Knocking This Polar Vortex Off-balance

Our family just got back from a week and a half vacation down south. We drove from Maine to Raleigh and then on to Atlanta. Our kids were performing in the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta with a troupe from Boothbay. If you ever get a chance to see a Junior Theater Festival, by all means, go! I don’t know what it is about music theater but it really makes me emotional. Add to that young kids showing the same passion as Broadway stars and I really left the festival feeling ecstatic yet emotionally spent.

From Atlanta, we drove with all 4 of our kids down to Walt Disney World near Orlando. Carrie and I wanted to celebrate the fact that we met at Disney 20 years ago as horticultural interns. We also thought that this would be the perfect age for our kids to experience Disney. It was also a great escape from the polar vortex that has plagued most of the eastern United States this January.

Dianella fruit

The kids loved Disney. We loved the food, the rides, the hotel (stay in one of the park hotels, don’t question it), and I really enjoyed seeing all of my old, favorite, sub-tropical plants. There were, of course, live oaks, palms, Indian hawthornes, Phellodendron shrubs, and nandina. There were also some plants that I have been eyeing to use at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this summer as annuals.

Among the ones that I have already selected, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ really stood out as a winning plant. I first encountered the variegated flax lily as a conservatory plant at Longwood Gardens. Then, this winter, I was reminded of it after searching through the stack of new plant catalogs. It is a great foliage plant that adds color with the white variegation. As we drove into Hollywood Studios at Disney, there was a large planting of the variegated Dianella. As I saw it, I thought, “boom, that is it. This plant will work.”

Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ is a cultivar of a plant originally from Australia. It somewhat resembles a small Phormium with the exception that Dianella spreads by underground stolons. Dianella would be a great annual substitute for daylilies. The variegated flax lily is hardy down to the low 20’s. I may offend some by saying this but most gardens can do without daylilies. They are beautiful when they are in flower but unfortunately, they have become the French fries of the American landscape. You can pretty much expect daylilies to come on the side of most landscape platters.

I am excited about using the variegated flax lily en masse along our entry walk, in some of our seasonal containers, and even in some of our interior containers. Dianella can take lower light conditions and will work well as a year-round interior plant. Do not overwater Dianella or it will struggle and eventually decline. If happy, you should get small flowers in early summer followed by small, blue fruit.

Dianella in pots


Have you grown Dianella? Are you, too, looking for summer loving plants to fight back the polar vortex?


Images: Florida Horticulture, Dancing Oaks

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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