Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Audience With the King

Here's the Hibiscus that several regular visitors have been waiting for ... His Legendary Highness, Kopper King! This unique and gorgeous hybrid variety was developed by the well-known Fleming Brothers from Lincoln, NE ... I'm not sure if they're still alive, but their legacy continues and they have a wonderful site with even more of the beauties they developed over the years, but to my mind, even though they are remarkably lovely hybrids, none of them begin to surpass the sheer uniqueness of Kopper KIng! When I first saw it (probably about 7-8 years ago) I just had to buy it if for no other reason than because of its foliage, which is unlike any other perennial Hibiscus I have seen. And when it bloomed the second year, the flowers were every bit as impressive as the foliage, with their intense deep red veining and 'eye,' and shades of pink radiating out from the flower's eye.
I should probably note that this year these first few flowers have been strangely lacking in the pink that's one of the distinctive features of this cultivar. I find that a bit odd, but maybe successive flowers will take on more pink as they bloom throughout his relatively limited bloom period. Some Hibiscus (such as 'Blue River,' 'Lord Baltimore,' and the 'Disco Belle' cultivars) will bloom for at least two months in our garden, and last year 'Blue River' stopped in late August, took a couple of weeks off and then bloomed non-stop through October until we had a killing frost. Not so with Kopper King, because when he's spent, he's done and packing it in for the rest of the season. The bonus, though, is that you still have that fantastic foliage remaining, which turns colors in the fall before the freeze ... the bronzy red deepens in the autumn sun, rewarding you once again by its foliage. To my knowledge (and I'm not an expert, just a fanatic), no other perennial hibiscus can offer such year round appeal.
The first shot above was the only fully open flower when I took these late Saturday afternoon (16 August), after the weeding frenzy we went on that afternoon. Anyway, I was hoping to catch the waning western sun coming through the petals ... maybe next time sometime soon! The second shot (above) was already starting to pack it in for the night, only to drop off a day or so later ... such is the longevity of a Hibiscus bloom ... so impressive, yet so ephemeral that they have to pummel you with quantity to make up for their brevity on the scene. Yet another reason why I'm such a fan(atic) about Hibiscus, whether they be perennial or tropical, because they both give a gardener a colorful, reliable and so rewarding a show while they're in their prime during the summer months. You want a late July-August bloomer in the garden? Hibiscus moscheutos cultivars are for you!

Oh yeah, and the shots above and below showcase a Ladybug I happened to see on this flower at the time. She eventually took off, but these last two give us a good look at her going about her business. I don't often catch them at work on our flowers, but when I do, they always give me such a warm and fuzzy that I'm glad they're around taking care of critters we don't even know who invade the garden spaces....
I'll plan on working more Kopper King into the mix as it progresses through his bloom cycle, so you haven't seen the last of him (unless I receive complaints in the comments, lol). There's a lot of other stuff going on in the garden now (the Voodoo Lily is up!) to take up the slack, so variety will likely be the theme here for a while. I can't believe it's already August! We should have corn and tomatoes soon, even though they got started later than we would have liked, but then June was a truly aberrant month this year with all the rain!

Consider this post a condolence of sorts to Shady Gardener and Gail, who are currently experiencing problems growing this particular plant ... While Shady has something devouring the foliage (Japanese Beetles or a Caterpillar?), Gail's plant apparently wants more sun for it to bloom for her ... I guess we were fortunate to plant ours where it is, even if it was a rather 'ad hoc' decision at the time. I think that was about the time we were buying the house way back in 2000. Sometimes it's hard for me to grapple with the fact that we have been here since 1998 come September. As regular visitors will know, ours is a work in progress, and we have had our successes and failures over the years, but for the most part, we like to think we're on the way to building a durable perennial and annual garden that works for us ... it's just going to take a few more years....


Gail said...

I was pretty sure I posted already but it was eaten by the blogger monster! I see Monsiour le King is indeed decked out in his finery, even sporting a bejeweled beetle. We aren't too green with envy, yet! We will if once he decamps to the sunny palace, he still refuses to govern!

This morning I was at a nursery and met another Fleming creation...H Fireball? I saw no flowers, just the lovely leaves...Did I forget you have him? Possibly a crown prince?

Thanks for the link!

I have had company for 3 I haven't been posting or really out and about!


Daisy said...

oh my goodness! bring on more kopper king pictures! I don't think I could get enough. I know I said it before, but when your page loaded, I instantly thought of Georgia O'Keefe again. I really want to get one of those growing my garden...

Annie in Austin said...

When clicked, the foliage in the photos looks pretty cool, IVG - and I like the way the petals are sort of overlapped and swirled.
You probably mentioned it already but how tall has this plant grown in Summer 2008? Did the extra rain mean extra height?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Shady Gardener said...

IVG, Yes, KK definitely has a beautiful flower. The foliage is very distinctive (when it's not being devoured!). ha. Thanks for the condolences. At least I can enjoy your photos. I especially liked the little ladybug! :-)

I'm watering quite extensively today. I purchased a very small (smaller than I thought it would be) Bobcat scoop of composted dirt today. It didn't go as far as I'd have liked, but I wasn't really in the mood to do much more.

I purchased grass seed for overseeding last night. I hope that by watering the lawn a bit, the soil will be easier to work up slightly so I can broadcast seed and water some more!

We had some crazy squirrels tearing grass out of the lawn this year, never seen it before, for their nests, I assume. Anyway, there are some crazy large dead spots!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail!
I wish Blogger would get its act together regarding comments! You're not the first (or last probably) to mention they've had comments eaten, and it's happened to me several times recently at other blogs (including yours) ... oh well, it's always when we write the most brilliant things they get eaten, huh? I wonder where they go? Probably the same place that missing socks end up (which is at the end of universe, if you believe Ren and Stimpy, lol.)

I think once your King gets enough sun in a new home next year, he's bound to bloom. I'm sure you'll do this, but it probably wouldn't hurt to really amend his new digs. Though oddly enough, H. moscheutos seems to do ok in a little clay.

I saw 'Fireball' on their website, (it's a beauty!) but we don't have one. Our red ones are 'Lord Baltimore' (one of the old classic varieties, very tall) and the two 'Luna Red' (newer, bushier) I got this year. So we just have KK, LB, 'Blue River' and a couple of Disco Belles. I'd like to see that one they have called 'Old Yella,' in bloom, because I'd love to have a pale yellow one ... not a color you really see in the perennial varieties.

Hope you're enjoying your guests!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Daisy,
I was concerned about hibiscus hardiness in your zone so I consulted the Arbor Day Zone map (in sidebar at right) and it has you listed as Zone 4 now. It might be pushing it a bit to try it where you are, but if you could give it privilege place close to your house in full sun, and some winter protection you could maybe pull it off. I did see Zone 4 gardeners on Davesgarden saying it did well for them.

Just remember, it's very late to emerge in spring, often in late May early June for us, but once it does, it grows very quickly.

They're not terribly expensive so if you did lose one you'd only be out the emotional turmoil, but not a while lot of money. :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
There's no end to the coolness of the king, in my not so humble opinion. What's not to love?

I did neglect to mention how big it gets, so thanks for the reminder. It usually (this year as well) tops out at about 4 ft, which is exactly what the Fleming site says it should. I think it was also bred for compact height as well, because it has never gotten any bigger than that. Now 'Blue River' is another story entirely! That did overgrow because of the rain, and if it hadn't been knocked over and some broken, it probably would have been over 6 ft or more this year. It's about over my head now (I'm 5'9") so it still could, theoretically.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Shady,
Hope you get a good sense of what it will look when not being devoured. Did you just put yours in this spring or previously? Are there any buds forming? That would be bizarre to see it blooming on a plant bereft of leaves!

We should have watered a bit, but it's supposed to rain most of tomorrow, so I held off (had an exhausting day at work) in hopes that will happen. We did have some light rain move through tonight though.

You should start your own compost ... it looks like you have the space where you are (we do, with much less). It really doesn't require much attention other than turning it every week or so (Fernymoss uses a pitchfork). We compost as much as we can, especially weeds and grass clippings and any veggie waste and coffee grounds from the kitchen. And if you throw your fall pumpkins in (not seeded) you might just get a Punkinstein!

Ack, grass... I refuse to spend any time or effort on the stuff! But that is really annoying that the tree rats have been digging yours up! Loathsome creatures that they are....

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