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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the Climbing Onion, Bowiea volubilis

It must be pretty obvious by now that I’m refusing to look at the big, end-of-summer picture. So I’m offering another micro plant portrait, the South African Climbing Onion. Logee’s calls Bowiea volubilis “an old favorite.” If so, this old favorite seems to have fallen out of favor and tumbled back into obscurity. The first time I clapped eyes on it was this year’s Venice Home & Garden Tour 2013, and neither I nor the garden owner had a clue to its identity. The climbing onion I saw in the Venice garden was grown as a hanging plant, a mysterious cascade of bright green, filigreed leaves spiraling out of its pot. Lush, ferny and utterly drought tolerant. I grabbed the owner’s elbow and inquired after its identity. He led me to another one, planted in the ground.

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And there it was, improbably geysering up a tomato cage. The garden owner found a small bulb near this plant and gave it to me. (Again, thank you!) That little bulb has yet to sprout.
A winter-growing houseplant in colder zones, the Venice climbing onions I saw in May were obviously thriving outdoors through a zone 10 winter and early spring.

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Dustin Gimbel, with his Sherlockian knowledge of plants, is the one who identified this mystery as the climbing onion, and then later found a couple enormous bulbs which he left on my porch. There didn’t seem to be much shaking with the climbing onion for the longest time after I repotted it, and I stopped checking it daily. All I had to remember it by was the tomato cage photo. Maybe it wasn’t so special after all. Meanwhile, the climbing onion got busy.

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The climbing onion was waiting for the end of summer to resume growth. When I next took notice, it was putting on quite the performance.

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I’d always intended to grow it as a hanging plant, but now I’m not sure if I want to interrupt this dialogue its having with the rusty table.
If anyone would like to try the little bulb that was gifted to me, I’d be happy to send it on. A time-lapse video and more cultural information can be found here.


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.