Did I make a mistake?
First, I should explain the two ways I choose plants for my garden.
Number One: I wander around my garden, noticing gaps and identifying needs. I then browse plant catalogues, as well as search through my garden books and magazines. I list plants that could fit my criteria. I research their light, soil, and water requirements. I make sure they will grow in my 7b hardiness zone. I think about how they will complement their plant neighbors. I consider their growth patterns. How big will this plant get? How does it spread? Will it become invasive? I always look for beautiful foliage and hope the plant will have pretty flowers, too. Sweet fragrance is a wonderful plus. It had better be low maintenance. Finally, I choose the one that appeals to me, and then I go outside and look again. I may place an object, a rake or a bucket or something with the same general shape and size, in the potential planting spot. Will it really look good there? If the answer is yes, then I hunt for the plant, preferably locally. Sometimes I order via catalogue or on line, but I always get a larger plant for a better price from local sources. Then, at last, I plant it. This whole process can take months or longer.
It may work, or it may not.
Number two method: I am not in the market for a plant, but I happen to spy one somewhere. Oh, I love it! I must have it! I buy it and bring it home. I don't know a thing about it, and I have no idea where I will put it.
This also may work, or it may not.
I used method number 2 when I recently acquired a Voodoo Plant at Carol Washington's garden party. I wrote about her garden in my last post, A Southern Garden Party. I was captivated by the plant because of its stem, which is patterned like snakeskin and feels eerily like human flesh. Another common name is Snake Lily.I brought the plant home and later did some research on it.
The botanical name is Amorphophallus konjac. It's an exotic perennial which is hardy in zones 5 to 9, though it doesn't like wet winters and may do better if the corms are dug, shaken free of soil, and stored in a cool, dry place for the winter. They will also do well in a pot and can be grown indoors.
Maybe I will grow mine outside in a pot.
It likes high humidity and heat.
It grows in shade to filtered sun.
That's fine. Sounds like the woodland garden will be my plant's new home.
It likes moist soil during the growing season and should be watered weekly. Plants in the ground should be fertilized in June and August. Potted plants should be fed monthly. Any general fertilizer is okay to use, but for best corm development the fertilizer should be high in phosphorus and potash. A good tomato fertilizer will work.
None of this is a problem, and I was congratulating myself on finding a great new plant. Then I started reading more. The leaves at the top of the stem are actually leaflets, part of one giant, umbrella-like leaf, which can grow to two feet wide or larger. The round, spotted stem may grow over four feet tall. By now I realized I had, not one, but two plants in my pot!
This sounds great! I was smiling.
After several years mature corms will send up a hooded bloom in spring.
It blooms! This is getting better and better!
And then I read more about that bloom. The inflorescence is a large maroon, lascivious thing. The plant has another name: Devil's Tongue. It smells like a rotting corpse — another name: Corpse Plant! The foul odor attracts flies and other pollinators. The smell is so bad that in its native Southeast Asia people have been known to faint from the stench. It is said to be the most stinky plant on earth.
So there I have it, a plant whose putrid bloom will have my neighbors calling the cops to look for dead bodies. And I have two of them! Carol Washington, was your lack of full disclosure on purpose, or, like me, are you just another gardener under the spell of the Voodoo Plant?
If I had known, would I still have brought it into my garden? Most certainly. Yes. Of course I would! I like the weird and wonderful. And the Voodoo Plant only blooms for a few days. I don't think it will be that bad. But if I see the vultures circling over my garden, I will go take a sniff. I will carry a gas mask with me just in case. If I have to use it, I will cut the bloom off and bury it under two feet of compost...or maybe I won't!
To see what happened in 2011, read A Little Voodoo Plant Magic.