They Said That It Couldn't Be Done...

rusty_blackhaw(6a)November 14, 2004

...and that seems to be the rationale behind some efforts at Tropicalismo.

In David Francko's book "Palms Won't Grow Here and Other Myths", the author takes great pleasure in describing techniques for overwintering tropicals that historically have never been considered as permanent landscape subjects in non-tropical climates. Typical is his discussion of getting Chinese fan palms to survive a zone 6 winter and seeing "a few beautiful palm fronds" generated in the following season.

I have to wonder about the point of some of these struggles. Is it really worth it to construct enclosures, buy and use antifungals, antidessicants and heating cables, and otherwise utilize elaborate strategies to overwinter tropicals that in the end, are pale imitations of what can be achieved in the right climate?

In the case of the Chinese fan palm, I used one in a border this past year. Before frost, I dug it out and it is overwintering in a low-light location between fluorescent light stands in my basement (it did well under these conditions last winter) before being returned to the border next year. And if this doesn't work out, there are more good-sized $6 fan palms available at the local building supply store nursery department.

I do overwinter bananas, crepe myrtles and Nandina here with minimal low-tech protection because they achieve substantial decorative effects in my climate (the crepes will likely never become trees, but they should flower abundantly with a shrubby habit suited to my space, and 8-10 feet of banana growth in a season is plenty enough to convince me that I have temporarily relocated to the tropics). However I can't convince myself that it's worth a major effort to raise a spindly palm or stunted live oak, merely to show that it can be done.

Your thoughts?

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Some of us have a severe addiction to CHALLENGES! LOL You are so right - why would one want to 'winter over' a tropical plant, when one could trade or send postage to another GW'er, for whom this plant flourishes in winter?

Why would one wish to grow a tropical from seed, baby it, keep it over winter, when he could just order one over the internet next May?

It's all about our stubborn, "I can DO THIS" attitude, the very attitude that gets ME through the nasty cold weather to our May planting season. I am an Aries, and the worst thing in the world,for me,is to be told "it can't be done". Yes, it CAN be done - maybe not with great results, but it CAN be done!

Yes, my little cottage house, where I live in 500 square feet, only faintly resembles a 'home' right now - it more resembles a greenhouse, but, by golly, my precious tropicals are warm, and that's what's important to this old gal right now.

I have spent the better part of today cleaning up dropped leaves, watering, and generally smelling those that are still blooming. Heck, there's nothing going on outdoors right now, at my house, but inside, I have jasmines blooming, brugmansias blooming, and other goodies - my house smells wonderful.

So, from me - there you have it - I like the 'responsibility' I feel to these green children of mine!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 5:34PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Eric, I would agree that such measures don't always make much sense, but as Kay says, some people just appreciate the challange of it all. Although I garden with subtropicals in a much more benign zone 10 climate, it is also a risk to grow some things well here, and I also know that so many things would actually do better if I did make an effort to protect them from too much rain and winter chill. Instead, my approach is more one of letting things fend for themselves, and trying to weed out the truly marginal plants from those that function well and over a long enough period to make them worth the effort.

In my own case, I just can't see taking a whole garden inside for the winter, or digging things up each fall. I am willing to throw freeze fabric over plants or a plastic tarp over succulents if rain keeps going on and on and rot is inevitable, but this is purely an occasional rather than regular winter event. I would really do better if I moved to southern California with the garden I have, but the challenge of doing it here is part of the appeal, I must admit.

It doesn't make much sense to me, either, to grow plants that are one step forward in summer and two steps back each winter, that just doesn't seem a reasonable way to garden to me, but far be it for me to say someone else shouldn't do it if they want to. I think we are a bit spoiled here in coastal California, where very few people do much more in winter than throw a tarp over the orange tree in a bad freeze, and move succulents onto a covered porch. It makes it easier to be lazy when a bad freeze is only an occasional every 10 or 20 year event. For clients, I try to make it very clear what plants may be at risk in the garden, and let them tell me how much risk versus cost to replace they are willing to take.

I've also learned that winter tolerance is not the biggest setback to growing tender plants here in California. A bigger disappointment is not being able to grow those high heat plants successfully, or things that need constant high humidity and rainfall all summer. These sorts of plants I prefer to see growing in Arizona or South Florida, rather than struggle with a pathetic specimen that just isn't happy in my own mild but generally cool year round garden. Fortunately that still leaves alot of tropical habitats to choose plants from that do like it here.

I find that I am most intrigued by tropical style gardens in any climate that achieve the look at the least superhuman efforts, and are therefore more sustainable in the long run. Outside zone 8 conditions, I would think that this relies more on root hardy fast growers, or temperate plants with tropical appearance. I still don't think I would be so enamored of large plants that always die back in winter, again because we are fortunate to have Brugmansias, Hedychiums, Alocasias, Bromeliads, Orchids, Palms, etc. that will stay evergreen in our region, with only the occasional freeze to whack them back. The tropical look for me in this zone is one that looks good and tropical all year round. I don't want to look out on bare spots in the garden or lots of naked sticks in winter.

I wonder what the ratio is of people who are determined to grow tropicals at any cost versus the more laid back approach? I'm willing to bet that the more severe the climate, the greater the percentage of gardeners willing to make the extra effort. One just doesn't see many gardeners here in such states of true zonal denial, or at least without a greenhouse to move things inside for the winter. In my own garden, nothing gets moved for lack of space to put anything elsewhere...

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 9:47PM
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What might have gotten lost in my first post was the suggestion that zone-pushing makes the most sense when the results justify the effort.

Maybe Francko didn't select optimal photos for his book, but some of the palm pix in particular are not what I would call impressive. It's interesting to know that you can grow a palm as a two-foot herbaceous perennial, but is it worth the struggle?
On the other hand, I had a clump of 5-foot Acalypha 'Tequila Sunrise' in a subtropical bed this year, sporting foot-and-a-half long leaves. The cuttings I took last month are growing on under lights, where I can enjoy them over the winter. Having gardened on the Texas Gulf Coast, I can also say that indoor gardening during the winter is also more relaxing than having to keep a wary eye on the forecast for freeze warnings and then running outside and covering things with tubs, sheets, tarps and such (and then uncovering them to avoid roasting plants when a warmup occurs).

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 11:13PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Eric, along the same vein I've been growing Tetrapanax papyrifera for the last 3 years. This is technically a woody shrub but in my zone the stems are killed to the ground and it behaves more like an herbaceous perennial. Although it has proven hardy and resprouts from the roots in spring, it doesn't really amount to much until late summer. I love the foliage once it finally bulks up but I'm wondering if it's worth taking up space in my garden for the couple of months that it's effective. I'm hoping for a milder winter to see if it performs better.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 1:09PM
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don_brown(Zone 6A NS)

For many of us, it is the challenge and the experimentation which is the addictive part of the whole process of zonal denial. It is not necessarily the result that is the defining criterion of whether or not it is worth it. That said, I have tried a lot of tropical plants here. Some worked and some didn't, but trying was really fun! And the whole experience was sweetened when, contrary to what I was being told, some of the plants not only survived, but thrived! So now I have several bamboos, yuccas, giant hibiscus and a citrus tree, along with a hardy banana and prickly pear cactus. Palms may never work here, but the "thrill of the hunt" keeps me going. I guess that my message is that of the many types of gardeners, there are those who are more "process" oriented, and those who are more "results" it's all in what you get out of it that give you your satisfaction and keeps you at it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 10:44AM
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midtn(7a TN)

My wife graduated from the University of Miami (Ohio) where Dr. Francko resides. We are taking a trip up to look around at the campus next month and while I'm there I will definately check out the "Miami" palms. I will try to remember to come back here with a full report.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 5:53PM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

"I don't want to look out on bare spots in the garden or lots of naked sticks in winter."

Unfortunately, from zone 7 up, other than evergreens and a few exceptions, that is what we have every winter anyways.
I've had plenty of fun and pleasure with my tropical plot, even for the first year. One neat thing about replanting every year, whether from dormant, carried over, or fresh stock is you get to revamp/replan everything over again during the winter, replant during the spring and get results by late summer.

I can accept bare spots and sticks in winter, because that's the way it is in my zone.

For me, I spent ~1/4 of my life in the tropics, and I like a taste once in awhile, even if it's only pretend for 4-6 months.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 2:18PM
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cliff98(z6 OH)

I really don't see anything wrong with it at all. If someone wants to try and push the limits, albeit with rather expensive and elaborate means, I am all for it. Some people have zone denial, myself included, and that isn't a bad thing.

In Cincinnati, people have been growing Needle Palms and Sabal minors for a long time. Eventually even the most hardy will die, but it was fun growing them while we could. Who knows maybe one day a super-hardy Sabal minor will be discovered or bred by one of those people trying to push the limits.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 6:28PM
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casper1(5/6- -10F Ont)

If our predecessors didn't take the odd chance and "push the envelope" We would probably still be growing "daisies" not that there is anything wrong with them, but they are limiting.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 10:46AM
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It's not a matter of "sticking with the tried and true" vs. "pushing the envelope".

To look at the situation in reverse, I grew "hardy" salvias in southeast Texas. Some did OK, others barely survived. Some might consider it worthwhile to keep growing the less well-adapted varieties to show that it can be done. For me, though, there were too many other salvias that grew exuberantly in that climate for me to waste time on the varieties that did not.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 12:29PM
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greenelbows1(z9--so LA)

This is a great topic and one that can be debated both ways. Here in the heat and humidity--but not enough of either in the winter to make it possible to grow a lot of tropicals without major adjustments and protections--people keep trying to grow rhododendrons and lilacs and peonies. I enjoy experimenting and 'pushing the envelope' but only so long as the plants thrive most the time. I am really not into torturing plants! Sometimes I figure if I grew it in the beautiful PNW where I grew up, I shouldn't even try it here, but that's stupid because camellias do very well both places--for example. Sometimes when I'm tired of hauling things in and trying to find places for them in my very small greenhouse and very dark house, I wonder why I don't just grow things I know will do well. But that probably won't happen 'til I'm too decrepit to do otherwise! And for you folks who cover things up and then uncover them--they make freeze-protection fabrics that are good to 24 degrees and don't have to be removed to prevent over-heating--lets the rain in and keeps the wind off and I've kept LOTS of things that shouldn't over-winter here doing just fine with them.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 9:12PM
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I'm a few miles from zone 4. I like the tropical look, especially in aug and sept when the zone hardy perennials are boring me to tears, and everyone elses pertunias are just not cutting it for me.

I don't have a lot of $ or a green house to do much experimenting. But I'm always on the lookout for something to give a whirl. I love the rush of an accomplished gardener looking at a plant in my garden and asking me what it is because they have never seen anything like it before.

But it's not worth it for me to have a plant barely hanging on and making the garden look so- so. It's worth the trouble of digging up and storing for winter only if it comes back with a zeal for life and flourishes- and my soul with it.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 3:40PM
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casper1(5/6- -10F Ont)

I get a bit of a chuckle about the nay sayers, how many of them are out buying raffle tickets, some hit it lucky on occasion, I buy them, and if I'm lucky, I'll probably buy land in Florida,(underwater), However, gardening of any variety is a pastime that keeps you alive and kicking, don't knock it.
Casper1 age 70 and enjoying life.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2004 at 6:26PM
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If you're serious about trying something "Tropical" then try, Musa basjoo (Hardy Japanese Banana). With proper mulching I'll be willing to bet you can overwinter this bold plant. Warning: passers-by may suffer from rubber-necking and may lead to neck strain.

Cheers, Barrie
(my best garden attire)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 6:13PM
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blondboy47(z6b(almost 7) ON,Canada)


Again, another great photo that only makes me more envious about people living out west.

But on a serious note, do you leave those plants outside during the winter there? And if so, do you protect them and by how much?

Secondly, when was this photo taken? Is this a Dec/04 pix?


    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 8:46AM
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Yes and no. Yes, these (Musa basjoo) bananas are left outside year round. They're pretty tough plants and will grow back from the roots if left unprotected. They are very fast growers if watered and fertilized well. You can set up a wire framework or cage around the stems and fill them with leaves to mulch. There's a number of stem protection methods gardeners have tried. This year with it being very mild, the bananas still stand at Xmas but look a beat up from the wind.

I'm not sure exactly when the pic was taken, perhaps late summer or fall 2004. You should be able to grow these bananas in your 6b/7a area with heavy mulch.

Cheers, Barrie (Vancouver Island)

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 10:42AM
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intimidator_3(7a TN)

I for one get tired of looking at the same plants growing in front of everyones houses in my area. No one ever seems to have any imagination. Part of the reason that I have become more and more interested in gardening is the challenge to do something different. One thing that I learned about "tropicals" is that many of them may not be foliage hardy, which causes many to treat them as annuals, but they are wood or root hardy. This means that many will come back on their own every year, even if not to the potential they would have in warmer climates. My goal is to grow as many tropicals as I can "in ground". If it means a little protection along the way, so be it. How many of us already dig and store different types of plants for the winter? One thing that I try not to do at all. Many of the common perennials that we grow are die- backs as well, just like many of the tropicals that we can grow


    Bookmark   January 3, 2005 at 10:40AM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Musa Basjoos should do excellent in our area. They will grow faster than in B.C. in summer because they thrive in the long hot, humid summers.

I want to get a Windmill palm. Is there anyone in zone 6 that has them growing?

Cheers, Rick

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 1:54PM
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Rickey, it's great seeing someone else in my zone. I'm new to the forum and would like to know more about growing tropicals In 6a. Have you found local sources (GTA) for the Musa or other hard to find tropicals? I am planning on trying bougies. I know that sounds crazy but I have a theory. The way I see it is, unless I try I will always wonder if... Last summer I planted the Castor Bean and it lasted through to the first really hard frost. My backyard faces S.W. Everyone wanted to know what exotic jungle plant it was... it grew over 6ft tall. That's what got me going. Any tips and suggestions much appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 4:03AM
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don_brown(Zone 6A NS)

Those castor beans will get MUCH taller with weekly fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro, and mix some coffee grounds in the bed where yu plant them. I have had 10 footers in my garden!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 7:48AM
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Wow! That must have been spectacular! Mine was planted late in the season as we had a late start here in SW. I was infested with the darn leatherjackets and rabbits looking for shelter from new construction in the area and was finishing my new bed. This season I'm planning on doing lots of containers initially in the Spring. We always seem to get very hot, weather in early Spring now and then it rains a lot in the mid summer. The Castor Bean was phenomenal and I will definitely try your suggestion. I actually didn't fertilize much as I wanted it to grow wild as they do in the tropics but I do use Miracle Gro in my garden so it must have gotten some.
I notice that you are a guru on tropicals any suggetions for me since I'm a newbie to growing tropicals here. I'm willing to try just about anything outside; I just have to find them first! How fast does the Musa grow if I should plant say a 2 footer in the Spring? I'm sure I can work my soil to keep it outside in the winter. I am not an expert but it does seem that I have many microclimates in my yard.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 1:25PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Hey Bougielover, are you in the GTA? I'm in Mississauga. I am rather new to this myself LOL, but I have a Musa Basjoo that I bought in October at Humber Nurseries at highway 7 and 27 area, and its in a pot right now. I hope to plant it this spring.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 8:37PM
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don_brown(Zone 6A NS)

If you plant just about any Musa in a warm sunny area and fertilize HEAVILY (double strength Miracle Gro and a bit of epsom salts at least once a week, watered in well) that banana should grow to very large proportions indeed during the summer.....anywhere from five to 8 feet, I'd say. You should also try Canna musafolia (the banana-leafed canna) which grows to about 6 to 8 feet easily with large leaves. If you want a good perennial, go for Miscanthus sacchariflorus (aka floridus) which is also known as false sugar cane or false bamboo......this grass forms a slowly expanding clump....anywhere from 6 to 10 feet high.

I mix coffee grounds in all my beds every spring. It adds lots of organic composting material to the soil, and the plants love it. Fertilize weekly with miracle gro from spring to the end of July, since the tropical plants LOVE to feed.

You should also be able to get clumping bamboos, such as Fargesia which are tough perennials. I order stuff from Tropic to Tropic plants in British Columbia ( He's a nice fellow and I am satisfied with his plants and the prices. A company called "Guru Garden" in Quebec is a good source for seeds and plants as well. They have excellent service.

So there you go. Most of all......approach your gardening with a sense of fun and adventure........try not to turn it into an exacting many of our fellow gardeners do. You will have failures and successes, but as long as you maintain your sense of playfulness, both you and your plants will end up happy!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 7:42AM
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Rickey, yes, I'm in the GTA. I know Humber Nurseries - aren't they pricey? I've seen someone on here mentioning that they have seeds for Musa. Can they grow from seeds? and if they do that must be a very long process. Tell me how yours do in the Spring. I'm hoping to get one.

Don, thanks for all those great tips. I have noted carefully. I knew that coffee grounds were great and used them before in my compost pile. Unfortunately when mice found the compostor last year I ditched it.

Question for you or anyone who can answer please.What is the best placement for the banana? Do they need much space at the base i.e. a bed or just planted in a spot? I plan to use plants at the base if I can to complement the growth habit. I face S.W. and get a lot of sun in the back yard however the yard has a sudden slope at the end for the last 8-10 ft. I have a 4x8 raised bed for veggies on the slope. The rest of the yard has two borders on either side with a mixture of perennials and annuals in summer. Not a big yard but I would like to add my tropicals, and the jungle effect will be good for privacy in the summer. Maybe I should use my raised bed for my tropicals and plant up the base of the slope with other tropicals. Do you think that they would be affected by run off at the bottom of the slope? How can I improve that area for tropicals? It is the end of my property line backing onto the neighbour and I would like to block the view somehow.

Oh, I should mention that I found a small asian fruit stand in a mall that sells a few tropicals and they actually had tamarind plants about 6" high for sale ($5.99)including other tropicals like philendron. I plan to return. They are very reasonable and I hope that they'll keep it that way.
Thanks for the tips and advise.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 1:47PM
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Tamarind seed germinates easily and you can save even more money.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 4:50PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Awesome. Yes, Humber Nurseries are pricey, but I have only been there once. $108 for a Trachy is rediculous I think. I don't know if they have seeds or not.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 12:42AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

The tropicals like a lot of water, but also well-drained soil. If there is a lot of water runoff from the slope, they will probably be OK during the summer, but anything you try to overwinter there may rot, especially the basjoo - they hate to be wet in the winter.

Basjoo, like many bananas, has an amazingly small root system. You can definitely underplant with flowering plants or vines (I've used ornamental sweet potato) for a nice effect without upsetting the banana. You can also put it in a pot, but you will need to watch the watering and repot frequently as it grows. And the pot is likely to blow over if you get much wind.

Miracle Grow is definitely your friend with the tropicals. Apply heavily, especially when it is hot out. Have fun!!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 8:41AM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Bougielover, and anyone else, there is a board for all tropicalesque, cold-hardy palm, banana and whatever else enthusiasts, have you been there? I post alot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardy Palm & Subtropical Board

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 11:44AM
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Thanks everyone. This is so helpful. I'll certainly check out the site Rickey.
I am so excited! This tropical fever is in my bones! I stopped at the Home Depot at 9:30 p.m. last night and lo and behold! They are just bringing in their tropicals and did I have a hard time holding back! They have quite a variety including bananas! I bought 2 and the supplier is Colasanti Farms in the Lake Erie area. Had to check their site because Home Depot unfortunately labels everything only as tropicals and not with true botanical names. Colasanti. . I found the banana on the site and they say it Musa! They are only wholesale but they have a listing of many foliage plants they carry.

Can someone describe what the young Musa looks like so that I can have an idea if I really do have it. Mine is about 6" high and the leaves are a kind of spring green - not very deep green. The trunk is not red. It's funny how I grew up with bananas all around me but never bothered to find out what the botanical name was!

Anyway, if you are near a Home Depot you could save yourself a lot of money as I bought 9 x 4" plants for $33. The most expensive was the Rex Hybrid Begonia at $3.49 ea.
How fast does the Musa grow? Will these be at 8' by summer?

I'm ready for the challenge and I'm hoping that when my sister visits in the spring I can get her to bring cuttings of her bougies for me!
Happy shopping and thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 2:05PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

I know! I have it too! LOL.

Anyways, a young Musa Basjoo looks like this.

The link is to a Musa Basjoo plant that I bought at Humber nurseries back in October I believe. I haven't planted it yet, I plan to this spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Musa Basjoo

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 5:00PM
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Awesome! That's it then! I have it! lol. Wow! 2 as a matter of fact. I also bought orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata)aka mock orange; lace aralia, joseph coat and some others. Spring can't come soon enough!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 8:44PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Wow! I didn't know that you could find Musa Basjoos at Home Depot! Although, many different Bananas look the same, I am no expert.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 9:31PM
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I checked the website for their supplier - Colasanti Farms and they had one banana plant on their site and it was named as a Musa. Now whether it's a Musa Basjoo that's another thing. I'm coming to understand that there are other species of the Musa.Whatever it is I have a banana plant and I'm happy! lol.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 11:30PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

I see you were on Hardy Palms And More For The Northeast! Awesome! You should check out the Hardy Palm & Subtropical Board too, I made quite a few online friends there.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 10:07AM
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Hey Rick, yes I actually do listen to advise I was impressed with that bamboo tree posted last week by the guy from Niagara. Awesome! I am going to look for bamboos like those. I couldn't find the home page for the other one and that's how I ended up on the Northeast one.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 11:09AM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Oh, ok. The Hardy Palm & Subtropical Board is alot more active than Hardy palms and more for the Northeast. But, I still post there. Are you trying any palms?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 5:42PM
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i for one like to try different things in the garden ,, I am afraid that one day i will wake up and the entire country will be planted with Bradford pears and the world will come to an end.
not everyone likes roses or those same old boring perrenials ,,,, and no more of those ornamental grasses !!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 4:34PM
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This is why! Look ~ Growing in Zone 6, N.J.

I could barely contain myself, had to hold on to the tree :). The gentleman grows several Trachys (this one pictured is the small one!), a gigantic Jelly Palm, bananas, gardenias, etc. ~ all in the ground ~ whoa, what a feeling, to see this, to EXPERIENCE this.... in New Jersey!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 3:13AM
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To repeat: "What might have gotten lost in my first post was the suggestion that zone-pushing makes the most sense when the results justify the effort."

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 9:01AM
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Great Trachy... where in New Jersey ?

,,, after all,, it IS the Garden State ....

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 5:48PM
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This gorgeous tropical paradise of a yard is in Parsippany ~ and this is the smaller of the 2 trachys. His jelly palm is AWESOME. I'm looking forward to paying him a visit but I'll TRY to hold off until May or June :)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2005 at 12:11AM
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I live in Burlington, Ontario. My musa basjoo was fantastic this year, after spending its first winter in the ground. Last year it had a single trunk and was about 10 feet tall by September. This year there are about seven trunks and the plant is amost as tall. All I did was cover it under a large pile of leaves and a plastic tarp. It died back to the ground. I wasn't very hopeful when I saw a couple of tiny sprouts in May. But the plant really took off in the summer heat. I have it planted against a southfacing brick wall in semi-sun.
Has anyone found a successful method of keeping the stems alive over the winter? The stems of my plant just turned to mush.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 9:47PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

My garden still looks pathetic at best in winter. That doesn't stop me from TRYING to overwinter tropicals outside. I've killed a fair number in my enthusiasm. My solution is to buy them at big-box stores for very little money and consider them future compost come mid-October.

I do want to re-try Musa Basjoo, though. It should have overwintered. It didn't. I think I gave it TOO much protection. I want to try a Trachycarpus as well. I'll probably pick up one on a springtime visit to the Sacramento, California area--at a big box store for not much money.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 8:18PM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

The original post asked our thoughts about if this was a reasonable and productive effort.

Some people spend their time and money hanging out at bars, others like to sit like potatoes in front of the TV. I prefer to spend my time and effort playing with dirt and growing things. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes not.

As I tell my husband about this obsession; It's not drugs, booze or other men - it's just plants.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 7:16AM
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Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of having my own outdoor paradise. When the term "paradise"is used in reference to the outdoors, it almost always brings to mind tropical vegetation.

I love gardening and plants in general, but my tropicalesque gardening is also an escape from every day life for me. Its more than just about "doing what cannot be done" its about creating an alternate reality!

My garden reminds me of childhood visits to Disney, later trips to California, Mexico, Brazil, Africa, Puerto Rico, staying with friends in Florida,etc.

Whenever I am out in my "jungle" my job disappears, my bills disappear, my problems disappear.

Also, when Winter comes, my living room turns into a jungle too. There is nothing like citrus trees, palms, flowers,etc. to help brush away the Winter blues.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 2:54PM
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After growing outdoor palms in zone 4 for 20 years, it's definitely worth it. I now have a very slow growing 7 foot mediterannean fan palm with a large thick truck, 16 foot windmill palm that grows like a weed and looks better than most windmills that I see in desert climates, and a 6-7 foot California fan palm that's only been outside 3 years. I don't do anything to the palms but cover them with a styrofoam box with florescent light bulbs during the winter. Once the boxes go on the palms at the end of October, I forget them until spring, and they always look great when the boxes come off in April. Next year I'm planting a Mexican blue hesper palm, and a Pindo palm outside.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:15PM
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And a zombie thread mysteriously revives. Heck, why not repeat myself for the fourth time:

"What might have gotten lost in my first post was the suggestion that zone-pushing makes the most sense when the results justify the effort."

If you can wind up a large trunked palm in a cold temperate zone, that's a great end result. If on the other hand you get a few small fronds by the end of the summer as your reward for treating a palm as a die-back perennial, then maybe not.

Incidentally, the Chinese fan palm mentioned in my initial post back in 2004 has grown slowly and steadily through various cycles of planting out and returning to the basement for winter in a large tub, to the point that I'm debating whether it's worth it to lug it back inside this winter. I may yet, if there's room in my office at work.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 2:17PM
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Ive had 2 Trachys in the ground for 7 years. One is 10 feet the other 8 feet. My Washyis about 10 feet tall and usually puts out 2 or 3 fronds during the winter. I have watched and learned from many people including arctictropicaland I think that he everyone would agree it is a labor of love...

Here is a link that might be useful: okcpalms

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 6:34PM
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"What might have gotten lost in my first post was the suggestion that zone-pushing makes the most sense when the results justify the effort."

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein

I don't see that this is true of zone pushers- The plants that work stay, the things you've killed a few times you give up on.
The point of zone pushing is NOT ONLY the end result (warmer zone plants) but also the process- if someone enjoys experimentation, studying plants, climate, weather,etc. then it "makes sense" to them even if some things they try ultimately fail.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 3:32PM
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This post is only about Live oak trees: Try Live oak "late drop" from Mossy oak natives. I am in zone 6 Pa. I have 3 of them that have survived, unprotected last winter. I have since planted 3-4 more. They are likely hybrids of Quercus Fusiformis X Quercus Virginiana. Mine have so far put out 14 inches of new growth, more is likely before the end of the growing season. Worth a try anyway. I will post a photo of one of my 2nd year trees.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 3:39AM
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It is the tallest green thing against the wood fence. There is a Rhodie and Sweet Woodruff blending in.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 3:42AM
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Here is a summer 2013 pic of my live oak "late drop". I hope you can tell which foliage is the live oak. This coming winter will be winter #2 for this live oak. It made 2 ft + growth this season. I think after this winter if it shows good hardiness most people will be willing to give it a chance in zone 6. I have another of this same hybrid of Live oak that is in it's second winter. I will post more pics in the spring of 2014. I think these hybrid Live oak "late drop" will be fine in the spring.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 11:13PM
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There may be no interest, but these Live oak "late drop" have survive our 3 nights of -5F, -10F, -5F on Mon- Wed early in zone 6. I will post pics if anyone shows interest.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:21PM
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