Sunday, October 18, 2015

Horticultural snobbery

I have tried to plant species in my little yard here in Palm Springs that are not the most common landscape plants but I do struggle  sometimes between common sense and horticultural snobbery.  When I planted the yard two years ago, I planted a yellow version of the Mexican bird of paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii. Its a pretty shrub that produces delicate yellow flowers with bright red stamens. It has grown well but flowers just spasmodically and I find myself disappointed with it and craving the bright orange one that taunts me at every street corner.

Having been here most of the summer, I have seen that the orange species, Caesalpinia pulcherrima just goes on flowering for months with these wonderful fiery blooms that also attract the humming birds. It grows anywhere, tolerates hard pruning in winter and always makes me smile. It's a member of the pea family and grows well in most frost-free locations hence its widespread use. It is not related to Strelitzia regina also called bird of paradise. Other common names for it include peacock flower, dwarf poinciana, pride of Barbados and in Hawaii Ohai Ali'i.

So do I eat horticultural humble pie and plant one or remain an elitist and plant something else obscure?


  1. Ian,

    The clever gardener finds the unexpectedly obscure but good plant.

    The Caesalpinia pulcherrima fails on the first criterion; the Caesalpinia gilliesii on the latter.

    Have neither. You can enjoy the C.pulcherrima in many other gardens.

    Find something better for your own.


  2. Do as I say; but not as I do!

    I counsel a perfection I do not achieve!


  3. Follow your heart and plant the color you crave. It's not exactly ubiquitous, C. pulcherrima doesn't do well here by the bay, not enough heat. If you crave color, check out the offerings from Mountain States Growers' catalogue on-line. The various Dalea species, Leucophyllum cultivars, Justicia spp, Calliandra spp, the hybrid Tecoma cultivars and Euphorbia tirucallii'Sticks on Fire' and E. xantii are a few to look into. And for winter color, I'm sure the Arctotis hybrids and Osteospermum cultivars would seduce you. Check out Tecoma x smithii and Pyrostegia too.