Monday, July 24, 2006

Moscheutos Madness!

I know, it's been ages since I've updated this, and for those patient ones who have gently nudged me back, I offer both my apologies and my gratitude for the patience.

It has not been for lack of material, rather lack of time and honestly, motivation ... But this past week has been so floriferous around here, that I'm compelled to toss out just a few random late night thoughts on our gardening world and how it currently blooms and today's secret word is: MOSCHEUTOS! (Hibiscus moscheutos, that is!)

These fantastically tropical looking flowers, roughly the size of dinner plates, and who last but one brief day, are one of the easiest and most joyful of perennials you can plant. A member of the large Mallow family of plants, Hibiscus moscheutos is often referred to as "Rose Mallow," but for most of us, it's simply the perennial hibiscus, not to be confused with its Chinese cousins with whom you're probably more familiar and see often in garden centers. Not to denigrate them at all, (in fact I have a luscious version called "Brilliantissima" growing on our patio this summer), but quite simply, if you live in Iowa, they're not hardy as they are further south, say in the deep South (here ya go, FM!). One trait they all share, however, is that the flowers last but one day, then drop off and let more come on to carry on the show. And what a show! At this point in July, here in Des Moines, you can see hibiscus popping up all over ... as this once rather rare plant has become quite popular in the last 5 or 10 years. And with the size of the flowers, it's no wonder why ... not to mention the amazing varieties of coloration you can find from variety to variety.

Here's what really commends Hibiscus moscheutos to your sun garden ... aside from pampering them a bit when they are first planted (e.g. regular waterings until they are established), they ask little in return. They will thrive in poor soil, (even with a significant amount of clay in it), they laugh at drought, heat and humidity, and though it's wise to water them more when they are in their bloom phase, they will still perform in the hottest days of July. In fact, Deep River had 10 flowers open today, and the other two varieties pictured here had multiple blooms as well. Once they get going, they will bloom for well over a month, before settling into producing their seed pods Except for the Kopper King variety (a hybrid), you can collect seed from these plants and plant it the following spring, to increase your stock of hibiscus ... if planted early enough (or started indoors) they can even bloom the first year. A few I started from seeds a few years back have even sported into a new variety which I've actually seen for sale in seed and plant catalogues... when it blooms, I'll provide more details on it.

To grow Hibiscus moscheutos successfully doesn't require a lot of work. Let them do their thing, bloom, drop seeds and let them hibernate over winter. In the spring, cut the dead wood back to about 2" from the ground and just be patient. They are one of the last of the perennials to break dormancy here, and sometimes won't show themselves until mid-late May. Never fear, however ... if your Hibiscus did well the previous year and bloomed, it will in all likelihood be back to give a repeat performance! Of course, first time connoisseurs of Moscheutos always fret in the spring that they won't be back ... but then one warmish day, you'll see their sprouts bursting forth, and the cycle begins again.

The three pictured here (photos taken 7-22-23/06) are three of the six different varieties we have planted in our garden. A few notes on each follow ...

The first pictured is a Disco Belle variety, which is the most commonly found in most garden centers. They range generally from a pure white with red center, to ones more like this one, with its delicately pinkish tinged petals, a feature I really appreciate with this particular specimen. Lately it has been putting on about 8-10 blooms per day, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Unlike its taller cousins (like Lord Baltimore, Kopper King and Deep River) it rarely tops more than perhaps 4 feet in height, and has a compact, bushy growing habit that makes it perfect for situations where height and space can be a consideration. Common as the Disco Belle varieties are, they are worthy additions to the perennial border, and will bloom happily for years, spreading slowly over time.

The second one pictured here is called Deep River, which is perhaps close to my all time favorite of the species. With its pure white petals, delicately tinged yellow center and fantastical inner bits, it conjures up images of elevated lily pads or as C remarked the other night, alien spaceship landing pads .... Deep River is one of the tallest of Hibiscus varieties, often reaching 7-8 feet in height, unless toppled by high winds or damaging weather. I usually have to stake this one each year to keep it upright, but it's a very small price to pay for what it delivers when it gets going!

And finally, I present to you the newly baptised Kopper King specimen who had adopted the name of my dear gardening friend Olivia ... who needs to add several of these to her Ottawa garden soon! With its delicate pinkish white petals and dramatic red veining, this is one of the most spectacular of all varieties, and is the result of a patented hybrid developed several years ago. Harder to find than most, it is well worth the price if you can get one, as it offers characteristics dramatically different from its cousins, namely its foliage that reminds one of maple leaves, with their shape and deep green and burgundy tones. Passersby often mistake it for a tree before it blooms, only to return to marvel at its rich hues during its heyday in July ... Its only true drawback (if there can be one) is that as a hybrid, it is sterile and produces no seed. And, last I knew, when these were planted (about 5 years ago) asexual reproduction was expressly prohibited due to its hybrid development (a note found on the stake accompanying it when I bought them). In any case, should you find one, it's worth snapping up and devoting a privileged space for it in the garden ...

Moscheutos Madness has just begun here ... and I will be posting other varieties as they come into bloom... Lord Baltimore in particular, which just started blooming yesterday ... it's a stately, tall (6-7 foot) variety with amazingly deep red flowers and yellow inner bits. There will also be my seed started Disco Belles, who though not as dramatic, do have their charms .... So stop by again, and be patient if I'm negligent about posting frequently, as there are still tons of weeds that need to be gotten in the garden, but I'm taking more pictures just about every day .... There's much more to come from our Victory Garden!

Thanks Family Man and Olivia ... you know why. So, hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and I'll probably next do a post on inner bits! I've got some good shots I'm just itching to put up here ... and soon!

50 comments:

Family Man said...

I must have died and gone to heaven or full blown senility has finally hit me becuase this looks like a new entry.

Wonderful post IVG and I guess you can count on Olivia and me staying off your back for a little while, but just a little while. :)

Man Eegee said...

THOSE ARE AMAZING! Dinner plates?!? Whoa, not something I'm used to seeing. If you're interested in cacti flowers, those we have in abundance, but haven't seen anything like this around my area.

olivia said...

Beautiful IVG! I keep saying that, but I don't think words can do them justice anyway ... so I'll just keep saying beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. :)

And I am supremely honoured to have such a (here we go again) beauty named for me. Thank you IVG!

Your post is just packed full of great info! I've got this one bookmarked for future reference. It's definitely going to be useful ... ;) ... most likely not this summer though. I've decided to do a total garden overhaul, so it's not a good idea to plant more at this time. But these guys will be on the landscape plan. Along with a few other IVG recommends ... :)

olivia said...

Oh, and FM's right ... you've bought yourself a little leeway w/ this great post and the inner bits one! ;)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Whew, I'm glad I'm off the hook for at least a few days! Thanks for all the nice compliments, folks... and Manny, so glad you liked these! I doubt they'd do well where you are (too hot and dry I suspect, but I could be wrong), but cactus flowers are sooo very cool. Maybe you could put a few up on your blog sometime for a diversion?

In any case, just be patient folks, and there will be much more to come... just not enough hours in the day to do everything. If I didn't have to work, oh the things I could do! But take heart, as I do have a backlog of ideas and pics of stuff I want to write about... just hasn't happened just yet!

As always, I really appreciate the kind words and everyone stopping by! Eeek, time for bed (well way past). Hope to have something new up tomorrow at some point, so stay tuned....

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