01 December 2011


"Blow....tropic wind....sing a song....through the trees....
Poinciana, your branches speak to me of love...."

I never gave much thought to the Royal Poinciana tree, made famous in the song "Poinciana (Song of the Tree)," and recorded over the years by the usual suspects (Sinatra, Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mathis...). Now I own five of these striking beauties. Three of our flamboyants, as they're called in South America, burst into flaming red-orange flowers in November and December, and the other two wait until January and February. No one planned it that way, but it gives us an entire season of flowering trees.

I always thought the most beautiful bougainvillea I ever saw was in Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunisia. But years later I passed through Savannah, Georgia and was struck dumb by what I saw there. After that came a jaunt through southern Spain where the bougainvillea were even more gorgeous. I daydreamed about what it would be like to live amongst such beautiful plants. Now I know.

The ubiquitous hibiscus seems to be second only to bougainvillea in popularity around here. Unfortunately for us, the many hibiscus bushes on our property are all about 20 years old, which means they're just about at the end of their life cycle. Time to do some serious replanting.


When I saw my first pine tree growing right next to cactus I was astonished. But over time I learned that Brazil sprawls over three climate areas, from tropical to equatorial to temperate. Everything grows here, all in a jumble. Here is a neighbor's temperate zone pine tree towering over his tropical zone flamboyants.

I knew next to nothing about cacti before moving to Brazil. I certainly never knew any of them flowered. I never knew how beautiful and varied they were. I never knew how painful some of them could be should you be so unlucky as to back into one. I never thought I'd ever own any, and certainly not any as unusual as this first one pictured, which we call our broccoli monster.

We received this stunning Christmas cactus plant as a gift years ago. To my surprise and delight, it flowers about three to four times a year, unusual for this once-a-year bloomer.

Nearly everyone we know attaches orchids to their trees. The plants wrap their roots around the trunk, insinuate themselves into the bark and bloom and propagate and bloom again. Ours flower nearly year-round. 

I have a thing about bromelias. They're stunningly beautiful, but as soon as I learned that the dengue mosquito thrives in the water that collects in their leaves, I decided against having them in or around the house. Maybe I've cut off my nose to spite my face, but no one in our house has yet suffered from dengue. This very unusual bromelia grows in the garden of a friend of ours. 

We have a huge lily plant by our front door which flowers throughout the year in dramatic spurts. As you can see, it's in a spurt right now.

I love this almond tree, which grows across the street from us. Here we've caught it just beginning a new budding cycle. 

I haven't the faintest idea what any of these plants or flowers are called. I just think they're beautiful. Can anyone help identify? 

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