Garden Photo of the Day

July in Jersey

To look at his garden, you would not guess Howard Ontell lives in northern New Jersey! Just proves that tropicals are for everyone!

"Yes, I have a problem with tropical.  Every spring, I drag them from the house, office and greenhouse, and plant them in the ground and in large pots. Every fall I dig them up and bring them in. This year I decided to go crazy with colacasia, alocasia, and caladiums."

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  1. raleighgardener 08/05/2015

    Thank you for sharing something new and different with us. Love the use of tropicals, the unexpected. I am especially taken with your head planters and animal figures. Did you make them yourself? Clay, concrete, ???

    1. hontell 08/05/2015


      Funny thing is, my wife and had driven out to Colorado one summer and saw these heads in an Asian import store, they are terracotta from Vietnam.

  2. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/05/2015

    Yo DO have a problem! One that most of us here share. Have you done a container count? Some other bloggers have been sharing their numbers and you might be a contender!

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      I try not to count, but tonight I will, and I'll get back to you on that. Every spring my wife and I wander into Home Goods know how that goes.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 08/05/2015

        ha, Home Goods, I understand the siren call of beautiful and interesting planters that successfully tempt us to take them home. My checking account also takes a hit from Tuesday Morning and Hobby Lobby!

        1. hontell 08/05/2015

          Lowes $1.00 plants heading for the garbage are way too tempting

  3. NCYarden 08/05/2015

    Wow what a commitment! I admire that dedication. And the result is wonderful. Certainly not what I would have expected out of Jersey. Your problem is completely negligible here.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      Thank you NC

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/05/2015

    Those are some big beauties that you are devoted to, Howard, and I commend you (and your muscles) for your commitment of wintering them over indoors. Must be very gratifying to get them all back outdoors in the spring and see them flourish. Love the fun succulent ornamentation on the boot and shoe...high style, indeed!

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      Thank you Mike

  5. user-4691082 08/05/2015

    Do you live near the water? In one photo, it seems that the water may be just beyond the fence. You have created a theme garden, and I love it! I would sit out there and pretend I was in a jungle! That sustains us northerners in the dead of winter! Great job.

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      No Water Rhonda, just the street, I live on a corner lot, about 1/4 acre, with house and detached garage. My shared views over the fence are the high school and a church, sigh.

  6. Nurserynotnordstroms 08/05/2015

    Very cool indeed, I admit tropicals aren't my garden style but I love to see other gardens with them. Yours all look healthy and happy. What attracted you to begin growing tropicals? Did you see a picture or did a plant itself inspire you?I love your pillars and the blue combination with your tropicals,it is so festive ,that combination would add cheer to any garden. Well done especially since your winter migration is such a labor of love,and muscle power.

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      I have houseplants since I was a kid. Years ago i read about growing bananas in pots, ordered some, and it was all downhill from there. Now Ebay tempts me. Of course the desire to how big I can grow something makes tropicals appealing.

  7. sheila_schultz 08/05/2015

    Are you sure you are in New Jersey and not Panama, Howard? There's a whole lot of tropical going on in your yard... my back aches at the thought of all that digging and hauling in and out. I sincerely hope there are no stairs involved and that there are some strapping young men to help with the seasonal change-overs!
    By the way, those are some seriously cool head pots!!!

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      Thank you Sheila, plenty of stairs and a pickup truck, no strapping young men, just my wife and my old back! Yea we love the heads too.

  8. greengenes 08/05/2015

    Well Howard, you have brought something new for us to salivate over for sure! Its wonderful to see these with all the work that you have to do to have these around! Do you dig up your red banana? I usually purchase mine every year. But if it isn't too much work well maybe I will try to put mine in a cold house type greenhouse. Mine are in pots...I enjoyed seeing your "Pot Heads"! They are great! Thanks for sharing with us! You have inspired me to plant some new kinds of plants next year!

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      The red banana (ensete) gets dug up and potted. Bananas do not have a lot of roots and I cut off alot of the older leaves. It likes a lot of inside and struggles in spring. It's worth it though.

  9. User avater
    gringopeligroso 08/05/2015

    Like y'all, many of my treasures are in containers and like y'all, there's the annual commutes of said treasures! Really enjoyed seeing some familiars in today's posting.
    I LOVE your arrangement and use of the Amaranth (?) with the Ensete and Hibiscus. They really make each other's colours Pop!! As well, your collection of Terra Cotta art placed hither and tither reminded me of one of my fave "Mini Vacation" destinations near here in NW Arkansas; Terra Studios. They also colour outside the box!! Love the use of the columns, too. Nice find!!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 08/05/2015

      So striking, Jesse, is this in your garden?

      1. User avater
        gringopeligroso 08/05/2015

        Seems like everytime we "Chat," you open the conversations by making me smile, chuckle, or in this case laugh!!! (Hope you NEVER stop making sunbeams and rainbows in ours and others exchanges!!!)
        No ma'am. You give me toooooooo much credit! This is one of the many whimsical, magical and imaginative views to be explored at Terra Studios in our neighbouring and very close state of Arkansas. I try to take visitors and guests there when i can...partly for sharing this wonderscape, and partly for selfish motives! I believe in an earlier conversation you alluded to the Arts and Crafts community and faires. If'n you've ever seen the clear, blue glass "Bluebirds of Happiness," this is their home. While the semi-famous birds are still blown here, a small community of potters and other creative disciplines also set up shoppe and classes. Wandering through the grounds and gardens transports our spirits to other realms of possibilities..

        1. User avater
          meander_michaele 08/06/2015

          I enjoyed "touring" their website and also doing an additional google image search because I was greedy for even more pictures. I found one that included a wide shot that included that handsome tile work and oh, wow, what an impressive section. ..

          You're very fortunate to have a place like that within easy enough driving distance to share with visitors. There seemed to be a treasure trove of artists listed as contributors to their community.

          Thanks for the kind words about my tendency to be talkative. I always appreciate and am entertained by your willingness to share so much of your personality.

    2. hontell 08/05/2015

      Jesse, thank you very much, the amaranthe reseeds like weed, we keep some and throw the rest. It's just too pretty not to keep. Love your photo, very striking

      1. User avater
        gringopeligroso 08/05/2015

        Howard!! That is another plant I need!!! My garden thrives on re-seeders..(Invasives in some parts of the World) Salvias, hollyhocks, celosia, gomphrena, datura, verbena, moth mullien, four o'clocks, cleome, violets, etc, etc. Like you, after getting them established, I just yank the ones which are growing where I don't need/want them and let the others proliferate! Sometimes my neighbours come with trowels to "help" with the removals, and I get to feel like a "Tom Sawyer!"

  10. Clarkpark 08/05/2015

    Thanks for sharing your Green Thumb Garden! Have you thought of hiring a young teenager to help carry your pots in and out? Again, thanks I enjoyed my visit to the tropics!?

    1. hontell 08/05/2015

      No, I just load up the handtruck and drag them in!

      1. Clarkpark 08/05/2015

        Yea ? a handtruck is saving your back! Your garden in great!?

        1. hontell 08/06/2015

          thank you

  11. BoxwoodBarbara 08/05/2015

    I admire not only your tropical garden but your stamina in carting those coddled plants in and out. Can you tell me the name of the pink-flower plant in the last photo? My own "family" of tropicals includes a thriving banana, adenia. calathea, colocasia, pachystachys and others (about a dozen pots currently) bought from Logees, which is good about answering cultivation questions, analyzing photos of problem plants, and allowing replacement or credit for failed plants up to 60 days after shipment. Bargains too (relatively speaking), once in a while, when they have a sale for online customers. But no outside summering for my poor plants, alas, since my condo board threatened to slap me with a fine, or take them away, or both!

    1. User avater
      gringopeligroso 08/06/2015

      Ms. Holdridge,

      Not tryin' to steal Howard's well deserved thunder of applause, but to answer your question of the pink flower:

      That's a Medinilla magnificum..(Not sure what or IF there's a common name.) That flower spike appears to just be opening up. It will elongate and layer out in that bright colour, into a pendent, natural chandelier. With age, the plant will produce several of these at once. It is native to SE Asian Rainforests and typically grows as an Epiphyte; that is, on the branches of the forest's giant trees, but it is NOT a parasite. I have a picture of one growing in the Crystal Bridge Conservatory in OKC that I'll attach, and you mite do a Google Image Search of this specie for more eye candy!

      Also, I'm havin' a hard time tryin' to figure the logic, or perhaps lack of imagination that your Nazi Condo Board keeps you under. (I can't say too much....don't have the full story.) But, Girl, that's rough......So sorry.

      Anyway, in reviewing your plant list, I will offer that if'n your Pachystachys is doing well, that the Medinilla will love the same conditions.

      1. hontell 08/06/2015

        I know mine is a medinilla, but not he showy magnificum, it does not the pink brachts above the flower. Still fun, had three flowers this year, started blooming in January.

        1. User avater
          gringopeligroso 08/06/2015

          ¿Indeed?! You've taught me something this morning and now I must research and find out more!!! I've two species here, one of which IS the M. magnifica, but I've only scored it a few months ago at a local garden centre. And, it's got a LONG while to go before it can generate and support 3 bloom spikes!! The other I found in the floral section of our local grocery store...of all places, 2 or 3 years ago. I think it gets skinny white blooms, but since it's never bloomed for me, I'll wait patiently till it does. The tag has been misplaced....sigh.. However, its architecture in that time has delighted me in that it tumbles out of its generous container and drapes its branches towards the Planet very gracefully!! While too heavy and big for basket culture, it would LOVE to perch on one of y'all's columns and look down.. ('course, getting it up there and down again would be a chore ;-) ) Thanx for the info and correction!! As a fave bumper sticker on my truck states:
          "So many species...So little time!"

        2. BoxwoodBarbara 08/06/2015

          Thank you, Howard. Between you and Jesse, I think I have all the incentive I need to search out a medinilla of my own! As for that board, I am your typical combative gardener, battling bugs and boards. They (the board, not the bugs) settled with me last year for the financial loss of my garden. It seems a good lawyer is a necessity for living here, unfortunately!

          1. BoxwoodBarbara 08/07/2015

            Howard and Jesse,
            Thanks to your friendly, informative responses to my question, I was intrigued enough to find a medinilla magnifica in a six-inch pot at Logees. It should be here in about ten days, and I will try my luck with it! Cheers!

      2. BoxwoodBarbara 08/06/2015

        My thanks for all that good information, Jesse. That medonilla is certainly magnificum (: However, I don't think I have anything to attach it to, except maybe my failed lemon tree,which unfortunately won't provide sustenance to a medonilla or anything else. My pachystachys, not an epiphyte, is a joy, taking only a short breather before reflowering with six to eight of its impressive bright-yellow spikes. I wish my local markets would surprise me with such rarities, but no such luck. And thanks for your commiseration about the Board. Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of their systematic destruction of my small perennial garden outside my window. That's why I've compensated with an indoor tropical garden under grow lights. Good luck with your white medonilla; the pink one is amazing!

        1. User avater
          gringopeligroso 08/06/2015

          My Dear,
          I didn't mean to mis-lead. Just FYI:
          Both of my Medinillas are in potting soil (and pots) and doing just fine. As I told Howard, one is thriving!! (knocking on wood here vigourously!!) Now, to continue:
          (and btw: do you know how to get blood out of keyboards??;-) )
          Many Epiphytes can and do transition to a terrestrial setting without batting the proverbial eye!! You've no doubt noticed the wonderful selections (temptations) of Bromeliads being offered more and more to the markets. Virtually all of these offerings are "normally' tree dwellers, but virtually everyone will be prospering in their potting soil mix, and indeed that's how most wholesale growers produce them for said markets. That being said, it wouldn't hurt to use a coarse draining mix!

          1. BoxwoodBarbara 08/07/2015

            Thank you very much, Jesse. That's good news. Potting-up I thoroughly understand; coddling an epiphyte might cause me some anxiety about proper care. I'll start hunting for my very own medinilla magnifica. Happy last of summer!

    2. hontell 08/06/2015

      thank you Barbara, so sad they will not let enjoy your plants on your patio.

  12. Chris_N 08/05/2015

    This is the second year we've had tropicals on the terrace (hellstrip) Ours got in late so they aren't as big as I'd like but we still have people stop their cars to look at them. Yours look great! Do you have a sunroom to overwinter them in?

    1. hontell 08/06/2015

      Chris, I have an old house with a sun parlor, large windows on 3 sides which I supplement with a 6 foot florescent light

  13. darylsavage 08/06/2015

    Hey Howard,
    Not sure where you are in No. Jersey, but there is a great public garden filled with tropicals at 640 Newark Pompton Turnpike in Pompton Plains. It is in the front of a business called Neubridge Crossroads. Now is a great time to visit it because the owner also has a big collection of crepe myrtles which will be in bloom also. Your garden definitely reminds me of it. I love the red bananna, castor bean and amaranthus together. I tried amaranthus for the first time this year in large ceramic pots, and so far they have been an epic fail. I only fill the pots about halfway with dirt ( the rest is filled with plastic pots and water bottles in a garbage bag) so I think they have not been getting enough water because they are drooping most of the time along with being eaten by caterpillars so that the leaves have holes. I originally saw the plant in a display garden at Longwood in a mass display, and it looked dynamite. I guess it is of those plants that is best as a bedding plant. I will go back to coleus or canna for my thriller. Thanks for sharing!

    1. thevioletfern 08/06/2015

      I have grown mammoth Amaranth directly in the ground - my favorite from Hopi Red Dye from Johnny's.

    2. hontell 08/06/2015

      John at Newbridge is very good friend of mine. I have helped him with that garden from the beginning. I am in Butler, and we greenhouse our plants together.

      1. darylsavage 08/06/2015

        That's funny. Very small world. I hope to go by that garden soon, and catch it in its full glory. I did notice a small greenhouse in the parking lot, but I guess that is not big enough to hold all those plants.

        1. hontell 08/07/2015

          seed starting in propagation, we use the Van Wingerdens by the airport

          1. darylsavage 08/07/2015

            More small world, I just bought one of his plant pies for a bare spot in the garden. Love those plant pies!

    3. Cenepk10 08/07/2015

      Stinking caterpillars !! I tried Amaranthus the first time this year too. From seed. I think I pulled most thinking they were poke salad. ( weed )

  14. thevioletfern 08/06/2015

    I love your container choices and those lime green pillars are extraordinary! Way to set the mood! Where's the tiki bar??? I need more tropical in my life.

    1. hontell 08/06/2015

      Tiki bar is in the back yard, the tropicals are in the front and the pillars and arbor on the side of the house.

  15. Cenepk10 08/07/2015

    What a personality you must be !!! So much fun !

  16. eddireid 08/09/2015

    I don't think I have ever been more entertained in a blog! In the past I have learned, been horrified, filled with envy and had to hold on to my wallet for fear it would mysteriously empty after shopping online. But I have never burst out laughing. Thank you Howard for posting your garden, plants and all the attendant goodies, you have been a real tonic.
    Barbara; I think we should round up our garden army and deal with your condo board. Nobody deserves the kind of mistreatment you suffer. But we have learned, too, from you. Before ever signing on a dotted line this oldie will make very sure of all the rules!
    Bless you both for today.

    1. BoxwoodBarbara 08/10/2015

      Thank you, Eddi. It's good to know this garden army has my back! All best wishes, Barbara
      P.S. Also be sure to have your attorney review all documents!

      1. eddireid 08/10/2015

        Most definitely. We are facing a similar move which I am only very slowly beginning to creep towards. Darned old age.

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