Monday, August 11, 2008

The Hibiscus and Zinnias Have Arrived ...

Despite the cooler weather today, I didn't get much done outside, in part because I had tons of laundry to do (and hang out), and by the time that was done (around 6:00 pm!) I had run out of what little steam I started the day out with ... plus, my arthritis has been really bad of late (e.g. high humidity!) and is only starting to ease up a bit. With a little luck and cooler temperatures in store for this week, I'm hopeful I'll get at least some minor tasks (weeding is not minor, but oh well...) done after work, which is slated to be very busy this week as well, so I remain ever hopeful I'll find some time.

So again, excuse the hodge podge nature of this post ... I just wanted announce the arrival of bloom time for the Hibiscus and Zinnias, and provide a peek at what's currently coming into prime time. First off, you can see the backside of a 'Blue River' bloom, something we both find fascinating due to its structure and just plain cool look. 'Blue River' is one of my all time favorite Hibiscus due to its simplicity. Pure white with hints of the slightest bit of yellow in the center, and lines that seem so crisply drawn, that they alone add interest to this prolific bloomer. Currently I need to get it staked back up to display it properly, so be patient, that will happen in a day or so!
This is a 'Disco Belle' variety that I planted a few years ago ... unfortunately there wasn't a tag with the proper variety (it simply said "Hardy Hibiscus," lol), but it's definitely one of the 'Disco Belles.' What distinguishes them from the older varieties of Hibiscus moscheutos, is that they don't grow as tall as say, 'Lord Baltimore' or 'Blue River' hibiscus. They have a much bushier habit and this one never gets much bigger than 3-4 ft over the season, but is also a very prolific bloomer. I like the gradations of color in this variety because, aside from its brilliant red center, there's a lot of variation among the flowers with regard to the extent of the pink coloring. Like all hardy Hibiscus, this one requires very little attention other than an occasional watering during dry spells, and cutting back the dead growth in early spring before it emerges again.

As a general rule, I'm not a real fan of hybridized perennial varieties (look what they've done to the Coneflowers and Gaillardia species of late to see why!), but in this case, I really like how breeders have tinkered with the newer hybrids on the market now, such examples of 'Kopper King' (which isn't exactly new) 'Disco Belle' and 'Luna' hibiscus ... They've addressed a key problem with the older varieties who grow to impressive heights, but are so prone to being blown or beaten down by hard rains and high winds. These newer members of the family may not be as tall, but they fare much better in such weather with much less fussing to keep them staked up properly. (That's my only gripe with 'Blue River' which is why I want to get one of the smaller 'Blue River II' ones.) Anyway, you readers can look forward to much more of these beauties in the near future around here, as it's prime time Hibiscus now until probably October!

Mother Nature, who lives in Tennessee, mentioned in a comment to yesterday's post that her neighbor grows a 'Confederate Rose' hibiscus, which was a new one for me. At first I thought she was talking about the annual variety Hibiscus acetosella, 'Red Shield,' but apparently they are two very different species as the links above demonstrate. We wanted to try 'Red Shield' this year, but didn't get any seeds, so that will have to wait until next year, but it looks like a more than acceptable compromise for those who can't grow the perennial varieties (due to zonal incompatibilities), even if their flowers are not as big as the Moscheutos varieties.... We're looking forward to giving 'Red Shield' a try next year!
I used to be a bit of a flower snob with regard to Zinnias, that omnipresent annual so common in many gardens, but I soon changed my tune when I actually started using them around our garden spaces here, I quickly underwent a conversion and now we consider them as essentials. What's not to like about Zinnias? They're practically fail safe (as long as you water regularly after planting the seeds and during dry spells), they're easy, prolific bloomers who reward gardeners who cut them regularly, by producing bushier plants and even more blooms! Zinnias are the first annuals I always suggest to first time gardeners, because they provide pretty quick gratification in the hottest parts of the summer, when they are happiest and really in their prime. The only caveat I mention is that it's really not worth the effort to collect the seeds in fall and plant them the following season, because they rarely (if ever) come back true to what the parent plant was, mostly producing wan pink and white flowers that are much smaller than the parent. But if that's what you like, then collect to your heart's content ... snobs that we are, we just compost them after frost and buy new seed every spring because they're so cheap and give so much back for such little effort ... except for the initial phase of getting them well established. This particular one is one of the many we have planted on the perimeter of the back veggie garden, and you can see that in this shot, it's bordered by a wayward tomato plant and one of the corn stalks.
Another nice feature of Zinnias (which I've never quite understood) is that they attract butterflies by the droves! So if you're looking for a butterfly magnet, and don't already have these in your garden, give them a try, and you'll most likely be rewarded with many visitors. Combine them with other butterfly magnets and you'll have a sure fire show of flora color and fauna visitors including not only the butterflies but the bees as well. We like to keep ours busy in the garden and Zinnias give them a perfect work site to visit frequently. Not to mention that they make perfect cut flowers for inside as well, because they last a long time in the vase, and cutting them promotes even more prolific blooms ... what more could you ask of an inexpensive annual? If anyone has a good answer to that question, I'd like to hear about it!

I was saddened to see today that Isaac Hayes died. Though I don't own any of his work, I've always been really admiring of a lot of it, and always enjoyed seeing his performances when I managed to see them. His talent was genre changing and inventive, and ever evolving until now. Of course I loved his stint as 'Chef' on South Park, at which he was clearly at his peak of comedic and musical powers ... I was disappointed to find out he was a Scientologist --I'll readily admit a bias here-- but I never doubted this man's incredible talent. Isaac, we'll miss you ... too many good ones gone this year ... George Carlin ... and just yesterday Bernie Mac (who spookily enough, acted in the same film as did Hayes just recently).


FARfetched said...

Looks like that's maybe a ladybug at the top of the second photo. Was I the first to spot it?

Confederate Rose? My mother-in-law has some of those, but they're not a hibiscus or much of anything tropical. We propagate them by chopping them down, cutting the stalks into 18" lengths ±, and letting the bottoms sit in water over the winter in an unheated garage. If you don't plant them right away, they continue to grow as long as you don't let the water run out. Hardy little SOBs.

There's a row of them out front of the manor now, by the flagpole. They'll probably start blooming out next year.

Janet, greenthumbless said...

Triffids: I think we're talking about same movie. Old one. I thought it was BBC.

Isaac: Gotta see him in "I'm gonna' get you sucker" :)

Gardens: Okay finally I'll post something about flora. You might recall that I haven't any green thumbs, pinkies or toes. But I bought a home with some lovely stuff around it. You even helped me identify most of them. They are all fine. So far. New stuff keeps popping up - most bulbs stuff like tulips and irises.

I've planted some lavender and butterfly bushes (drought hardy). Last year we didn't see ONE damn bee. Now this time we have honey bees and bumbles. Tons of em. Hooray!

I'm grateful for the garden builders, creators and keepers. Bees and IVGs alike.

Annie in Austin said...

Confederate Rose is Hibiscus by genus, but the flowers look more like hibiscus relative Rose of Sharon to me (or like the flowers kids make out of colored tissues).

The one in my neighbor's yard is at least 15-feet tall with a 10-foot spread and for the past 4 years has acted like a deciduous tree, blooming in fall, losing its leaves with frost and then making new leaves in spring. I don't know if that's normal here or if this particular Confederate Rose has found a microclimate. Mine is just a baby in a patio container.
Maybe you could grow a Confederate Rose in a pot and shelter it indoors over the winter, IVG?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

boran2 said...

Well, I didn't have to wait long to see a hibiscus bloom! It is a beauty. These I really should have.

I've not been a zinnia person but I saw some very nice ones recently. Yours is certainly a nice one, and many butterflies you say. Hmm.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR,
I noticed that bug too, but neglected to mention it, lol. Sharp eyes there, eh?

Sounds like Confederate Rose can be a bit of a thug down there, and that's an interesting propagation technique your MIL has. When we've propagated the perennial ones we have, we just took good sized young growth cuttings (early summer), dipped them in Rootone and planted them in a regular potting medium and kept well watered until they rooted. I've also grown them from seeds, but usually give the young plants away.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Janet,
Ok, so we were talking about the same film after all. I'm surprised it hasn't been plundered and remade by Hollywood. Maybe the idea of scary walking plants just seemed too simple and sensible, lol.

I remember seeing your pics of your (then new) place a few years ago. That's cool you're still finding surprises, such as the bulbs! Good to hear you have bees back ... we thought our bumblebee colony had been wiped out in the June flooding but either they survived, or a whole new crew has moved in ... either way, we're glad to have them here!

How does your lavender do with all the rain out there? Ours likes to dry out in between waterings, but we most likely have a different variety than you do, because there are only a few that are hardy to our zone.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Annie,
Thanks for the info... I did a bit more research and decided that 1) we could only grow it as an annual and 2) the flowers are a bit foofy for my tastes, as I tend to avoid double blooming varieties of plants (especially columbines!). We were just saying last night we'd like to get one of the 'Bluebird' rose of Sharon going in our yard, probably in the parking.

LOL on planting a CR in a pot... no more things we have to bring in in winter! We already have more plants than sunny windows for them, and added another tropical hibiscus and Mandevilla vine this year, in addition to everything else we grow outside during the summer. Our jade plants are getting enormous this year! We should be cutting those back and starting new ones to give as gifts ... yeah, add that to the never ending list of things to do. :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Yo B2,
I think you're at least in zone 5a right? I think they'd do quite well for you there. I would suggest though that you get one of those newer, bushier varieties I talked about, because they're much less maintenance and come in a great range of colors. I bet you can still find them for sale at a good nursery or maybe even Lowe's. You've still got plenty of time to get one in this year before frost, and they're really quite inexpensive these days. If you can find a 'Kopper King' though, snap it up without thinking twice!!! (Well, unless it's dead, of course.)

Maybe the Boran Boy could try his hand at some zinnias and 4 O'clocks next year ... those were the first flowers I grew as a kid and they're so easy that he might get a great deal of satisfaction from his own flowers. Even bouquets for Mme. Boran, hehe.

Shady Gardener said...

IVG, Please tell me what loves to eat Kopper King leaves? I sprayed my poor plant with a soap solution a couple of weeks ago, and the only completely whole leaves are the top few. The others have been left with the ribs (veins) only! Crazy!!!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Shady, that's a tragedy!

I had to rescue mine (started blooming recently) from weeds and bindweed and renegade morning glories today. In fact both the hibiscus in that bed were damaged by recent rain & hail and Blue River got completely knocked down!

As for your bug problem... Fernymoss and I discussed what we thought the culprit could be ...At first I thought it might be grasshoppers or Japanese beetles, but Fernymoss said if they're leaving the ribs of the leaves that it might be some sort of caterpillar, because that's how they work. If that's the bad bug, I suppose the only way you could get it would be to catch him in the act! (I know, not so helpful!)

If the insecticidal soap didn't work, I'm not sure what else to suggest... sorry!


Shady Gardener said...

IVG, I've returned with the conclusion that it's Japanese Beetle. I've just not caught them in the act of destroying my plant. Check out this link:

Now... what do you think I should do? I've seen some interesting possibiities, but do you have any helpful hints for me? :-)

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