Friday, November 25, 2011

Stalwart Roses

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird'
If there is a stalwart plant of the autumn garden for the Flint Hills, a prime candidate must be the various cultivars of Hibiscus syriacus, the Rose of Sharon.  Tall and drought-resistent, the Rose of Sharon or Shrub Althea begins to bloom in the heat of summer here and laughs at the worst of autumn.  By no mere coincidence, it is also one of the more "tropical" looking perennials available to grow here.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Rubis'
Hibiscus syriacus is a native to much of Asia, although not to Syria as Linnaeus thought when he named it.  This is group of tall bushy shrubs in white, purples, pinks and reds for the most part, reaching about 6-8 feet in height and four feet in width.  Flowers last for a day on the plant and they are edible, although the thought of eating a flower rarely crosses my mind.  But if you want a "plant and forget shrub" for Kansas, this is the one.This shrub alongside the viburnums, are backbone shrubs for the Flint Hills, hardy far north of my 5B climate and sneering at the worst of both summer and winter.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Double Red'

I grow all six varieties pictured on this page; 'Notwoodtwo' (also known as 'White Chiffon'), 'Red Heart' (with its red center of an otherwise white flower), 'Rubis' and its cousin 'Double Red', 'Paeonyflorus' (or 'Double Pink') and, my favorite, 'Blue Bird', the latter pictured first here, at the top.  It was that light blue of BlueBird that first attracted me to these shrubs, and then I realized the wider variety available.  Recently, as noted on a previous blog, I've also added the large white blooms of 'Diana' (a newer, sterile triploid) to my garden, although it will take her a couple of years to make an impact on my garden. 

Hibiscus syriacus 'White Chiffon'
Hibiscus syriacus 'Paeonyflorus'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird', in full flower

'Blue Bird' actually blooms a lot earlier than the others, often at the end of June before the summer heat arrives, and it is all the more welcome because of it.

Hibicus syriacus 'Red Heart'

It takes a fairly large garden to place a Rose of Sharon, but if you've got the room, they've got the flowers for your August garden.  Sometimes, these shrubs are the only left blooming in my August garden and they tide me over to the cooler nights of September.  You could say that they keep my heart beating during the August doldrum.

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