A few years ago I planted a hedge of hibiscus beneath the solar panels at the Block. Most of them were transplanted from other areas in the garden during late winter and after they had been severely pruned. They were predominantly the Fijian variety, larger growing and hardy to cooler temperatures. Some hadn’t been doing well in other parts of the garden and I thought I would be able to keep them trimmed back to the lower edge of the panels.
With a path on one side and a border beneath, it appeared to be an ideal situation for them. It was. They grew larger and faster than I had anticipated. Condensation collecting overnight on the panels kept them watered. The north facing aspect provided sun and warmth. They grew into one another and out over the path. Their branches threatened the panels’ exposure to the sun.
One grew larger than the rest and I transplanted it for the second time to a position in front of the water tank. This was not such a happy experience. The plant took a couple of years to completely recover. Just as it had, and small shoots were finally appearing on the trunk and branches, I made the decision to plant the white wall, a completely white garden in that area. There is a hibiscus that would be suitable, Hibiscus syriacus. Deciduous, this is the most cold hardy hibiscus. The range of colours range from white through to mauve. Ces often has them at the market.
Considering my white colour scheme I realised a plant with bright pink flowers did not fit. Once again the plant was wrenched from its surroundings and plonked in a hastily dug hole. Nothing happened all summer and a month ago I decided to pull it out. To my total surprise new healthy white roots were sprouting everywhere and on close inspection the limbs were not as bare as I thought. Tiny little leaves were just appearing. I bundled it up in wet newspaper and brought it down to the new border I am establishing at the beach house. The weather was perfect. Warm, with showers almost every day or night. Within a week the leaves had sprouted properly and the plant was thriving. Although Fijian hybrids have smaller flowers, the plant is vigorous and can grow up to three metres. Great examples are ‘Suva Queen, a double pink, ‘Simmonds Red’, a clear single red and ‘DJ O’Brien’ apricot, with a double flower. The many times I have transplanted mine attributes to its hardiness.
Hibiscus are flowering all over the district. Most gardeners have remarked on how especially floriferous they have been this year. This is because the weather has been ideal for them. Hibiscus do love a bit of water. They hate wet feet but they love some moisture. This year has been great for them. The large colourful blooms belong to Hawaiian hibiscus, which are smaller growing.
One of my favourite hibiscus is ‘Erin Rachel’, a hybrid developed by New Zealander Jack Clarke for Auckland conditions. A cross between the Fijian and the Hawaiian they are hardier than the Hawaiian but retain the large flowers.
I often get asked about the hibiscus growing up the side of the St John Op Shop in the village. This is Hibiscus mutabilis, which can grow into a small tree. Happy in full sun or part shade they are renowned for their large showy flowers, which open white in the morning and change to pink and then a dark pink by the afternoon.
With sun, moisture and an occasional feed, hibiscus are well worth growing.
One of my favourite hibiscus is ‘Erin Rachel’, hardy and with large flowers.