GARDENING: Meet Central Queensland’s toughest plant
At last Tuesday's Australia Day function at Kershaw Gardens I was able to chat with a Winton gardener I first meet nearly 20 years ago, when she came into our nursery looking for some Hibiscus varieties that had not only survived the drought, but actually flourished. During this last summer, when the rest of the garden was dying, her Hibiscus had flowers covering the entire shrub from October to February.
But what are these varieties and where did they come from?
Many of these plants were either bought from a nursery in Blackall or were cuttings taken from gardens in Blackall and Alpha. Back in the early 1980s former Brisbane Botanic Gardens Curator Harrold Corfield gave a garden presentation that noted the range of Hibiscus varieties he found growing in Blackall. A large range Hibiscus variety can still be found growing in parks and gardens around Blackall.
Although there are no known original examples in the wild, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is considered to have originated in the Indian Ocean area. All its variants are tropical or semitropical. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis can be found today throughout the warmer parts of the world. Hybridised Hibiscus rosa-sinensis plants can be propagated by cuttings, air-layering, or tissue culture, since the seed of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis usually produces plants that display different characteristics from their parents.
There are a tremendous number of variations, within both single and double forms. Single blooms typically have five petals, and the doubles are identical but have extra petals in addition to the basic five, with a few of the basic types having a slight scent
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers are somewhat unique in that they do not require water and usually last only one day during the warmer months. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis varieties can range from sprawling and semi-prostrate shrubs to tall, upright screen plants growing up to 6m high. Heights can vary from about three feet to 25 feet.
These are the Hibiscus varieties I would recommend:
Hibiscus Albo Lacinatus is an upright variety growing to 4m high with pink windmill-shaped flowers with deeper pink centre. This Hibiscus is one of the first hybrid Hibiscus cultivated in the world.
Hibiscus bruceii is a medium sized shrub with large green leaves. Large bright yellow flower with a white eye appear most of the year. This Hibiscus has been grown in Queensland for over 50 years.
Hibiscus Cuban Yellow is a medium shrub growing to 1.5m high with amber yellow flowers with prominent red centres and distinct red and yellow veining.
Hibiscus El Capitolio Sport is a medium shrub growing to 1.5m high with soft apricot flowers with prominent red centres and like a second flower from the stamen.
Hibiscus Fiji Island is a semi-weeping variety growing to 4m high with deep purplish pink windmill-shaped flowers with a dark carmine eye.
Hibiscus Island Empress is a semi-weeping variety growing to 2m high with deep red double flowers.
Hibiscus landersii is a medium shrub with glossy green foliage growing to 1.5m high. Showy ruffled double pinkish red flowers appear throughout the year.
Hibiscus Psyche is probably one of the toughest Hibiscus on the market, growing to 2m high with glossy red single miniature fringed flowers.
Hibiscus Ruth Wilcox is a fast-growing tall shrub to 2.5m with soft pink windmill-shaped flowers and a long deep pink staminal column.
Hibiscus Swan Lake is a showy upright shrub to 2.5m with rounded green foliage. It is a very prolific flowerer with pure white single blooms occurring most of the year.
All of these Hibiscus are varieties of Hibicsus Rosa-Sinensis and, while some nurseries have stopped growing these ones in preference for later hybrids which most likely would have been the first to die, many nurseries are now carrying quite a range of hardy Hibiscus varieties.