It’s raining. And snowing. Again. This February has been a record month for precipitation here. We’ve had it all—rain, snow, ice–and lots of it. Winter is hanging on. My trowel is gathering dust, and atrophy threatens my digging muscles. So, I decided it was time for a green fix and took off on my annual pilgrimage to Connecticut’s horticultural Mecca, Logee’s. They’ve been selling unusual tender perennials and tropicals there for 116 years, and even after all that time the place doesn’t look very promising from the outside. But once you get through the door and descend to the greenhouse,a sensory experience begins. Barrages of color and riotous foliage in every size, shape and hue invite the eye. Clouds of fragrance tickle the nose. Deliciously humid air feels like summer, and best of all, aisle after aisle of exotic plants in teeny tiny pots are jammed side by side under a towering canopy of stock plants grown 5, 10, 15, 20 feet or more tall. It’s an indoor jungle, complete with canopy layer, understory, and ground covers.
How about this pairing of bougainvillea and Thunbergia grandiflora.
Begonias are the specialty of the house at Logee’s, and there are more varieties than most folks coulds imagine. Some of their deep-red leaved cultivars-like this ‘Miami Storm’- were a serious temptation. I could just picture this luscious red foliage paired some other similarly hued foliage and flowers in a mixed container.
These blue flowers are from a coleus grown for, of all things, its flowers (Solenostemon thyrsoides –sorry, it’s a winter bloomer). They look smashing next to this chenille plant (Acalypha hispida).
One of my favoite spots at Logee’s has always been this little fern dell, with the trickling waterworks.
I’ve had an eye for passion flowers since seeing my first one, along the Rio Napo in Ecuador. Their structure is extraordinary; I can’t think of another bloom that boasts an architecture quite so complex. In hommage to that exquisite form, I’ve always gone for those with all the frills, but seeing this relatively simple form-a species dubbed, understandably, red passion flower (Passiflora miniata, aka Passiflora coccinea)-I could be persuaded that color is reason enough to grow a simpler-looking member of the passiflora clan.
And how about this Clerodendrum quadriculare and begonia match-up?
Being back in a garden gave me the inspiration to start thinking a little more seriously about the coming season. I left with a little box full of treasures, many of which will grace my garden this summer with bright orange flowers. I’m really looking forward to trying (yet again) Nong Noch vine (Petraeovitex bambusetorum) an over-priced must-have vine with way cool dangling yellow flowers. Maybe this time I can keep it alive. I guess that’s what makes Logee’s the quintessential winter experience for snowbound gardeners—it’s all about dreaming. The mistakes of the past season lie dead and buried. The promise of a new and perfect season beckons. And there are all those exotic plants, and the fun of contemplating new and different ways to fill those blank spots in a garden (and in pots) just waiting for the sun.