Hibiscus

The Color Of Summer

Staying away from social media for almost two months proved very productive.  I don’t mean to offend anyone who has been reading my blog or bloggers I’ve been following but I needed time to reflect, get things done and read books.  I did get a lot of things done, have read more books and even started baking again.  Now I’m back, refreshed.

Summer is really here with extremely high temperatures and humidity.  Aside from sunflowers and echinacea, another flower that represents summer really well is hibiscus.  I have two hardy hibiscus in the garden, ‘Plum crazy’ (plum color as it’s name suggests) and ‘Midnight Marvel’ (deep red flower with maroon leaves).  Their flowers are almost the size of a dinner plate.  I put them in the ground in a sunny spot and left them there.  I cut the dead old stems back to two inches above ground in spring, feed them and let them be.  They have come back up every year when the heat hits the area.

Hibiscus-Plum Crazy
‘Plum Crazy’ with plum color and very large flowers. This one has been at this spot for more than five years.
Hibiscus-Midnight Marvel
‘Midnight Marvel’ with eye-catching flowers and leaves

The tropical ones need a little bit more pampering as they have to stay in pots and go back in the basement in winter.  They need to be watered and fed regularly.  They also need plenty of sunlight.  With food, water and plenty of light they will flower continuously throughout summer.  I prune them once a year in spring so they won’t grow too big.  Flowers that develop before I take them to the basement still bloom but they rarely produce new flowers until they come back outside again.  Spider mites and whiteflies are the main pest when they are inside the house.  I spray them with insecticide soap to keep the critters under control inside.

Hibiscus 'Bon Temps'
I have been growing ‘Bon Temps’ in a pot for three years. It’s still doing well and flowering all summer.

I purchased the ‘Voodoo Queen’ last year because I wanted to see if the color really changes as the nursery claimed, though I hardly have space left for more plants in the basement.  She didn’t disappoint me.  Here are two shots of the same flower on the same day.

Hibiscus-Voodoo Queen-morning
Hibiscus ‘Voodoo Queen’ in the morning
Hibiscus-Voodoo Queen-evening
Her color changed to this color in the evening. Looks more like a Queen than a Voodoo Queen

With a few hibiscus on the pool deck and in the garden and 90 degree heat and high humidity, I feel like I’m in the tropics.  A little cool breeze would make it seem even closer to that reality.

Growing Jasmine

In A Cold Climate

There are many types of jasmine and most of them prefer warm weather.  I love jasmine and refuse to be deterred by cold weather.  When I lived in an apartment I grew a couple of Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) on the windowsill as there was plenty of sun on that side.  Now I’ve moved further north and have a garden, I grow more of them and more varieties too.  But they live outside only in late spring until early autumn, then back down in the basement during winter.

In winter all my tropical plants stay under plant lights, with the timer set from 8 am to 7 pm.  That includes the jasmines.  There is no extra heat provided aside from a furnace that heats the house.  The flower buds that developed while they were outside will still bloom under the lights.  I stop feeding them when they are in the basement to prevent them from growing too lanky.  Plant light isn’t the same as the sun, of course, so they still try to reach up to the lights, but still grow more slowly than they will outside under the summer sun.

Jasmine
Arabian jasmine in bloom in summer

Two problems with growing jasmine inside are spider mites and root rot.  To get rid of the tiny spider mites requires monitoring, checking the leaves for them before there are too many of them.  When my jasmine were small, I gave them a shower once a month.  Put them in the bathtub and spray them with water both top and bottom of the leaves.  This will provide them with moisture in a dry winter house as well as washing off the mites, if any.  Once the plants get bigger, if I find mites, I spray them with insecticide soap (approved by OMRI for organic gardening use) and mist them with water once in a while.  Too much water will make their roots rot.  I will let the soil dry a little before I water them again.

When spring arrives and nighttime temperatures will stay above 50ºF, I take them outside, let them enjoy real sunlight.  I start feeding them a month before I take them out.  I also prune them at this time; cut out dry, weak, crossed branches or branches that are too long for my liking.  I also remove most of the leaves from the plants, my grandmother’s method.  Jasmine leaves grow in pairs, remove them alternately.  This will encourage them to grow new leaves and flower buds.  Then I feed them monthly while they are outside.

Jasmine
New leaves sprouted after most of the old leaves were removed
Jasmine
Plenty of lovely flowers and a sweet fragrance in summer

I let the flowers bloom on the plants if we plan to sit outside in the evening so we can enjoy their fragrance. I pick the flowers and keep them in the house, especially in the bedroom since the fragrance has a calming effect.  I also put them in water to infuse their scent into it.  Cold jasmine water is very soothing for a hot summer day.

With attention and care a jasmine plant will last for a long time.  Some of mine are over 15 years old and still bloom profusely every summer.

 

Spring

It’s ‘Officially’ Here

Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring.  That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in.  The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground.  That’s why I say ‘officially the first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.

Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up.  Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves.  The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight.  But they are Siberian, they should be fine.  Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.

Daffodil & Iris
I’ve been trying to dig this clump of daffodil out from the corner many times but what’s left underground keeps coming up every spring.  It’s always the first to come up since it’s so close to the warm house.
Siberian garlic
Siberian garlic started up in late February but was covered with snow, now the snow has melted away and they still look healthy.

Inside the house is another story.  Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers.  Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom.  I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.

Amaryllis-Red Lion
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ bloom with deep velvet red, four huge flowers on one stem. One more stem coming up on the left.

Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower.  I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are.  I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.

Hibiscus-The Path
‘The Path’ hibiscus always blooms through summer, providing that it is well-fed. This one probably sensed the spring warmth and is itching to get outside so it flowered really early, probably as a hint.  The red color in the middle is much deeper when it is outside.

But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.

In The Tropic

Colorful Display

It was nice to go from bone-chilling cold to warm and humid weather and be among a variety of very bright, colorful and beautiful tropical flowers.  Now, back to the cold climate and inches of snow on the ground, the longing for the site and the scent still lingers.  Working on photographs I took during the trip helps a little.  Here are a few to share with you.

Sala flower, aside from it’s beauty, it’s also fragrant

Sala (Couroupita guianensis) or Cannonball tree has quiet beautiful flowers that look like anemone.  The flower has very sweet fragrant. I wish I could grow it here.

As much as I don’t really like Bougainvillea, I have to accept that the color combination of this plant at the place we stayed, is really something to be seen.

Bougainvillea along the driveway of the resort where we stayed
More Bougainvillea
Pink water lily
Two tone water lily

They look fake but they aren’t.  Waterlilies comes in so many shades and colors here, some are even fragrant. Talking about fragrant tropical flowers, Plumeria is one of my favorites.  It also comes in a variety of colors but I love the nuances in the white variety the most.  The one below is from the rows that grow in front of the resort we stayed at, between us and the beach.

White Plumeria

 

Cashmere Bouquet

Really A Fragrant Bouquet

I love fragrant flowers and try my best to collect them in our garden.  Many of them have to stay in pots as they are tropical plants.  As we are running out of space in the basement, I try not to get a new tropical plant.  I also try not to propagate plants I have.  It’s hard to do since I regularly prune them in spring when I take them out in the garden.  I don’t want to throw healthy branches away so I stick them in a new pot and they take root.  Some plants have been with us for many years and have grown much bigger so space is getting tight down there.

I couldn’t pass up the Cashmere Bouquet (Clerodendrum philippinum) when I saw one in a nursery offering a couple of years ago.  Even though I know how fast it can grow and its need for space, but one is enough.

A clustered bouquet of pale pink fragrant flower at the top of the plant
A clustered bouquet of pale pink fragrant flower at the top of the plant
Sometime it's white
Sometime it’s white

It a big leaf plant with white, sometimes pale pink clustered flowers.  It’s fragrance is lightly sweet and musky and cannot be replicated.  It reminded me of home, of childhood.  I think it’s the same reason why I grow jasmine and have been collecting varieties of them.

Young stem usually produce half a bouquet but still have soothing scent
A Young stem will usually produce half a bouquet but it still has a soothing scent

I mentioned that one plant is enough, but they are two now.  The old habit is hard to get rid of.  I repotted it in spring to give it some legroom but I also split it at the same time.  I wish I could grow it in the garden so I could have a whole patch.  It can be grown out side in warmer USDA Zone 7 and up.  But be warned, they can produce suckers and develop a colony very fast.

If you wish to grow it in a pot, it may not bloom as it likes direct sunlight.  But if you have a window with plenty of light, it’s doable.  One year I had a plant light right on it, to my surprise it bloomed in winter.  Keep the soil on the dry side otherwise it will rot.

Water Jasmine

A Tiny Fragrant Star

Winter is my time for basement gardening.  Where we live we have to put our tropical plants in the basement for the winter.  It’s a lot of labor to go through twice a year.  We take them in when we know that the night temperature will drop and stay below 45°F, usually around late September or early October.  Then take them back out in spring when the temperatures will stay above 45°F at night.  It was easy when they were small but it gets much harder once some of them grow taller than us.  But it’s always a pleasure to have them around.  They keep me going in winter and give us fresh herbs even when the ground is covered with snow outside.

Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter
Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter

Tropical plants that are taller than us in addition to Kaffir lime and the Ficus, are the Water Jasmines (Wrightia religiosa), of which we have two, one over six feet tall and the other is around 1.5 foot tall.  I grew both of them from seeds.  I did try air layering once but that plant survived only a couple of years.

Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.
Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.  Each flower blooms for a day but it flowers continuously.
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
Each little branches fill with tiny white flowers
Each little branch fills with tiny, fragrant white flowers
Clustered of flowers
A cluster of flowers
A closer look at the flower
A closer look at the flower
A cluster of white flowers that ready to bloom once the opening ones drop
A cluster of white flower buds ready to bloom once the open ones drop

They never flower when they are in the basement.  I guess it’s not quite warm enough and perhaps not enough light.  The taller one gets very finicky with temperature changes too.  It drops 95% of its leaves when we first take it outside or when we bring it back inside.  Leaves and flower buds come out again after a month in full sun.  The tiny white star-shaped flower has a light, soothing fragrance.  Each flower blooms for just one day but there clusters of replacements ready to bloom in its place.

When they are outside and in full bloom, various types of bees, honeybees included, come for the nectar during the day and the moths take over at night.  Its seed pod is also interesting, it looks like a wishbone.  Once it’s matured the pods split open and release seeds with a silky thread attached that the wind will catch and carry to a new place.  That is how I propagate it, by the seeds.  The plant grown from a seed takes a few years before it will flower.  Air-layer and cutting are recommended for faster flowering.

Its seedpods look like wishbone
Its seedpods look like a wishbone
Mature seedpods spliced open with seeds with silky thread
Mature seedpods opened up exposing seeds, each with a silky thread
Seeds I keep for propagation
Seeds I keep for propagation

Water Jasmine is easy to grow in a pot, as I do.  It needs a warm temperature and plenty of sunlight to bloom. It can be planted outside in USDA Zone 8 and up.  If planting outside it can be used as a hedge.  It can also be trained to create a Bonsai.

It seems to have no known pests when growing outside, however Spider mites are the main problem when growing indoors.  I use an insecticide soap to get rid of them and mist the plant with water weekly.  I’m looking forward to germinating some of these seeds in March and hope to have a few more to create Bonsai from.

Winter Treats

Blooming Jasmine

I try to grow a couple of new plants every year.  One of the plants I added to our tropical collection last year was Yellow Jasmine ‘Revolutum’ (Jasminum humile).  I didn’t expect it to bloom this year especially during the winter.  All the tropical plants reside in our basement under daylight fluorescents that stay lit for 12 hours each day.  The furnace provides just enough heat for them too.  I expected it to go semi-dormant like the other tropical plants, but to my surprise….it bloomed.

I have spent time sweeping the leaves up and pruning branches off the other plants in the basement.  Then, two days ago,  I spotted  lovely bright yellow flowers.  They have a very subtle scent, not as strong as other jasmine.   A lovely treat.   Now I have good reason to go to the basement more often than just to water the plants  or to do laundry.

A cluster of Canary yellow flowers at the end of each stem
A cluster of Canary yellow flowers at the end of each stem
Not just a lovely yellow, the flowers also have a subtle sweet scent
Not just a lovely yellow, the flowers also have a subtle sweet scent

 

Back From The Tropics

With the Memory of Colorful Flowers

I have taken leave to the other side of the world for a couple of weeks.  Though I didn’t have much time to look around as I usually do, still common tropical flowers were the cheerful sight to be seen.  Nothing much in North America but bare branches and snow.  So, sharing some colorful images of these common tropical flowers wouldn’t hurt.

Plumeria
Plumeria

Plumeria (Plumeria obtusa) flower has a very soothing fragrance.  This plant in the photo is around two stories high but Plumeria can be grown in a pot and kept short and tidy.

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea

Paper Flower (Bougainvillea) is another common tropical flower that can take negligence and drought in stride.  It comes in many colors, from white, bright pink, orange, yellow, red… It blooms throughout the year and is great for trellises or climbing on a fence.

Desert rose
Desert rose

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) is another flower that does well in heat and negligence. It comes in both single and double petals as well as in a variety of colors.  I attempted to grow it here once, but too much pampering with food and water, I killed it.  I guess they call it ‘Desert Rose’ for a reason.

Paraguay Jasmine
Paraguay Jasmine

The flower of Paraguay Jasmine (Brunfelsia australis) aka Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow is slightly fragrant.  The flower first opens up in violet then fades to pale pink and white at the end.

Wild Petunia
Wild Petunia

This lovely violet flower-Wild Petunia (Ruellia tuberosa) is classified as a weed with herbal properties.  Since people tolerate them because of their beautiful color, they can be seen along side local roads and highways.

I’m not advocating growing non-native plants but most plants above can be grown in a pot in USDA Zone 3-8 or in the ground in Zone 9-11.

Poet Jasmine

The Poet

Yes, someone named this jasmine ‘Poet’ or ‘French Perfume’ (Jasminum grandiflorum).  I’m not sure I like the name or the scent best.  I can see why it get this name.  One whiff of its scent and you can write a few lovely lines of  poetry.  If you keep sniffing it, you may be able to pull a Robert Frost act.

It’s a lovely vine with very dark green leaves and 1.5 inch white flowers.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the Jasminum sambac and  seems to do well when the weather gets a little colder.  The temperature has been hovering around 50 degrees or lower at night and gone up to 60 or 70 during the day here.   It started to bloom as soon as the temperature dropped and blooms profusely now while the  Jasminum sambac like Maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany are producing less and smaller flowers than in the heat of summer.  The Poet flowers also last longer than a day, but are not as fragrant when picked and taken into the house.  So, using it as an air-freshener like the Jasminum sambac is out.  Well, at this time of year we can sit and enjoy it outside longer since it is too cold for mosquitoes to fly around.  Maybe that was nature’s intent.

Pure white 1.5 inch flowers with a sweet fragrance
The blossom close up

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