The west coast, all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway, from San Diego to San Francisco, is where I first gained an appreciation for Eucalyptus trees.
I was utterly amazed at what a solitary Euc could do to soften and frame a home’s otherwise desert landscape.
Or completely change the character and offer much needed shade to an entire neighborhood.
Now some Californians have recently turned their backs on Eucs. After planting them for hundreds of years (when/where nothing else would grow) as windbreaks for farms and orchards, for aesthetics, and for timber, they now say it’s time for their invited and gracious guests to go.
Proponents of the “native only” movement” like to co-mingle the “invasive” and “non-native” tags to win their argument against the trees. But not all non-natives are invasive!
The non-native tag is true. Eucs are native to Australia and belong to the Myrtaceae family. Yes, just like our beloved Crepe Myrtles.
But keep an open mind when casting off non-natives. They bring much needed species diversity, offer animal shelter, nectar, and sometimes provide a better choice (see dogwoods and elms) than natives in the landscape. And remember, corn, strawberries, avocadoes, chickens, cows, and most of us, are not natives either! I think that claim goes only to the American Indian and fish!!!
Alright, enough with all the politics. The real reason for this blog is to share some pictures and surprises from a recent west coast trip and visit to the wonderful world of Disney.
The Anaheim, CA park welcomes over 70,000 visitors a day. I think it was closer to 100,000 when we arrived. Disney’s horticulturists and designers are some of the best in the world. They could choose any plant to welcome their high paying patrons through the gate. But they choose Eucalyptus!
It is a great way to stop and smell the Eucs before paying the piper and mixing with the masses. Also, Eucs as a canopy, is counterintuitive to the argument that they are prone to dropping their limbs. Can’t see the Disney lawyers missing on that one!
The tree lined street was functional in both providing filtered shade and screening the massive parking lots. And the use of Eucs as specimens was prominent at the park’s famous photo-op.
From a gardener’s perspective there was also enough “Disneyfied” stuff to appreciate, and still ask why?
Never got the animal topiary thing! Still, it was good to see - when some in California have turned their back on Eucs – that Disney still has an appreciation for the diverse trees.
On a recent shopping trip from my home in McDonough, GA to the Krog Street Market in Atlanta, I got an idea to see just how many thriving Eucalyptus trees, hopefully Southern Eucs, I could locate on the 30 mile northbound drive. Mile marker one was easy. Sitting in my driveway, 16 years after planting, I’m still in awe of the 35’ tall, original ‘Angus’.
(Thought) I lost one of the ‘Angus’ Eucs to a 6 degree winter back in 2015, but now have a nice 15’ replacement that has regrown from the base.
Twenty feet down the driveway are a 30’ tall, three-year old ‘Cab Sav’, and 20’ tall, 16 yr. old ‘Funky Monkey’,
I know, my own house, kinda like cherry pickin’. Let’s hit the road! Just a mile away there’s a Southern Eucs success story at Matt and Mary Jane Portwood’s house.. They needed to replace a dead Wax Myrtle in a high profile area they use for entertaining. They planted this 1 gallon neglecta ‘Big 0’ about 18 months ago and are thrilled with the rapid growth, fragrance, and light shade it provides.
This stunning Euc 2 miles away is in the historic section of McDonough and it fits perfect with this home's color and craftsman style.
Mile marker four is a Euc that I have long kept tabs on. This (unidentifiable) 40’ tall Eucalyptus tree calls the Ola area of Henry County home. I’m confident it is a Southern Eucs because of its proximity to the nursery I used to own and sell Eucalyptus trees from.
At mile marker five, right near the entrance of I75, are three, I think, rubida ‘Cab Savs’.They do a great job screening the interstate and filtering the sounds of the busy interstate.
Just off the exit is a trials participant in East Atlanta. Scott Lootens, a videographer by trade, always sends great pictures documenting the rapid growth of his three-year-old ‘Big 0’ and pauciflora ‘Bonza’.
Working my way over to the Market, I have fist hand knowledge of a great Southern Euc in the Emory Area. I helped plant it at world renowned designer, metal fabricator and TV host Bryan Fuller's cottage style house in the Emory area of Atl.
Finally, Krog Street Market and mile thirty of the shopping spree, turned Southern Eucs sighting trip.
I know a lot of landscapers in the metro Atlanta have been adding Southern Eucs to their designs. And wouldn’t you know it, while looking for parking at the Market, I noticed that great silver-blue color - only a few trees can claim - highlighting this in town home’s tidy landscape.
Looks like a ‘Maggie’ but I didn’t want to intrude any further on the homeowner’s privacy. Absolutely love the placement as a specimen tree and how it sets apart this home from other’s in the Atlanta neighborhood.
And was quick to see positive results.
Heading into his second winter, he has seen some some impressive results with some specific varieties.
Shino's early reports stated he planted in an unprotected and uncultivated field with lots of grubs. "It was a very wet winter" Shino said, "with the lowest temperature twice recorded at -2 Fahrenheit. Still, three varieties showed substantial cold hardiness and have quickly regrown from the bases."
Eucalyptus neglecta 'Big O'
Eucalyptus pauciflora 'Bonza'
Eucalyptus parvula 'Funky Monkey'
Shino will be planting three new trees from our ongoing Southern Eucs trials. E. perriniana, a striking Spinning Gum with reported extreme cold hardiness. Eucalyptus palverulenta a small tree or shrub sought after for its foliage for use in arrangements. And Eucalyptus Macarthurii, or Camden Wollybutt, a large "oak-like" tree that grows in the broad cold flats in its native habitat..
Check out our next blog on "Atlanta's (Southern) Eucs!"
Here's a quick history of the yard since we bought our house last year:
We had 22 Pine Trees, 2 Laurel Oaks and 2 Red Maples removed about this time last year. The Pines were just too tall, and had to go. The others were diseased unfortunately... I hated to see them go. But hey, it made room for all these Eucs.
Here's a picture taken around November of last year when I was re-grading the yard (Yard is approximately 8500 sq.ft.)
So far I've planted Southern Eucs in the backyard only. I'm considering some for the front. We'll see. Here are some iPhone photos of the three I've gotten from Southern Eucs so far at planting: Here's Big O in the back left corner of my backyard:
Lucky Country at planting:
Lucky Country has amazed me. Despite the root-ball and root-collar damage from shipment, it has taken off -- growing about 1 ft so far. It started showing growth within a couple days after planting. I'd have to say it is my favorite.
Note that the soil where Big O and LC are planted is at the lower grade of my backyard, and therefore gets quite mucky when we get heavy rains. We had a big storm just after planting Big O where we got 5 inches within a couple hours! The rain water took a few hours to drain down. Didn't seem to phase Big O. Funky Monkey at planting.
Grace showed slight stress initially after planting, but soon recovered strongly and is now showing new growth which appears to be picking up speed. This is despite my pug "marking his territory", and insects eating her leaves a bit, which I was surprised to see. I ended up planting her near our back-porch.
And here is a photo taken about a month ago from the same angle as the first pict.:
Beautiful (Euc) yard Brian!!! look for our next blog post on "Atlanta Homes Utilizing Eucs!"
Southern Eucs are drought tolerant and tough trees that thrive when temperatures rise. Add a little rain and they color up and grow up quickly in both the green house and the garden!
Recently introduced Southern Eucs ‘Maggie’ and ‘Funky Monkey’ are continuing to show tremendous growth in the Trials gardens. They are resistance to pests and disease, and are maturing into stunning specimens.
The record holder in the Southern Euc Trials has to be this 35’ ‘Grace’ planted (from seed) less than 3 years ago.
Check out ‘Grace’s peeling and smooth bark. Sherwin – Williams calls the color “Roman Column”. I call it cool!!!
Still going through our Southern Eucs Trials and showing consistent, upright growth is Eucalyptus Macarthurii.
Its common name is Camden Woollybutt, reason enough to grow it, but it is also an endangered species in New South Wales.
The leaves and stems are pretty impressive with a sweet fragrance and hints of copper to orange appearing on new growth.
Eucalyptus perriniana, or Spinning Gum, has long been considered one of the most cold hardy of the species (down to -20). It is showing well in its second year in the Southern Eucs Trials.
Still, I’m anxious to see how this sub-alpine species, which grows in areas that are snow-covered for months, will hold up to a hot, dry Southern summer.
Perrinianna’s seed is difficult to source from the coldest provenances, but its potential as a true “specimen” tree are outstanding.
Yes that is the stem growing right through the circular leaves. Not sure how common that is in the horticulture world, but this Master Gardener has never seen it.
Another tree two years into trials is Eucalyptus ‘Crenulata’.
I added it to our trials because of its upright but small stature.
A mature ‘Crenulata’ will grow up fast, and give you a nice specimen tree in the 20 – 30' range.
Next Southern Eucs blog: Textures in the Garden.
I grew up in Los Angeles, where warm temperatures, blue skies, and ever-blooming flora and fauna blend the seasons together. Though it’s been more than 20 years since I left, nothing takes me back to the sunny, carefree days of my childhood faster than the scents and smells that abound in so many parks and gardens in the Golden State.
Jasmine and gardenias can fill a neighborhood with sweetness, and citrus blossoms in winter are special. But as far as I’m concerned, the defining smell of Southern California is Eucalyptus.
My earliest memory of the fresh, spicy scent was on a Kindergarten field trip to the LA Zoo, where towering eucs line the pathways (and feed koalas, too).
Eucalyptus trees grow along freeways, anchor steep embankments, and seem to crown every distant hillside.
Bark ranges from near white to near black, as seen in this picture taken near Griffith Park (in a driving rain, alas). I think the contrast is really striking, though it was obviously more vivid in person.
On breezy days, the fresh scent of their leaves can even fill a car that has its windows up.
During a recent visit to San Diego, I couldn’t help but wonder if the men who imported Eucalyptus in hopes of a new lumber source had any idea they would contribute so meaningfully to the beauty of the state.
When I moved to Atlanta and began landscaping my yard, it never occurred to me that one of my favorite trees from the arid Southwest would also thrive in the humid Southeast. But, a passing comment from a friend inspired a quick Google search, and . . . that’s how I found Southern Eucs! I purchased Neglecta and Ripper varieties, and both are beautiful. They’ve shown promising growth, especially in the trunk, and their ease of care has been a welcome contrast to the nurture most other shrubs and trees require.
For all these reasons, I love Eucalyptus trees. My hope is that mine will create the same sort of happy “scent memories” for my children that I cherish from my youth.
Coppicing a tree or shrub involves periodically cutting it back to the ground level to stimulate growth. Designers, savvy gardeners, and homeowners use this method to achieve a desired effect, prolong life, or to fix a problem in the landscape.
Sounds like a pretty progressive concept, but the roots of this age old method sprouted with the harvesting of timber and can be traced back 3806 BC.
Long ago our ancestors realized that, for optimum wood production, certain trees can be perpetually cut to the ground and grow back. Most deciduous trees can be coppiced, but beech, cherry and poplar produce weaker growth.
Very few evergreens can be coppiced. One that thrives with this practice of pruning is Eucalyptus!!!
A lignotuber at the base of the tree protects eucalyptus stands from deforestation during fires and freezes.
That single "protector" cell also provides gardeners a host of pruning possibilities when growing this diverse and tough tree. Below are the basics to making coppicing work for you.
Controlling Eucalyptus Trees height: Make a cut, slightly angled, from 12 to 18” from the ground. Select the most vigorous shoot for the leader and remove all other shoots. Coppice your Euc in late winter - spring in humid areas to avoid fungal infections, summer in cooler regions.
Young trees will respond quicker, but there is no size limit on when you can coppice a Eucalyptus. Below is the result of a coppiced 15 yr. old, 40' tall Eucalyptus nicholii 'Angus' https://southerneucs.com/products/eucalyptus-nicholii-angus-eucalyptus-tree at the McDonough, GA trials garden.
Growing Eucalyptus Trees as a screen: To encourage lateral branching for screening purposes cut tree trunks about 6 – 10’ from the ground, leaving the side branches to fill in for privacy. Above mentioned seasonal and regional rules apply.
Growing Eucalyptus Trees as a hedge: Prune Eucs at the end of their second growing season, removing about a third of their height and cutting in pyramid shape. Continuing to remove about ¼ of the tree each year will maintain the neighborhood’s most fragrant, colorful, and unique hedge row.
Sourthern Eucs that make great hedge rows are:
'Funky Monkey' https://southerneucs.com/products/eucalyptus-parvula-funky-monkey-eucalyptus-tree
Growing a Eucalyptus Trees as a specimen: This one is easy. Don’t prune any lower branches for the first 6’ until the third season. In fact, don't worry about it at all. Most Eucs will shed their lower braches on their own.
A coppiced tree’s foliage also remain at a juvenile stage. A bonus for Eucs because that is when the foliage grows most vigorously, is fragrant, and ornate.
Tree huggers did you know that a regularly coppiced tree will never die of old age!
Next Southern Euc Blog: