Banana palms growing in western North Carolina?

bananatree

I definitely believe climate change is real.

Here where I live, in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina, each summer seems to grow progressively hotter and longer, and each winter has been milder and shorter than the last (not that I mind this personally, since I really can’t stand cold weather).   This fall has felt more like a continuation of summer than fall, and even at night the temperatures are still pretty warm.    It’s also been extremely dry, and the trees, rather than turning colors, are going straight from green to brown to bare (not that the fall colors here, outside of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the trees are chosen for their fall color, are that impressive anyway).   Sometimes I feel like I live in Florida, not the mountains of North Carolina, where the climate should be temperate, not tropical.

I’ve noticed something very strange this year too, something that I’ve never seen before.  Banana palms growing in people’s yards.  Maybe it’s just a new fad, and people are planting them here, but I don’t think it’s just that.   I think the climate has actually changed in the past few years, to a more subtropical (and less temperate) one, making it possible for banana palms to grow here.

I decided to look this up on Google, and found out that there is a such thing as cold hardy banana palms, that can withstand mild winters, even if the temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, as long as the trees are protected.  So although they couldn’t grow in the wild (yet), they could grow and thrive in someone’s yard.

climatezones

I looked up the climate type for western North Carolina and found out we are a Koppen Cfa climate (humid subtropical!) climate.  Even more shocking was to find out that central to southern New Jersey is also a Cfa climate, making it possible to grow certain types of subtropical plants, including cold hardy banana palms, there too!   I do know that many beaches at the Jersey Shore now have palm trees gracing them, but these trees are removed and taken somewhere else to spend the winters (I have no idea how that would be done) and then returned to New Jersey in late spring.

In general, North Carolina does not have palm trees, although there are many flowering evergreen species (these usually have dark, waxy leaves) here in the mountains, and palmetto trees (not a real palm tree but they are related to palms) growing in the coastal areas (the palmetto is also the state tree of South Carolina).

palmetto

Palmetto tree.

 

But this might be changing.   I live 37 miles north of the South Carolina border, and almost as soon as you cross the line into that state, palmettos can be found everywhere.  Banana palms are also common there.  So we’re not far from the cutoff for tropical (or subtropical) types of plants.  But I think the cutoff has moved farther north now, even into the lower mountains.   That would make sense, with climate change being a factor.  I haven’t seen any palmettos here yet, but I wonder if that’s just a matter of time.

If food shortages due to climate change ever become a problem, maybe I’ll plant some banana palms.  Bananas are a fantastic source of nutrients and quick energy.

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Daylilies.

Daylilies growing in my garden.  Photos were taken just before sunset.

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Spring repotting and planting.

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A few of the smaller plants on my porch.  The newly repotted money tree is on the right.

It’s still early, but I think the frosts are over.   It was a pretty day so I headed over to Lowe’s and picked up a couple of large clay pots so i could do some replanting of plants that had been indoors and become root-bound.   I also got some morning glory seeds.

I acquired two mannequin arms from the previous upstairs tenants and am using them as supports for the morning glories when they start growing. These arms will supplement the dead shrub I’ve been using as a support for the vine for the previous three years.

mannequinarms

A couple years ago I wrote about my lucky bamboo plant, which was very small at the time and has sat in my kitchen window ever since.   Now, it’s huge, way too big for my kitchen window, and had become root-bound.   I decided to repot it in one of the clay pots and sit it outside on the porch.   I lined the bottom with small stones and used the potting soil on top.   I also repotted a “money tree” I got last year and has also grown pretty huge.

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Bamboo plant after repotting.  It’s bigger than it looks here.

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The same bamboo plant two years ago.

I have yet to do any actual planting.   I’ll wait a few more weeks for that.   I’m going to keep it pretty simple though, since I don’t have a lot of time for gardening.  At least the indoor plants can now  be outside.  I can always move them back inside if it becomes cold again.

Summer’s not over yet!

As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I’m extremely sensitive to the shortening days and increased darkness of fall.    Believe it or not, my disorder actually begins to kick in during high summer–around early August–when the days are growing noticeably shorter, even though the heat and humidity is at its peak.  So it’s really the lessening light, and not cooler weather, that sends me into the yearly doldrums and makes me feel depressed.  I’ve sometimes wondered if SAD might be some kind of evolutionary throwback to a time when we still hibernated.  I know every year I want to go into hibernation and sleep away the fall and winter and  wake up again in early spring.

Another weird thing about my SAD is that it begins to dissipate sometime in late January or early February, when the days are beginning to grow noticeably longer.   Even though February days are still shorter than September days, it’s the increase of light every day that begins to improve  my mood, not the actual amount of light.

But I couldn’t feel too depressed about fall beginning in just a couple days when I saw this little treat in the front of my house.    I don’t know where this vine with these cute little red flowers came from–it looks like a type of morning glory (Bluebird of Bitterness might know what these are).   Maybe my daughter planted some seeds here, or maybe they’re just growing there all on their own.   However they got here, they made me smile this morning.

little_morningglories

Also, my rose bush and the blue morning glories I planted back in April are turning my small garden into a riot of color (and I even spied a few bumblebees in the trumpet shaped flowers), so it seems like summer isn’t quite ready to go anywhere yet!

flowers

ETA:  I found out the small red-orange morning glories in front of the house are actually a very rare variety called “Orange Noah.”  They bloom in late summer and fall, when most other glories are ready to quit for the year.  But where they came from is still a mystery!

Morning glories.

My garden is starting to look pretty scraggly (as it always does at this point in the summer), but it’s redeemed a little by the morning glories, which are finally beginning to bloom.   I love the color–bright indigo with pinkish accents.

Due to the dry spring we had, the vine isn’t as bushy or the flowers as abundant as they have been in past summers, but it still looks really pretty.   The dead rhododendron that sits in my garden makes a great support for the vine.  Hopefully in another month or so it will be completely covered.   The daily thunderstorms we’ve been getting should help it along.

Seeing these flowers first thing every morning always makes my load feel a little bit lighter.

morningglory1 morningglory2