Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fascicularia Bicolor

Fascicularia bicolor 'Spinner's Form' in a pot

Closer view with flower
Closeup of flower
     I first discovered the world of hardy bromeliads in a little book published in 1995 called "Grow Something Different" by Nick Wray.  I highly recommend this book--it contains a wealth of information about interesting plants and I have found it very useful over the years.  I just checked and it is available on Amazon here.  Among the hardy bromeliads are the fascicularias, one of which is the subject of this blog, the Puyas, which will be the subject of future blogs, and the Ochagavias, also to be the subject of a future blog.
    This fascicularia, along with many of the other hardy bromeliads, comes from Chile.  The plant in the pictures is one I got from Sean Hogan, of Cistus Nursery many years ago, and it was labeled as Fascicularia bicolor  'Spinner's Form'.   This was a very small plant when I first got it but as it grew I put it in larger and larger pots until it reached the pot it is in now and there it has stayed for probably 10 years.  I think it would be very difficult to repot it at this stage, but fortunately, these bromeliads like to be pot bound. 
     This leads me to another point about the pots used for prickly plants which have to be periodically repotted.  I have learned through experience that it is best not to pot them in fancy pots, and particularly not to pot them in pots which are narrower at the top than the bottom.  When it comes time to repot them it is very difficult to extract them from the pot they are in and virtually impossible if the pot is narrower at the top than the bottom.  I have found that the best way to get plants like this out of the pot is to break the pot, and this is a simple matter if the pot is made of inexpensive clay.  A fancy, expensive pot is a different matter altogether.  Repotting a prickly plant in a clay pot, then, can start with a hammer to break the pot.  This advice goes for all the hardy bromeliads, agaves, cactus and aloes.
     Anyway, to get back to the fascicularia we have been discussing, it is one of the hardier of the hardy bromeliads.  I have left this one out in this pot for almost 10 years, and it has never suffered from the cold.  It may be that, like the Beschorneria I blogged about here, the plant is hardier in a pot than in the ground because the roots stay drier in the pot.  However, this plant should be hardy in the ground here.  They had a Fascicularia in the woodland garden at Heronswood and it lived there happily for many years.  It may still be there for all I know.  At the time Heronswood in Kingston closed, the gardeners there had just done a planting with many fascicularias planted in the roots of a giant fir tree which had fallen over in the garden.  These roots created a vertical feature in the garden, taller than a person and the fascicularias were planted up in those roots.  It would be interesting to know what became of that planting because I thought it was very imaginative.
     Another interesting thing about the fascicularias at Heronswood is that they were in the woodland garden.  Normally one would think of these as full sun plants, but they did just fine in the shade of the woodland.  The main problem I see with planting them in a woodland is that they are very spiny plants and taking debris out of their foliage can be a chore.  I know this is true of my plant, since I have it where it sits under an aralia and receives a lot of debris from that tree. Maybe I should move it.
     As you can see from the picture above, the flowers of this plant are very dramatic.  As the flower ages, the center becomes turqoise.  The pictures don't show that because the flower is not to that stage yet.   To be technical, the flowers are the center part--the red leaves around them are not flowers.  Like all bromeliads, once this finishes flowering the flowering part dies and more offsets are created, taking the place of the now dead flowering rosette.  This means, on a plant this size, that there will be some brown leaves that can be removed if you are an ultra tidy gardener, or if you are me, you just let them stay and eventually the green new growth crowds them out.  I should mention here that this is also the case with the Beschornerias I previously posted about.
     I recently purchased another fascicularia from Cistus, but it was F. pitcairnifolia.  It looks much like F. bicolor, except its leaves are slightly broader.  I would expect it to behave in much the same way, although I have heard that it may be slightly less hardy.  I cannot attest to this based on experience, however, and the tag says it is hardy to 10 to 15 degrees F.

1 comment:

  1. Linda - I was just at Heronswood a few weeks ago. Happy to report that the tree-root planting you mention is still there! I posted a couple of photos of it in my blog post about our trip. They are near the beginning. Also, I realized that I called the fascicularias 'tillandsias' which I now know was wrong. Thanks for setting me straight! http://thecreativeflux.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/veni-vedi-wehop-part-3-fabulous-plants-color-and-texture/