The myrtle family, the Myrtaceae, contains many plants which we all know well. The eucalyptus, the Australian bottle brush, myrtle itself, the guava, and the Suriname cherry called Eugenia uniflora, to name but a few.  A word about eucalyptus in a moment.    The Suriname cherry is a plant having many virtues, not least of which is the fruit it bears which has a high Vitamin C content. In the West Indies it is used as a hedging plant as well as for growing as single specimens. Eugenia grows easily from seed, but the problem for the gardener is that the seedlings are extremely variable. Resulting plantscan produce a great deal of fruit or hardly any at all, and the only way you can guarantee good fruiting is to propagate it from cuttings from a good fruiting plant. Cuttings ought to be about two to three inches long, treated with hormone rooting powder and rooted in a very sandy compost or even pure sand. If you are using it just as a hedge, then the probability is that you will have quite a few plants which end up bearing a good set of fruit.

Back to eucalyptus. I have in the past been the proud owner of this plant.  It was a blue gum, and its name is Eucalyptus globulus.  I grew it from a seedling and planted it where it was because it was not going to interfere with anything – inside or outside the garden. It grew to over sixty feet tall. In season (which seems to be almost all the time) it produced masses of flowers which attracted hummingbirds by the score, and from this point of view it is a great attraction.  It was very strong and straight and destined to live for many years. Now here is a thing about eucalyptus which is worth knowing. When young it produces juvenile leaves which are very different from the later adult leaves.

I first started growing the blue gum because it is a really most attractive plant when young, and may be planted in an outside border or grown in a pot for use in the house in good light.     When young the leaves are really a lovely blue, and roundish in shape.  Like all youngsters it is very thirsty and in the home will dry out fairly quickly. Once established outside it will enjoy our wet seasons as well as the dry.  However, if grown outside the gardener will have to be careful to select a place where it can develop to  its full size and beauty, or be prepared to get it out before it becomes too well established .

I would think that most of the gums would grow very well in Guyana, but in Europe and particularly Britain few if any will survive very hard winters.  There was a very large specimen of Eucalyptus gunneri which grew for years at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until the severe winter of 1963 put paid to it. Fortunately in Guyana you are unlikely to suffer any climatic extremes that will prevent them growing.

Another native of Australia which has had some success is the silk bark oak which is called Grevillea robusta and which displays many of the virtues of the blue gum. Grevillea is used very much in the temperate world for its foliage. In ornamental bedding displays it is used outside as a ‘dot‘ plant to give height and added interest to low growing plants, and then thrown away after the season is over. It will also produce adult foliage if allowed to grow freely in the tropics, and is a tree of great beauty.  The blue gum and silk oak grow very freely from seed, which can be bought very cheaply in packets.  Try them and see for yourself, and may your God go with you.

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