I know. I know. It is only the end of August, but the weather has already begun to change. The day time temperatures are slightly below the summer highs of 94-95. Unlike the weather to the north, which begins to cool dramatically after Labor Day, we won’t experience lower humidity until mid October.
This means time is growing short for moving plants which are in the ground from one location to another. Be certain to root prune your larger trees and shrubs before transplanting. The time needed depends on the size of the plant. If you are able to remove the entire root ball intact, do so now. I suggest that larger shrubs or trees not be moved until next April. However, you can start the root pruning process now. Root prune 1/3 of the root ball, wait 4 weeks, then root prune another 1/3, wait another 3 weeks before doing the last 1/3. After waiting another 3 weeks, you can now relocate the tree or shrub with the least amount of shock, thus giving your plant the best chance for survival.
Some of the Bougainvilleas which normally do not show color in the summer are already producing their colorful bracts. this could be a by product of a somewhat drier than normal summer so far.
Just as most of us wilt during Florida’s long, humid summer, so do many vegetables which simply can’t hold up to hot nights and persistent rains. But not all is lost. There are many herbs that are adapted to beating the heat. A leisurely tour of Richard Lyons’ Nursery will demonstrate a number of the species that are ready to diversify your meal planning and take you deliciously through the dog days.
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum): Also known as Kow-choi or Chinese Chives, this onion relative is a very desirable plant for the summer garden. It excels as a flavoring agent for those who like a mild version of garlic; its delicate taste can be detected in many Asian dishes. Both leaves and flowers can be used as seasoning. But Garlic Chives also make a nice ornamental contribution to the herb garden, whether in small groups or as a ground cover. The 2′ x 2′ plants look like neither garlic nor onions, but instead feature flat, broad leaves. At flowering time, fragrant white blooms appear on stalks projecting above the leaves.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus): Though commonly known as West Indian Lemon Grass, this popular herb is native to maritime Southeast Asia. It grows in dense clumps capable of reaching 6′ high and about 4′ wide. Its blue-green strappy leaves, which droop gracefully at the tips, emit a citrusy aroma when crushed. The leaves are also used widely — either fresh or dried and powdered — to flavor curries, teas and soups, as well as meat and seafood dishes. Lemon Grass oil contains a number of useful compounds, including the mosquito repellent, citronella. Plant this year-round herb in bright light in moist soil.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Oregano, an herbaceous perennial native to warmer regions from Europe to Asia, is a member of the mint family and is closely related to sweet marjorum. It can reach over 32″ high, but usually stays under 20″ and spreads by rhizomes. The dark green, oval leaves of Oregano are aromatic and tasty. They can be cooked fresh or dried for longer-term use. The plant produces white to pink to purple edible flowers on upright stalks, but the leaves taste best when harvested just before bloom time. The multiple cultivars of Oregano possess distinct tastes.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Parsley, a biennial aromatic plant native to both the African and European sides of the Mediterranean, has many culinary roles: herb, spice, vegetable. It is also a butterfly attractant. It generally grows in clumps about a foot tall by a foot or more wide. Parsley’s bright green triangular leaves are finely divided into flat or curly leaflets which are harvestable even in climates where wintertime nights hit the low-20s. One of the three varieties of parsley produces edible roots. It is also popular as an ornamental plant in gardens, where it can be incorporated in window boxes or used in the ground as an edging material.
Rue (Ruta graveolens): Like most people, you probably find yourself in need of a witch-repellent from time to time. Meet Ruta graveolens. From the Middle Ages on, this native of southern Europe was valued as an essential tool in the struggle against witches, so it was integrated into many spells — perhaps even by the Wizard of Id. In more recent times, Rue has been used both to flavor foods and to add fragrance to cosmetics and soaps, and it also has many medicinal applications. Ironically, its bluish leaves, while still on the shrub, emit an unpleasant odor, so it’s best to locate this hardy plant at some distance from your house.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Here’s one of many herbs belonging to the mint family. Rosemary is a woody perennial plant that matures to about 6′ high and 4-5′ wide. It is at home in poor, dry soils. Native to Mediterranean lands, it produces strongly fragrant, needle-like leaves and semi-tubular flowers that vary from white to pink to purple to blue. Its astringent leaves are particularly popular when cooked with fatty foods, but are also often used to dress roasts. Rosemary is also said to enhance memory, a quality which may help you remember that you can prune it following flowering to encourage denser growth.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Spearmint has been cultivated for so many centuries that no one knows its exact native range, though experts think it was southwest Asia and Europe. This herb usually matures to 2′ high and 2′ wide and spreads via rhizomes, and it produces white to lavender flowers on terminal spikes. Its serrated leaves emit a very striking scent when crushed. Spearmint has long been used to flavor teas, cooked foods, salads, candies and toothpaste. It is happy in moist soils and should be grown in full sun to partial shade. It is amenable to shearing to remove spent flower spikes and to encourage new growth.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa): The aromatic leaves of this subspecies of Artemisia are cultivated for use as a culinary herb. The plant comes in many forms, each imparting a specific flavor. It is native from the Caspian Sea area to central and eastern Europe, including Siberia! Tarragon matures up to 5′ high, but usually shorter, and spreads by rhizomes. Flowers are yellow-green, but the plant does not always produce blooms. Its lanceolate, i.e., narrow and pointed, glossy leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor vegetables, meats, fish, sauces and eggs. Tarragon prefers well-drained soils.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Another representative of the mint family, Thyme is a bushy, woody evergreen shrub native to southern Europe. It grows 6-12″ high and about 16″ wide and features highly-aromatic, small, gray-green leaves. Its semi-tubular flowers are pink to pale purple. Thyme favors full-sun exposures and easily tolerates dry, rocky, shallow soils. The leaves are most aromatic just before bloom time, and can be used fresh or dried to complement the flavor of meat and fish dishes, sauces, soups and stews. Thyme also has many cultivars created for its use as an ornamental plant in the garden or in pots indoors.
Allium tuberosum (Garlic Chives)
Allium tuberosum (Garlic Chives)
Cymbopogon citratus (Lemon Grass)
Origanum vulgare (Oregano)
Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)
Papilio polyxenes on Petroselinum (Black Swallowtail Butterfly Larvae on Parsley)
Ruta graveolens (Common Rue)
Papilio cresphontes Chrysalis on Ruta graveolens (Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Chrysalis on Common Rue)
The typical summer humidity and afternoon thunderstorms of South Florida are upon us. Despite the weather though, this is an ideal time of the year to add plants to your landscape. They will get enough water without worrying about irrigation, and will become established before our dry winter arrives.
The nursery has a wide variety of plants suited for growing in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. Whether you are looking for tropical fruit trees, flowering ornamental trees and shrubs, flowering vines, plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, palm trees, bamboo, or South Florida natives, there is a good chance you can find it at Richard Lyons’ Nursery, 20200 SW 134th Ave. Miami, FL 33177.
Continuing our recent feature, we recommend three more species known for their dependability in settings where lighting is muted:
Bird’s Nest Anthurium (Anthurium hookeri): There’s a bit of mystery connected with this very popular aroid. What has been grown in southern Florida for many years as A. hookeri is probably something different, a hybrid. On top of that, the term ‘Bird’s Nest Anthurium’ is applied to a number of species/cultivars that exhibit a similar growth habit. But no matter how that enigma is resolved, what’s clear is that our Bird’s Nest Anthurium is a very tropical-looking plant featuring elongated leathery, dark green leaves with wavy or ruffled edges. The distinctly-veined leaves, which in a mature plant reach several feet long, emerge radially from the center of the ‘nest’. Our Bird’s Nest Anthurium will make a striking addition to the shadier parts of your yard.
Coral Aphelandra (Aphelandra sinclairiana): Before you read further, you should know that this plant is not for everyone. However, if you are up to a bit of a challenge, you will be rewarded with rare beauty at flowering time. A. sinclairiana is a Central American shrub that matures at about 10 ft., but can easily be trimmed back to half that size. It blooms in the winter, starting with orange-red bracts borne on spikes about 8 in. long. That’s striking in its own right, but then the true flowers begin to emerge — and they are pink! The unusual color combination provides a rich, unique accent to your garden, and the bracts will persist long after the flowers fall off. The challenge to this species is that it does not like cold weather. One way to overcome that limitation is to take advantage of microclimates on your property: Plant Coral Aphelandra against a south-facing wall in a shaded location.
Firecracker Plant (Crossandra infundibuliformis): Some days it’s easy to understand why Latin is a dead language. Why stumble over ‘infundibuliformis’ when you can say ‘funnel-shaped’? That’s a reference to the flowers of this native of India and Sri Lanka. The Firecracker Plant is an evergreen shrub reaching roughly 3 ft. high by 2 ft. wide. Even when it’s not blooming, it catches the eye with its lance-shaped, textured, glossy green leaves. Add to that the salmon-orange flowers that appear atop upright stems, and you have a very attractive plant that thrives in filtered light. ‘Firecracker’ alludes to the pods which distribute seeds in an explosion that is one of nature’s ways of getting the plant distributed. Crossandra grows easily in the ground in southern Florida, but also does well in containers.
All of these species are available in containers at Richard Lyons’ Nursery, 20200 SW 134th Ave. Miami, FL
Continuing last week’s feature, we recommend three more species that flower dependably in settings where lighting is muted:
Philippine Violet (Barleria cristata): Okay, class, our topic this hour is “Misnomers of the Plant World, or What Not to Like About Common Names.” Accordingly, we consider Barleria cristata, commonly known as the Philippine Violet. The problem is that it’s not a violet, and it’s not from the Philippines. Instead, it’s a member of the Acanthaceae family, which includes Aphelandra, Sanchezia and Thunbergia. And it’s native from southern China into India and Burma (Myanmar). We’ll pretend not to notice that Burma has its own problem with names. What’s certain about B. cristata is that it is a very nice short-day species, meaning that it blooms in the winter. The funnel-shaped flowers occupy a color range from purplish-blue lavender to pink to white, roughly 1″ in. wide and 2″ long. The plant matures at 3-5 ft. high by 3-5 ft. wide. This species responds well to ample irrigation, periodic pruning, and regular fertilizing, and it generally does not suffer from pest problems.
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): Beautyberry is a very hardy species, native in the U.S. in a broad swath from Virginia to Arkansas and eastern Texas. It thrives in moist settings, whether woods, bottomlands or the fringes of swamps. Like Philippine Violet, it matures in the 3-5 ft. range, but it can reach 9 ft. under ideal conditions.
While the pink clustering flowers of C. americana are nice enough, it is the fruits of this species which really make it stand out. The glossy purple berries, which appear in July-October, are held in clusters along the leaf stems of the plant. At least one observer has likened the clusters to bracelets. American Beautyberry planted in masses adds vibrant color to the shady areas of a garden. In colder parts of the plant’s range, the fruits persist after the leaves have fallen off. Incidentally, the crushed leaves of C. americana contain chemical compounds that hold promise as repellents to mosquitoes and other biting insects.
Bush Clock Vine or King’s Mantle (Thunbergia erecta): There’s yet another plant recommendation that adds color on the purple side of the palette to the parts of your garden where lighting is muted. Thunbergia erecta, a native of western Africa, is a woody shrub that reaches about 6 ft. high and wide. Bearing small, glossy green leaves, it produces tubular yellow-throated, deep purple flowers 2-3 in. across which may appear singly or in clusters. In addition to their beauty, the blooms are also mildly fragrant. Flowering occurs throughout the year, but most profusely in summer months. The fast-growing Bush Clock Vine — ‘vine’ being a misnomer borrowed from this species’ climbing relatives — makes an outstanding hedge for foundation plantings or borders. Left to its own devices, it will develop a sprawling habit, but it is very amenable to pruning. This desirable plant is also seldom affected by insect pests.
All of these species are available in containers at Richard Lyons’ Nursery, 20200 SW 134th Ave. Miami, FL