Given yesterday's enthusiastic reception for the Kopper King, he's graciously granted us another brief audience ... I took these shots on August 16, late in the afternoon when he was starting to close up shop for the day, so that accounts for some of the petal ruffles, though others just never fully opened during the day because they were crowded together so closely. In this first shot, you can see how densely the buds pack themselves together, and on truly lucky days you can get 3-4 blooms all open at the same time on one stalk of the plant.
And, to address a point that Annie in Austin brought up in the previous post's comments, somehow I neglected to mention how big Kopper King actually grows! I can't recall (in his 7-8 years here) that he has ever gotten any bigger than 4 ft, which is right about where he is this year as well. As perennial hibiscus go, he's got a very neat growing habit, compared to say, a 'Lord Baltimore' or 'Blue River' who can get pretty tall and ungainly at times, which puts them at significant risk for damage from wind. There's nothing quite as discouraging as seeing a 5-6 ft tall stalk loaded with buds and blooms toppled after a violent thunderstorm. Often, such stalks can be saved if carefully re-staked immediately, but sometimes they just snap, and that it's for that part of the plant for the year.
I was also trying in these shots to capture the fantastic veining in the foliage as well, since that's the feature that most attracted me to it when I got this plant. This shot also shows that he has sustained some minor foliage damage, most likely during one of those thunderstorms we had last week when we got the first hail of the summer (that did a number on the pumpkin leaves). Fortunately we haven't had much in the way of insects bothering this plant (unlike poor Shady Gardener does this year), which might be due in part to the Praying Mantises that have taken up residence in the garden. We haven't been able to get close to any this year, but we have had fleeting glimpses of them around the back yard, so are keeping an eye out for them so we can capture them (with the camera of course)! If you're interested in seeing some up close and personal, click on the Praying Mantis label below to see last year's posts on them.
As for this third shot, I wasn't sure that I'd manage to get the textural look I was aiming for, but I was pleased with how this turned out. I even knew at the time I took this what I'd call it (I rarely give photos a title other than a descriptive one): Shybiscus. Usually the blooms have their inner bits proudly displayed to the world, but not this discreet bloom, thus the name.... This shot also demonstrates the depth of the red and veining these flowers have ... they're truly among the deepest reds I think you can find in a perennial hibiscus, though I suspect the Fleming Brothers have also developed other varieties with this color trait. I can see that I need to spend more time on the Fleming Flowers website, though I know full well I'll be way too tempted to pull out the credit card and go crazy snapping things up. And worse yet, I'll have Fernymoss wagging his finger at me asking the usual question: And where do you think you are going put this one? I do have an answer where next year's acquisition is going though ... in the spot where I yanked all that Coreopsis out last weekend. It doesn't have to be filled this year, and some of the Coreopsis is likely to reappear anyway, at which point I can either transplant it or yank it out. So I'll just use that site as a 'wish list' for now, then order for spring delivery, so I don't make too many spur of the moment plant purchases, something I'm well known for doing when it comes to plants!
Last weekend, when we were doing some end of the day weeding out front, I just had to get a few more shots of this new variety of Celosia called 'Caracas.' It was a new discovery for us this year, and since we got it at a end of season discount, we had to give it a try. When we got them, they were already about 2 ft tall, and have since grown to between 3 and 4 ft at present. It's obviously a cultivar of the Plumosa type Celosias, with a bit of the bronzy red foliage that you find in other varieties such as 'New Look,' though the latter never reach this height. We used to always plant the big Argentea cristata or 'Cockscomb' form, those old fashiony types with the huge "brain clusters" of flower heads, but the past few years we've been too occupied to get them planted in time. I'm thinking now that we could really save a lot of money on annuals if we just started them indoors under lighting, so maybe this winter we'll actually get motivated enough to set that up and avoid having to buy them.
Anyway, Gail also discovered this one as well and has it in her garden, so she's the only other gardener I know who has this particular variety. I'm definitely going to collect and sow seeds from this one this fall, because it looks like it's going to be a real performer for the rest of the season. I've at times mentioned on this blog that Celosia is particularly susceptible to "sporting" and producing odd mutants, so I'm curious if this one will cross with others in our garden and produce something different next year. You never know with Celosia volunteers, and I've found a few recently that are part 'New Look' and who knows what else. They're not blooming just yet, but I'll be curious to see what those look like.
If you've never grown Celosia, it's worth a try, if for no other reason than they bloom right up till frost, snort at heat, dry and humidity (once established, of course), and bring great splashes of colors to the garden when everything else is tending to look a bit past spent. And if you're really lucky, they may cross and give you some real oddballs in the garden the next year! One word of caution: when buying Celosia from garden centers, make sure you don't mistakenly buy the 'Jewel Box Mix' varieties, because they are dwarf cultivars that barely reach 5 inches high! I did that one year, and cursed myself all summer for that mistake as they got swallowed up by their bigger neighbors. The ones often called the 'Castle' varieties get taller and produce a lot more flowers as well ... and they come in a nice array of colors from pink to yellow and brilliant reds (my favorites). Under optimal conditions we've had those get over a foot tall and loaded with bloom spikes bursting with color. They're well worth a spot in your sunny garden, and make great front of the border annuals ... oh, and bees love them! Need I say more?