THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY
A non-profit corporation whose purpose is to promote and
maintain public and scientific interest and research in bromeliads throughout
the world. There are 4 classes of membership: Annual $7.50; Sustaining
$12.50; Fellowship $20.00; and Life $150.00. All memberships start with January
of the current year.
There are 4 classes of membership: Annual $7.50; Sustaining $12.50; Fellowship $20.00; and Life $150.00. All memberships start with January of the current year.
1971-1974: David H. Benzing, Fritz Kubisch, George Kalmbacher, Wilbur Wood, W. R. Paylen, Kathy Dorr, Amy Jean Gilmartin, Bea Hansen.
1972-1975: Jeanne Woodbury, Ralph Barton, George Anderson, Virginia Berezin, Victoria Padilla, Charles Wiley, Ervin Wurthmann, Jean Merkel.
1973-1976: Robert G. Burstrom, Leonard Kent, Eric Knobloch, Elmer Lorenz, Patrick Mitchell, Edward McWilliams, Harold W. Wiedman, Kelsey Williams.
Adda Abendroth, Brazil; Luis Ariza Julia, Dominican Republic; David Barry, Jr., USA; Olwen Ferris, Australia; Mulford B. Foster, USA; Marcel Lecoufle, France; Harold Martin, New Zealand; Richard Oeser, Germany; Dr. W. Rauh, Germany; Raulino Reitz, Brazil; Walter Richter, Germany; L. B. Smith, USA; R. G. Wilson, Costa Rica; J. Marnier-Lapostolle, France.
Published six times a year: January, March, May, July, September, November. Free to members.
Editor: Victoria Padilla
CONTENTS — SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER, 1973
Neoregelia species from Brazil known in trade as N. schultesiana or N. 'Fire Ball.' See P. 192. Photo by W. W. G. Moir.
Articles and photographs are earnestly solicited. Length is no factor. Please mail copy and all questions to the editor, 647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles, California 90049.
Individual copies of the Journal — $1.50
ERVIN J. WURTHMANNThrough aeons of time bromeliads have considered Florida as their proper domicile. Tillandsia usneoides traverses its entire length and breadth. From the central portion of the state southward to the Florida Keys occur larger bromels such as T. balbisiana, T. bartramii, T. fasciculata, T. utriculata, and others, also several species of Catopsis. Florida even boasts of having one Guzmania—G. monostachia. Physical factors, such as favorable temperature and moisture conditions, have provided an ideal atmosphere for the growth of various members of the Tillandsioideae.
After a while, man migrated to this part of the world, determined to make his mark. During this brief tenure in Florida, numerous individuals have contributed much toward the enrichment of bromeliad flora in this state. Much of this effort has been from the northern boundaries of the Citrus Belt southward to the Keys.
The Orlando area has been extremely active. Mulford B. Foster, world renowned bromeliad grower and explorer, has a ten-acre estate lavishly landscaped with bromeliads. Julian Nally, a few miles distant, has neoregelias growing by the acre. Ed Ensign, of Aechmea orlandiana var. 'Ensign' fame, and O. A. VanHyning, Mexican bromeliad collector, also live near Orlando.
In the Tampa—St. Petersburg area of Florida's west coast, Dr. Morris Dexter and Ervin Wurthmann swap bromeliads and bromeliad tales.
From Daytona Beach southward to the Keys on the east coast bromeliad enthusiasts abound. Tourist attractions feature many kinds of bromeliads. One of the finest presentations is at the Parrot Jungle of Miami. Jean Merkel of Alberts and Merkel Nurseries commercially introduced Aechmea. lueddemanniana var. 'Mend' to the trade. Fantastic Gardens, also in Miami has a large variety of bromeliads to offer.
Private collections, such as the one of the late Ralph Davis, are outstanding. Bob Burstrom's patio-pool planting is the finest of its kind.
There is plenty to see and enjoy in Florida, so come and visit us and see our bromeliads. It is hoped that this all-Florida issue of the Journal will whet your appetite to see our many treasures.
Mulford B. Foster standing by his painting of Bromelia
balansae on exhibition at the Hunt Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Some day, when the last new bromeliad is discovered and the botanists write the final and definitive study of the Bromeliaceae, we can be sure that then, as now, the collector of the greatest number of new species and varieties will be listed as Mulford B. Foster.
It is fitting that an American's name will forever be associated with this almost wholly American group of plants, for, nearly without exception, the collectors of the past were of continental origin. Ponder for a moment on two famous names: Andre and Glaziou, foremost in the discovery of new species in the nineteenth century, both of them oddly enough, landscape architects, as is Foster. Andre's painstaking efforts in the great bromeliad area of Colombia resulted in 96 new species and varieties. Glaziou, with even more time at his disposal and the far greater territory of the heartland of Bromeliaceae, Brazil, amassed a total of 62. Remember these collections were made when the field was nearly virgin. Now, return to the twentieth century and the period extending from 1939 through 1948. Cities and corn-fields, towns and agricultural crops occupy the area which a hundred years ago was wild land. Despite the vanishing woodland and the destruction of its epiphytic inhabitants, during this ten-year period, of which approximately two and a half years were spent in the field, Foster discovered 188 new species and varieties of bromeliads, very nearly an eighth of all then known. It was in honor of this signal achievement that Dr. Lyman B. Smith designated the new genus he created as Fosterella.
How does a man discover so many new plants in a field which had the intimate attention of indefatigable and brilliant plant collectors for so many years? Partly by study of collecting sites of historical record, partly, as one grows wiser in the art of collecting, through experience, partly from the study of maps and geologic formations, and partly through a sensitivity, an ability to verily translate oneself into the vegetable kingdom and choose locations which themselves seek. All these factors, plus a keen eyesight, a photographic mind and a deep and abiding love for the plants themselves, make a notable collector.
Foster's interest in bromeliads dates back to 1912 when he had his first glimpse of Spanish Moss in Florida. When he took up residence in that state in 1923, the native tillandsias captured his attention and he soon added his first exotic species to his collection. He met Theodore L. Mead of Oviedo, Florida, and Henry Nehrling of Gotha, Florida, meetings which gave further impetus to his enthusiasm. A series of collecting trips into Mexico in the mid-thirties resulted in his first new bromeliad, Hechtia melanocarpa. In 1939, he and Racine Foster, his wife, went to Brazil, and again in 1940, trips which totaled twelve months. A trip to Colombia in 1948 occupied six months. From 1948 on, other and briefer trips were made to Honduras, Costa Rica, Dutch Guiana, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Trinidad, Venezuela, Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil and Mexico.
Brazil possesses the greatest number of bromeliads. Dr. Lyman B. Smith's classic, The Bromeliaceae of Brazil, published in 1955, lists 549 species and varieties. Of this total, Foster discovered, for the first time, 107. That he took many other bromeliads, some of which had not been seen since the type was discovered, together with the more common species and varieties, is evidenced by the fact that in The Bromeliaceae of Brazil his name appears more than 700 times as collector or artist. His self-taught skill as botanical artist has been of invaluable aid to botanical science, for drawings made in the field of fresh and unhandled material simplify the work of the systematic botanists.
More than half of the new species described from Brazil between 1935 and 1955 were his. He discovered more orthophytums in Brazil than any collector: indeed, more than half of all the known griegias are credited to him. His greatest triumph in the field occurred in the state of Espirito Santo when he found 9 new species in a single day, 7 in the next.
In Colombia, where bromeliads seek the high altitudes of the Andes, his success was no less marked than in Brazil. With Andre's route as his guide, he retraced the footsteps of this famous plant explorer, with many side trips taken on his own volition. The result was 54 new species and varieties. According to Dr. Lyman B. Smith's study, The Bromeliaceae of Colombia, published in 1957, there were 372 different bromeliads in that country. Of these, Foster collected 277.
An interpolation here should indicate that though Foster had, perforce, to work in a field that had presumably been well-combed and which had attracted numerous plant collectors due to the beauty of many bromeliads, his new species and varieties are by no means the "unconsidered trifles" passed over by seekers after the spectacular. Recall just a few of the plants currently in cultivation: Aechmea fosteriana, Ae. racinae, Ae. orlandiana, Billbergia leptopoda. Canistrum fosterianum, Cryptanthus fosterianus, Neoregelia fosteriana, Neoregelia zonata, Portea petropolitana var. extensa, Vriesea phillipo-coburgii var. vagans, Vr. fosteriana, Vr. racinae. Mourn the others of great beauty which did not survive the stringent restrictions of fumigation by Plant Quarantine of the United States Department of Agriculture. Chief among them, that lovely Colombian Aechmea zebrina, whose broad contrasting grey bands against the vivid green of the leaves mark it as no poor relation of the similar Aechmea chantinii. Foster cites the discovery of this plant as his greatest moment in collecting bromeliads.
One thing that has set Foster apart from most collectors has been his willingness to collect sterile living material and transport it, often at expenditure of exhausting labor and no little expense, to Florida, hopefully to grow on and bloom. Many and heart-rending were the losses he suffered in transporting bromeliads from their native lands, but in the instances where he succeeded, the rewards have been great, not only to science, but to all bromeliad lovers. Many of the outstanding plants he has taken have refused to adjust to change in conditions; high altitude specimens often detest the descent to sea level, plants accustomed to the chill and constant fogs, laden with moisture, succumb to bright, dry days. Some, perhaps, will eventually be brought into cultivation, but many will have to remain interesting citations in a botanical register.
Foster's interest in plants is catholic and wide-embracing, as witness his discoveries through the years in fields other than his chosen one: three new palms, four amaryllis, and single entries in Cooperia, Eucharis, cactus, peperomia and zephyranthes. As a hybridizer, he has carried his work through seven generations of Alstroemeria.
For many years he and his wife have contributed frequently to scientific journals besides writing articles in a more popular vein. Foster has, in recent years, devoted himself more and more to taxonomic problems of the Bromeliaceae and has made important contributions in the naming of new species and varieties.
Indeed, his activities represent a remarkable blending of interest in the horticultural as well as botanical side of Bromeliaceae: not often these two are combined in one man.
He has one of the world's outstanding collections of living bromeliads, perhaps the very greatest. It numbers well over 400 species and varieties. In addition, he has grown more than 100 different hybrids of Cryptanthus, 50 of Neoregelia, and another 70 of Aechmea, Billbergia and other genera.
—Gotha. (Reprinted from Vol. X, July—August, 1960, No. 4)
RACINE AND MULFORD B. FOSTERBROMEL-LA, a twelve-acre parcel of Florida, borders a small lake ten miles northwest of Orlando. Around it are orange groves, an outer world which one must leave to enter this quiet haven situated in a native oak hammock. The atmosphere of Bromel-La is created by a forest of century-old Live Oaks (draped with Spanish Moss, T. usneoides), Long-Leaf Pines and Cabbage Palms; they provide silhouettes of ethereal quality; they are living expressions of time. And while giving visual beauty to people, they create a canopy overhead which gives sun and shadow to plants underneath. This is a controlled balance of light as well as a frost protection.
So far as we know, no people of recent times immediately preceded us on this property. It is possible that the early Apopkan Indians used it, but we do not find any evidence. Through the years, Bromel-La was waiting for the Fosters, people who loved the forest and who saw in the mulch, created by the yearly drop of leaves, a perfect habitation for bromeliads. Here, bromeliads are at home, or feel as near to a Brazilian forest milieu that could be provided in Central Florida.
When we first purchased this country property, we lived in town on three city acres, and, in planning the work to be done out here, or the plants to be moved here on a given day, we often referred to it as Shangri-La, the term synonymous with paradise made famous by Hilton's novel, Lost Horizon. But, somehow, the name was not original enough to please us, so we took the cue, remembered the Seminole Indian use of "La", meaning place, and formed our own name for our favorite plant family, Bromel-La. (Incidentally, it took us six years just to move the plants, before the house for us was built!)
When people say: "You are so lucky to have this place", or a similar remark, we remind them that "this place has us", a commanding, demanding force in our lives! We remind them that it took forty years of experience with plants and many sacrifices to buy, build and move from town.
We wanted seclusion and privacy, so we made a sheltering perimeter around this property, a screen of Ligustrum, Yuccas, Podocarpus, Rhapis Palms, Cycads and various shrubs. And, while bromels have been paramount in our attention, from way back, we have had active interest in Cycads, Aroids, Palms, Amaryllids, etc.
The natural clusters of trees determined the shape and location of the walks and ways for people as well as the areas for bromeliads, near trees, so they could climb up trunks, or so they could extend themselves in the sandy leaf mold open areas; this they did and now are growing in great masses, crowding the areas.
We had learned how bromeliads live by our years of explorations in the forests, savannas and mountain tops of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad, Surinam, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Peru, traversing more than 150,000 miles by air, oxcart, train, on foot, by canoe and muleback, from sea level to over 14,650 feet above sea level. (It was at this high point in Bolivia where we found the new species, Puya fosteriana, the highest altitude known where a bromeliad is at home. (See National Geographic, October, 1950).
The parents of many bromeliads, now acclimated to Bromel-La, we brought direct from the above countries and from varying elevations. Most of these transplanted bromels have been happy in this oak hammock because it gave them conditions similar to their native homes, with filtered light, air currents, moisturized air, leaf mold at their feet while their trough-like leaves catch the falling oak debris (leaves as well as oak flowers), thereby creating the acid liquid held in the leaf tanks needed for their chemical happiness.
In town, we had raised thousands of seedlings from the collected species; this gave us the opportunity to bring many plants to Bromel-La in minimum space, and only now, years later, have some of these seedlings reached maturity; they are flowering and ready for identification. They are acclimated now, some happier on one side of a tree than on the other.
Bromeliads have an amazing adaptability. They exhibit this quality in many ways. They do not seem to mind being transported, dried out, or starved; they can take abuse, half of which could kill many another plant. A small off-shoot can be separated from its mother with little or no after-effect to either one.
Some bromeliads were already in these trees, such as the native ones, T. usneoides, T. recurvata, T. utriculata. We placed the majority of our transported bromeliads on the ground where it is warmer, where the more tender ones can be covered in nights of frost. We have lost many bromeliads which we had placed in the trees because, occasionally a visitation of cold air sweeps down from the north and clips the poor bromels in an exposed tree limb position; however those on the ground under the protective branches do not freeze, although a few may spot from a draft of chilled air.
Not all of the bromeliads from high altitudes and variable low temperatures above freezing, such as Vrieseas from Costa Rica, were able to adapt themselves to our low altitude (at out highest point, Bromel-La is 92 feet above sea level), so a greenhouse was built where the temperature, moisture and light could be controlled. However, the great adaptability of most of the bromeliads to outdoors in Central Florida, is quite remarkable.
In town, our greenhouse was called The Orchidario (where we had many more orchids and other epiphytes than here) a name which came from Dr. Hoehne 's range in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here at Bromel-La the greenhouse (filled with bromels) demanded the most obvious name, Bromelario.
At first, we were mainly interested in the collected species. In the field, we had made the herbarium specimens to aid in positive identification; at Bromel-La we planted many sterile (without flower) plants, so that in due time the blooms appear and we can send in a specimen for identification without being in the field the year round. In many instances, this process has proven to be botanically valuable since the original collection sites may have been devastated and many bromels forever lost; thus, our living, transplanted bromels become a source for making botanical records. From time to time botanical specimens are sent to the taxonomic headquarters, The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. where Dr. Lyman B. Smith identifies them. In one respect, ours is a working botanical garden where many valuable records and observations are being made. Our currently made botanical specimens help supply other herbaria with actual material, more complete than a photograph which, sometimes, may be all they have. Also, our current specimen may substantiate a questionable location or an incomplete specimen.
Even more than the herbarium specimens, live plants from Bromel-La have spread far and wide, finding other havens in the homes of bromel fanciers or botanical collections around the world; they have provided a far ranging network of friends and collectors who are as avid for bromeliads as others are for orchids, cacti, begonias or any other plant.
Visitors are somewhat stunned to see the extent of bromeliads here and often ask how many we have. We have never had time to count them, a formidable task multiplied each year, but the actual number must be in the many thousands. Thirty-four of the recognized forty-four genera are represented here. Some rare ones such as Andrea, Deuterocohnia, Encholirium, Fosterella, (new genus named for M. B. Foster), Neoglaziovia, Pseudananas reside here, but, of course, the majority are in the genera Aechmea, Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Nidularium, Tillandsia and Vriesea.
When it comes to counting species, the number is legion, perhaps dozens in each of the above more commonly known genera live here. We shall always keep a large supply of species in each genus; not only are they interesting in themselves, but having many different ones at hand is important for comparative purposes. And, by having the original at hand many a variation from the norm has been discovered here.
While the straight, original species are valued for all their pristine uniqueness, the hybrids remain the captivating, man-assisted creations. The process of hand pollinating is nothing new among horticulturists, but the creative process directed by the human hand has a magnetic fascination as well as interesting results, especially in bromeliads. A few of the new hybrids made at Bromel-La are
|Aechmea × 'Foster's Favorite' (and from that hybrid, came a sport, Ae. × 'Foster's Favorite Favorite')|
|Aechmea × 'Royal Wine'||Cryptanthus × 'Racine'|
|Aechmea × 'Bert'||Cryptanthus × 'Mars'|
|Aechmea × 'Burgundy'||Dyckia × 'Lad Cutak'|
|Billbergia × 'Fantasia'||Neoregelia × 'Marcon'|
|Billbergia × 'Muriel Waterman'||Tillandsia × 'Victoria'|
(Incidentally, all hybrid names should be written in this style to indicate that it is a cross and has been given a fancy name.)
While the cross breeding of species has had its rewards and great satisfactions, the inter-generic cross breeding done at Bromel-La gives a greater over-riding satisfaction. Hybridizing species is easy because the flowers of each plant are predictable and can be ready at the same time. The viability of the pollen, however, is very short. This may be overcome by forcing certain species to flower out of their regular season. But catching ready pollen from two different genera with widely varying flowering seasons may be a very difficult problem. In spite of this, six bi-generic crosses have been produced at Bromel-La:
X Neophytum (made between Neoregelia and Orthophytum)
X Neomea (made between Neoregelia and Aechmea)
X Neolarium (made between Neoregelia and Nidularium)
X Quesmea (made between Quesnelia and Aechmea)
X Ortholarium (made between Orthophytum and Nidularium)
X Canmea (made between Canistrum and Aechmea)
(The large letter X in front of the newly created name indicates that it is a cross of two different genera and should always be written this way.)
Natural hybridization, too, takes place at Bromel-La. Now and then an unexpected hybrid appears, the result of cross pollination by a bee, a night moth, or a bird seeking nectar from the flowers. When this event occurs in the wild, it may go unnoticed, but here where we can make observations every day the results are quickly noticed. Many factors assist or prevent natural hybridization such as timing of the flower receptivity, the temperature of the air, rainfall or drought, acidity or alkalinity of soil or the presence or absence of helpful pollen carriers. Certain plants, such as the grasses, produce a light, powdery pollen that can be carried to the receptive flower by the wind, but bromeliads, generally, ask for the assistance of insects or birds.
Surprises at Bromel-La never cease. We find that plants we had forgotten all about (maybe they have not bloomed in ten years) suddenly make a big show of color or produce some individual characteristic so that we notice them; then it is a 'field day' in more ways than one! With the seasons there is changing light intensity, changing air currents and changing moisture conditions, so we have a change in the bromeliad plants. If we have a prolonged dry spell, certain plants that have not bloomed in years may produce flowers. Thus, almost every day we are on an expedition looking for what's new among our bromeliads.
Although the whole property is, in a sense, a sanctuary, there is about a half acre that we have named our SANCTUARY. Overhead the arched branches of the oaks have formed a cathedral-shaped roof over a long nave or central aisle which is covered with pine needles. On either side are bromeliads and Zamia leading up to a dais covered with a mat of Mondo; in the background is a curved screen of Rhapis palms. It is here that we feel worshipful and grateful that this fine stand of trees is being preserved.
Over the years, hand in hand with the collecting of bromeliads goes the collecting of literature about these plants. As a result, we have a very large assemblage of most of the old and new writings on our favorite plant subject. It is probably one of the largest private collections in the world, out ranked only by those of Harvard and The Smithsonian. What might be missing in book form, we try to have on microfilm or photo copy.
This library on the Bromeliaceae, as well as the hundreds of original drawings, paintings and photographs of bromeliads, (all by M. B. Foster) makes Bromel-La a center for the study and preservation of this wonderful plant family.
Projection for the future of Bromel-La concerns us. We would like to be able to establish a Foundation so that a continuation of work and study of bromeliads could be carried on here. The nucleus for a Bromeliad Research Center has been started.
Even though that dream is beyond our financial scope, we can still dream and can still hope! It would be an unbearable grief to have a subdivision interfere with the present tranquil situation, but that is the indicated development for the land around us.
In the meantime, the study of bromeliads will continue.
|Racine and Mulford B. Foster|
|Bromel-La — A Tranquil Walk|
JOHN A. STEPHENSWhen the Fairchild Tropical Garden, a non-profit association, was founded in 1938 by Col. Robert H. Montgomery, a wealthy New York tax lawyer, he hoped that it would become "one of the great tropical botanical gardens of the world." In great measure this has been accomplished. The 83-acre garden near Biscayne Bay encompasses 500 species of palms, in addition to every introduced tropical tree and plant that has become acclimatized to the infrequent dips in temperature that sometimes plague southeast coastal Florida during the winter months. Very tender plants like the breadfruit tree and many of the heliconias are grown in the Rare Plant House, which is heated when necessary.
The Director of the Garden is Dr. John Popenoe, scion of the family famed for its researches and writings in tropical botany. Stanley Kiem is Superintendent. The Garden's horticulturist, Tim Anderson, takes time from his busy schedule to conduct a course in bromeliad culture.
The nucleus of the Garden's bromeliad collection came from Col. Montgomery's own limited assortment at his wooded 80-acre estate, two miles south of the Gardens. In 1961, Mulford Foster gave plants to the Garden, among them many of his own South American discoveries and his subsequent hybrids. In 1967, Jack O. Holmes donated a large number of plants from his own extensive nursery collection in Tampa. From time to time, Nat DeLeon of the nearby Parrot Jungle has given plants to the Garden. Other donors were Fantastic Gardens, also nearby, and Alberts & Merkel Bros. of Boynton Beach.
If there is any one place in the Garden where bromeliads appear to be most at home, it is the Rain Forest, a natively wooded area where concealed rainbird sprinklers are turned on every morning during dry weather, which can occur at any time of year in South Florida. The Rain Forest was designed in 1961 by William Lyman Phillips, who also conceived the master plan for the Garden as a whole.
The following bromeliads were in flower in ground beds in the Rain Forest in the middle of February, 1973: Aechmea fulgens discolor, Androlepis donnel smithii, Aechmea bracteata, A. orlandiana, Bromelia balansae, Billbergia pyramidalis, Quesnelia testudo, and a Q. testudo hybrid with a compactly branched spike of the same rose color, an improvement on the parent.
In ancient live oaks near the Sunken Garden, massive clumps of Billbergia 'Fantasia' and Aechmea bracteata covered the main limbs. In the Sunken Garden a specimen plant of a Pitcairnia sp., reported by Tim Anderson to have long, arching sprays of red flowers during the summer, grew in a pocket of the coral rock outcropping. Bromelia balansae clambered on the rock enclosing the Sunken Garden.
Bromeliads dominated the plantings in the ground beds at the entrance to the Rare Plant House. Among them: Neoregelia 'Marcon' (N. marmorata × N. spectabilis), a bold hybrid of brassy yellow blotched with maroon; a clone of N. spectabilis selected by Mulford Foster for its dark color; and huge sprawling plants of Aechmea mexicana and Androlepis donnel smithii.
Somewhat more pampered were the bromeliads in the Bromeliad Room, the screened patio of the Rare Plant House. The aluminum screen overhead provided 30 percent shade, tempering only slightly the sun's rays, so that plants like Neoregelia sp. Fireball attained their full red coloration. This miniature was strung like rubies along a bare limb suspended horizontally. Aechmea 'Bert', A. fasciata, and A. orlandiana were established on a wooded latticework fastened to the concrete wall of the patio.
In ground beds of pine bark dressed with Koko mulch the following were planted: Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite', the variegated Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite Favorite,' Neoregelia carolinae, N. carolinae var. tricolor, Guzmania lingulata, G. flammea, Aechmea caudata variegated, the broadleafed form; A. lueddemanniana and its variegated form, 'Mend'; Neoregelia × 'Marconfos', a Foster selection from N. 'Marcon' with deep maroon leaves, green freckles and red tips.
In the Fern Room of the Rare Plant House the Cryptanthuses were growing in a raised bed, among them the striped 'It', 'Big Brown,' C. Fosteriana, and many of the well-known kinds. A wooden trellis against a wall supported Aechmea chantinii, 'Red Goddess,' and the usual form with orange bracts. In pots were recent acquisitions: Neoregelia × 'Avalon,' a rare and outstanding Richter hybrid, and Guzmania lindenii.
In the Cactus Garden, Dyckia spp. and Bromelia spp. were thriving. In fact, the plantings of bromeliads throughout the Garden took full advantage of their versatility in enhancing the texture of the subtropical landscape.
ELOISE BEACHThere are many elements involved in the culture of bromeliads, but one of the most critical is light. Without a doubt, the proper amount of light promotes good color and good form in bromeliads.
Much can be said about the effects of improper lighting. Light problems always seem to plague the bromeliad grower, but we're fortunate because a bromeliad can indicate through its habit of growth, whether or not its light conditions are satisfactory. It's quite common for the same plant to vary tremendously in size, shape and color according to the amount of light it receives.
Bromeliads that have been growing in improper light show tell-tale symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF TOO LITTLE LIGHT:
Very green, often soft, drooping leaves that are longer than normal; also poor color, especially in the more highly colored plants.
SYMPTOMS OF TOO MUCH LIGHT:
Leaves become yellowish, colors are bleached out, and in extreme cases, sunburn spots develop; sunburn can even destroy the tissue of the leaf and cause holes to form.
It is quite a problem to determine the basic light requirements of a bromeliad. Bromeliads grow wild under a whole range of diverse conditions. If we can take these natural conditions into consideration when selecting light exposures, the bromeliad will show itself off to its best advantage.
THE CHARACTER OF THE LEAF TELLS A GREAT DEAL ABOUT LIGHT REQUIREMENTS.
Hard, spiny, thick-leaved plants and ones with gray-green or gray leaves covered with fuzzy scales (Dyckia & Tillandsia) — can take strong light.
Soft, thin, often green-leaved plants (Guzmania, Nidularium & Vriesea) — do well in a shady area with diffused light.
An important fact to remember is that light problems change with the seasons; therefore, it is best to study the different positions outside and in the greenhouse at different times of the year and make any necessary adjustments. WHEN MOVING PLANTS INTO MORE LIGHT, EXPOSE THEM GRADUALLY TO PREVENT SUNBURN. They actually need to be suntanned just like people! LIGHT REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC BROMELIADS:
- FULL SUN
- NEARLY FULL SUN (direct sunlight, but of relatively short duration)
- Aechmea fosteriana
Tillandsias — those which have gray or silvery leaves
- BRIGHT LIGHT (slightly filtered sun light)
- Aechmea orlandiana
Neoregelia spectabilis & marmorata hybrids
- AVERAGE LIGHT (filtered light, approximately 50% shade)
- Aechmea weilbachii
Vriesea × 'Mariae'
- SUBDUED LIGHT (heavily filtered light)
- Aechmea × 'Foster's Favorite'
Aechmea × 'Royal Wine'
Any discussion of growing bromeliads in South Florida would not be complete without recognizing the influence Ralph Davis has had on the collecting, importing, and hybridizing of this family of plants. He brought a rich background of experience with other ornamental plants to his interest in Bromeliaceae.
A visit to his home gives one an insight into the depth of his interest in bromeliads. The Davis home, Ra-Ru, is a combination of his name Ralph and that of his wife Ruby. It is a typical South Florida home with a nostalgic touch of the Old South, having a broad porch all across the front. The house is placed near the center of two acres in North Miami Beach. The outstanding features of the grounds are the many large live oak trees, various species of palms, and other tropical and semi-tropical trees. As a person drives up the curving driveway, he cannot help being impressed with the 6- to 10-foot border of bromeliads of various genera and varieties. Large beds of these plants are also scattered under some of the large trees. There are also beds of neoregelias, both species and hybrids, and Aechmea miniata var. discolor, A. caudata var. variegata, and others.
It would take one hours to identify all the plants used in the landscaping. Toward the back of the premises are the "jewels" of this collection. This is where the plants, both species and hybrids, are grown in pots on benches. Here, too, is the seed house with its many flats of seedlings.
I talked about his early interest in plants. Ralph at one time had an outstanding collection of aroids which he gave to Fairchild Tropical Garden. Later he became interested in crotons, their growth requirements and hybridization. Dr. B. Frank Brown dedicated his book Florida's Beautiful Crotons to Ralph Davis, and in this dedication he refers to him as "one of the world's most successful collectors and hybridizers of fine crotons."
Ralph Davis collected bromeliads both here in South Florida and in Colombia.
It was he who rediscovered Guzmania monostachia var. variegata (See Bulletin, VOL. XIII, No. 4) in the Everglades off the Tamiami Trail. He also rediscovered Aechmea zebrina on one of his collecting trips to Colombia. This plant, however, was almost lost again. This is his story of this plant: "About 15 plants survived the quarantine. These plants were potted and given tender loving care, but despite this and all the groceries bestowed on them they failed to grow. At last they were unpotted and dumped under the benches. After a number of months, a pup was noted growing there on the ground." The illustration in Bob and Catherine Wilson's book, Bromeliads in Cultivation, is one from this lone survivor.
Mr. Davis was most generous with his plants. He gave many to botanical gardens and universities—Fairchild in Miami, St. Louis Botanical Garden, several gardens in Europe, Smithsonian Institution, and the University of North Carolina.
Two of Mr. Davis' hybrids have recently been registered in the Journal: Aechmea 'Bill Hobbs' and Ae. 'Mem. Ralph Davis.' Soon to be registered by Mr. Ervin Wurthmann is Ae. 'Ra-Ru,' the parents of which are Ae. chantinii × Ae. penduliflora. Vriesea 'Ruby Lee' and several nidulariums will also be registered. One of these gives promise—Nid. innocentii var. innocentii × Nid. innocentii var. variegata. A few of these seedlings carry a variegation. This will be named Nid. 'Ruby Lee.' Another hybrid that is not too different from its parents is Nid. 'Red Queen.' Its outstanding characteristic is the clear, bright red color at time of blooming and the length of time it holds in excellent color. The first one to bloom for me held its bright, fresh color for twice as long as one of its parents, Nid. regelioides. I had one of each of these plants next to each other, and they came into bloom at the same time. The Nid. 'Red Queen' was fresh and new looking when the Nid. regelioides had completely lost its color.
Mr. Davis is being honored posthumously by the Hunt Botanical Library at the Carnegie-Mellon University with biographical data and pictures in their section on eminent horticulturists. A representative of that institution visited the Davis home to gather data and photographs for this entry.
JOHN A. STEPHENSDuring his eighteen years at the Parrot Jungle, south of South Miami on Red Road, Nat DeLeon, a slender, youthful-appearing horticulturist, has ever been looking for showy ornamental plants that do not require coddling. In 1960, a trip to Colombia convinced him that bromeliads should and could be planted in the Parrot Jungle, one of the better attractions for Florida visitors. They appear to be the answer to the problem of providing durable, yet attractive bedding plants for the borders of the walkways. Their versatility seemed endless: they perched thriftily on fallen logs, and grew apace on the trunks and limbs of trees, once fastened there with jumbo metal staples, straddling the rhizomes. Nat devised this way of affixing bromels to tree-limbs, and it has proved highly successful.
Also in 1960, Nat visited the extensive bromeliad collections of Mulford Foster, the dean of growers, near Orlando, and Fantastic Gardens (Bob and Catherine Wilson), only a mile away in Kendall, and acquired as many species and hybrids as possible, with the view to selecting from among them the clones that best exhibited longevity of inflorescence, clarity of color, and noteworthy anatomy of flowering stalk, if present, and foliar rosette. He exchanged plants with European growers, noting wryly that their labels were often in error.
Nat found that bromeliads are the most portable plants extant. Even bareroot, they can be moved from growing-on areas to display beds, or stapled to likely spots on tree trunks and limbs. There is no setback whatever if their cups are refilled with water after transfer from place to place.
Nat does not induce flowering by artificial means, relying on the innate motivation of the plants when they are ready. By the same token, he shuns mulish hybrids and species that are difficult to bring into flower. A showy display at all times is something of an imperative at a tourist attraction like the Parrot Jungle. Brightly colored plants seem a necessary adjunct to the parrots and macaws of garish plumage which inhabit the jungle in great numbers, and perform unbelievable acrobatic feats at regularly scheduled shows.
During the writer's visit in December 1972 the following species and hybrids were in flower: Tillandsia fasciculata; a Florida native, whose red spikes are still unsurpassed for sheer color; Aechmea fasciata, Neoregelia carolinae tricolor, Aechmea calyculata × A. miniata discolor, Vriesea × 'Mariae,' Guzmania lingulata, Aechmea eurycorymbus, Aechmea × 'David Barry' (a DeLeon hybrid), Aechmea mulfordii, Ananas bracteatus striatus, and Aechmea tessmannii.
Mention should be made of the specimen plants of Cattleya maxima growing among the bromeliads in the trees. Their clusters of medium-sized pinkish-lavender flowers were a welcome addition to the holiday scene at the jungle.
Several days later, the writer was privileged to visit Nat's one and one-half acre estate on Old Cutler Road, not far from the Parrot Jungle. Since acquiring the property in 1966, Nat has planted extensive beds of choice bromeliads to enhance the already-existing landscaping of trees and shrubs. Needless to say, the tree-limbs are now clothed with bromeliads of every description. Beds of bromels flank each side of the driveway leading to the long, low, one-story residence, and unite with the foundation planting of bromeliads all around the house.
The writer found himself busily scribbling down the following sorts: Neoregelia macrosepala, highly colored even when immature; Aechmea × 'David Barry,' with white berries and red bracts; Guzmania lingulata cardinalis with dark red bracts; Vriesea × 'Mariae,' Tillandsia flabellata, Billbergia leptopoda, Tillandsia complanata, with up to six laterals jutting out from the imposing main rosette; Neoregelia macrosepala × N. pineliana, often producing a secondary rosette that holds much promise in future breeding; Vriesea imperialis, one of the aristocrats; Aechmea mulfordii, A. eurycorymbus, A. phanerophlebia, A. fasciata, A. fasciata albo-marginata, A. angustifolia.
Also Vriesea glutinosa × V. splendens major, a rampant-growing hybrid with two to three-foot red spikes; Guzmania, lingulata minor, Vriesea ensiformis, Tillandsia × 'Emile,' Guzmania lingulata × G. zahnii, × 'magnifica,' G. lingulata (Ecuador) × G. sprucei, G. melanonis, a striking orange-red form; Nidularium innocentii × N. regelioides, centers suffused with pinkish-red.
In addition: a giant form of Nidularium procerum with muted reddish-brown center; Vriesea glutinosa, with a showy branched red spike; Aechmea chantinii, Neoregelia coriacea, Neoregelia carolinae 'spiralis,' Nat's own selection of a clone with spirally-arranged leaves; Neoregelia fosteriana, Neoregelia sp. "Fireball" (this now-famous clone was sent to Nat in 1962 in a mixed shipment of vrieseas and neoregelias from one of the jungle collectors in South America).
And finally: Aechmea recurvata × A. calyculata, a European hybrid; Neoregelia × 'Catherine Wilson,' with warm red tones attractively mottled; Canistrum fosterianum × Aechmea chantinii, with a showy red inflorescence; Aechmea fendleri, with blue flowers and pink bracts - a rare combination; Neoregelia concentrica, maroon-striped; and in a bed reserved for royalty, Vriesea gigantea, V. fenestralis, and V. gigantea var. nova, a clone of distinct merit.
Besides his hybridizing program with bromeliads, Nat has an abiding interest in rare palms and is active in the Palm Society. Many of his palm specimens provide the dappled shade that is needed by the colorful beds of bromels beneath them.
Bromeliads in abundance are in store for the tourist who travels to the Parrot Jungle; but the choicer sorts at Nat's home place are accessible, regrettably, only to connoisseurs who appreciate the finer things in bromels, and make this fact known to their owner.
ROGER K. TAYLORIn #1 of the 1973 Journal there appears an article in which, by extrapolating observations on one species to a general rule, the author concludes that dark-marked bromeliads must be given more light than unmarked plants. This is an interesting notion, deserving attention when coming from someone with long experience in growing plants of this family. Let's examine it.
". . . . spots were needed to reduce the intensity of the sun on the leaves . . . .", ". . . . linear markings . . . are used by some bromeliads to reduce light intensity on their leaves." The dark markings, permanent or transitory, are postulated to be a protective reaction against too intense light. Claiming that the plants need the extra illumination is saying that a stress condition is not merely beneficial, but vital, if there's a defensive reaction. By the same logic a person should stay in the sun if he tans, in the heat if he perspires. — It will be noted that when the Vriesea sanguinolenta plants were brought from Panama to California it is not reported that they died, merely that they grew larger and lost their spots. The collector was unhappy; but were the plants? They grew and bloomed.
". . . . stronger light . . . . is needed to compensate for the comparative lack of green area . . . where the photosynthetic process can work on the chlorophyll . . ." "This requirement . . . . extends to other kinds of plants with deficiencies of green areas . . . ." The assumption that chlorophyll is present in only the green areas of foliage is preposterous. Any number of plants, shrubs, trees show no green whatever, e.g. Setcreasea purpurea, some dracaenas, crotons, coleus, and episcias, Iresine herbstii, Phormium tenax, etc. And if red maples and copper beeches require more light than their green counterparts, I am unaware of it. Absence of chlorophyll from the dark-marked portions of bromeliads would be such an atypical condition that it would have to be proved, not assumed.
It is true that chlorophyll is absent from white or pale yellow areas, but that's all. The general situation is this: colors shown in the leaves depend on the combined effects of whatever pigments are present, and their relative amounts. Chlorophyll alone gives green: along with a red pigment, for example, the result may be brown or black. Each pigment has its own absorption spectrum, subtracting from the incident light the different wavelengths to varying degrees; the eye sees and integrates what remains. One color may mask the other, or merely modify it. Other pigments interfere with the photosynthetic action of chlorophyll only to the extent that the absorption spectra overlap; there is not necessarily any interference at all.
The ways in which plants grow, and react to different conditions, are highly complex and varied. In some cases it is possible to discern what satisfies us as a reason for a particular response; a stem grows more in the dark than in light, more on the shaded side than the illuminated side. As a consequence it will tip in such a direction as to align itself with the light, bringing the leaves at a right angle to the illumination and thus intercepting the maximum amount of it. Or the development of longer leaves on a bromeliad in a shady location provides a greater area for photosynthesis and could be interpreted as compensation for the lower light intensity. But plants aren't inherently, by human standards, "rational". What useful purpose is accomplished by square stems in the mint family? Why do certain plants produce alkaloids, apparently altogether useless to them? — Consider the range of colors shown by Aechmea hyb. Foster's Favorite with brighter and brighter light: green, mahogany, red, straw-color, finally destruction from sunburn: how much of this is "useful" response to conditions, how much must simply be accepted as characteristic, unexplained behavior of the particular plant?
The bromeliad family covers a wide range of different responses to different conditions, and complex interactions; it may well be that the dark markings certain ones show, however attractive to the viewer, are of no utility to the plant itself. There is good evidence from their placement they aren't defensive against light. On my plants, I find the markings about equally intense on both faces of the leaves with Vriesea splendens, Nidularium fulgens, and some of the spotted Neoregelias; others, including Aechmea orlandiana, Vriesea glutinosa, have the more intense patterns on the lower faces. Neoregelias spectabilis and marmorata, and their hybrids, show the transverse banding only on the lower faces. The fine pencilings at the leaf-bases on various Guzmanias and certain Tillandsias cannot intercept any significant fraction of the light the plants receive.
Obviously the markings, if protective, with the open-rosette type of plant should be on the upper faces, faint on or absent from the lower; what we find is quite different. In any case both the green and dark areas bleach if the light is strong enough, so "protection" fails when most needed. In the course of evolution, all sorts of random mutations occur. For them to persist, it is not necessary that they be advantageous, it is sufficient if they aren't harmful. It's only the advantageous ones that appear purposeful.
There is no correlation between well-being of the plants and their attractiveness to the human viewer. It's the dying and dead foliage of deciduous trees that gives the beautiful display in autumn; cold-damaged leaves on evergreens may show similar colors. An article from New Zealand in the 1972 Journal referred admiringly to the form and partially-bleached colors of some bromeliads in bright light, apparently at the verge of burning. On the other hand the plants thriving in normal conditions appeal to others. — Liking for plants grown in strong light does not qualify as proof the strong light is essential for their existence.
The tolerance range is often quite wide for the various conditions affecting the growth of bromeliads, and by definition anything within the tolerance range meets the needs of the plants. Thus every one of the thousands of dark-marked bromeliads grown from offset to bloom to offset is a refutation of the present thesis. Optimum conditions for growth may be narrower, and are excellently defined by the environments in which the species grow in the wild. Here again the thesis fails: Dr. Lyman Smith tells of finding Vriesea hieroglyphica in a densely-shaded area; M. B. Foster states that this hypothesis does not agree with his observations; E. Wurthmann says he finds no connection between dark markings and light intensity in the collecting he has done.
There is no quarrel with the California author's observations. To his deductions, however, reason and the plants themselves say an emphatic No! If more light is needed, it's on the subject matter rather than on the plants.
—Winter Garden, Florida.
AIR LAYERING, POSTSCRIPT
In the Journal, #2 of 1973, Mr. Plever gives a method for inducing root formation close to the leaves on plants showing bare stems. This scheme is no doubt effective, but cures a situation that does not have to occur. If the plants mentioned, or any plants with exposed stem from loss of lower leaves, are simply repotted deeper as soon as the condition is apparent, they remain sightly and usually make new roots without ado. If in time the stem becomes too long for the pot the lower end may usually be cut off as roots are above. If, exceptionally, they aren't, simply bend the stem into a U to fit into the pot.
—Winter Garden, Florida.
JOHN A. STEPHENSThe writer's real awareness of bromeliads as distinct entities occurred in 1948 at McKee Jungle Gardens. There he discovered a strange plant growing on a moss-encrusted fallen log. A crispy tailored, compact rosette, about a foot in diameter, with leathery green leaves with bronze reverse, each tipped with red, clung to the prostrate log like some exotic bracket fungus. The cupped leaf bases held water for future use. The guide called it the "Painted Fingernail Plant." With this clue the writer traced it further to Neoregelia spectabilis. His collector's instinct for bromeliads in all shapes and forms was kindled and has remained undiminished.
McKee Jungle Gardens, open to the public year-round, are located near the Indian River just South of Vero Beach, Fla. on U. S. 1. Founded in 1931 by Arthur G. McKee, a Cleveland industrial engineer, and Waldo E. Sexton, a local citrus grower and hotelier, both deceased, the gardens embrace an irreplaceable, virgin tract of subtropical jungle 85 acres in extent. Dr. David C. Fairburn, Director of the Gardens since 1948, was recruited by Mr. McKee from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Along a maze of trails, all clearly marked, trees and plants collected from the worldwide tropics were planted in the midst of the native flora. Numerous South and Central American bromeliads were planted on the trees and in unique stump and log gardens, to augment the abundant presence of native Florida airplants.
In the spring the many color variants of the native Tillandsia fasciculata, ranging from pale lemon-green, through pink to heartiest red shades, provide splashes of color on the otherwise drab and leafless cypresses. This species grows lustily and almost exclusively on the native cypresses, forming huge clumps that produce as many as ten to twelve spikes of bloom simultaneously.
On the ground sprawling colonies of the introduced Hohenbergia stellata send up towering zigzag inflorescences of glowing red. Colonies of the light-green, amphora-shaped Aechmea bracteata provide sturdy branched spikes whose long, steaming bracts of pure red elevate this South American species to front rank as a garden subject in the subtropics.
Billbergia pyramidalis, clothing the bases and trunks of the native cabbage palms, sends up trusses of luminous light red in spring and fall. Everywhere in the gardens other Billbergias, finding conditions to their liking, have become naturalized and grow rampantly. Noted were B. nutans, B. saundersii, B. euphemiae, B. leptopoda, B. vittata, and B. horrida.
In the orchid greenhouses, where visitors are free to browse at the conclusion of the guided tour, Neoregelias, Billbergias and Vrieseas are freely used as a foil for the hundreds of blooming Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis.
|BROMEL-LA - Terrestrial Paradise|
|A bed of neoregelias at the Parrot Jungle|
|A bromeliad corner of the Burstrom swimming pool.|
|Neoregelias clambering over tree limb in Burstrom garden.|
Enthusiasm and ingenuity have produced an exceptional bromeliad display for Jean and Bob Burstrom in the lanai and swimming pool area of their home in Plantation, Florida.
In a planting—30 feet long and 3 feet wide adjoined by a lanai of 16 feet by 12 feet—over 50 different bromeliads in 7 genera are used with an effectiveness of display that is always pleasing. Large plants, such as Aechmea ornata var. nationalis, A. lueddemanniana 'Mend', a clump of A. orlandiana var. 'Ensign', Ananas comosus are used toward the back of the planter next to a screen wall which encloses the pool and patio. These bold, showy individuals are spaced at calculated intervals along the length of the pool and are elevated by placing the plant container on a short upright section of old railroad tie. The plant can be tilted slightly to face the pool by the use of a simple gimmick, that of setting the drainage hole of the pot over a nail in the wood block. This tends to create a terraced appearance in a relatively small area. The various larger plants could be considered as individual focal points and are treated as such by placing other large plants at a lower level but set next to the screen wall. Bromeliads with an upright, somewhat tubular growth habit, such as A. 'Burgundy,' A. chantinii, A. zebrina, and chantinii 'Pink Goddess' are used in this position.
At the corner against the wall separating the patio pool area from the lanai is a standing driftwood tree reaching to the screened roof. One of the branches near the top is covered with a clump of A. orlandiana var. 'Ensign' in the pink of perfection, producing an outstanding effect. At lower levels are specimens of Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor, also at their finest pink. Along the length of the branches are small tillandsias, such as A. bulbosa, T. caput-medusae, T. streptophylla, T. andreana var. funkiana, and a ball of T. ionantha. Vriesea 'Mariae' is situated in an intermediate position. At the base of the driftwood tree are small-to-medium sized plants in flower, which include Guzmania berteroniana, G. donnellsmithii, G. 'Vel-Jean,' and a striated form of G. lingulata 'Magnifica.'
The lanai is another jackpot of bromeliads and other tropical exotics, such as Anthurium andreanum and several varieties of spathiphyllums. Bromeliads encountered here are Aechmea ornata var. nationalis, Neoregelia carolinae var. Meyendorffii marginata, Vriesea species known as Nova, Vriesea fosteriana 'Red Chestnut,' and Nidularium 'Raru', a spectacular variegated hybrid which might be referred to as a purple form of N. innocentii var. lineatum. All the plants are situated on the outer perimeter against an old brick wall. Statuary is also effectively used. The floor is surfaced with pea gravel, and the ceiling is the same saran screening used over the pool. It is an ever-changing scene, as new plants in flower are constantly taking the place of older plants whose inflorescences have lost their color. You might refer to the patio and lanai as a mobile in slow motion.
It is in the lanai where the control for Bob's mist system is located. His own design and construction, this system provides automatic watering for all plants in the lanai and swimming pool patio area. Mist heads which produce a fine spray closely approximating a fog-like mist are located on stand pipes about 3½ feet high. These are used at approximately 6-foot intervals in the planter beds. The control for the watering system consists of a piece of sponge, 2 inches square and 1 inch thick, attached to a lever connected to a mercury switch, which actuates a solenoid gate valve. The principle is simple: as the sponge dries and becomes lighter in weight, the lever rises and trips the mercury switch. The mist spray fills the pad with moisture becoming heavier in weight and pulling the lever down—cutting the switch off. The water is from a municipal source; dissolved salts have not been a problem in 3½ years of use, as the supply contains very few salts. Since the control switch is located in a planted area, it reacts to the same humidity conditions affecting the plants.
Bob is an Eastern Airlines pilot, whose work demands frequent and extended absences from home, and this system has functioned with more fool-proof results than any other method I know of. It is even better than conditions in the native habitat, as there is never a drought. By keeping the leaf surfaces of the plants cooler through high humidification, it is possible to grow them in a very high light intensity, the result being superb coloration in the foliage.
As previously stated, enthusiasm and ingenuity certainly have paid off with results that can only be considered spectacular.
When living in a brown-stone front in Chicago became too monotonous for my sculptor-husband and me, we spent almost two years seeking a building site that would have a brook or trees or a view. Most brooks are dry ditches in the summer and the best of existing trees are scrub oak, so that left only a view. This, too, is hard to come by, since Illinois is notoriously flat. However, we did at last find a purchasable five-acre piece of land which projected like a nipple from an otherwise large, flat cornfield. Gully-ridden and washed free of topsoil it had not been tilled for several years, and the neighbors thought the city folks were having worthless land that wouldn't even grow weeds unloaded on them. The thing that charmed us was the view. From the top, the horizon was limitless in all directions, and one could see a dozen farm houses with their clustered out-buildings surrounded by lush green fields. Even before we began building a house we commenced planting. Grapevines for the day when we would have a wine-cellar and shrubs and trees by the thousands to hold the soil fill the gullys and eventually will cover the hillside with a thicket that will require cutting paths to make enjoying it possible. After a few years it had a brook, a waterfall, and a cluster of lily pools thanks to my husband's ingenuity, several pumps and a deep well. Although my husband, Alvin, is an architectural sculptor he has always enjoyed doing garden sculpture and before too long the philosopher's nook, the bend in the brook, the head of the swimming pool, the patio garden and other spots on the hillside boasted of their life-size terra cotta or bronze figures. The curving lane from the main road to the house was flanked by a rose covered fence on one side, a long sweep of yellow and pink and purple iris on the other. Forsythia, lilacs, mock-orange, spirea, weigelia, flowering almond, crabapples and many others made masses of color in spring and early summer. At the same time the ground glowed with naturalized crocuses, snow drops, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. Vegetable gardens were planted at both top and bottom of the hill. An herb garden with many varieties of thyme growing between the flagstones stretched down the hill from one side of the house and on the other was the patio garden with its central pool and bronze fountain surrounded by midwestern annuals to give color from spring to fall. Midwinter found the house closed and the garden blanketed with snow, but an indoor garden with its small fountain gave pleasure in late fall and early spring when it was too cold to enjoy gardening out-of-doors.
We had a house at Fort Myers Beach in southern Florida for a good many years which was used annually in the winter. When it seemed desirable to leave the Chicago area permanently, it was in this region that for a second time we looked for an interesting setting for fountain figures. Since there are no brooks and no hillsides in Florida this left only trees plus the possibility of finding a pond, or digging one. Fate was good to us and made available at just the time we wanted it an amazing four-acre garden. It was originally planted 40 or more years ago with what are now 100 foot Washingtonian palms, enormous clumps of Phoenix reclinata, banyans, live oak and other stately trees. A good many years after the original planting it was decided to try to make it a garden to be filled with unusual tropical and subtropical trees, shrubs and plants that could be opened to the public and made a source of income. Unfortunately a hurricane, a rare devastating freeze and other vicissitudes made the venture impractical and it was decided to sell it. We acquired it as a place already established and quite the opposite of the bleak Illinois hillside. Much of the earlier planting survived, and we have added greatly to it so that now we have multiple small gardens within the overall design and have placed nine bronze or terra cotta figures, five of which have associated pools. Our house sits on a mass of rock between two artificially produced ponds, and facing it, made from some of the excavated rocks, is a splashing waterfall, water provided by a circulating pump.
Learning about subtropical horticulture has been a fascinating process. In southern Florida one can grow out of doors what in Illinois is seen only in greenhouses. One of the greatest joys has been our introduction to bromeliads. Realizing that mosquitoes are a real menace and that the enjoyment of the out-of-doors is from behind screens we designed the house so that outdoors and indoors flow together. Most of the floors are an earth-color quarry tile and soft deep blue ceramic tiles cover the top of shelves and cupboards located below all windows except those that reach to the floor. This makes it possible to have plants everywhere on floor and before windows without fear of spilling water and ruining polished surfaces.
The two special features of the house are the atrium and the swimming pool. The atrium is 18 feet square and the walls on 3 sides have 12-foot, 3 sectioned sliding glass doors which open into dining room, Florida room and bedroom and which it is possible to have open most of the year. The south side and the roof consist only of screen, the floor is river gravel on hard earth and in the center is a small pool with a life-sized terra cotta figure. Cement blocks stacked at various heights in the corners make it possible to elevate still higher the tallest plants and show them off to better advantage. The eaves extend three feet from the wall and provide a place from which hanging baskets can be suspended and which provide protection for those plants wanting less than the usual amount of summer rain.
The swimming pool is an intimate part of the house, three feet lower than the main floor level. Sliding glass doors look down from Florida room onto the swimming pool and surrounding living area. Most of three sides are open with roof held up by columns topped with handpainted glazed tiles illustrating nursery rhymes.
We feel extremely fortunate to have such a perfect setting for bromeliads. The humidity is almost constantly high, the temperature seldom reaches freezing out of doors, and never in atrium or around the swimming pool, and rainfall is easily supplemented in the winter. Eight varieties of tillandsias grow out of doors on branches of live oak and button wood trees and on trunks of palms. So many grow naturally that we have not planted others except for beds of dyckias, hechtias, and bromelias, a large massing of B. pyramidalis in the rocks on the back of the waterfall, A. 'Foster's Favorite' and various neoregelias on large pieces of heavy driftwood and a scattering of A. bracteata, Billbergia horrida and B. pyramidalis var. striata.
Indoors we currently have several hundred plants of about 150 varieties. Our Florida house is only five years old and our awareness of bromeliads less than that so that we still struggle trying to grow a few varieties, particularly the vriesias and guzmanias, and even a few cryptanthus, especially 'It'.
We are fortunate in having two nurseries in Fort Myers producing only bromeliads, and they grow successfully many beautiful varieties. We have been happy with the large number we have obtained by mail from all parts of the country. We have tried especially to acquire those with interesting foliage—white edges or red coloring, spots, stripes, bands or irregular mottling—or unusual size or shape. There is a wealth of variation and we enjoy them all. We are particularly pleased to be able to have them spread out indoors where we can make every individual plant a friend.
|Tillandsia 'Victoria' — cross by Mulford B. Foster|
|Neoregelia 'Grande' from Fantastic Gardens|