in my heart. What started out with one or two plants has expanded to about 125 plants and growing. Dyckia's are by far my favorite, but feel the need for any and all broms to be part of my collection.

I guess if we are going to have an addiction.....this sure is a beautiful, colorful and rewarding addiction!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 9:40AM
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bob740(zone 6 ,NY)

I guess I'd have to blame Ae. fasciata for my discovery of bromeliads,which my wife bought me as a birthday present back in the late 1970's. Hard to believe that bloom spike was for real. That started me looking for other broms at local nurseries,and then some vacation and family visits to Florida really opened my eyes to just how many kinds there were,many growing wild on the trees there.In 1990,our first visit to Tropiflora clinched the addiction.
Dennis and Linda recommended we visit Wally Berg's home,and after seeing that 'paradise'of bromeliads,my fate was sealed. Been reading about and obtaining bromeliads ever since. I like them all,but now seem to prefer the 'spiney' genera,as well as cryptanthus,and billbergia.
Being able to volunteer at our local Botanical Gardens,[bbg]caring for the bromeliad collection there, has been an added oppurtunity and pleasure to an ever interesting hobby,as well as making new friends here on the Garden Web.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:52AM
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It all starts out so innocently! You go to
a nursery or chain store to pick up a few
seedling tomato plants for your garden.
Then you see "It".
More often than not, "It" is an Aech-
mea fasciata that strange being that is
both bizarre and beautiful at the same time.
Its silvery banded foliage and huge bright
rose-pink inflorescence peppered with baby
blue flowers is quite unlike any other plant
youd ever seen before. You stop in your tracks.
You cannot help but stare at it for a
moment. That moment can become one of
those defining moments of a lifetime. The
less curious, but nonetheless wiser among
us simply stare briefly and then move on,
never aware of how closely they had come.
Those with more curiosity than com-
mon sense however, pause long enough to
ask the person behind the counter about
"It". That worthy informs us that "It" is "a
bromel-iad". When pressed further, he ad-
vises us that a bromel-iad is some kind of
cactus or orchid, and that youre only sup-
posed to put water in the center of the plant
never in the soil, or maybe youre sup-
posed to "mist it".
Unfortunately, since the Federal Drug
Administration does not yet require a warn-
ing label on bromeliads advising of their
addictive nature, you are blissfully unaware
of the potential hazards to your financial
health. You buy "It", and so begins your
headlong plunge into the murky world of
the bromeliad counterculture.
You will soon find out that, like the po-
tato chip that advertises, "Bet you cant just
eat one!", Aechmea fasciata usually proves
to be just the first in a long string of bro-
meliads encountered over the ensuing
months that simply cant be resisted. The
addiction takes hold rapidly and some-
where around the third or fourth brome-
liad, you are beyond rehabilitation. You not
only have to more and more bromeliads;
you have to have more and more fre-
Then, you move on to the harder stuff
the stuff that isnt sold over the counter
at nurseries and discount stores the rare
stuff found only through the mail from
plant pushers in Florida and Southern Cali-
fornia. At first, you have no idea what you
are ordering; the description in the catalogue
just sounds interesting! You start
winding up with plants with strange sound-
ing names like Canistrum and Quesnelia.
However, as you become more sophisti-
cated you actually know what you want
and what you want is inevitably more ex-
Your collection will continue to grow
in direct proportion to your decline in so-
cial skills. You will no longer care about how
your favourite sports teams are doing, what
Madonna is up to, or which criminal was
recently let off by a lame-brained jury. The
scales of justice become less significant to
you than the presence of scales on your
Vriesea hieroglyphica. You can now rec-
ognize the difference between several vari-
eties of Aechmea disticantha, but you can
no longer remember the name of your
youngest child.
Up until now, you have been alone in
your epiphytic affliction. Until now, your
family and friends have regarded you as
becoming increasingly weird, but essen-
tially harmless. At some point though, you
will eventually encounter another
bromephile, and you will learn there is a
group in your town that meet clandestinely
once a month to talk about nothing but bro-
meliads. Thats when the real trouble be-
gins. Up to that point, bromeliads had
found their way into your home one or two
at a time. You have been limited in your
ability to acquire them by their relative
availability coupled with your financial con-
straints. Now, however, you become ex-
posed to the world of free offsets and inex-
pensive plant tables. You carry them home
by the armload!
Your family begins to realize too late
that now you have become part of an or-
ganization, you are no longer harmless, The
windowsills and every nook and cranny of
the house are saturated with bromeliads and
the word "greenhouse" begins to crop up
more and more frequently in conversations
with your spouse, (as does the word "di-
By now also, your spouse has noticed
another strange phenomenon of the bro-
meliad counterculture. That is while only
a tiny percentage of the worlds population
even knows what a bromeliad is, there are
more books about them than there are on
world history, politics, and human behavior
combined and you have now embarked
upon the path to own every one of them.
You are beyond redemption and you
can bet your spouse will never send you
out to buy another tomato plant again.
I thought it only fair to warn you.

(by Chet Blackburn)

My story is kind of similar LOL, along with the fact that I have spent more money on plane travel and motels up and down the east coast of Australia to acquire my beloved broms than I have on broms themselves, and met some great brom maniacs along the way LOL it's an expensive disease! but it's great fun! ;-)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 11:12AM
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It all started with a trip to Lowes to get some kind of plant to liven up my dorm room. I saw a Guzmania and a Vriesea, not knowing anything about plants or being very smart in general i thought they were the same plant and the vrieseas just hadn't opened yet. Plus the tags on both just said "Bromeliad". So i left with a Guzmania and a nice little Schefflera thats still one of my favs. When i got back to the dorm i wanted to find out how to take care of them. I found scheffleras easily enough but when i did a search for bromeliads i got hit by a ton of information. I spent the whole night looking through the BSI data base, fell in love with Porteas, then found the FCBS and went through that. Now my dorm and parents house are both full of Porteas, Vriseas, and Guzmanias. As of right now im thinking of starting on either Cryptanthus or Billbergia....or both.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 2:02PM
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These two started it all for me.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 2:10PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

purplestar, that story is a scream!

I received the notorious Aechmea fasciata as a gift in 1997; my husband and I jokingly called it the "South American Stump Jumper" and we were fascinated by the long-lasting bloom. I managed to keep it alive, and it produced many pups, but none bloomed. It became very top-heavy and of course the main plant faded, so I set it outdoors under the bottlebrush where I put all fading plants. Instead of continuing downhill, it perked up and one day I was shocked to peek into the cups and see bloom spikes forming!! I felt like Sally Field winning an Oscar, "You like me! You like me! You really like me!"

In the meantime I had discovered Gardenweb, and at some point a memorable poster said "You're climate is perfect for growing bromeliads." This coincided with an overall transformation of my garden interests from roses and dry mediterranean things to intense tropical insanity. (My brother is a palm pusher.) I came to the realization that you can't grow *anything* in San Diego without watering it, so...why not...all those lush beautiful tropicals that make me feel so **alive**?

I then wandered down the path described above in the Chet Blackburn piece, to sales, to more sales, and to the bromeliad society scene. Now I'm a bromeliad pusher as well as a palm user. But I have no plans to escape from this addiction, so no 12-step plans for me. And no divorce problems, my husband is enjoying the ride as we dream about owning a little island paradise where nothing gets bitten by winter. A girl can dream, no?

This Saturday is the member-to-member sale at the Brom meeting, I will get my fix for the month.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 3:18PM
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I do not have an interesting story. It just happened! About 10(?) years ago. With a Neo meyendorfii albo-marginata. It looked kind of cute in my garden, perched on an old tree stump. Every once in a while I will walk past and gave it a casual glance. And then it made this unbelievable bright red center. And I checked in my garden books and saw that the flowering should last a long time and afterwards the plant will die but produce some to replace the original. I did not give my plant any attention, it got some water when the sprinklers went on and that was it. But then I saw one or two more bromeliads at a nursey and promptly bought them. There were very few broms available here in SA. But fasciata was in over supply, and funny enough, I could not stand that plant! So my bromeliad collection grew with one or two new ones per YEAR. And January this year, I found out about Lyn in East London. She has between 3 000 and 5 000 and she sent me a price list. I spent nights in font of my PC trying to match pictures with names on the list. The end of January my first box arrived! With about 40 plants. And a month later another box arrived and like in Purplestar 's post, they just had to come more and more and sooner and sooner. And then I discovered this forum . . . . . . . .

And My Journey has begun!!!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 4:06PM
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bob740(zone 6 ,NY)

Great stories everyone,
I just want to add that the 'Chet Blackburn' saga is like my slide downhill too. Once,early on, during a rare moment of lucidness,when I could actually be talked to, my Angel wife remarked,"we have no more room for your plants around here" To which I thoughtlessly replied," Dear,you're absolutly right,we're going to have to get rid of some of this furniture"...
After a week of Deep Silence,I better understood what she really meant. Lesson learned.
So,now after about 25 years of being in bromeliad quicksand,I'm kinda starting to rationalize a little better,but never expect to be completely cured. My family has pretty much resigned themselves to my fate,so all is well.
[not a pretty story,but true to life] :^))

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 4:25PM
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bromeliaddict(z6 MI)

For me it started during my freshman year of college (wulfgar, that was 1975 for me). I read about bromeliads in a book called "Grow It Indoors". There was a chapter devoted to broms. A search of local plant stores and greenhouses only fueled intrigue about the plants, most of them at the time didn't even know what a bromeliad was. I finally found a couple of places that sold them. My first brom was a T. deppeana that was about 8 months past bloom with 2 healthy pups. Then came A. fasciata and nudicaulis. My dorm room window faced SW and I could grow just about anything. Shortly after that I heard that a bromeliad society was being formed for SE Michigan. It's new president showed me info on the BSI, and mail order suppliers (anyone remember Frank Cornelison?) When I found out about the seed fund- the addiction took over completely. I had over 60 different broms within a year. Now almost 32 years later, the totals are steadily growing!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 5:39PM
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A trip to Dr. Mardy Darian's house in 1975 got me hooked. Nothing quite like that place.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:19PM
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aroideana(Tropical Australia)

It all started in a dark and dingy junk shop in the back streets of Bundaberg , I noticed a large pot full of this strange striped prickly thing , it really grabbed my attention . 'How much for this horrible pot of prickles ?' I asked .. Well I got my first fix of a massive clump of Ae. 'Bert' for only a few dollars and have never looked back . Never thought I would pay more than $200 for a plant , but just had to have that tayoensis . psst anyone got a Guz lindenii ??

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:30PM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

I had 2 friends that went to Ecuador in the 70's, they went to collect Kilifish, Dwarf Cichlids, and orchids. They were in a large area where all the trees had just been cut down. they found lots of orchids that need rescuing, and brought back as many types of bromeliads as they could carry, since they would all be burned soon anyway. They called, and I went over to look at the fish, and pick up a few they brought back for me, and they had all these plants, they were everywhere. I was gifted some, and can only tell that there were Tillandsias, Aechmeas, and Neoregelias. There were probably others. I have always had a few around ever since. If I get tired of one I give it away and get another. I always really liked Neoregelias. I began dabbing some pollen recently, my first berries are ripening now.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 3:13PM
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I was bitten by the tropical bug back in the 90s, when at my first job, I went with a bunch of friends to Maui. It was paradise. I came home and put a bunch of cannas in the garden to recapture that feeling. The curiosity of things tropical led me to order some bromeliads from Tropiflora, but they didn't survive. When I bought a townhome a few years ago, I then had my own dirt to create the tropical look and *everything* snowballed from there. I attended the bromeliad sales, where I was awed by the variety, and discovered some could even be grown outdoors. So from there I was inspired to join the bromeliad society. My inspiration has led me to take photos, give presentations, travel to the rainforests and even help save them through an org belong to. It's been a fun ride. Who knows where it will go from here...

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 3:44PM
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barbcoleus(z10 Cape Coral,Fl)

I think it must be an alphabet thing with me. I collect African violets,bromeliads, begonias, I'm starting with bamboo, I raise and show cats although I don't collect them, a dog, what's next elephant -I hope not!!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 3:00PM
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bradisha(Z10 / 11)

I joined a local garden club. went to my first meeting in a lovely garden whith lots of bromeliads of every size and color. It was fabulous!!I said Wow!! I want a bromeliad garden just like this. That how I got smitten by the brom bug.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 8:23PM
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I started this April when I was at a local nursery and I saw a Ae. Del Mar. I was blown away by the cobalt blue and hot pink inflorescence, it looks like it's plugged into a wall socket. A wanted to find out more about the plant so a couple of Google searches later I end up here at GardenWeb and the rest is (short) history.

In April I had about 5 different types of Bromelids, Neo. Tricolor, Ae. Blue Tango, 2 Guzs and an Ae Fasciata. 4 months later I have about 40 different types.

Unfortunately I ran into a problem today after receiving 7 new plants, I'm out of room. I need to figure out how to turn the high sunlight areas that are left in my yard into a brom friendly habitat. Haven't quite figured that out yet, but I'm open to suggestions.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 9:52PM
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well i gees i can blame my dad for my addiction.

it all started eary last year on a hot day and i wanted to pull some chicken wire out of a garden, as it used to stop the dogs from walking though the garden, now they just jump the chicken mesh. so i got in a removed it in the prossece i pulled out atleast 50 to 100 broms, they were all of 4 species not sure what types. but any way i put them back in the garden and a few days later they all died, so i blamed myself for it. and later found out it was a frost.

i did origanly belive it was dad who had collected them so me being me i wanted to collect them to, so i got addicted, but the other week i found out they all were plants my grandma gave us.

but it was thanks to ebay for my real problem, now i got 60 difernt types of broms under a tree all chewed.

any way plantman45 if i end up needing to buy my nabours property and building a 4 story green house i defently will need some help quitting this addiction, as i live on a 31 acker block of land and if i feel that up ill give them all away to you guys as i clearly have been wasting time.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 7:47AM
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While I was getting my degree at UNC-Charlotte my walk to and from class took me right past the university greenhouse, and as a hobby photographer at the time I got to spend a lot of time in there shooting whatever caught my eye. Then one day at the bi-annual plant sale I picked up a beautiful Vriesea spp. with a two foot crimson flower stalk. Since then I've had them on and off, mostly off (due to living space) but they still catch my eye wherever i go!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 7:26PM
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I certainly DO remember how it all happened

LOL....I had Purplestar up there^^^^ come visit me in the Atherton tablelands. We went to Mareeba markets and all she could do was buy buy buy broms, she was a new addict herself...heheheheeee
She asked me before she left to get on her plane if i would keep my eye out for pretty coloured neos for her and to send them down to her home in NSW.
So here i was going to markets every month looking for was a serious disease....I musta caught the bug just by lookin at the darn things....LOL
I was there mainly for me tropicals i was collecting. But that soon changed
Now the markets just arnt enough...I need to find more places to get them....heheheee
Yep green houses get bigger and bigger and bigger...hahaaaaa
But from then on in all i ever bought was bromsbromsbroms

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 12:30AM
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