Suncoast Gardening: Unusual accent plants make your landscape unique

SPECIAL TO THE HERALDNovember 4, 2011 

Even with many pretty and colorful plants to choose from, home landscapes in South Florida often use the same shrubs, trees, palms and flowers … just in different combinations. Yours can stand out from the rest with the addition of a unique accent plant.

Here’s a group of plants with a different look to enhance a garden bed, entryway, yard or patio. Not all may be in stock at your local plant nursery but those that aren’t can usually be special-ordered.

Ashoka: A columnar, very narrow tree that grows to 30 feet in sun to part shade. The leaves grow downward and layer each other like feathers.

Dwarf black olive: Beautiful, bonsai-type plant, very slow-growing, with a look right out of a Japanese garden. Great in pots or planted in the ground in a protected area of sun to part shade.

Australian tree fern: Huge fern leaves for a shady area protected from cold. This beautiful plant MUST have frequent moisture to survive, but the extra care is worth it. Can grow 15 feet tall and at least that wide.

Screw pine: A bizarre, spiraling plant for full sun that needs plenty of room while it’s young, eventually forming a trunk and stilt-like roots that lift it off the ground. Salt-tolerant, slow to moderate grower.

Carolina cypress: Evergreen and cold-hardy, this pyramid shaped cypress tree with silvery foliage is an outstanding contrast to all the greenery. Grows at a moderate to fast pace to about 30 feet in a sunny spot.

Ming aralia: Gorgeous natural bonsai look and each one is unique. Prefers partial sun to full shade, protect from cold weather. Can grow tall or keep it about 4 to 6 feet in the ground or a container.

Arikury palm: Small enough to tuck in almost anywhere in a garden or as a potted plant. A slow grower to about 10 feet tall, with long fronds and an unusual trunk with old leaf bases covering it in upright rows. Moderately salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant once established, likes part sun to partial shade.

Zebra grass: Eye-catching ornamental grass with horizontal stripes of pale yellow on the leaves. Grows about 6 feet (or more) tall and wide in full sun.

Buddha belly bamboo: “Wamin” is a clumping bamboo variety with bellied canes that only grows about 10’ tall. Cold-hardy fast grower for full sun to partial shade. Regular watering, please.

Red banana: Striking tropical look with large leaves of green and red with red underneath. Works in areas of sun to dappled shade, depending on how it was grown. Non-fruiting, it can grow 6 to 8 feet or more. Protect from cold weather.

Chase Landre, author of “Snowbird Gardening: A Guide for South Florida’s Winter Residents,” can be contacted via her website at Meet Chase 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Burnett’s Nursery, 4808 18th St. E., Bradenton. Her column runs monthly in Neighbors.

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