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:
No, I'm not a Disney Hater! I haven't even been to the park in a long time. But when I was there, I remember being awestruck by the design and maintenance of the lush grounds. But let's be real and factor in Florida sunshine, a battalion of gardeners, advanced irrigation/fertilization systems, and the dollars folks pay to walk through the gate, and the landscaping should resemble the world's best botanical gardens.
It was a Volleyball Tournament that brought me to Orlando. Games were played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The grounds there were nice, but nothing compared to the wash of colors and textures at the theme parks. Lucky for me, some games were also played at the Orange County Convention Center where I got my first look at an interior Urban Farm.
The scene reminded me of the movie The Martian where, in the absence of soil, water, and oxygen, botanist Mark Watney - played by Matt Damon - had to keep experimenting to grow food to survive!
Plants like lettuce, herbs, chard, choi, mustard, celery, kale and the occasional tomato and pepper plant, start out small in the Urban Smart Farm. . . . .
They only require 18 - 24 days to mature. The seedlings quickly filling out 81 towers with 44 planting ports in each tower.
The quick math equates to 3,564 plants, ready for harvest in about three weeks, providing an annual yield of about 80,000 plants!
Besides holding the mantle as the largest indoor vertical farm in a venue in the U.S., the Urban Smart Farms take up a miniscule 2,000 square foot space in the massive Orlando convention center.
Look for our next Southern Eucs blog on "Coppicing Eucalyptus trees". A great way to manage height, train you Southern Euc into a hedge row, or just to encourage more of that great fragrant Eucalyptus foliage!
Many people think a Bonsai is a specific species of tree like a maple, oak, or eucalyptus. Not so. The word Bonsai is a Japanese term which, literally translated, means “planted in a container”.
The ultimate goal of growing a Bonsai is to create a miniaturized but realistic representation of nature in the form of a tree.
I was first bitten by the Bonsai bug when I saw Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid practicing the art form and trying to teach Daniel San about inner peace.
I would mess with them back in early 2000 when I owned Walnut Creek Nursery. It was fun to cut back on a small, pot-bound Crape Myrtle or pull a Juniper with potential and just start pruning.
I wish I could take credit for the Juniper or any of the pictures in this blog, but these works or art were stumbled upon at a roadside Bosai garden in Cottondale, FL. You can't miss the billboards on Interstate 10, west of Tallahassee, announcing "Bonsai by Dori". And yes, if you are any kind of plant person or artist, it's well worth a visit.
Before I show you some of my favorites, I have to report on some of my findings. Trees with smaller leaves, contorted trunks, and interesting bark make great specimens. Japanese Maple, Elms, Ficus, and, why not, Eucalyptus meet that criteria and thus make great Bonsai! Recommended Southern Eucs varieties are:
Eucalyptus parvula 'Funky Monkey' https://southerneucs.com/products/eucalyptus-parvula-funky-monkey-eucalyptus-tree
Eucalyptus stellulata 'Sheila' https://southerneucs.com/products/eucalyptus-stellulata-sheila-eucalyptus-tree
Eucalyptus nicholii 'Angus' (seen below in Bonsai form) https://southerneucs.com/products/eucalyptus-nicholii-angus-eucalyptus-tree
Experts say that the many qualities of Eucalyptus trees transfer well to larger 2-4' formed Bonsais. Can't wait to get started! Until then, a few of my favorites from Bonsai by Dori.
I started eucalyptus neglecta 'Big O', eucalyptus elliptica 'Grace', and eucalyptus camphors 'Lucky Country' from 4" containers about a year ago. My goal was to grow them in pots on the patio of my Tampa home.
Originally the soil in the pots dried out quickly in the Florida heat and needed to be watered daily.
Larger pots with water reserves helped immensely and now they stay well-watered throughout the hot Florida days!
Aside from some occasional black mites on 'LC', they're all real healthy and pest free.
They smell absolutely amazing and the cuttings have been helpful in keeping my home smelling nice. A bonus is that my bird cages smell nice too and the birds love to chew on the leaves and bark.
People often ask me if a favorite plant they saw on vacation or at one of the big box stores will survive in their area. Well, the answer is not always as black and white as you would like.
At Southern Eucs we take the "cold hardy" label and the science behind the trees very serious. Species research leads to sourcing seeds form the coldest provenances in the world. From there, the trees are planted in trials gardens for observing cold hardiness, resistance to drought and disease, growth habits, and characteristics of foliage, bark and trunk.
That being said, the first step to planting success is to know your USDA planting zone. This helpful map divides up the U.S. into zones. Know your zone, match it to a plants tag, and you are in the game.
Keep in mind growers and retailers are trying to sell you plants and are pretty aggressive with pushing a plant beyond its ideal zone.
But here's where the game gets fun. There are areas known as "micro-climates", areas of your property that might have a southern exposure, a wind break, a low lying area, ideal soil, etc. that can "extend" a plant beyond its advertised hardiness zone. But "micro climates" with windy conditions, damp soil, exposed sites, etc. can also have the opposite effect and reduce a plants hardiness.
Long time gardeners know this all to well, and this is why you see that tropical palm, western conifer, or Monkey Puzzle Tree growing at your neighbor's house and outside its advertised zone.
Below are some techniques to create that micro-climate and improve your chances of a plants survival.
Bottom line is this. Know your plant and its hardiness zone, trust your supplier, and take the time to create a "plant healthy" environment that will greatly improve your chances of growing a happy and healthy plant!
The recent rains are a welcome sight for parched landscapes around the South.
Neither plant was irrigated, but an azalea falls victim to the drought, while a Eucalyptus 'Big O' still thrives.
In doing a little research I learned that, before recent rains, parts of Georgia were approaching 60 days without substantial rainfall! That equates to the driest 3-month period on record!!!
One of six Eucalyptus 'Macarthurii', still in trials and planted just before the drought, finally gives in.
Five others Macarthurii fought off the drought and, following recent rains, look amazing.
On Nov. 17 the State Environmental Protection Division declared a Level 2 drought in 52 counties, including metro Atlanta, and much of North Georgia.
I watered once, out of pity on Nov. 23, but water just ran away from trees' roots.
This all follows the second-hottest summer in Atlanta’s recorded history, Still, beside the Eucalyptus pauciflora - an alpine species that requires a damp, well drained soil - all the current Southern Eucs survived.
Pleased to report that Southern Eucs new spring introductions, Eucalyptus nova anglica 'Maggie' and parvula 'Funky Monkey' came through the drought unscathed.