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Mr. American Horticulture Redux

Before I overwhelm you with the deep purple and mandarin orange of the promised bromeliad in Dan Hinkley's garden, let me show you how he uses more accessible plants in show-stopping ways.

To pull off a composition like this, you do need to be in a temperate zone where phormium (New Zealand flax) and hardy fuschia winter over most of the time. Sorry to tease if that's not the case. But look how DJH uses the two different phormium species to electrify thess fans of foliage, then picks up the pink-edged swords with a jewel-encrusted fuschia. In the background, right, you can see the feathers of that nasty California invasive, pampas grass (Dan is unapologetic about using it in his colder climate). As for that dash of baby blue in the background, well, you're going to need to garden on a bluff with a limitless expanse of sky. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

While we're looking at spikey foliage, get a gander of this seemingly simple moment, which in fact is a complex combo of color, size and shape. And genera, of course, but in any DJH garden, that is the name of the game. His plants are far from merely decorative; each tells a story from his incredibly rich and adventurous life (despite the fact that he claims he'd rather be home with Robert and the dogs. Ha!).

From left to right, you're looking at Trachycarpus takil, the Kumaon fan palm; Butia capitata, the pindo palm; and a young specimen of the Texas native, Yucca thompsoniana. That's just what's jumping out at us, who knows what lies beneath, above and beyond. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

ALRIGHT! No more dawdling. Here is the plant that stole my heart during my unreasonably brief visit to the maestro's garden in Indianola, Wash.: Dyckia 'Cherry Coke'.

You're going to have to ignore the succulent and the moss not to mention the boulder they're growing on in order to focus on this "hardy" bromeliad (that is, to 20 degrees Fahrenheit). Look down at its feet and behold blades of deep dark black/burgundy foliage; almost like black mondo grass in this pix. Dan acquired his seed from Yucca Do Nursery but who knows if they've still got this particular hybrid. To learn more about the genus dyckia, check out the Bromeliad Society of Houston. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

I better get this thing posted so all I've left to say is thank you, Mr. Hinkley, for setting the bar so ridiculously high, that I need never worry about being worthy. I am but a humble worm.

It took me about twenty shots to get "Cherry Coke" in focus, but I do believe this photograph does her justice. I just may risk growing her -- or one of the other dark-foliage dyckia hybrids -- in my new hotspot of a courtyard, if only to experience one season's pleasure of seeing her bloom against my orange house. I'd be obliged if any of you could tell me how to keep her happy. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR
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