Bromeliads like this Vriesea gigantea are wintering outdoors in this frostless garden. Maybe this bizarro winter I should knock wood and say this historically frostless garden.
This fast-growing vriesea from southeastern Brazil is temporarily kept in a small pot to tuck into larger pots, but its future massive size will require other arrangements. Bromeliads are relatively new to me. Some are grown more for their fantastic plasticine foliage, others for an incredible inflorescence in shapes and colors that bring to mind the plumage of tropical birds. I currently have maybe five, chosen more for foliage, always trying to find them in small sizes since they fetch exorbitant prices when large. They are much more “other” to me than succulents, utterly strange and mysterious, but apart from requiring shade are just as easy on the maintenance schedule, and just as dangerously collectible.
Most bromeliads are epiphytic, and soil is really only necessary for stabilizing the plant. Soggy roots are to be avoided. The central cup of leaves is kept filled with fresh water. Incredibly easy glamour. The soft light of winter is rarely too harsh for these shade lovers, and I can play with them quite a bit, planting them in the ground among grasses, full sun/overcast skies, for several months, then repotting them again as spring nears. I carelessly left a neoregelia and aechmea in the ground during the rainy month of December, a cavalier attitude that could have had disastrous consequences, but they’re fine.
On a reasonably warm February day in the 70’s, setting this vriesea into the larger container with aeoniums and coprosma conjures an instant scene from summer. Those old cordyline leaves don’t look very summery, but the bromeliad does enjoy the increased humidity from the surrounding plants. One look at my hands would tell you how dry it’s been.