Last week, while slouching around the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, I came across many plants that were new to me. I hiked close to the Tarcoles River and visited, for the tenth time, the Carara National Park, one of my favorite places in Costa Rica. Carara is important for many reasons. It is a transition zone between two climate types – sunny and dry and cloudy and humid. It contains a significant area of primary rainforest and is a nesting place for many Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao cyanoptera). White-faced capuchin monkeys ((Cebus capucinus) are common.
Further south, near Dominical, I visited a private garden designed by a friend, Dennis Schrader of Landcraft Environments, Ltd. http://landcraftenvironment.com/ .I will write more about this wonderful garden later and elsewhere. There were three plants and one bird that caught my attention.
The bird, the northern jacana (Jacana spinosa), was much disturbed by visitors to the water-lily filled lake that is its home. Raising its wings in territorial defense, the yellow wings against the dark brown body were striking.
As to the plants, the first is Siam Ruby Banana. I have never grown this, not even in the halcyon days at Chanticleer. In Costa Rica, the banana was freshly unfurling. The leaves are ruby-red sprinkled with lime-green flecks. Strong with color even under the shade of large Heliconias, it is listed as growing to a height of 8 feet. Here, the young growth was just above 3 feet. Siam Ruby is a sport of a banana found in Thailand (Siam), hence the name. What a treat.
There are between 200 and 250 species of Heliconia, and a number of hybrids and cultivars. In Costa Rica, in the house of the private garden, there was a tall, glass vase. In it was a sublime flower arrangement of the pink and the hairy Heliconia. The pink (Heliconia chartacea) is unusual in that the waxy bracts are a bright pink. There is a cultivar, ‘Sexy Pink’. The species is sexy enough. The other Heliconia, one that really made me drool, is the hairy one. My knowledge of Heliconia is limited to say the least but if I could grow just one, it would be H. vellerigera. The bracts are red-orange and are covered with a soft fur. I may be wrong about the species. It matters little.
It would have been horticulturally pornographic if the flower arranger had included Heliconia vaginalis but, in this case, restraint held firm.
To paraphrase a quote by David C. Day, “The flowers are louder when there are fewer of them.”