Savannah. Charleston. New Orleans. San Antonio. These colonial-era cities inspire the courtyard garden ideal: green and lush, with beautiful plants, pools and fountains, paved with stone, tiles or bricks, & protected by sheltering walls with gates that reveal a table and chairs for cocktails or an al fresco meal...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New Plant Find: Christia obcordata!

This gardener just returned from his gardening mecca, Naples, Florida. Seriously, I dream of gardening there. I guess that relegates me to the "Tropical Gardener" status. Hey, maybe that's why I like courtyards so much...they provide micro-climates in my 8b - 9a garden which are more 9b-10a-ish. But I still may have to create a temporary greenhouse to protect my coddled ones during San Antonio's rare freezes. Oh no, another project to add to the list!

Anyway, I was with the Missus, and it was before the 10am dress shop opening bell was sounded, so we went to my favorite nursery in Naples - the one where I first saw my wall fountain, Driftwood Garden Center - and skulked around.

The first thing I saw was this Heliconia "Andromeda," oh, if only...

Then, I saw a plant I had never seen, nor heard of before on the way in. It looked like green butterflies with chocolate stripes. At first I thought it was a weird Oxalis, or something. I was intrigued. There were six 1.5 gallon pots, at only $8 each. Hmmm.

Next, I came across this artfully arranged vignette of plants in front of their beautiful terracotta selection.

They also had a huge selection of bromeliads, and not the usual suspects, either. I imagined placing them in the nooks and crannies of old leaf bases on my palms in my future garden in the "almost tropics" once I win the lottery.

So, after sauntering about, daydreaming about my future canal-side tropical garden paradise, I finally asked one of the staff about the chocolate butterflies I had noticed on the way in. "We just got those in, They're called Christia obcordata, and we've only had them once before. If you want one, you'd better pick it up now, we'll probably sell out today."

Well, you can't wave a redder flag in front of this bull! I hightailed it back to the front of the greenhouse to find a family carting one off, and a gentleman picking up another one! Only four left, and it wasn't even ten o'clock yet! I quickly evaluated the remaining four plants for the one I thought had the best chance of surviving modern airline travel and nuclear body-scanner attacks, and snatched it up. The Missus even wanted me to get one. She knew I could manage to get it back somehow, and appreciated its weird appearance and the fact they were disappearing like hotcakes.

I potted my new baby down to a pot which is about a half gallon size and didn't have to prune too many roots. I wrapped the pot in a grocery bag and tied the top to keep the moisture and soil in. I pruned some of the branches so she would fit into a large shopping bag and stuffed bubble wrap strategically so the pot would stay upright in the shopping bag. She made it through security twice with only one raised eyebrow, but I really don't think I could have hijacked a plane with one tropical plant, no matter how showy.

Well, she's going to be another true tropical which will have to be brought inside for our short "winter," but I'm sure she'll be worth it. From what I can find, Christia likes to be kept moist, enjoys part sun to light shade, and "prefers warmer temperatures." She may be placed in a hanging basket, because I read somewhere that nematodes love them. I'll let you know how she does!


  1. By the way, we also swam in the ocean each day and there were no tar balls, oil patches, and absolutely no sheen on the water. There was a lot of sea life too, dolphins, fish, sponges, etc. etc. Florida is Fine! Go visit!

  2. Beautiful! Never heard of that one either. Let us know how it works out. Thanks!

  3. That's one plant I haven't seen before. Very attractive! Would love to follow its progress...

  4. That Christia obcordata is stunning and incredibly unique. Will be interested in hearing how it does for you.

  5. Looks as though you had a great day at the garden center!

  6. I am also someone who brings back plant treasures from distant places. Alas, they quite often don't like their new home. Good luck with your new addition.

  7. OK, it's in a hanging basket with a coco fiber liner, some water retaining crystals (since it likes to stay moist,) and hanging in my front yard under the live oaks to receive dappled shade! I'll keep you posted...

  8. I'm a newbie here ..
    but love what I see ... and that is ... I see that I might learn a thing or two about gardening ... this is serious, and I've been flying by the seat of my pants for 30 years.

    p.s. now stalking you on the "followers" list, too

    thank you Dr.V

  9. I meant to add ... you might love my posts from this summer called
    "terra cotta mama" .... posted May 27 in older posts

    and Lime, Thyme and Tequila posted June 9

  10. Such an interesting find! I can see why you had to have it. I just found your blog through your follow of mine and am so glad I did. You've got some beautiful stuff going on there. Yes, I see a second career for you. :-)

  11. Clever you! I would have snapped up Christia too if I were you. It does look so attractive.


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