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Thursday, March 4, 2010
I have a special guest post from my friend Kimberly from Garden in Paradise. We are doing an exchange post this week and Kimberly will expand on the origins and unique uses for Frangipani, one of my favorite tropical flowers. Aren’t the blooming photos spectacular, these photos are also courtesy of Kimberly.
Frangipani…what a fun, unusual word! Pronounced “fran-juh-pan-ee”, the word rolls off the tongue! So, what is a frangipani? The dictionary defines it as, “a deciduous tree with strongly perfumed, white, yellow, or pink flowers. Native to: tropical America. Genus Plumeria.” Hmmmmm….genus Plumeria. So where did Frangipani come from? Apparently, according to Encarta.msn.com, the Plumeria was given the common name of “Frangipani” after Muzio Frangipani, a 16th century Italian creator of a perfume for gloves. I don’t know that he was successful, but I’m certain that Plumeria, or “Frangipani” makes an intoxicatingly sweet perfume! It also bears one of the most beautiful flowers I’ve come across!
The gorgeous blooms are typically about 2” wide with 5 petals. They range in color from white with yellow centers, to dusty apricot, coral pink and dark red. As I’m told, the darker the red stain, the more desirable the flower! The shrub/tree itself grows to an average of 15-18 feet tall, although it’s been known to grower taller. Related to Oleander, Periwinkle and Allamanda, the Frangipani contains a poisonous, milky sap.
As previously stated, the Plumeria shrub is deciduous, meaning that it loses its leaves in the winter, or cooler months. This was perplexing to me when I first settled in SE Florida several years ago, as I noticed stark, ugly branches readily accepted in beautiful, lush, tropical landscapes. Why in the world would anyone purposely grow a deciduous tree in a tropical climate where year-round foliage and brilliant blossoms are so easy to achieve?!?! Coming for a harsh, northern climate where winter temperatures dip down below zero degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis, I couldn’t understand! I couldn’t understand until I saw the chipper little fresh foliage popping out in the spring, followed by the strikingly beautiful blooms and insanely wonderful, sweet perfume! I would love to wear a flower in my hair everyday!
Of course, I’m not the first to consider wearing the lovely blooms. The Frangipani is grown commercially in Hawaii for their famous lei production. According to Wikipedia, “lei” is a Hawaiian word for a garland or wreath. More loosely defined, “a lei is any series of objects strung together with the intent to be worn.” The concept of giving a lei as a form of affection became a tourist tradition between the Hawaiian Islands and the continental United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Of course, I had to have some Frangipani for my own garden. Luckily, I discovered the plant is easily propagated by taking a cutting of the leafless stem tips in spring. Allow the cutting to dry out at the base before inserting it into well drained soil. Wait a while and voila…you’ll have a wonderful blooming Plumeria!
Please remember that most varieties of Frangipani are deciduous, so it may not be wise to grow it in the center of your yard as a focal point, unless you like leafless, lifeless sticks protruding from the ground part of the year. I think Frangipanis mix well with flowering tropical’s such as Cana lilies, bromeliad, and palms that accentuate their design qualities. There’s also a new dwarf variety that looks a bit like a bonsai in a container.
Want more Plumeria? Hawaiian residents or visitors can check out the Dean Conklin Plumeria Grove, part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens! If you’re not traveling to Hawaii any time soon, you can view the fantastic florals by clicking on this link: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/bridges/plumeria/plumeria.htm .
Please visit Kimberly’s blog at Garden in Paradise and you can check out my post about on a garden tour in Orlando. Mahalo, Kimberly for sharing your wonderful post on the Plumeria today!
Also for more Blooming Friday Posts, please visit Katarina at http://rosorochris.blogspot.com/