I have a rather sizable collection of tropical specimens at my Bedford, New York farm. During the winter, they are all stored in special greenhouses. Once the warm weather arrives, they are all brought out for display – some go to my home in Maine, and the remainder of the plants are placed in various locations here at Cantitoe Corners. It is a big undertaking to move all these plants at the beginning and end of each season. Thankfully, I have the help of a strong outdoor grounds crew and some heavy-duty farm equipment to get the job done.
Enjoy these photos.
This is the inside of one of three large plastic hoop houses where most of my tropical plants are stored during the cold weather. They actually spend about seven months of the year in these temperature-controlled shelters, but they definitely thrive.
These structures are built using heavy gauge American made, triple-galvanized steel tubing. I chose this gothic style because of its high peak to accommodate my taller plants.
Every year, these tropical plants are taken out of storage, cleaned up and repotted if needed, and then moved to their warm-weather locations.
The crew is always very careful when moving these container plants. I have a large variety of special planters – antiques and reproductions, planters made of stone, lead, fiberglass and resin, and in a wide array of shapes and sizes.
As the plants are removed from the hoop house, they’re grouped by type. Here are several potted bird’s nest ferns. Bird’s-nest fern is a common name for several related species of epiphytic ferns in the genus Asplenium.
Here is one of my bird’s nest ferns, Asplenium nidus. The bird’s nest fern is known for its tropical fronds that grow out of a rosette in the middle of the plant which closely resembles a bird’s nest. It is also occasionally called a crow’s nest fern.
The sago palm, Cycas revoluta, is a popular houseplant known for its feathery foliage and ease of care. Sago palms prefer to be situated in well-drained soil, and like other cycad plants, do not respond well to overwatering.
Below the foliage is the bare section of trunk where leaves were once cut. The rough trunk becomes leafless as it ages.
Here is a closer look at one of the fronds. The tips are quite pointy and sharp, so it’s best to keep it away from lots of foot traffic.
Here’s Phurba moving one of the heavy container plants by hand. This is a potted Beaucarnea recurvata, the elephant’s foot or ponytail palm – a species of plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and San Luis Potosí in eastern Mexico. Despite its common name, it is not closely related to the true palms. In fact, it is a member of the Agave family and is actually a succulent. It has a bulbous trunk, which is used to store water, and its long, hair-like leaves that grow from the top of the trunk like a ponytail, gives the plant its name.
I go through all the potted specimens and decide where they will be displayed for the season. I always try to vary their locations.
This is a Bismarkia palm, Bismarckia nobilis, which grows from a solitary trunk, gray to tan in color, and slightly bulging at the base.
Bismarckia is a monotypic genus of flowering plant in the palm family endemic to western and northern Madagascar, where they grow in open grassland. The genus is named for the first chancellor of the German Empire Otto von Bismarck and the epithet for its only species, Bismarckia nobilis, comes from Latin for ‘noble’.
This potted agave is one of many in my collection. It is so beautiful, but be sure to keep agaves in low traffic areas, as their spikes can be very painful. And always wear gloves and eye protection when potting them up or dividing as the sap can burn. Agaves are exotic, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plants that can live happily in containers. This blue agave has gray-blue spiky fleshy leaves. And do you know… tequila is actually distilled from the sap of the blue agave?
Agave plants spread without flowering by growing offshoots, called pups. These pups grow into new plants once they are separated from the main plant. They can easily be removed by exposing the connecting root and cutting through it. Once separated it can be replanted in another container.
In this area – more ferns. I have all different types with interesting foliage. It is so nice to see them all again after the long cold season. The weather this week has been in the high 60s and 70s, which is perfect for taking all the plants out of storage.
Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia nicolai, is a species of evergreen tropical herbaceous plant with gray-green leaves that grow up to 18-inches long out of a main crown in a clump. Look closely, these plants have actually evolved to create splits along their lateral leaf seams to allow the wind to pass by. In doing so, they eliminate the risk of being snapped in half by strong tropical gusts.
Here is a green colocasia. In contrast to Alocasia, the leaf tip of colocasia points downwards.
The foliage of philodendrons is usually green but may be coppery, red, or purplish with parallel leaf veins that are green or sometimes red or white.
Shape, size, and texture of the leaves vary considerably, depending on species and maturity of the plant. I have many philodendrons that are growing so well here at Bedford.
I also have several Norfolk Island pine trees, Araucaria heterophylla. These are native to the South Pacific, so Norfolk Island pines prefer warmer, wetter climates between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit – similar needs as my citrus trees. The foliage is medium green and needlelike with an awl shape.
And here is a tall pygmy date palm tree, Phoenix roebelenii. This tree grows to about 10-feet tall or more. Phoenix roebelenii is a popular ornamental plant and needs little pruning to develop a strong structure. The slender trunk has decorative protuberances along its entire length from where fronds were once attached, but have fallen off as the tree matured.
It’s amazing how many plants can fit in these durable hoop houses. I am so fortunate to be able to store all these plants during the cold season, and then enjoy them all around my farm when it gets warm. There are just a few more to take out. I’ll share photos of where I placed them around the farm in an upcoming blog.