Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mallow-Licious Tropical Delights

I think that by now, anyone who has read at least a few posts here at Urban Oasis knows that I'm a hopelessly addicted Hibiscus fanatic. (If not, you'd better study up using the labels provided. They will be on the final exam!) The last few years I've ventured back into growing the tropical varieties again after taking several years off ... when we first moved to Casa IVG back in September, 1998, I had been growing a lovely orange one for a couple of years and we brought it with us. Unfortunately, I treated it so well that it grew to be over 6 feet tall in its big pot, and every fall we brought it in, we grumbled about its size --not to mention weight-- and where to put it (that's a real problem for us with everything that spends the summer outside). I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but one fall it just happened to be outside when we got a hard freeze, so that was the end of that. I felt bad enough about that episode that I stayed away from them for several years, and just began re-entering the fold about 3 years ago. That was about the time that I discovered the incredible new varieties being developed by Bahama Bay Hibiscus, the inspired breeders who brought these two stunning examples shown here to the mass market. Of course, these days tropical hibiscus are pretty common, easy to find tropicals at many nurseries and mass merchandisers, and though there are a lot of perfectly lovely, simply colored varieties available at reasonable prices, they certainly don't hold a foot candle to these showier (read: more expensive) hybrids. I guess when I decided to get back in touch with my inner tropical hibiscus again, I also vowed not to grow just any Hibiscus I found, but rather to limit myself to the truly remarkable cultivars. This way I can grow fewer plants, enjoy them more, and give them the winter pampering they so desperately need (and demand).

Thus my acquisition of these two stunners (from the top), 'Erin Rachel' and my newly purchased 'Sun Showers' from last spring. They are indeed the two most eye popping hibiscus I've seen in years, so of course, I just had to have them! (Photos taken on September 13, 2008, the first is mine and the second courtesy of Fernymoss.)

Fernymoss 'posed' this second shot so he could get both blooms in to show the contrast between these newest cultivars ('Erin Rachel' hit the market last year, and 'Sun Showers' this year) ... talk about the full range of the fire colors? Put these two together and you can run the whole rosy red orange yellow gamut of possibilities hibiscus can offer. I'm sorry, but if you want more colors included, I think you're going to have to either depend on Bahama Bay or breed them yourself! I'm really proud to have these two as part of our collection, even if we are going to have to make some concerted efforts to keep them happy during the coming winter.

Like most tropical hibiscus grown outside during the summer and brought inside in fall, they do not like the transition to a less sunny and humid place, thus they lose lots of leaves for a while. Though it's no reason for despair, you do have to be aware that they should winter in the sunniest areas of the house you can provide, keep them watered regularly and hold off on feedings. During the summer we generally feed them monthly with an organic fish emulsion solution, which keeps them robust and blooming during the warmer months. I discourage feeding during the winter because they tend to get somewhat leggy anyway, and feeding will only promote this further. If you can provide additional light (e.g. fluorescent or grow lights), they may well bloom for you over the winter. We have two direct sun Southern windows on one side of the house and that's where they will winter here, and hopefully give us a few blooms. 'Erin Rachel' did bloom sporadically last winter after she recovered from the initial shock, but towards spring she developed a bit of root rot (due to the container she was in) from which it took her most of this summer to recover. She's obviously feeling --and looking-- much better now, and I hope that we can keep them outside for at least several more weeks before we are forced to bring them in. It all depends, but the signs seem to point to an early frost this year for some reason. I certainly hope I'm wrong, but I can kind of sense it in my gardener's bones already.... Only time will tell.

Last weekend, Fernymoss and I sat down to decide what bulbs we are going to order this year and came up with a preliminary order from Van Bourgondien, a supplier we have used and been quite pleased with in the past. To be honest, we didn't really want to order much because it's so much work digging all the holes when the weather is so fickle in October and November, but this year Nature pretty much forced us into it. I've already bemoaned, gnashed teeth and otherwise pulled out thinning hair about the loss of most of our tulips earlier this year, so I won't rehash all that now. (Whew for readers!) So here we go again ... we are going to order about 80 more tulips (mostly Darwins), some more Crocus, Camassia, some small Fritillarias, Stargazer Lilies, and a few others mostly chosen from the 'bargain pages.' We're still debating about whether to get another Dragon Arum (aka: 'Mr. Stinky'), but at this point we've decided that since our other one is spreading so well, we may just skip that one, since the 'Voodoo Lily' Arum we planted this summer is up and growing right now. That doesn't mean we won't change our minds before we actually place the order soon, heh.

Are you other gardeners out there planning for fall plantings yet? I know some don't have the luxury of spring bulbs, but what else are you planting when fall is in its last phases?


Roses and Lilacs said...

Those are eye poppers, beautiful.

I'm looking thru my bulb catalogs too.

Gail said...

IVG, If I weren't a lazy gardener or had a place to over winter these beauties..what a temptation they would be! Instead I will have to enjoy your great photos of these luscious flowers. September pinups?

Thanks for the nudge...I need to finish an order with a company to replace my perennial planter. The business end split on a rock!


boran2 said...

Hi IVG! Those hibiscus are beautiful! Twin dragon arums could be interesting next year. ;-)

I'll be planting a few evergreens this fall but nothing particularly interesting.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Those Hibiscus flowers are so decadent! I suppose they're worth all that work. I've got to get off my sorry whatever & get my bulbs ordered, although I already picked up a bag of Crocus & a bag of Alliums at the nursery. But no way would I ever be willing to plant 80 Tulips in one season. Even if I had someone to plant them with me. My wrists ache just thinking about it.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Glad you liked them! I suppose you'd have problems with the cats eating them if you had them inside?

We've put a preliminary order together, and now just need to discuss it again to see if we're really that ambitious and have the money to get so much. At least Van Bourgondien is having a 50% off any order, so we get a discount however we decide to go!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
Too bad you don't have a nice sunny window inside or you could pull it off ... they're really pretty plants to have indoors even if they're not blooming.

Pinups? LOL, that's PeTaL PR0n territory!

Probably a good idea to get that tool replaced! Those are some tenacious rocks you have down there!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
Evergreens? Please don't say it's Juniper or Arbor Vitae! Remember how you were seduced by the spring crocus???

Now's the time to be getting them (even if you only pick up some at Lowe's or Home Despot or Kmart, etc.) and put them in in October/November. They're cheap, small and would probably just take an hour or two to plant (depending on how many you get). Believe me, you'll be glad come early spring you did it!!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Glad you liked the hibiscus ... they're really not that much work at all, as long as you can give them a sunny spot indoors during winter and keep them watered regularly.

We're ordering crocus too, you can never have too many! And I love the way they colonize so quickly, they're really worth it. We're ordering some Nectaroscordum ('Sicilian Garlic') bulbs for out front and some alliums too. What alliums did you get?

We had no choice with the tulips... we lost over 100 last winter (unless they miraculously resurrect next spring) and they need replacing. I know what you mean though, Fernymoss hates having to dig such deep holes/trenches for them, as we plant them in masses.

Home Photography said...

I love this hibiscus flowers and it looks different from my red hibiscus-Bunga Raya ( Malay ) national flower in Malaysia

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Home Photography!
Thanks for stopping by from your end of the world ... always great to see gardeners from elsewhere in the world!

I did not know that Hibiscus was your national flower, but such a great choice! Hibiscus are one of my most favorite flowers (as readers of this blog know only too well)!

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