Friday, August 12, 2011

Tropical splendor on steroids


Just yesterday I rode by TV and movie producer Tyler Perry's house (probably not the right word for his humongous dwelling overlooking the Chattahoochee River).  All along the road were the same huge plants you see in this photograph.  Fitting, I guess, for such a grand entrance.

The adorable child above belongs to an Atlanta attorney who turns his yard into a tropical paradise every summer.  He has all sorts of palm trees (some of which he wraps and mulches in winter), banana plants, gingers and many types of elephant's ears.  He lives on a regular street, so when you are driving along and seeing yards with azaleas and box hollies, you do a double take when you get to his house.  It's amazing.

August is when this elephant's ear, Colocasia 'Thailand Giant', starts to reach its peak.  It grows to nine feet tall, and the leaves are a good five feet long and four feet wide.  It's not hardy in the temperate U.S., so it's a one season deal.  I called my friend at Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens in Lawrenceville, Ga., (they specialize in tropicals) to ask when you would put this plant in the ground so it could reach its maximum size.  Without hesitation, he said April 20 for the Atlanta area.  Up north, though, you'd have to wait until after your normal last freeze date.  I do know someone near Philadelphia who grows 'Thailand Giant' every year, so it can reach its potential in colder climates.

A few years ago, I wrote a column about the aforementioned Atlanta attorney.  I was curious as to why someone would go to all the trouble to dig up elephant ears and wrap palms and banana trees.  His answer:  “Tropical plants remind me of good times, of warm breezes and vacations.  I can look out of my window, and I’m transplanted to a different place.  I’ll spend five days in my office negotiating deals, and on the weekend, I can feel like I’m in Miami.”