Don’t Delay Hurricane Preparation

We’re already well into the 2017 hurricane season, and so far southern Florida has been spared. But recent reassessments by the various tropical weather monitoring entities have led them to predict a higher probability of storm activity than they originally foresaw. Consequently, if you still have some preparations to make, we at Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommend that you take care of them as soon as possible.

With respect to your yard, you should pick up and store any loose containers; an airborne clay pot can inflict lots of damage. Beyond that, your primary concern should be the condition of your trees. Selective pruning can open up the canopy of trees so that wind can move through them more readily. A tree that is allowed to develop a very dense canopy will be more prone to breaking or falling over during hurricanes or even tropical storms.

In Miami-Dade County, a homeowner can call 311 to arrange for a bulky waste pickup. Alternatively, an appointment can be made online at

https://www.miamidade.gov/311direct/#/bulkyWaste

However, there is a critical issue to consider when assembling a trash pile: Once an appointment is made, the county has nine calendar days in which to make a pickup. If there is a lot of tropical weather activity in the Caribbean, Gulf or Atlantic, you would be safer leaving your trees unpruned, rather than to have trimmings on the ground with a storm looming. This risk accentuates the importance of wrapping up your hurricane preparation as soon as possible.

 

Imbe: The Queen of Fruits?

A few years ago, a weekly newspaper in southern Africa published an article entitled “Imbe: The Queen of Fruits.” Given the wealth of delicious tropical fruit species, that’s a bold claim. The ownership and staff at Richard Lyons’ Nursery aren’t willing to go that far, but for several other reasons we are confident in recommending imbe (Garcinia livingstonei) for use in your yard.

What the African newspaper was really getting at was imbe’s potential as a food crop. It is a relative of the mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), the source of a superb-tasting fruit, but ungrowable in southern Florida. Imbe, on the other hand, grows well here and produces a tasty, orange-pink skinned fruit. But because the seed takes up a lot of space in the fruit, it currently has little commercial value. Some day hybridization may resolve that problem; nevertheless, imbe in its current form makes a very good landscape plant.

Imbe is native to a variety of soil types in Africa, and consequently is very forgiving of Florida’s mediocre soils. It is also happy in a broad range of moisture conditions, although it will fruit more prolifically if irrigated regularly. G. livingstonei tolerates cold temperatures down at least into the high 20s. It grows very deliberately to a mature height of about 15-20 ft., and therefore will not outgrow most gardens. It develops an attractive assymetrical trunk. In fact, one commentator has likened its form to “a piece of angular modern sculpture….”

livingstonei— the species is named for THE Dr. Livingstone — produces fragrant flowers and attracts avian life. The fruit is quite nutritious, and there is some thought that it possesses anti-cancer properties. (One study has found that the plant’s leaves contain anti-bacterial compounds.)

The fruit is usually eaten fresh, but also makes a good jam or jelly, and can be incorporated into ice cream and milkshakes.

Imbe is ordinarily dioecious; that is, both male and female plants are necessary to produce fruit. However, in rare instances a single specimen contains both sexes, and such a plant is the source of the G. livingstonei plants available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery.

Chinese Lantern Tree Can Brighten Your Landscape

Dichrostachys cinerea is a long-lived, spiny, moderate-sized Old World legume that may be just the thing to add something unusual to your yard. In the wild it ranges from 5-23 ft. in height, and it bears a resemblance to an Acacia. Its thin trunk produces a rough and often fissured bark. Young twigs are slightly hairy.

The scientific name Dichrostachys translates to “two-colored spike,” and therein is the basis for the plant’s common appellation. The inflorescence is a pendant, fragrant cylindrical spike featuring pale purple or lilac flowers at one end and yellow at the other. The appearance of the flower spike is considered by many to be reminiscent of a Chinese lantern.

D. cinerea has become widely distributed worldwide over the centuries, and accordingly has picked up several other common names. Among the more unusual ones are Acacia Saint Domingue and Kalahari-Weihnachtsbaum, attributable to the influence of European colonialism here and there. Another name, Sickle Bush, refers to the shape of young seed pods.

The Chinese Lantern Tree is considered medicinally valuable in Africa and India. Various parts of the plant are said to be beneficial in the treatment of coughs, epilepsy, toothaches, leprosy, headaches and — ahem — social diseases.

D. cinerea not only has a lengthy flowering season, but it is not at particular about soil quality. As a bonus, it makes a very nice bonsai subject. It is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3gal.  containers.

We’re High on Grass at Richard Lyons’ Nursery

Ornamental grass, that is, and we’d like to introduce you to some of our favorite species.

Fakahatchee Grass, Tripsacum dactyloides and Dwarf Fakahatchee Grass, Tripsacum floridana: Around most of the world, these grasses are known as Eastern Gamagrass, but folks in Florida prefer to give it a more localized moniker. Native over a large range in the eastern U.S., it’s a bunching grass — distantly related to corn — that grows from 2-10 ft. high. The leaves and stems of Fakahatchee Grass are a purplish color, and flowers are borne on red spikes during the warmer half of the year. This is one tough plant. It prefers moist soils and, in fact, is capable of withstanding periodic flooding, but it can also handle droughts, thanks to its thick, deep-growing rhizomatous roots. T. dactyloides and T. floridana are seldom bothered by diseases or insect pests.

Red Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Cupreum’ and White Fountain Grass, Pennisetum caudatum: Fountain Grass has become so popular as an ornamental plant that hybridizers have developed a number of cultivars. Originally found in a vast Old World range from Africa to Asia, Fountain Grass has now been distributed into many other tropical and subtropical locales. The cultivar called P. setaceum ‘Cupreum,’ also known as ‘Rubrum,’ grows in clumps to a height of 3-4 ft.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) of Great Britain has conferred its Award of Garden Merit on Red Fountain Grass, and it’s no wonder. The plant’s strappy, curved leaves are of a reddish hue. The foot-long
inflorescence, colored copper or purple-pink, sits atop a flexible, yard-long flower stalk. For best results, Red Fountain Grass should be grown in full sun on a site that drains extremely well.

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 color. M. capillaris is the more drought-tolerant of these species, but both are known for their ease of maintenance.

Tiger Grass, Thysanolaena maxima: This fast-growing Asian native can be used to great effect where a bamboo-like look is sought in the landscape. Maturing to about 10 ft. in height, T. maxima grows significantly taller than the previously-described grasses, and, while it is successful when grown in full sun, it can also perform well in partially-shaded spots. Its distinctive arrow-shaped leaflets attract a lot of attention, and it tolerates temperatures down into the upper 20s. Tiger Grass functions well as a stand-alone specimen or as a hedge for settings in which a screen or windbreak is desired.

All these species are available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery.

Ground Covers: Some Midsummer Recommendations

Perhaps you have an area in your yard that can’t readily be mowed. Or maybe you’re just tired of mowing at all. Then consider replacing grass with attractive, flowering ground covers. Here is a sampling of suitable species being grown at Richard Lyons’ Nursery:

Perennial Peanut, Arachis pintoi and Arachis glabrata: According to Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), in the nearly 80 years since this remarkable plant was introduced to the U.S. from Brazil, it has never suffered a significant disease, insect or nematode pest! And because it doesn’t reproduce via seed, it hasn’t demonstrated any signs of invasiveness. It makes a nice ground cover if you provide good drainage. Perennial Peanut bears edible, peanut-flavored yellow flowers on and off all year. And the plant is tough enough to tolerate salt spray and occasional foot traffic.

Carnation ‘Firewitch’, Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’: If our weather forecast suddenly calls for a low of 35 below zero, you might not survive, but this plant will! Capable of growing in a vast range of temperatures, this Carnation cultivar produces bright purplish-pink flowers, as well as a clove-like fragrance. Even when not in flower, Firewitch’s blue-gray foliage makes it an attractive ground cover that stays under a foot high. Plant in sunny exposures with excellent drainage.

Golden Dragon Impatiens, Impatiens repens: This Sri Lankan species, now likely extinct in the wild, doesn’t look like what most people think of when they consider Impatiens. Leaves are more rounded than pointed, and they help create a nice ground cover. I. repens produces succulent, burgundy-red, creeping stems complemented by yellow flowers. For best results, plant in filtered light.

Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus: Though capable of growing into a moderate-sized shrub, Turk’s Cap is also amenable — through judicious pruning — to being maintained as a ground cover. It produces bright red, pendulous flowers which call to mind less-than-fully unfurled blooms of hibiscus, to which it is, in fact, related. This plant is a bird and butterfly attractant. For best results, plant in a well-drained site, in full sun to light shade, and provide regular watering. Conduct pruning operations during the cooler months of the year.

Lavender Star Flower, Grewia occidentalis: Native to Africa from Mozambique southward, the Lavender Star Flower possesses several desirable features: Glossy, deep green leaves; edible, square-looking compound berries; non-aggressive roots; attractiveness to butterflies and birds; tolerance of drought, salt spray, strong winds, and light frost. Though capable of being trained to grow as a small tree, G. occidentalis also functions as a ground cover when left to wander around. For best results, plant in full sun and provide supplemental iron occasionally.

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), L. depressa  (Pineland Lantana), and L. montevidensis (Lavender Trailing Lantana).