We have Jackfruit

Jackfruit on the tree

Artocarpus heterophyllus (Jackfruit) on the tree.

I know some of you have been waiting since last season ended. The wait is finally over. The jackfruit is back, and we have a beautiful fruit this year.

If you aren’t familiar with jackfruit, this is a tropical treasure. It has a unique flavor somewhere between banana and pineapple mixed with other tropical notes of flavor. The spiny fruits are spectacular in size and can get upwards of 70 pounds.

For a really unique experience, come by our nursery in Miami today and buy some jackfruit for a taste of this Asian treasure.

Summer Over?

Charles Whited was the longtime local columnist for The Miami Herald. One of the best pieces of advice he provided to recent arrivals in southern Florida was to appreciate subtleties in the climate. Because annual temperatures here don’t vary as much as those in the rest of the U.S., Whited recommended appreciating even the slightest breaks in the weather.

With that thought in mind, the staff of Richard Lyons’ Nursery made a happy discovery while perusing online weather statistics recently: Winter is on the way! According to the source, the peak daily temperature range in eastern Miami-Dade County is 78-91 degrees from July 10 to August 27. That means that on August 28 we began to cool off, at least statistically. And this is where Whited’s counsel must be heeded. By the end of September, the daily temperatures ‘plummet’ only to a range of 76-88 degrees. Subtle indeed! But the seasoned southern Floridian can feel the difference.

Plants feel the difference, too, but not always in a positive way. In order to keep your landscape in top shape, you should not let down your guard as we transition, however slowly, into more pleasant weather. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the period of hottest, steamiest weather does not necessarily give rise to fungal or bacterial problems in plants. Rather, it is during the weeks when nighttime temperatures are retreating that leaf-spot problems can proliferate. Though the nights may be cooler, humidity remains high, and that combination can start serious problems in many of your tropical plants.

So we suggest that you inspect your landscape regularly during the upcoming months for signs of leaf-spot disease. There is a vast selection of chemicals on the market that can help you stave off serious problems. Be sure to read and follow label directions carefully. Some products require a second application 7-10 days after the first, but others remain effective for 30 days between treatments. Finally, rinse your pump sprayer thoroughly after every use in order to keep chemical residues from building up in the tank, hose, or wand.


Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought About, Part X

Having gone through enough Roman numerals to make the Super Bowl people jealous, Richard Lyons’ Nursery today concludes its ground cover series with a peek ahead to vegetable species that are unexpectedly well-suited to enlivening your winter landscape.

Celery, Apium graveolens var. dulce: Celery is a member of the Apiaceae, the important vegetable family that includes carrots. It was first grown for its medicinal properties. A Mediterranean native, it is well-attuned to our region’s mild winters. Celery matures to just over 3 ft. tall, whereupon it produces masses of compound, creamy-white flowers on upright stalks. The flower heads, reminiscent of an umbrella, are called umbels.

Dill, Anethum graveolens: Dill is another of the Apiaceae that doubles as an edible crop and desirable ground cover. Reaching 3-5 ft. high, it features delicate, lacy blue-green leaves borne on slender stems. Like celery, it produces compound flowers, but they are yellow rather than white. This Asian native prefers full-sun exposures and well-drained soils. Both dill and celery are larval hosts for a number of butterfly species.

Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla: Today’s quiz: Where is Swiss Chard native? Answer: The Mediterranean, of course! (This beet relative is called Swiss Chard to distinguish it from old varieties of French spinach known as chard.) Not only is this vegetable highly nutritious, it is also downright beautiful, producing glossy, prominently-ribbed green leaves that feature contrasting rib and leafstem coloration that may vary from white to yellow to red. The mature plant reaches 2-3 ft. in height.

Oregano, Origanum vulgare: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Parsley, Petroselinum crispum: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.




Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought About, Part IX

Richard Lyons’ Nursery today continues its survey of plants that are sometimes overlooked in their capacity as ground covers.

Bromeliads are another plant family comprising species which function well as ground covers. Terrestrial bromeliads, i.e., those species capable of growing in the soil, can be massed to create very striking, colorful ground covers to complement or interrupt the monotony of turf grasses. This use of bromeliads was popularized by Roberto Burle-Marx, famed Brazilian landscape architect/artist. Here are a pair of sun-loving species which we at Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommend:

Giant Bromeliad or Imperial Bromeliad, Alcantarea imperialis ‘Rubra’: This species is endemic to Brazil, specifically the rocky, dry mountainsides of the Serra dos Órgãos (Organ Range) of Rio de Janeiro state. It grows slowly to a diameter of 4-5 ft. and a height of 4 ft. Its leathery leaves, green on top and burgundy beneath, reach 5-6 in. in width. Following a buildup of many years, this imposing plant produces a stout red flower stalk that may hit 7-10 ft. in height, bearing white flowers attractive to butterflies and birds. This bromeliad is not demanding; in fact, too much fertilizer will diminish the strong coloration of the leaves.

Bromelia naranja (Orange Bromeliad), Aechmea blanchetiana: Individual plants of this species grow about as tall as Alcantarea imperialis, but not nearly as wide. However, it pups freely to create a spreading ground cover. Though its upright yellow-orange leaves brighten any setting, its inflorescenses, composed of showy red and yellow bracts, are the real attention-getters, whether from humans, butterflies or hummingbirds. The flower stalks not only persist for months, but may also be utilized in cut arrangements. Like Alcantarea, it is undemanding of anything but good drainage.


Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought Of, Part VIII

Today Richard Lyons’ Nursery today presents the eighth installment of its survey of plants that are sometimes overlooked for their potential as ground covers.

Succulents can be deployed to create striking ground covers in sunny, dry areas of your yard. Here are just a few of the species that can help you improve a desolate space:

Hedgehog Aloe, Aloe humilis x ‘Hedgehog’: This dwarf hybrid, developed in South Africa from four Aloe species, reaches a maximum height of 12-18 in. It appears to be fiercely armed, but the spines are fairly soft and harmless. During the winter, a bloom spike emerges from the gray-green rosette, producing reddish-orange tubular flowers which attract hummingbirds.

Swan’s Neck Agave, Agave attenuata: The common name refers to this species’ graceful, curved stems. This easy-to-maintain succulent grows in a wide range of well-drained soils, forming very graceful rosettes of light green, broad, fleshy, spineless leaves. Pups produced at the base can be left in place to increase density or separated for use elsewhere. A. attenuata is native to the state of Jalisco in Central Mexico.

Dwarf Variegated Agave, Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’: See “Agaves” (October 14, 2012) on this website.

Mauritius Hemp, Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’: This beautiful Agave relative bears just one sharp spine on each leaf, at the tip. It is an essentially trunkless species featuring swordlike leaves — accented by a cream-colored band running down the middle — that reach 5-6 ft. at maturity. Native to the Caribbean and northern South America, Mauritius Hemp, like its distant cousin, Agave sisalana, produces commercially-valuable fiber. Unlike Agaves, Furcraeas do not produce suckers/offsets at the base.


Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought Of, Part VII

Today Richard Lyons’ Nursery today presents the seventh installment of its survey of plants that are sometimes overlooked for their potential as ground covers.

Bamboo Muhly, Muhlenbergia dumosa, and Pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris: These closely-related species not only succeed as stand-alone landscape elements, but they also work well as clumping, tall ground covers. M. dumosa, native to southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico, has lacy, fine-textured foliage and an attractive billowing growth habit. It is the taller of the two grasses, reaching 4-6 ft. high. M. capillaris, native over a wide expanse of North America, grows 1-3 ft. high. It is particularly attractive in late summer, when it produces long flower stalks that imbue the plant with a pink to purplish hue. M. capillaris is the more drought-tolerant of these species, but both are known for their ease of maintenance.

Calathea spp.: If you are looking for a colorful ground cover for dappled-light settings, the genus Calathea is an excellent choice. Native to South America and Central America, its species feature some of the most eye-catching combinations of hues and patterns found in tropical foliage plants. They thrive in highly-humid conditions, but must have excellent drainage. Watering frequency should be reduced during winter months. Clumps may be divided to expand the area of coverage.

Lantana spp.: The genus Lantana comprises about 150 species native to both the Old World and New World tropics. Many of them are widely used for their spectacular color combinations, the length of their flowering seasons, and their success in attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant them in full sun. They are amenable to being pruned vigorously to keep them compact and improve flowering. Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommends L. camara (Lantana), L. canescens (Hammock Shrub Verbena), L. involucrata (Button Sage), and L. montevidensis (Lavender Trailing Lantana).

Firecracker Plant, Crossandra infundibuliformis: See “Looking for Shady Friends? Part III” (July 27, 2013) on this website.

Green Island Ficus, Ficus macrophylla ‘Green Island’: See “Ficus macrophylla (Green Island Ficus)” (September 1, 2012) on this website.

Lemon Grass, Cymbopogon citratus: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.