Tantalizing TriColor Sunset Supernova – Stictocardia beraviensis

Stictocardia beraviensis floral detail

|Stictocardia beraviensis floral flares|

Outside it’s hot, hazy, and humid.  My daily diorama is complete with blue skies and fluffy thunderhead tufts playing hide and seek behind the San Gabriel Mountains. Yep, summer in L.A. is in full swing!  The Plant Provocateur Botanical Garden is killing it right now with crazy cool flowers and fragrances.  One such standout is the Stictocardia beraviensis vine that is kickin’ out some tantalizing tricolor sunset supernovas.  Check it!

Stictocardia beraviensis bud + flower + detail

|Stictocardia beraviensis bud + flower + detail|

Isn’t the color ridiculous!?  So vibrant, so rich.  Très tropical!  Stictocardia beraviensis is commonly referred to as the Hawaiian Sunset Vine or Braveheart Vine. It is related to the Morning Glory vine.  Although there’s mention of Hawaiian in its common name, this vine comes to us from tropical Africa and Asia.  It’s a lightning fast growing/twiner that can cover a fence or wall in no time.

Stictocardia beraviensis tendril + texture

|Stictocardia beraviensis tendril + texture|

Stictocardia beraviensis can grow in sun or shade.  It outfits itself in gorgeous, luxuriously pleated, heart-shaped leaves.  Leaves in the shade can grow up to 1 foot wide giving off some serious tropical realness.  In the sun, leaves grow up to 1/2 that size but still cover their vines in a tropical tapestry of verdant voluptuousness.  Vines can grow 10 to 12 feet long.  From spring to fall, it produces dramatically dreamy, 2 to 3 inch wide, cup-shaped flowers that will remind you of the most beautiful hawaiian sunset.  Their ultra-vivid color will carry your senses away to a tropical island complete with tropical breezes, beaches of white sugar sand, azure ocean, and tall tiki glasses spilling over with Mai Tais.  Who’s with me?!

Stictocardia beraviensis bud + flower + foliage

|Stictocardia beraviensis bud + flower + foliage|

In warmer climates, this evergreen vine will even bloom in December and January.  It prefers to grow in well-draining soil, receive regular water, and is hardy down to around 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 degrees celsius.  I find mine defoliates a bit when the temps drop below 40 degrees fahrenheit/4.5 degrees celsius but springs right back with a vengeance when the temps heat back up.  Also, big bonus for container gardeners, it does great in containers.  Wanna create a cool tropical vibe on your balcony?   Try growing this in a container and let it wrap its way around your railings or some trellis action.  In no time, you can have a tropical backdrop for the perfect ‘stay-cation’!

So, if you’re an exotic plant nut like I am, search the internet, look high and low for this super cool, super sexy vine.  It’s totally worth it!  Maybe one day, The Plant Provocateur might be able to offer some up.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Habitat, Inspiration, Plants, Style

Whiplash White Burns With A Heavenly Hotness – Michauxia campanuloides

Michauxia campanuloides floral profile

|Michauxia campanuloides in fantastical flower|

Our story begins a few years ago when I spied a mysterious beauty in the pages of a catalog.  Now, understand, the purpose of this catalog was to seduce the reader with tales and promise of unfathomable beauty and what I’d call ‘exotitude’…exotic attitude.  The pictures contained within this catalog succeeded in inebriating me with a plant lust so powerful and possessive that I had no defense when it came to resisting its charm!  And now, I can confess to the world that, although I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of white flowers, I have now eaten those words and savored their exhilarating taste.  The overpowering, seductively alluring flowers of Michauxia campanuloides have made me a true believer in the powerful beauty of white flowers.

Michauxia campanuloides bud + bloom

|Michauxia campanuloides bud + bloom|

Michauxia campanuloides  also commonly called Michaux’s Bellflower or Rough-Leaved Michauxia is a short lived perennial or biennial in the Campanulaceae family that comes to us from the Israel, Lebanon, and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean.

Michauxia campanuloides foliage + form

|Michauxia campanuloides foliage + form|

Michauxia campanuloides can grow to be up to 6 feet tall with wide spreading stems up to 3 feet if not supported.  Supported, it takes on a tall, narrow, upright profile.  It starts off with a compact basal clump of bristly leaves that produce stout stems that telescope upward to form arching canes jeweled with solitary, nodding white flower buds reminiscent of white pastry bags filled with fondant.  When the buds open in late spring and summer they reveal an elaborate array of arresting flower form… a crown-like calyx, curly semi-corkscrewed petals, and a crazy octopus-like stigma. It’s almost a visual overload.  Provocative indeed!  Also, a stunning candidate for those who dig cut flowers.

Michauxia campanuloides floral detail

|Michauxia campanuloides floral detail|

If the fascinating flower form weren’t enough, Michauxia campanuloides flowers exude a deliciously dreamy fragrance of delicate hyacinth!  Now that’s pure heaven in my book.   This biennial plant is fairly easy to grow.  It likes full sun to part-shade conditions, well-drained soil, regular to low water, and is hardy down to around 0 degrees fahrenheit/-17 degrees celsius.  This is one floral fantasy that must be experienced to be believed.  Once you witness it’s beauty, I’m positive it too will become one of the top flowers on your list.  Find it! Grow it!  Soon you won’t have to look that far…stay tuned…

Posted in Habitat, Inspiration, Plants, Style

The Plant Provocateur LIVE At The Huntington Botanical Gardens Thurs. June 12th, 2014


|Atlantis Succulent Container|

This just in…Whatcha’ doin’ next Thursday?  Will you be in the SoCal area? Pasadena?  San Marino?  If so, check this out.  The Plant Provocateur will be live and in concert, so-to-speak, next Thursday, June 12th, giving a talk and demonstration about designing deliciously dynamic container gardens at The Huntington Botanical Gardens as part of their 2nd Thursday Garden Talk and Sale series!  Click here for more info.  I’m super excited to be a featured speaker at The Huntington Botanical Gardens.  The event is free and oh yeah, what’s a Plant Provocateur event without a few surprises?!  Come on down and find out.  So come one, come all, feast your eyes and be tantalized by new ideas for super stylish container gardens!

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens are located at: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108.  The garden talk and sale is taking place in the Ahmanson Room, Brody Botanical Center.  Start time is 2:30pm.  No reservations required.  Contact number for the event is 626-405-2100.  If you’ve never been to The Huntington you should definitely make a day of it.  There is so much to see and do!

Posted in Inspiration, Plants, Style

The Sugary Gloss of Persian Mimosa Floss – Albizia julibrissin

Albizia julibrissin filaments

|Albizia julibrissin filaments|

My last post created a bit of controversy!  I featured a plant called Tamarix ramosissima.  I got quite a few comments about how some people see it as nasty weed.  One thing you should know dear reader, is that one person’s weed is another person’s wonder.  When it comes to my love of plants, I often fall into the later category.  Plant life is my drug, my addiction.  As a result, much of my taste, when it comes to plants, is on the provocative side.  Sometimes beauty isn’t always pretty or well behaved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be fascinated by what it displays. Such is the case of this post.  First, I want to kick things off with the above image. What you are experiencing above is a visual explosion of silky stamens from the flowers of Albizia julibrissin also known as Mimosa, Silk-Tree, or Persian Silk Tree.

Albizia julibrissin foliage

|Albizia julibrissin foliage|

Here we have another case of one person’s weed and another person’s wonder. Albizia julibrisson is native to Persia and Asia.  It is a deciduous tree known for its lushly tropical, fashionably fern-like, bipinnate foliage and its ethereal eruption of diaphanously delicate floss-like flowers, which burst forth in late spring from clustering constellations of delicate buds.  One cool feature to note is that this tree folds it foliage closed at night or during long periods of rain.  It’s a tree of many moods…I love that concept!

Albizia julibrissin buds

|Albizia julibrissin buds|

I recently came across one of these trees in my neighborhood while walking Lulu.


|Lulu Chillin’ After Our Walk|

Ironically, it wasn’t the display of candy floss flowers that immediately caught my attention.  It was the fragrance in the air that wrapped around me and lifted my senses upward.  You see the flowers have a very delicate, soft gardenia/jasmine like fragrance.  When they are blooming en masse the scent is absolutely captivating! Makes you feel like you’re in mysterious locale a million miles away that smells exotically sensual; beckoning you to lose yourself in paradise.

Albizia julibrissin form + bud + flower

|Albizia julibrissin form + bud + flower|

Albizia julibrissin can grow up to 40 feet tall, with a broad fleecy canopy reminiscent of the iconic trees one can see growing in the Serengeti.  This deciduous tree likes full sun or part shade conditions, summer heat, regular water, well-draining soil, and is hardy down to around 10 degrees fahrenheit/-12 degrees celsius.

Now, Albizia julibrissin can be weedy in some areas.  After flowering, it produces flattened bean-like pods filled with seeds.  If the conditions are favorable you can expect a lot of seedlings from fallen seed.  However, in a place like Los Angeles, this tree seems to be kept in check.  Discovering this tree the other day on my walk through the cityscape of Silver Lake was like stumbling into an oasis in paradise. Weed or wonder, the beautiful benefits of this tree are certainly worth experiencing.





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Posted in Habitat, Plants, Style

The Pink Opaque Of Beauty And The Beast – Tamarix ramosissima

Tamarix ramosissima in bud

|Tamarix ramosissima in bud|

Do you ever let your mind wonder?  If you don’t, you should try it.  I find when I do… sometimes I discover the most amazing things.  Here is one such case.  In Los Angeles it is rare to have cloudy day, but when we have one and the clouds are big and fluffy, it puts me in a daydreamy mood.  On a recent cloudy day I was driving along, head in the clouds so-to-speak, when my attention was captured by a tree reaching skyward looking like a big ol’ carnival serving of pink cotton candy.  It was a tree I had never seen before.  Excitedly, I parked my car and ran over to investigate. What I discovered was indeed something brand new to me!  I love those moments. The tree I was discovering for the first time is called Tamarix ramosissima commonly referred to as Tamarisk or Salt Cedar.  It was covered in delicate plumes of rosy pink buds and flowers that seemed to have the bees going wild and my senses stimulated!

Tamarix ramosissima floral detail

|Tamarix ramosissima in bloom|

Tamarix ramosissima is considered a deciduous shrub or small tree.  It comes to us from Europe, Africa, and Asia where it is usually found thriving in dry desert or seaside conditions.  It can grow to 15 feet tall and wide or sometimes larger.  What makes this shrub/tree so distinctive is its foliage.  It’s very conifer and scale-like. Reminds me of a juniper bush.

Tamarix ramosissima flower + foliage + form

|Tamarix ramosissima flower + foliage + form|

In spring, at least here in L.A., it produces a bounty of buds that bloom and transform the shrub/tree into a dreamy ‘draizy’ cloud of pink cotton candy. Flowering is known to occur from spring through summer.  So that’s the beauty part.  The beast part is that this plant is highly invasive in certain situations.  Tamarix ramosissima is resistant to salt, arid conditions, wind, and thrives in poor soils. When planted near waterways it can take over by reseeding and suckering up a storm.

On the plus side, this shrub/tree is tough!  It can be kept as a stunning specimen as long as it is pruned regularly, after flowering or before new spring growth emerges, and given some watchful maintenance.  It is great for desert gardens and can handle salty seaside conditions.  Makes a great windbreak.  It just needs full sun, well-draining soil, little to regular water, and is hardy down to -40 degrees fahrenheit and celsius!  Tough as nails and as beautiful as spun sugar.


Posted in Habitat, Plants, Style