The Puya was kept in a container for several years and planted outdoors in the spring of 2001, in this relatively sheltered position. I threw a blanket over it on very frosty nights but it did suffer some damage on occasions where the temperature dropped to -7°C or below. I would not consider it to be reliably hardy, except in the mildest areas of the UK and Ireland. I have been very lucky to get it to flowering size and am claiming this as a first for Northern Ireland! (But, it seems, not the first in Ireland! .....see http://lindienaughton.blogspot.com/2007/06/help-what-is-this-plant.html)
Coming back to the present, this is another shot of the rear garden showing Yucca gloriosa tricolor, Musa basjoo, Cordyline parryi purpurea, among others.
I intend to deal with individual plants in subsequent entries but the star at the moment has to be Fascicularia bicolor. There are several of them flowering in the garden at the moment and one is just visible in the bottom right of the above photograph (& close up below). This is a pretty tough, bromeliad which is native to Chile and has survived prolonged severe frosts (as low as -11°C) in 1995 and 2000/01. The leaf bracts of flowering plants turn an intense scarlet colour in late summer but the flower itself is a little bluish cone at the centre of the rosette.
Fascicularias tend to take on a tussocky appearance after a few years and do benefit from being divided regularly. Also the offsets root quite easily in spring/summer. The only problem is that the leaves are edged with little spiny hooks which will cover your hands with scratches if you don't wear gloves.
So, that is my recommended plant for today - Fascicularia bicolor. (They used to be hard to obtain but much easier to find these days - B & Q were selling them earlier this year!)