Back in the early 90’s, I had a very close family friend who worked at Roger’s Gardens in Orange County, CA. She knew that I was enthusiastic about growing cycads, and she suggested that I bring some of my cycads to the annual sale that the gardens sponsored in the spring. I took a good selection of material to my display space that was provided. One day when we were discussing the different species of cycads, she was referring at one point to some of the larger size cycads with their myriad shades of green, and she called them “big greenies.” I don’t know if this was her term, or if it was a term common to Rogers Gardens employees when referring to larger foliage plants. That term has stuck with me, and I still refer to any of the non blue species of cycads as “big greenies.” And yes, I do include the appropriate species label.
In my early years of collecting, many of the seedlings that were available, but still relatively scarce, were of the genus Encephalartos, and they were, for the most part, the medium to large green species. As my collection grew and rarer forms became more available, my “big greenies” were reaching a more advanced juvenile stage (not quite full mature footprint). During this period of time, the “blues” (any blue leaf colored cycads) gained in popularity, almost to the exclusion of the green forms all together. I believe that this was partly because most back yards in southern California just didn’t have enough space for a sizeable collection of the larger green form cycads.
The trend for collectors to seek out the blue forms is not without merit, because it is difficult to argue against the logic of collecting any of the striking blue leafed cycad species with their wonderful varieties of leaves and cones.
As I reflect on the material that I have collected, I have no regrets that I acquired material in the order that I did. Although it would be nice to have some of my blues in sizes that approach the size of my “big greenies,” the green species of cycads will almost always grow faster, and be more robust than the blue forms. However, the “big greenies” in their mature form always seem to draw attention in the garden, whereas in more juvenile sizes, they are hardly noticed. The sheer size of mature “greenies” and their fullness and stateliness is what makes the difference.
To give the “big greenies” their proper regard, I can’t imagine not having the considerable variety of green and blues together with their interesting contrasts of color, size, and form. In your gardens and collections, don’t overlook the bold statement that these regal “big greenies” can add, even if you only have room for a few.
Grow and prosper,