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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Blue or Purple Hibiscus or Mallow Thing

Why we call alyogyne huegelii blue hibiscus: Hibiscus has had a better marketing campaign and so has co-opted the mallow family, becoming its default genus and standard bearer. Anything that looks like a mallow (a large array of plants, including fremontodendron for heaven's sake) can just as easily be a hibiscus; it's simpler than learning to say alyogyne (Alley Oh Jinny or something like that), forget about huegelii. As for the blue, all I can say is that is not blue. The pitch of purple is something I've debated and argued with others from time to time, and I do allow there can be a wide range of purple interpretation . . . but blue is generally blue and this is not blue.

So my mallow thing with large luminescent purple five petalled flowers and coarsely lobed, heavily veined and hairy leaves is blooming really well this year. I attended a talk on pruning by Pat Welsh a few years back. She hammered home the importance of tipping back flowering shrubs. It sunk in to my brain; I've been tipping back the alyogyne (among other things) faithfully and it has resulted in stronger stems, less dead wood, and apparently more flower buds. I recommend this course of action in growing this shrub. And, don't overwater it. It's native to Australia (along with 4 other interesting species in the genus) and you've seen enough films from down under to realize how dry it is.

The buggies have been appreciating the alyogyne, too. First there were the aphids, followed by their doom the ladybirds. Then the flower-devouring tiny little forktailed bush katydids (scudderia furcata) showed up. That's a big bloom for such a small one to devour, and the blooms last only a day or two. Who will eat the katydids?

4/3/09 Photo below was taken this morning after the night's light rain. Alyogyne flowers with raindrops: seldom seen.