Thursday, May 21, 2009

Red Shield Hibiscus

I first discovered this plant while visiting the local extension office of the Agricultural Center in St Johns County last fall. I had gone to id a tree growing along the woods, which turned out to be Chinese Tallow, but that's another post. I saw what I thought was a Japanese Maple growing near the parking lot. A volunteer working at chopping it down handed me a clipping and told me it was a hibiscus. I thought to myself "this is not a hibiscus" but didn't want to argue with the lady. Sure enough, as I later discovered after hours searching the internet, it was a Red Shield Hibiscus Hibiscus Acetosella sometimes referred to as Red Leaf, False Roselle, or African Rose Mallow.

I had found a new obsession. I was able to root and keep the plant alive on my patio until we had several frosts. I took a new clipping and kept in in the kitchen window. I babied that plant all winter and miraculously it survived. I was impatient though, I wanted more, more, more. I searched the nurseries and most people had never heard of it. Just by chance I stopped in The Greenery and they had several! That is the large plant you see. My clipping is the small plant just to the right.
In the meantime I ordered seeds from Park Seed and have started seedlings to give away to friends and family. I'm usually not a seed person (I'm too impatient) but the seeds are large and easy to grow. This seedling is about 2 months old. It will turn the dark burgundy when it in direct sun. I've heard they can get 10' high and is treated as a perennial here and annual in colder climates.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Will It Ever Stop????

This is really getting old now. We are having a noreaster here in Florida and it has been raining nonstop since Sunday night. I had some buckets in the garden that were full this morning so I can say that is about a foot of rain. News reported 18" in some areas of the county. Was able to get out and stake up a couple plants in the rain today. My backyard slopes down to a wetland preserve which is now flooded. Thankfully the Faxahachee grass doesn't mind standing water!

Rain, Rain Go Away

I have been waiting for the rain to come for weeks now. We haven't had rainfall in almost a month, but over the last 3 days it hasn't stopped and I have accumulated over 12" based on the full buckets in the garden. After the rain finally STOPS I will be able to turn off the sprinklers and utilize rain water only probably until fall. A couple of plants need staking and it won't stop long enough for me to go out. The tree frogs will be singing tonight!

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Butterfly Garden

My husband brought home eight railroad ties with some big vision. After lugging home the ties (over 100lbs a piece) and realizing he would need more, he changed his mind. I, in turn, got to use them for a butterfly garden for the kids. Okay, it's more for me, but it sounds better when I say it's for the kids. I planted a variety of plants and vegetables and all have done extremely well. I mixed about 60 bags soil, 20 bags compost, and 2 bales of peat moss in the planting bed. I even let the kids pick out some of the plants (which is hard because I am a little OCD) and this is the result. I have mint, onions, radishes, tomatoes, zinnas, milkweed, vinca, carolina jessimine, plumbago, lantana, gardenia, strawberries, rosemary, sunflowers, and my current obsession - red shield hibiscus.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I planted one milkweed plant because they say it attracts the monarch butterfly. Never had any luck, but felt if I planted a butterfly garden you gotta include milkweek right? A few weeks later I noticed 3 juicy monarch catepillars munching on the leaves. They were there for several days and then gone suddenly. A few days later my husband noticed a funny thing on the juniper along the woods and sure enough it was the cocoon. I checked it each day and as soon as it starting changing color I clipped the branch and put in my daughter's pop up butterfly house. So far it hasn't hatched, but I'll post when it does.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How my garden grows

I live in a new development so I struggle with the lack of fullness from my plants. I have been trying to keep a picture diary so that I can look back to see how much these plants grow from year to year. It is only after looking at these pics that I can really appreciate how far they have come. These recent pictures are of a backyard bed that I planted in Jan 2007 consisting of azaleas, junipers, and a crape myrtle rescued from the front yard.

These are of the front walk way area, recent and May 2006. The two crape myrtles were moved to the backyard and a washingtonian palm added. The beds include chinese fringe, holly, lantana, lirope, and agapanthus.