HIBISCUS – tree hollyhock

This family of exotic annuals and shrubs includes some species which can only be grown in a greenhouse. The ones listed here are all hardy and renowned for their showy hollyhock-like flowers.

Suitable site and soil. Hibiscus need an open, sunny aspect and a well-drained, humus-rich soil. They do particularly well in a sheltered spot with the protection of a wall.

Cultivation and care. Sow seeds for annuals in spring where they are going to flower. Plant shrubs between autumn and spring. Remove any frost-damaged or dead wood in the spring – no other pruning is necessary.

Propagation. Annuals often self-seed. Take heel cuttings from shrubs in summer, grow on in a potting compost in a cold frame before planting the following autumn.

Recommended varieties. The annual H. trionum is known as the flower-of-an-hour as its creamy-white flowers with darker centres open only in the morning (height 75cm – 30in). H. syriacus is a commonly grown shrub and is very free flowering. Recommended varieties. Include: ‘Blue Bird’ with its single, violet-blue flowers; ‘Diana’ has large, single white flowers; ‘Hamabo’ has blush-pink single flowers with a carmine eye; ‘Elegantissimus’ has double white flowers with a maroon eye; ‘Woodbridge’ has single rose-pink flowers with a carmine eye; ‘Dorothy Crane’ is white with a crimson eye (height 3m – 10ft).

Pests and diseases. Aphids may attack the new growth.

OUTSIZE FLOWERS

You can get extra-large blooms on your hibiscus shrub by pruning, as the in the spring for a display of giant flowers from midsummer flowers appear on the current year’s growth. If you do not mind sacrificing height for show, simply cut back the old stems very hard through to autumn. Varieties of the popular Hibiscus syriacus such as ‘Woodbridge’ or ‘Diana’ are particularly good choices.

HOSTA – plantain lily

Hostas are unmistakable with their bold, luxurious leaves, often variegated. They have delicate spires of blue, lilac or white bell-like flowers in summer. They like shade and are excellent under shrubs or by water.

Suitable site and soil. Hostas need at least partial shade and may lose their variegation if exposed to full sun. They like a rich, moisture-retentive soil with plenty of leaf mould or garden compost.

Cultivation and care. Plant between autumn and spring. During any extended dry weather, water well. Mulch annually with leaf mould or garden compost.

Propagation. Divide and replant in early spring.

Recommended varieties. H. fortunei has grey-green leaves and lilac flowers appear in midsummer on stems 60cm – 23in high. The form albopicta has lush leaves which unfurl a clear yellow with a green edge and gradually darken to two shades of green. H. sieboldiana forms 60cm – 24in high clumps of glossy blue-green leaves and has off-white flowers. H. crispula has heart-shaped, dark-green leaves, edged with white and pale lilac flowers on stems 60cm – 24in high. H. plantaginea has glossy yellow-green leaves and fragrant white flowers. It is the only hosta which likes a sunny position. H. undulata has wavy green leaves with white splashes and lilac flowers.

Pests and diseases. Slugs can be a serious problem with hostas and may reduce the leaves to skeletons if you do not take precautions.

WATERSIDE PLANTING

Hosta’s bold architectural leaves look particularly handsome reflected in water and they are ideal for planting on the shady side of the pond. Plant them in large clumps close to the water’s edge.

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