Winter Gardening and U-pick at the Nursery

Averrhoa carambola (Starfruit)

Averrhoa carambola (Starfruit) on the tree

This is a very interesting time of year weather-wise. In November we experienced several cool days. Apparently the nighttime temperatures were low enough for the lychee trees to start to flower. With the last few nights in the fifties we might have a decent lychee crop in 2013. Hopefully the blooms will be a mix of male and female flowers.

Because the nighttime temperatures have been below 70 degrees in South Florida, the tomato plants have set fruit. Most tomatoes require temperatures below 70 degrees for fruit to set. The tropical pumpkins look good too. We also have a bumper crop of different lettuces.

You can pick your own vegetables when you visit the nursery. We are growing string beans, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, bok choy, carrots, tropical pumpkins, and several other vegetables that grow well in Miami-Dade over the winter months.

We have a tasty selection of fresh exotic fruit including sapodilla, jujube, guava, and carambola which are maturing on the trees. Visit the nursery and explore this tropical wonder place on your own or ask for a tour.

Enjoy the antique roses which grow on their own rootstocks without having to be grafted. These roses do not get black spot that you might have seen on other roses. They are the easiest of plants to grow. Just deadhead (cut off the dead flower buds) and they will produce flowers year-round.

Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree)

Many botanists believe this tree is a hybrid between Bauhinia variegata and B. purpurea, and not a true species as its botanical name implies. The tree is sterile, so it does not produce seedpods and seeds.  This makes it an ideal Bauhinia, unlike many other Bauhinias which are invasive.   An individual tree was discovered in 1880 growing at a monastery in Hong Kong. It was propagated and planted at the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens.  It is believed, all cultivated trees can be traced back to this individual.  The botanical species name, blakeana, was named for Sir Henry Blake, British governor of Hong Kong from 1898-1903 and an avid amateur botanist.  The flower was adopted as the floral emblem of Hong Kong in 1965, and since 1997 the flower appears on Hong Kong’s coat of arms, flag, and coins.

The Hong Kong orchid tree has large showy purplish, magenta blossoms which resemble orchids, and blooms from November to April, making it a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds which overwinter in S. Florida.  The tree can attain a height of 20-40′ with a crown spread of 20-25′.  It is also very drought tolerant.  The nursery has these trees for sale in 15gal. pots 10-12′ and blooming.

Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree)

Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree)

Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree)

Vegetables and Herbs At The Nursery

The Gulf Stream is a fascinating geological phenomenon.  A warm, strong, fast-moving ocean current, it influences climate from the Caribbean Basin to western Europe.  Without it, Jackie Gleason could not have called Miami Beach “the sun and fun capital of the world.”  Show biz aside, the Gulf Stream has also made southern Florida the winter vegetable capital of the eastern United States and Canada.  At a time when shivering farmers in other parts of the country peruse their seed catalogues, farmers in our corner of the nation are busy raising an impressive assortment of popular vegetables.

Richard Lyon’s Nursery is heavily involved in growing winter crops, and they are beginning to ripen this month.  Among the vegetables raised here are bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese winter melon, collard greens, cucumbers, daikon, eggplant, kohlrabi, radishes, squash, sweet potato, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and tropical pumpkin.  Chives, a year-round crop, fill out the list.  We also grow a number of herbs, including basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

Spend a while at our farm on a nice winter’s day and take home your favorite selection of fresh, tasty vegetables and herbs.  We’re open every day but Thursday.

Assorted Vegetables Grown at the Nursery

Assorted Vegetables Grown at the Nursery

Assorted Vegetables Grown at the Nursery

Assorted Vegetables Grown at the Nursery

Assorted Vegetables Grown at the Nursery

Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus)

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 Eucalyptus 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.
 
This species 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 95 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 here at the 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.

Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus)

Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus Flowers with Honey Bees)

Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus)

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.

Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang)

Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang)

Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang)

Cananga odorata (Ylang- Ylang)