Tropicaleque without fear of frost

bahia(SF Bay Area)December 17, 2011

We're awfully spoiled here in northern California by the bay, where it seldom freezes, as even if it does, seldom drops below 25F at the worst. As a result, it is all too easy to create garden settings with lush subtropicals that can get huge over time. This side garden contains a 10 foot tall Tetrapanax papyrifera along with the foreground Asparagus retrofractus, as well as other more obscure South African tender shrubs such as Mackaya bella and Streptocarpella ground cover. Check out the other photos in the Flickr set for the rest of the garden, lots more tropicalesque plantings in a zone 8b/10a setting here in northern California across the bay from San Francisco.

Here is a link that might be useful: Almost too easy to grow here

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One advantage of your having a cool climate, even if there's not enough summer heat to maximize growth and flowering of tropical species, is that you can grow plants like T. papyrifera (Chinese rice-paper plant) without worries about invasiveness (this plant is problematic in gardens in the deep South due to rhizomatous spread and supposedly is banned in Hawaii).

As for the "fear of frost" thing, I find that's more prevalent in areas where frosts are uncommon but do occur from time to time. Once gardeners in temperate climates get their susceptible plants indoors or mulched/protected for winter, they can relax - whereas someone gardening in a location where most but not all of winter is frost-free is obliged to scurry around when cold weather looms to cover or bring in susceptible plants (remembering for instance the semi-panic in the Houston area that ensues when a "freeze" is coming).

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 12:27PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Agreed about the fear factor, but I've dialed that way down these days in my own garden by eliminating any plants that are zone 11 tropicals anymore. I also tend to stick with plants that will easily recover from a freeze and not take years to recapture their good looks, but sometimes can't resist planting exceptions to that rule such as Kentia palms or some new plant interest I stumble across while browsing nurseries in southern California. What I have absolutely given up trying to grow here in the SF Bay Area is any plant that demands hot weather to thrive. Too frustrating to see things just sit there all summer long doing nothing, only to give up the ghost the following cool summer back to back. Still, it is a lot easier gardening where it rarely gets above 80F, no biting horseflies or chiggers to worry about, and hardly ever too humid to want to be outdoors. I do miss those warm summer evenings to be out in the garden, hardly ever happens here more than 7 days in a year. And Tetrapanax is no less invasive here in northern California, I only plant it with a bamboo rhizome barrier to contain it. I've seen it spread to take over an entire back yard locally.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 5:12PM
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