Garden Photo of the Day

Tropical Escape in Virginia

Palm trees, even in the snow

Today we’re visiting Bill Hewitt’s unusual garden in southeastern Virginia, which he has turned into a tropical escape very different from the norm in his area. And it is one kind of escape to the tropics you can take in the current world of travel restrictions!

My love of the tropics and tropical plants made me push the boundaries of the “standard Virginia landscape.” I’ve been growing tropicals and palms in Virginia for close to 30 years. The diverse climate of southeastern Virginia can bring highs over a hundred and lows below zero. However, many of my palms and tropical plants have survived even the coldest of lows.

It’s a passion and a hobby that I’ve had since I became a homeowner. Why would anyone not want their home to be a place of escape? Don’t wait for a vacation—take one in your own yard!

Chinese windmill palmWe associate palm trees with very warm, frost-free climates, but there are a few varieties that can be grown in climates as cold as Zone 7. The Chinese windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei, Zones 7–10) is one of the hardiest, and growing it in colder climates gives you the unusual visual of snow on palms trees!

hardy palmAnother hardy palm unconcerned by a snowy winter day.

WisteriaAs spring arrives, the palms are joined by a more typical inhabitant of Virginia gardens, a wisteria (Wisteria sinensis, Zones 5–8).

blooming spiderwortPalms presiding over a patch of blooming spiderwort (Tradescantia, Zones 4–9 ), a perennial with grasslike leaves and purple flowers in the summer. Each individual bloom only lasts a day, but they are produced in abundance to make a terrific display.

palm trees with christmas lightsPalm trunks dressed up with lights for the holidays, while a four-legged member of the household is ready for a game of football.

Wisteria blooming in tree formWisteria blooming in tree form. Wisterias normally grow as vigorous vines, but when staked up and carefully pruned, they can be grown to look like small trees. This can be a great way to ensure that this sometimes overly vigorous plant doesn’t get out of hand and take over the whole garden.

tropical plants in the snowBill’s Virginia tropics hunkering down and waiting out the cold.

ice in the gardenIf you have to see ice in the garden, why not see it so dramatically and unusually on a palm? This is a great visual reminder that with the right plant choices, you can create nearly any style of garden in nearly any climate.

Bill sent in so many great pictures that I’m sharing them over two days, so come back tomorrow for more of this unusual garden.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.

View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 03/25/2020

    How amazing! You should win an Oscar for that garden and those palms, particularly in the snow! And that wisteria! I just added up ON my fingers how old I would be if I planted it now, before I saw it bloom seeing they take 7 years to bloom. 74 + 7= 81, oh my, well it is a challenge which I will step up to plate to address. Wisteria here I come. And to your sir and your unique garden I say BRAVO!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/25/2020

    I adore the look of palm tree trunks heavily wrapped in lights...makes one feel they've travelled to Scottsdale or Los Angelos for a winter get-away. Very cool. And your tree form wisteria are living art...nothing like a gnarly entertained trunk to make my heart go pitter patter (ha, yes, such a response reveals I'm admittedly quirky).

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/25/2020

    Great pics of the palms but love that one of the palms with spiderwort in the same pic! And I agree with meander - those wisteria are amazing.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/25/2020

    Not that it me, I know I'm the only one who cares but it makes me go "grr" when I see that I have made a spelling mistake or autocorrect has changed a word on me and I didn't notice before I hit Submit Comment. Anyway, I meant "intertwined" about the wisteria trunk...not "entertained"...duh!
    Does anyone know if there is a way to do any after the fact editing of a submitted comment? I'm not a real bright tech bulb so I haven't figured it out for myself.

    1. CTpat 03/25/2020

      No idea how to do that, but an old secretarial trick for proofreading your own work (which is very difficult) is to start at the bottom, read that line, then go to the line above, and so on. It makes it easier to spot oddities like the wrong word. Not that I think you need to worry--your comments are always apropos and (dare I say) entertaining.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 03/25/2020

        Sounds like a good proofreading technique. Thanks for passing it along. I usually do a quick and sometimes inefficient skim as my proofreading.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 03/25/2020

    That is so wild see the palms and snow! I love it! Fantastic! And that Wisteria Tree is amazing!!!

  6. btucker9675 03/25/2020

    I was very "entertained" by this wonderful garden - can't wait to see the rest of the photos!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 03/25/2020

      Cue up a giggle from me...yours was a much more appropriate use of the word "entertained".

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest