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Aechmea fasicata

Aechmea fasicata

PEOPLE AROUND HERE ARE CONTINUALLY PUSHING THE ZONE LIMITS OF PLANTS. It must be a secret wish of gardeners here to have California type warmth without having to actually live there. We read about our temperate northwest climate being similar to the Mediterranean with dry summers and cool winters. There are plenty of micro-climates west of the Cascade range that convince us we can grow tropical plants, cacti, and other hot weather lovers. The problem is that in addition to cool, we have plenty of wet, which many of those coveted plants don’t like. I am part of the club.

I have had the plant pictured above (and below) for about 15 years. It goes outside in May and comes in, in November. It has been sending out an infloresence every year for the past ten. It spends the winter in our unheated bedroom under an open window and seems to thrive.

Aechmea fasciata_2

I think this belongs in the cereus family.

I think this belongs in the cereus family.

This cactus started from a piece broken off of a multi-armed one that I have had for about 35 years (only the last ten in the coldframe). This start has spent the past two winters outside in a sheltered spot on our deck and has grown more than eight inches since I poked the piece in a pot two years ago; I didn’t expect it to survive.

PricklyPear_closeup PricklyPeargardenAbout a half mile from my house is this splendid opuntia/prickly pear specimen.

There are a number of people nearby who grow some pretty exotic tropicals: bananas (the Japanese musa varieties) bundled up for the winter with insulation; tender cotyledons, aloes, echeverias, and agaves covered with upside down aquariums and glass globes.

This agave in a nearby garden, stays comfy in an upside down aqaurium over the winter

This agave in a nearby garden stays comfy in an upside down aqaurium over the winter

I flirt with disaster every winter by putting cactus, echeverias and other tender succulents in an unheated cold frame.

My 15 year old coldframe

My 15 year old coldframe

The tender collection

The tender collection (that cactus in the upper right corner is the parent of the cereus photo above)

Around mid-November I add the insulation with the hope of keeping my tender plants from freezing. I think our coldest overnight temperature so far this winter was about 22°-23°. So far, so good.

What kind of irrational plant collecting are you involved with?

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