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Bird of paradise

April 11, 2019
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A lovely, easy care, large clumping plant is the tropical beauty, bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, zone 10-11.

The large clump of perennial, green, spear-shaped leaves come up from the ground to surround brilliant orange and deep blue feather-like blooms atop a delicate green sharp beak. Plant in full sun, maybe a little light shade is OK.

This regal beak is held high by a strong 3-foot stem.

Strong winds may shred the leaves but does no harm to the sturdy beak. A little bath with the hose keeps critters away.

When we first moved to the Cape, our first home had this nice large clump along a courtyard wall in the front yard. A couple of the hardy brilliant flowers were peeking out from the leaves. We were told there would be more brilliant orange coming. That was December and it did seem reasonable to see more by spring.

There were a lot of new things to get used to, one being the fact that our adult children already in Lee County were always introducing us as mom and dad, from "Cape Coma." We had not moved south because we wanted a lot of action, however, Cape Coma seemed a bit much.

As time passed, the Cape came alive with a lot of retirees who destroyed the "Coma" identity.

As time passed I waited and waited for the green clump in the front yard to come more alive with brilliant orange and blue colors.

I fed it and the well water lawn sprinklers kept the soil nice and moist, but it did not make for any flowering. I finally had a harsh conversation with the clump and made a few threats. I also had become friendly with a gardener in the great city of Fort Myers and told her my problem and she said just feed it more often.

I could do that OK, and did do that and it was not long before I was enjoying blooms.

I still read to this day that you do not feed plants year around, it is the sun, shade and well drained soil that really counts and not a lot of fertilizer.

I learned through trial and error and talking to local gardeners that you cannot believe everything you read.

I somehow had a hungry clump of birds of paradise and they thrived when I fed them a lot.

I planted a clump over in a daughter's front yard, in the great city of Fort Myers, and it only gets fed when grandmom does it, which is not real often nowadays, and it blooms a lot.

I think that is telling me our Cape Coma, with soil dug out for canals, maybe is suffering from some type of growth coma.

Remember, as gardeners we have to think, and improvise, then enjoy.

There is a white bird of paradise I see advertised as a good potted plant. My son has one in his back yard, even in the Cape, and it is about 25 feet tall. Blooms well, and gets only lawn food.

He does not have as many canals out in the Northeast Cape.

I don't care how much you feed or not, who has room for a 25-foot bird of paradise, in a pot?

I am just saying, don't give up when gardening seems to not be doing well -- keep at it. Read and talk gardening. Also experiment.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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