-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Cotton trees and vanilla beans

We recently went to Mauritius and while there I came across two fascinating plants that I would love to try and grow one day.  Both were at an old colonial house that is now a restaurant and sugar mill making its own rum, called St Aubin.

The first plant was cotton.  I'd seen cotton before in Mississippi, but it was a shrub, waist high, with little wads of cotton you picked about the size of cotton balls.  Well, it turns out that if you leave it long enough, cotton plants grow into beautiful trees.

This tree at St Aubin is over 100 years old - but it is beautiful, with a bottle shape and canopy with enormous seed pods and bright pink flowers that reminded me of magnolias

st aubin - 07 - cotton tree  st aubin - 08 - cotton tree
st aubin - 10 - cotton tree  st aubin - 09 - cotton treezoom

Being realistic I know that I am never going to have a tree like this at Amherst.  Not just time is against me, so are the winter frosts.  Still, according to this really helpful blogpost, you can grow them OK as shrubs in Sydney... and I reckon if I got creative wrapping with fleece I could probably help the shrubs survive at least a couple of winters with hope of them getting at least a bit tree like?  Hmmm...  

The second plant was vanilla which to my amazement looked really similar to a french bean, in the sense of it growing like a vine.  I think this would be great for growing in a light bathroom where you could ensure it'd stay warm.  There's no need to worry about bees not being able to get in, since they're hard to pollinate naturally anyway - but there's a way to manually do it by removing a membrane and folding the top of the plant flower over.  Orchids Australia put a bit of a dampener on the concept but I still reckon its worth a try.

st aubin - 03 - vanilla

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