Ylang-Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata)

If you haven’t discovered the source of Chanel No. 5 perfume, allow us to introduce you to the Ylang-Ylang Tree. Native from island chains of Southeast Asia into northern Australia, this tropical evergreen produces oils that are steam-distilled from its aromatic flowers to create the world-famous women’s fragrance.

The story goes that Russian-born perfumer Ernest Beaux presented French coutourier Coco Chanel a series of sample fragrances in 1920. The fifth sample piqued her interest, and because of the coincidence that her clothing line was introduced on the fifth day of the fifth month every year, she dubbed the new product Chanel No. 5. Its major component is the oil of Ylang-Ylang (pronounced EE-lang – EE-lang), augmented by oils of a jasmine and a rose.

Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata) belongs to the Annonaceae family, which includes custard-apple, sugar-apple and soursop. On drooping branches it produces greenish flowers that mature to chartreuse shades and eventually to a fairly dark yellow. In warmer months in southern Florida, its heavenly fragrance permeates the evening and nighttime air for a significant distance. Where it is native, the fast-growing C. odorata can reach 100 ft., but in the thin soils of our region, mature heights of 30 ft. are the norm. This species is amenable to exposures from full sun to light shade, and in placing the plant, we recommend a site where other trees provide a wind break.

Some medicinal uses, including aromatherapy, are attributed to Ylang-Ylang. It is also said that in Indonesia, the tree was historically valued as an aphrodisiac, its flowers strewn about the beds of newlyweds. We here at Richard Lyons’ Nursery suspect that providing an aphrodisiac to the newly-married is like carrying coals to Newcastle.

But no matter what use you have in mind for Ylang-Ylang, you will find it available at the nursery in 1-gal., 3-gal. and 15-gal. sizes.

We Finally Approach the Dry Season! – Part II

In September we talked about the much-anticipated arrival of the dry season and offered a few suggestions for how to prepare—in a horticultural sense—for winter. Today we continue to address some of the conditions we will need to deal with to make our vegetable, fruiting, or ornamental plants perform at their best over the winter.

October is an interesting month climate-wise. Until about 35-40 years ago, it was the third-rainiest month of the year in most of southern Florida, behind June and September. But according to statistics provided by the Weather Channel, in the intervening years October has slipped to the fifth position across most of the region, having been overtaken by July and August. This means that in October homeowners must be more sensitive to the potential for an early end to the rainy season, a factor that’s important to timing the final application of fertilizer for the year.

The consensus recommendation is that plants should be fertilized no later than the middle of October. But because rainfall at that time of the month has become less dependable, homeowners must be willing to irrigate newly-fertilized plants to achieve the best outcome.

But there is an apparent dilemma to deal with: At the same time that October has been turning drier, winters have been getting warmer. One might well wonder if the final application of fertilizer can be delayed beyond mid-October. The answer is no. That’s because despite the increasingly warm winters, southern Florida is not exempt from incursions of cold weather. To fertilize plants after mid-October runs the risk of encouraging a flush of tender new leaves, which can be devastated by cold weather. The safest policy is to continue to observe the traditional deadline for fertilization so that plants can harden off and better resist damage from cold fronts.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery has designated an area of the farm for growing winter crops, including carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar peas, green beans, daikon, and tomatillos. Herbs, both seasonal and year-round species, are doing well. After three months, we still have jackfruit on the trees, and sapodillas will ripen soon. Jujube and star apple trees are loaded with buds and developing fruit, so we anticipate a big crop in a few months.

Come out to the farm and see what’s ready to take home. In addition to vegetables and fruit, we have ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as palms, and many of them play a role in butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)

There are almost 900 Eucalyptus species in the world! Some are gigantic and others dwarf; some are water-tolerant and others xeric, but only one of them is native to the northern hemisphere. That species is E. deglupta, the Rainbow Eucalyptus. It is found on various Pacific islands, including Mindanao (Philippines), Seram (Indonesia), Sulawesi (Indonesia), New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), and New Britain (Papua New Guinea). It is the only Eucalyptus adapted to lowland and lower montane rainforest habitats, and it is one of only four species not endemic to Australia.

For the record, E. deglupta normally develops a pyramidal crown, but it is the trunk that attracts attention. The Rainbow Eucalyptus is so-named because of its beautiful exfoliating bark, which simultaneously exhibits a vast range of colors—light green, dark green, gray, pink, red, orange, blue, purple, maroon. A photo at the top of this webpage provides a good idea of the splendor of this species. It occurs naturally in dense riverside stands, where deep, sandy soils and rainfall of 100-200 in. a year promote a high-octane growth rate. In fact, it is probably the fastest-growing forestry tree in the world, reaching heights well over 200 ft. in ideal settings. But the tree is much more manageable in southern Florida. Although E. deglupta is quite adaptable to limestone-derived soils, the shallowness of our soils, as well as average rainfall here of less than 60 in. a year, limits mature height to about 60 ft. The species is not frost-hardy, but can handle the upper 20s for brief periods.

The Rainbow Eucalyptus is not just another pretty face. While its wood is not extremely dense, it is of sufficient quality to render it useful for a number of construction purposes, and beginning about 100 years ago plantations have been installed pantropically to produce pulpwood that yields a very bright white paper.

In locating a Rainbow Eucalyptus on your property, follow the criterion used for avocados: Plant the tree away from the house, so that limb breakage during storms will cause minimal damage. E. deglupta can be found at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. and 15-gal. sizes. We recommend that you not keep this species containerized indefinitely, because it doesn’t happily tolerate lapses in watering.

The Colorful Copperleaf Shrubs

In many parts of the United States, the copperleaf is a popular summertime landscaping element, a heat-loving annual bedding plant that disintegrates with the onset of winter conditions. But it’s really a perennial evergreen shrub, and we in southern Florida are fortunate to be able to grow it inground or in containers year-round, allowing it to achieve dimensions unknown north of the subtropics. Copperleaf is certainly an apt name for most members of the genus Acalypha. When grown in full sun, leaves of those cultivars achieve various hues of red, as if they are sheets of copper beginning to oxidize.

Acalypha wilkesiana is probably the variety most people first think of when the genus is mentioned. The leaves are 5-8 in. long, with serrated margins. The plant, if left to its own devices, can reach 10 ft. high by 10 ft. broad. That makes it useful as a screening material. But this variety is also amenable to being pruned hard if greater compactness is a goal. Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries one of the more unusual A. wilkesiana cultivars, ‘Java White.’ Instead of the standard red coloration, it has multiple hues—white, light yellow, chartreuse, and green.

Another cultivar, A wilkesiana ‘Fire Dragon’, is also recommended. It differs from the original form in a couple of ways: The overall size is smaller, and the leaves are narrower, with a pronounced pink accent around the margins. Some say the foliage reminds them of that of Japanese Maple.

A. wilkesiana ‘Inferno’ and ‘Firestorm’ are similar to one another in that they both feature shorter stature and narrower leaves than the standard A. wilkesiana. However, ‘Inferno’ hues are in the orange-yellow-red range, while those of ‘Firestorm’ lean more toward oranges and browns.

While all the copperleaf varieties attain their best color when planted in full sun, they can also tolerate some filtered light. They like ample soil moisture, but also good drainage. These popular Acalyphas are available at the nursery in 1-gal. and 3-gal. containers.

We Finally Approach the Dry Season!

Not that you can feel it, but we’ve actually been on the downside of summer heat for several weeks. According to statistics published in the Miami Herald, as of mid-September the average daily temperature should be 83°, a drop of two degrees from the summertime high in parts of July and August. With a little bit of imagination, it’s possible to sense the pleasant changes that come with the end of the rainy season.

Those changes—however subtle they might be—dictate different behavior toward our plants. Richard Lyons’ Nursery is happy to offer a few observations for dealing with the approaching onset of autumn weather.

1) Do not root prune any trees that require a lengthy root-pruning process. The palm Copernicia macroglossa is one example, but that advice holds true for large specimens of other trees, many of which may require gradual root-pruning over a 12-month period. If they’re not transplanted during the hottest, wettest time of the year, they tend to have great difficulty recovering.

2) This is the time to start planting winter vegetables and herbs. The plants that grow well in the summer around the rest of the country are generally successful in the winter in southern Florida. The list includes onions, sugar peas, dikon, dill, basil, carrots, beans, collards, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. You can also continue to plant vegetables that survive year-round in our region; they include parsley, rosemary, mint, thyme, chives and Cuban oregano. In addition, there has been some success in having Thai basil survive our summers.

3) Start making adjustments in your watering regimen when the humidity begins to drop. Lower relative humidity means noticeably lower minimum temperatures by mid-October. You can consider the rainy season over when dewpoints regularly drop below 70°. At that point, some plants, particularly those in containers, start to experience problems with hydration. You should monitor your plants closely to see if you need to increase irrigation through the fall months.