This past weekend my wife Carol and I had the immense pleasure of visiting the old Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven.
The park is now called Legoland and it has something to offer for all ages. Upon first entering the park, you are greeted by an array of colorful animal figures made from Lego bricks. In fact, most everything you see is made from colorful Legos throughout the park.
If you have been there when it was Cypress Gardens, you will recognize many of the buildings and landmarks. In the center of the park instead of topiaries and plant gardens, you will find miniature cities all made from Legos. It is highly detailed and amazing to look at. You will need quite a bit of time to explore this part of the park.
As you move deeper into the park, you will see the all-familiar waterfall with all the landscaping just as it was in the old park. The landscaping is amazing with a varied collection of tropical and native plants surrounding the water fall. It is truly an amazing sight.
If you follow the park all the way to the end, you will hit the pot of gold. This is where the original Cypress Gardens botanical garden is located. It is worth the price of admission just to see these gardens. The botanical gardens abound with plant species from both native to varieties from all corners of the globe. The garden paths are clean and the gardens are all well-trimmed and manicured.
While on your stroll, be sure to have your picture taken at the historic gazebo. Also, be sure to spend some time at the old Banyan tree that is in the center of the gardens. After leaving the gardens, be sure to see the ski show. Although themed different from the original, it is truly entertaining to see.
Today I want to talk about a couple of the plants that I encountered on the tour that has a very interesting background. The first is a plant called the Traveler's Palm.
The Traveler's Palm (ravenala madagascariensis) is actually not a palm at all. This plant is a member of the bird-of-paradise family. In fact, looking at the plant from a distance, it is very difficult to tell them apart. This plant has a very interesting history. Back in the explorer days, this plant actually was a source of water for travelers, hence the name traveler's palm. The stems hold rainwater that can be used as an emergency drinking supply. Each stem can hold as much as a pint of water.
Its huge paddle shaped leaves that indeed have both a tropical and a majestic appearance characterizes the plant. Traveler's Palm is a very easy to grow plant choice and can really offer a distinct tropical look to any landscape.
The plant requires a fairly sunny location and should be planted so the shape of the plant goes from east to west. I was not able to do that with mine but the plant is still thriving beautifully. They require moderate water but once well-established they are very easy to maintain. The main maintenance issue with this plant would be trimming off the dry and/or broken branches. Although quite hardy, they can be damaged in high winds or hard freeze conditions. My plant has been through both and has recovered every time.
You can fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer during the summer growing season if desired. This will help to keep the dark green leaf color and aid in faster plant growth.
These plants are available at many local nurseries.
The next plant I would like to mention is a variety known as the Song of India. The Song of India is a tropical plant that has long narrow leaves that have green centers with a creamy yellow edge. The plant can grow up to four feet high.
This plant is often used as an indoor tropical but can also be planted outdoors in a tropical garden or on a deck or patio in a pot. Song of India requires bright light but will burn if placed in all day direct sun. The plant is easy to grow and only requires small amounts of water. They do not like their feet to be soaking wet. Since the plant loves humidity, it grows quite well in our area. This plant is widely available at many local nurseries.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.