bromeliads for hanging planters? (yes!)

A lot of my bromeliads swing from on high now.

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And it all started with an act of generosity back in January of 2014.
A gift from Reuben, after our joint flea market venture.
(It’d be fun to plan another flea market escapade for winter, or maybe a pop-up shop. But these are plans for cooler weather.)

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At first a single bromeliad, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ made its home here.
(Nice to see that yucca and coronilla again, both plants that have moved on, leaving behind progeny that pop up from time to time.)

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I bet you know where this is going. When have I ever left well enough alone, or been a one-bromeliad-per-sphere person, so to speak?
By April 2014 there were two.

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By June of 2015, there was lots of company.

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It’s actually been thinned out a little since 2015. Some of the bromeliads grow too large and get moved out into pots.

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There are terrestrial, ground-dwelling bromeliads, which can get enormous like the alcantareas, and epiphytic, tree-dwelling bromeliads.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that first aechmea was a good choice, being an epiphytic bromeliad, with roots adapted to clinging to trees.

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Now you know as much as I do about these plants with the fabulously plasticine, kaleidoscopic leaves and flowers as colorful as tropical birds.
Like succulents, these are forgiving plants that don’t punish ignorance.
A more organic approach than my sphere is an option, as seen in this example in the cloud forest section of the Huntington Botanical Garden’s conservatory.
Bromeliads are mossed and fixed to the branch by florist wire or fishing line (further instructions here).

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There are thousands of species of bromeliads, pretty much all of them native to Central and South America (the neotropic ecozone.)
Some of the more familiar are the ones we make upside-down cakes with (pineapples) and the wildly popular air plants/tillandsias.

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Some enthrallingly kinetic examples of tillandsias from local nurseries and plant shows.

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Rest assured, there are great minds out there applying themselves to devising methods for displaying tillandsias.
Above is the Airplantman Josh Rosen’s Airplant Frame seen at Big Red Sun in Venice.
Seth Boor in collaboration with Flora Grubb designed the Thigmotrope Satellite.

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Another hanging arrangement with tillandsias from my garden. I incorporated most of these into the sphere.

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The takeaway here is, this growing arrangement has legs. The plants thrive on very little input from me.
For truth be told, for all my enthusiasm, I am not the most technically gifted plant caretaker.
Requiring little soil, mostly just moss, tolerant of dryish conditions, appreciating a refreshing spritz with the hose once a week. And that’s it.

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In fact, the care for shade-tolerant succulents and bromeliads is so similar that I combine them in shallow planters.

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As rain forest understory plants that can absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves, I’ve always assumed, for Los Angeles, shade is the safest best.
But some bromeliads can tolerate a surprising amount of sunlight, as long as it’s not strong afternoon sunshine. I’m trying out a few under an acacia tree with grasses.
The best leaf color is obtained by exposure to as much sun as can be tolerated without leaf burn.
There are surer ways of sorting out light requirements for the different species, of course, like consulting a reference book.
Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden,” which I haven’t read, looks promising.

Nice-sized specimens, however, do not come cheap. I like looking for deals on small pups at bromeliad shows, like the upcoming show August 6th & 7th at Rain Forest Flora in Torrance.

You don’t happen to have a sphere lying around? What the heck, it’s mid summer. Go ahead and treat yourself. Salvage yards are full of interesting possibilities.
And Terrain offers a very similar Hanging Planter here.
Potted’s Hedge Hanging Planter would work just as well.
Or get to work with a branch and some fishing line.
I’ve got an empty hayrack that I’d love to see overflowing with bromeliads.
More images of bromeliads from AGO can be found here.

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a gift from Rancho Reubidoux

My flea market buddy, Reuben, stopped by recently to pick up some odds and ends left over from the flea, but very, very kindly left behind a few of them, including this wrought iron orb that I was particularly smitten with, which now hangs on a short chain under the pergola. The bromeliad perched on prongs welded to the base at the center is Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ its roots mossed up in soil and tied with string. The orb is just as stunning left empty, lit with a candle, filled with tillandsias, draped in Spanish moss, etc., etc. It is so typical of Reuben’s restless, playful creativity to source objects that can take on a number of guises and functions.


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(Thank you again for your big-hearted generosity, Reuben.)

cage light vase

If you happen to have a marine cage light in the garage, and some lengths of chain in your garden shed, all of which came to light after a thorough cleaning and organizing marathon today, you can take a short break from all that tedium to make this. Marty wrapped some twine around the rim of the cage and hooked the chain under the twine. Done in about 15 minutes. Some pliers to open and close links on the chain were the only tool required.


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Lots of these caged lights have colored shades, so we were in luck that this shade is clear glass.
Cleaning out the garage is always equal parts delight and exasperation with all the stuff we’ve rat-holed away over the years.
Actually using some of the forgotten stuff we’ve stored feels like vindication, a kind of triumph. Triumph of the Pack Rats.

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Eryngium pandanifolium, almost to the top of the pergola, is just behind the vase, which is filled with a single bloom of Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons.’ I pulled out some annual coreopsis and tucked in a couple of this gaillardia, which like my dryish summer garden just fine and will bloom with astonishing exuberance into fall. That’s also a bromeliad hanging in the background, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold’. This is definitely the summer of the hanging garden.

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The vase is hanging outdoors for now, from a hook on the pergola, but there’s no reason it couldn’t hang indoors too.


The Angelic Ones

I’m so glad I planted this Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’ (from Annie’s Annuals, of course) in a pot rather than dooming another angelica by trialing it in the garden.

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I’m not completely convinced the problem was soil (amended clay) but more of finding the right exposure; a good dose of morning sun and then partial shade the rest of the day, which is the exposure this pot is providing. Angelica pachycarpa for full to partial shade loves my garden, even to the point of reseeding, and the traditional Angelica archangelica also grows well here in shade, but the alluring A. gigas has been problematic. I had the good fortune to see this planted at Hinkley’s Heronswood, underplanted with electric creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia. What a buzz when A. gigas first started making the nursery rounds!

Having this angelica up close in a pot is making all the difference — in my viewing pleasure and in its survival. Doesn’t even matter if it blooms (but it’d be nice). I slipped in a bromeliad bought at the Huntington Botanic Garden’s plant sale May 16, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ the slim golden leaves on the left. Variegated bigeneric fatshedera is in the center (edited to add photo 5/18/10).

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The dark red ‘Festival’ grass, actually a cordyline, was also melting away in the garden, and I’ve noticed it doing the same disappearing act about town. I tucked in a dying, tiny, two-leaved remnant in the pot and forgot about it, which was of course its cue to flourish. I like it much better gracefully mingling in a pot rather than the splayed-out, dejected clump it makes in the garden. This summer many of my pots are filled with such garden refugees rather than summer annual displays.