Hibiscus, it sounds so exotic. It conjures images of Lena Horne, in a sultry frock, with an impossibly large flower clamped to her head, darkness in the Everglades… and mystery.
Well, my hibiscus are a bit of a mystery to me. Today, for the first time ever, and the plant is now a tidy upright specimen of about 2 feet, my Hibiscus trionum flowered while I was washing up. Well, I saw the flower for the first time whilst washing up to be strictly accurate. I got the seed from the RHS seed list about 5 years ago, managed to germinate only one, and put it in an average spot when it was about 6 inches high. Perhaps too soon, but I thought it would be a fast grower. It has taken its time, however, and each year I have cleared room for it and hoped, to no avail until today.
It is a very lovely, if short-lived, thing. Apparently, the flowers only last for a day, but who cares? Exquisite porcelain white, papery petals with just a hint of pink, and at the centre, a gorgeous plummy-red stain and the long, creamy stamens stand out. It is a charmer. There are actually quite a few buds, ready and waiting in handfuls, so the rest of this week will be filled with hibiscus flowers. Life could be a lot worse.
And over on the bank of the ruisseau, our water canal that runs at the back of the garden, I bought and planted in early Spring a very different Hibiscus, which has also just got going in the flower department. I am often attracted by sale plants! And have to be strong willed to overcome the temptations of sale items. But this Spring, on the website of a good shrub nursery in the Landes, Pepinieres Côte Sud des Landes, I fell for and bought Hibiscus palustris. I was drawn to the idea of a big, brassy flowering shrub that would like sun and damp and might do battle with the usual late summer weed invaders, and Hibiscus palustris is supposed to get big and dominate.
Well, you can see that it is part of the Hibiscus family. And so far, so good. When it was planted, it was two stout stumps and a big rootball. This year it has got to about 1m high, and the flowers are not as giant as they will be, but they are certainly noticeably large. The buds are interesting, framed by what look like thin little fingers. And there are quite a few in waiting. So, I think it is liking where it is, and I am expecting great things for next year, maybe even the 6″ flowers that the books talk about. Okay, it’s pink, and you can have enough of pink, well, I can. But I will forgive it that, I think.