Knocking This Polar Vortex Off-balance | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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Knocking This Polar Vortex Off-balance

1/28/2014

Our family just got back from a week and a half vacation down south. We drove from Maine to Raleigh and then on to Atlanta. Our kids were performing in the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta with a troupe from Boothbay. If you ever get a chance to see a Junior Theater Festival, by all means, go! I don’t know what it is about music theater but it really makes me emotional. Add to that young kids showing the same passion as Broadway stars and I really left the festival feeling ecstatic yet emotionally spent.

From Atlanta, we drove with all 4 of our kids down to Walt Disney World near Orlando. Carrie and I wanted to celebrate the fact that we met at Disney 20 years ago as horticultural interns. We also thought that this would be the perfect age for our kids to experience Disney. It was also a great escape from the polar vortex that has plagued most of the eastern United States this January.

Dianella fruit

The kids loved Disney. We loved the food, the rides, the hotel (stay in one of the park hotels, don’t question it), and I really enjoyed seeing all of my old, favorite, sub-tropical plants. There were, of course, live oaks, palms, Indian hawthornes, Phellodendron shrubs, and nandina. There were also some plants that I have been eyeing to use at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this summer as annuals.

Among the ones that I have already selected, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ really stood out as a winning plant. I first encountered the variegated flax lily as a conservatory plant at Longwood Gardens. Then, this winter, I was reminded of it after searching through the stack of new plant catalogs. It is a great foliage plant that adds color with the white variegation. As we drove into Hollywood Studios at Disney, there was a large planting of the variegated Dianella. As I saw it, I thought, “boom, that is it. This plant will work.”

Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ is a cultivar of a plant originally from Australia. It somewhat resembles a small Phormium with the exception that Dianella spreads by underground stolons. Dianella would be a great annual substitute for daylilies. The variegated flax lily is hardy down to the low 20’s. I may offend some by saying this but most gardens can do without daylilies. They are beautiful when they are in flower but unfortunately, they have become the French fries of the American landscape. You can pretty much expect daylilies to come on the side of most landscape platters.

I am excited about using the variegated flax lily en masse along our entry walk, in some of our seasonal containers, and even in some of our interior containers. Dianella can take lower light conditions and will work well as a year-round interior plant. Do not overwater Dianella or it will struggle and eventually decline. If happy, you should get small flowers in early summer followed by small, blue fruit.

Dianella in pots

 

Have you grown Dianella? Are you, too, looking for summer loving plants to fight back the polar vortex?

Rodney

Images: Florida Horticulture, Dancing Oaks

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