The banana trees, cacti and palms aren’t exactly what you’d expect from a lawn in North Huntingdon, but Brad Olshanski makes it work.

He is most proud of his favorite plants — the 11 varieties of crape myrtle bushes — in a yard that has all the feel of a tropical getaway far from a tropical climate.

“They’re not supposed to be growing here,” he said of the crape myrtles, which boast brightly colored flowers. “My goal is to get them as big as possible.”

Olshanski’s small corner of the world was one of seven stops Saturday on the Greensburg Garden Center’s garden tour around Westmoreland County.

Admirers got to walk around the properties and get an up-close look at plants while getting tips from their proud caretakers. Event chairwoman Mary Ann Artman said there was a large variety of garden styles and plants for the fundraiser.

At Olshanski’s home, that meant most of them. He has elephant ears and pineapple lilies springing from the ground. Palms shaped like a fan line the side of his home, and a papaya plant is starting to bear fruit in the front yard.

He moved there in 2012 and immediately ripped out the shrubs that came with the house. He instead opted to carefully orchestrate a tropical landscape after years of living in California and Florida.

He dug up 1,200 square feet of grass to make room for the 87 plants he brought along.

“Ultimately, I hope to have no more grass left other than walkways,” he said.

Butterfly, bee oasis in Hempfield

About 3½ miles away in Hempfield, Janet and Bob Lore have created a different type of oasis: one for butterflies and bees. The pair of master gardeners added a pool and outdoor kitchen in recent years and have been working on creating a more private environment in their corner lot.

Their certified pollinator garden did just that while making a new home for insects.

Bees were buzzing around the purple petals of their coneflowers Saturday, and butterflies regularly hatch in the Lores’ backyard. They’ve seen several types of butterflies, including monarchs, swallowtails and painted ladies, Janet Lore said. There is a brick walkway through the garden area and ponds.

Moving forward with the pollinator garden, which is certified by Penn State Extension, was an easy decision.

“We had a lot of the plants to start with, and I like butterflies,” she said.

They’ve noticed a lot more bees and butterflies visiting. Elsewhere in the garden are ornamental goldenrod, blue aster and hibiscus, along with several types of trees, all of which attract insects that move pollen among plants.

“We got all this stuff, and, lo and behold, we got monarchs coming in,” Bob Lore said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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