Fabulous Fragrances @ Floridune
Calamondin is a tender species in the citrus family. A single plant in bloom produces enough heady fragrance to make you think you're surrounded by orange groves. I keep mine in a pot on the patio except during the coldest months when I bring it into the living room. Come December it's decorated with miniature white lights and does duty as a nontraditional Christmas tree (predecorated with bright orange fruit and waxy white flowers as ornaments). Calamondin is almost constantly in bloom, its alluring citrus scent stimulating the senses with a fruity base that explodes in a crescendo of spicy high notes - ahhhhhh, sweet!
The other tropical is a shrub/vine that I grow outdoors called the night blooming jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum). This creature of the night exudes a flamboyant fragrance that registers as an exotically sensuous floral scent from a distance but closer up the plant begins to smell like funeral home deodorizer. If you take a really big whiff of the jessamine flowers you'll get a headrush and swear it smells like cat pee! Here in Zone eight this tender perennial frosts back to the ground each year but dependably returns in spring. If this happens it will need a few months to recover and then will begin blooming around mid-summer. In the tropics, night blooming jessamine blooms in flushes throughout the year. Plant it away from patio and windows so you can enjoy its charms from a distance.
The last of our fragrant fall flowers is the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) which also produces edible fruit. This attractive evergreen tree is my second favorite evergreen broadleaf tree (my favorite is the southern magnolia). Loquat has distinctive foliage, tartly tasty fruit and these fabulously fragrant flowers. I don't believe there is anything more enjoyable than strolling in the moonlight, on a cool autumn night, intoxicated by the loquat's sweet exotic scent (and whatever else!)
Fabulous Fruits @ Floridune
Another plant on Floridata's "top ten favorites" list is the American beautyberry whose vibrant purple berries have a metallic sheen not often seen in nature. This flashy fruit is a favorite of some birds and persists on the stems well after the leaves have fallen providing sustenance on into winter while managing to look gorgeous the entire time. I'm lucky that this plant is native to Floridune - I enjoy having volunteers popping up all over the place even if I must exert ongoing effort banishing beautyberry babies from my flower beds!
And lastly, the pineapple guava Feijoa sellowiana) is pretty much past its prime by the time October rolls around. I should have eaten them weeks ago when they were at their peak but the blue-green fruits blend in so well with the blue-green leaves that I fail to notice them. By October they have grown huge and are hard to miss but their juicy sweet-tart flesh is now corky and dry - blah... Actually I like eating the pineapple guava flowers better than the fruit. These are sweet and have a slightly crunchy texture. They are supposedly good on salads but I wouldn't know. This is because I usually just stand by the shrubs, both hands a'pickin the pink petals and shoveling them into my mouth. But even without tasty body parts, I'd still grow the feijoa (as it is also called) for its beauty and drought resistance.
Here in North Florida, October brings a moderating of temperatures and occasional showers that resuscitate the summer annuals for an encore bloom that will last until the first frost reduces them to black mush. It is also the time when many of the tropical species that I grow "out of zone" finally begin to flower having at last recovered from the previous winter's frosty kiss. The tropical sky flower vines (Thunbergia spp.) recover quickly and put forth scores of blue trumpet flowers from mid-summer to present as do the firebush and plumbago.
A less-than-success story is my old purple bougainvillea (B. glabra). I've had it growing near a utility pole guy wire for the past decade. I imagined it scrambling up the wire to great heights where it would burst forth in a purple haze of papery petal-like bracts. The sorry truth is that the stupid thing only bloomed once - a sporadic and sparse display of fewer than a dozen flowers. Apparently bougainvillea is slow to recover from frost bite. Just as the plant is finally ready to produce its pretty purple display, Jack Frost shows up and clobbers it with a freeze - every year. And every year I resolve to pot it up and bring it into protective custody and every year I fail in my resolution. I hope this year I get around to it because if I do: 1) it will bloom next summer and 2) bougainvillea grows (and looks) great in containers.
Besides planting the aforementioned pansies this month I also managed to stick in a few verbenas which I never have success with in the summer. They always fall prey to some sort of fungus disease a problem that also limits my success with many of the more temperate climate grasses like eulalia (Miscanthus sinensis) varieties.
Fungus attack is an ongoing problem for many of my palms especially for the less cold hardy varieties and those from dry climate regions. Here in the winter when it gets cool and damp, the Nanorhopps ritchiana, Chamaedorea spp., Trithrinax spp. and the more tender Sabal species (like Puerto Rican hat palm and Bermuda sabal are affected. I've lost about a half dozen date palms (Phoenix dactylifera and P. canariensis) in the past year and have just about given up on them. Last winter we had record cold stretches of weather and even many of the hardier palms like pindo (Butia capitata ), European fan (Chamaerops humilis) and the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera)were attacked. So this year I resolve to be more attentive and provide weekly treatment with fungicide (so far Daconil® seems to be effective). Many of my specimens are very young and therefore most susceptible to fungus diseases. So I'll continue using fungicide to keep them healthy until they are more mature at which point they'll be able to fend for themselves.
If you recall from my August Journal that I planted some Jubaea palm seeds. So far nothing is happening with them. At the same time, however, I planted a bunch of Trachycarpus wagnerianus and Butia paraguayensis palm seeds too. Yesterday I was very happy to see that one of the T. wagnerianus had germinated! This one is sometimes called the dwarf Chinese windmill palm because it looks like a compact form of T. fortunei. So I'm pleased to announce that in a couple of decades I'll have a beautiful grove of dozens of dwarf windmill palms - I can't wait!
Before I head to the lawn chair for a nap I want to apologize that I am not able to respond to the messages sent to Floridata from our visitors. As much as I would like to help, I am not in a position to recommend plants, diagnose problems or locate vendors and plant sources (sorry!) [2006 update: Floridata2.0's new features like Forums, Business Directory are being developed to help in these areas]. I wish I could, but Floridata is a part time activity for me and I simply don't have the time to respond to all the email (but I DO enjoy hearing from you). Eventually Floridata will transform into a "real" business whereupon we intend to become more helpful in these areas. Please don't give up on us as we're soon to grow bigger and better! Visit often and tell your friends about us.
I wish us all a safe, secure and uneventful November. Please take care of yourself and one another and always be good and grow.
John Scheper 10/31/01