EUCALYPTUS – THE MYSTERY OF MELLANO & COMPANY’S BABY BLUE EUC
May 22, 2012
The year was 1856. Having evolved in the arid lands of Australia, a hardy shrub was being introduced to California. By 1873 extensive plantations existed near Santa Barbara. Through 1877, some 44,000 seedlings were planted in Alameda County. Then from 1886 to 1888 more seedlings were being distributed for free by the State Board of Forestry. In total, an estimated 65 varieties of this plant took root in California. Then, in the early 1970s, a Northern California nursery happened upon a unique selection of this bluish-gray, kabob-like shrub. Surely this was not native. Where had it come from? How exactly ought it to be germinated? No one knew the secret. But the nursery certainly had a fine crop on their hands.
Hmmm…the mystery to the origins of Mellano & Company’s Baby Blue Eucalyptus!
Indeed, it’s believed that the parentage of our Euc is the Eucalyptus Pulverulenta—the very plant discovered by that Northern California nursery. As with any good secret, the seed eventually got out! It took over a decade but we’ve been growing our Eucalyptus, about 25 acres worth, going on 26 years now (give or take).
We pick our Baby Blue Euc year-round. Our biggest harvests are in advance of the spring holidays, after which time we primp, prune, water and fertilize the plant. Some 6 to 8 months later, it’s ready to pick again. The Euc crop is probably at its best in the winter months, when the tips harden. Stronger, rigid tips ensure that bunches ship safely and that shelf-life is fully maximized.
Eucalyptus is actually in the Myrtle family and, as such, it’s not uncommon to witness shrubs reaching 25 feet tall. In the 1980s market conditions changed to favor the smaller-leaved Baby Blue form of this crop. This was especially true for retail consumer sales, where the Euc became quite popular as a supplement in flower arrangements. Our Euc is merely one of several native Australian plants that we grow here at Mellano & Company. Normally a virile, hardy plant, the plant has had to fight off the likes of the tortoise beetle and the blue gum psyilld in the past. These pests chew at the Euc’s leaves and can cause a lot of damage. We have introduced bio-controls—in the form of natural predators (other insects)—that are working quite well to help keep this crop healthy. With any luck, a century from now our Baby Blue Eucalyptus will be strong as ever. Mystery solved.