Thursday, January 22, 2009

Desert Island Plant Challenge

Shirl's Gardenwatch is hosting a garden blogger's meme at her blog challenging gardeners to pick just three plants that they would have to have if stranded on a desert island. That is a tough challenge for plant nerds.

I may have a slight advantage though. I have lived on a desert island. I wasn't tossed over board and forced to swim through shark infested waters like the lepers dumped on Kalawao and Ka lau Papa at least. I lived on a desert island by choice.

A little water in the desert does wonders. Besides, we were told to ignore growing condition issues for the three plants we had to have. If we chose it, it will grow.

Etlingera elatior or Torch Ginger is one plant I would want to have. This tropical ginger relative has bamboo like canes that can reach fifteen feet high.

The flowers have to be one of the most exotic in all of the plant kingdom. The individual blooms rise alone on a leafless stalk from the thick underground rhizomes and can reach up to four feet in height.

They make great cut flowers that can last for weeks. I loved to give them to friends on birthdays and anniversaries. The long stalk was cut to a nice hand held length. The round club like flower head was reminiscent of a royal scepter. The recipient was granted the right to be king or queen for the day. Torch Ginger was fun.

My second plant choice is Trachelospermum jasminoides. In the south where I grew up this was called Confederate Jasmine. This substantial evergreen vine with glossy dark green, simple leaves would be perfect for training over an arbor to make a nice place to get out of the hot tropical sun.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In the spring it covers itself in clusters of small, star shaped flowers with a wonderful jasmine scent to fill the warm evening air. Chuck's Hardenbergia violacea might make a great vine choice too. If only I had known about it sooner.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

You gotta have a good tree on a desert island and there is a tree that will live in my heart forever. The fully double flower form of Cochlospermum vitifolia. Native to dry tropical forests, the smooth grey trunk takes on a swollen Baobab type of look.

In mid winter after the leaves have been shed, (Yes there are deciduous tropical trees.) the Buttercup Tree will produce thousands of huge bright yellow blooms that will carpet the ground beneath it. This is another flower that will last for days without even being in water, just sitting on table tops or placed in shallow bowls.

My beautiful Buttercup Tree did have a bit of a troubled life. It got bigger than what was good for it by the powers that be. I wonder if it is still there? The world that swirled beneath it never distracted from its beauty though and I made sure some of its progeny were safely planted in new locations.

Hi Darkie.

That's my trio of plant choices for life on a tropical desert isle.

Thanks Shirl. It was nice to go back for a brief visit while I wait for the shower drain to thaw so I can have a warm shower.


tina said...

A definite advantage having lived on an island. You know so much as those plant choices are quite lovely and must be very special to you. That buttercup tree is my favorite but the lizard on the bloom is pretty awesome too:)

jodi said...

Oh, wow, these are totally, completely awesome choices. Now I want to move to YOUR desert Island. I can't decide which of these is my favourite, so I guess I'll have to make a trip there one day to compare and contrast.

lola said...

I've heard about the flowers in Hawaii & wondered if they were as beautiful as I've heard. From your lovely pics I see that It's true.
No wonder you choose to live in Paradise.

chuck b. said...

Alas, the Hardenbergia vine is scentless, so maybe stick with the Trachelospermum jasminoides? Although I wonder why absolutely everyone who garden blogs seems to prefer Confederate Jasmine to the real thing, Jasminum polyanthum. To me, the real thing is so much better; there is no comparison.

We'll be in Maui in 6 weeks. I can't wait!

EAL said...

I think I have that jasmine--it overwinters nicely and "covers itself" is exactly the right phrase.

I did a post on 3 plants too--not this exact meme--and almost included colocasia limeaid. I remember you saying colocasia was a weed in Hawaii.

shirl said...

Hi there Christopher, wow :-D

I adore your plant choices! Yes perhaps you have had a slight advantage… but we are the lucky ones now :-)

Excellent choices! That torch ginger … that’s the kind of flower I was looking for! What a beauty. Ah… the jasmine a favourite of mine too. Oh… I have never heard of your Buttercup tree, what beautiful flowers but it’s the trunk that caught my eye! I love trees too but my fav has to be the torch ginger although I’ll miss out on the lizard please ;-)

Frances said...

Oh Christopher, I had given up when there was no post when I went to bed last night, but should have known your posting hours by now! :-) The photo of the blue waters with the rock transports me, and a hello to Darkie, (and Grayman) from me too. The buttercup tree sounds perfect for warm sunny breezes with its offer of shade, along with the scented arbor. How fun to be queen with the ginger, proclamations galore!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Somehow winter and tropical desert island just doesn't seem right together in a sentence unless that is your destination. It seems to me that tdi are all one season, hot.

This has been an eyeopener for me. I am not a bit familiar with tropical plants other that the ones you can pick up at florists or see at botanic gardens.

I can just see how happy your friends were with those big pink blooms presented on their special occasions.

The tree with silver bark is really special too.

Those big yellow blooms are nice. A flower that can last out of water for some time is a treasure.

I hope all has thawed and your are warmed up by a nice hot shower.

Christopher C. NC said...

Tina I loved my day glow geckos.

Jodi, Hawaii is worth the visit.

Lola if you would like a tour of tropical flowers click on the Tropical Embellishment link on the side column.

Chuck I quess we go with what we know. I never really saw the Jasminum polyanthum in the trade.

Elizabeth a lot of things are weeds in Hawaii that folks grow on the mainland, like Castor Bean. I don't think I'll ever be able to see that any other way.

Shirl it looks like you got a good response. Thanks for doing it.

Frances, I am a late night poster for sure. I think I am more creative and alert later in the day. Not a morning person.

Lisa, it is true. There is a winter on the tropical desert isle. A subtle one, but that is when we got our rain, a lot like the west coast.

Annie in Austin said...

The torch ginger is interesting, Christopher but the other two are just plain beautiful.

I'm not too sure Chuck's Jasminum polyanthum would be hardy in my part of Austin, but Confederate jasmine does great here - I've planted 3 of these vines.At the nurseries the tags usually call it "Star Jasmine".

Oh, how nice to see the Buttercup tree again! You talked about it so often and took photos of it in all its stages and taught us to love it.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Jan said...

The torch ginger is spectacular, and one that would be perfect on a desert island. The Buttercup Tree is new to me, but it is lovely. Good choices.

Always Growing

Zach said...

Good plant choices!
I came across you older blog - Tropical Embellishments - and wanted to know if you could suggest a specific botanical garden for me to visit while in Hawaii for vacation. I will be on Maui, Hawaii island and Oahu. Thanks for your help!

Christopher C. NC said...

Annie I may need to find a Buttercup Tree like tree for NC if I can. Nothing comes to mind right away though.

Jan the Torch Ginger was one of my favorites. Sexy Pink Heliconia was way cool too.

Hi Zach This UH site has a full list of all the Gardens in Hawaii listed by island.

On Maui try the D. T. Fleming Arboretum, Kahanu Gardens and the Wailea Point Seawalk if you are interested in dryland natives.

On Oahu try Foster Botanical garden, Lyon Arboretum and Waimea Valley.

On the Big Island, I have been to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. It was small but very nice. You'll have to explore there and blog it.

Siria said...

Hi Christopher!
I love all your plant selections! That torch ginger is awesome...I wonder if it would grow for me here in South Florida? We have some trees here that remind me of the buttercup tree. I will have to research to see if there is any relation there. Thanks for the great photos!

lisa said...

At the risk of being completely redundant, I just can't get enough of your skyward photography!