Bangkok Rose by Ann Oram
Bangkok Rose by Ann Oram

GARDENING: The plant that has bloomed in CQ’s humid summer

BANGKOK'S FINEST

No matter where you live in Central Queensland you cannot avoid the heat of summer. Whether it is the blustering dry heat of the west to the obsessive humidity of the coast it is uncomfortable outside in the middle of the day. Even many plants in the garden are showing signs of heat stress.

But not all plants are suffering some plants are flourishing many are in full bloom. One plant that has been a star performer this summer is the Mussaenda or Bangkok Rose. The colourful Mussaenda is native to Asia so this summer was more like its natural climate. Driving around most towns in Central Queensland at the moment you will notice some of these shrubs producing spectacular colour displays.

If you create a visual display in your garden try mass a planting of Mussaenda Calcutta Sunset that has large gold and orange double bracts with Mussaenda Dona Aurora and its large creamy white double bracts. Or Mussaenda Luz with large deep pink double bracts and Mussaenda Queen Sirikit with its large pale creamy pink edged with reddish pink double bracts. Mussaenda Queen Sirikit was named to commemorate her first visit of the Queen of Thailand to the Philippines in the 1970's.

Did you know the Mussaenda's beautiful floral colours are not flowers but from the bracts which surround the flowers. In fact Mussaenda flowers are small and usually white, orange or yellow. This is the same way colour is produced in other tropical plants such as Bouganvilleas and Heliconias.

As well as those more common varieties of Mussaenda there a couple of Central Queensland developed hybrid varieties. Capricorn Dream has spectacular bright red bracts surrounding small lemon flowers. Capricorn Ice produces an abundance of white flower bracts surrounding small golden flowers. These two local hybrids will grow to 1.5-2m in full sun to semi-shade, with a more free-flowering habit and a longer flowering period than Mussaenda Queen Sirikit, as well as being more cold tolerant.

Mussaendas are a relatively hardy fast growing shrub, growing up to 2m in height, with a naturally rambling habit, producing many stems. With this habit they can be trained into a treelike form for landscaping use. The green leaves have a hairy, silky texture that tends to add a softer colour to the garden. It is best to plant in full sun and well-drained soil to achieve the best show of colour, but they will tolerate a semi-shaded position and still look good. Flowering will begin in spring and continue throughout the warm months of the year.

Heavy pruning in late autumn to winter will increase the flowers and therefore the showy bracts, and also improve the overall shape of the shrub. If you would like to propagate your own plants, cuttings taken around March would have the best chance of striking.

Mussaenda is a genus of over 200 species of evergreen trees, shrubs, or vines native to much of tropical Africa, Asia, Madagascar, and the Pacific Islands

These are some of the Mussaenda you will come across this weekend:

* Mussaenda Calcutta Sunset - Large gold and orange double bracts.

* Mussaenda Capricorn Georgia - peachy pink bracts

* Mussaenda Capricorn Dream - spectacular bright red bracts.

* Mussaenda Capricorn Ice - abundance of white bracts.

* Mussaenda Dona Aurora - Large Creamy white double bracts.

* Mussaenda erythrophylla - Single red bracts.

* Mussaenda frondosa - Single pure white bracts.

* Mussaenda luteola - Single cream bracts.

* Mussaenda Luz - Large deep pink double bracts.

* Mussaenda Queen Sirikit - Large pale Creamy Pink edged with reddish Pink double bracts

DID YOU KNOW

The Mussaenda's beautiful colours are flowers, but from the bracts which surround the flowers. Mussaenda flowers are small and usually white, orange or yellow. This is the same way colour is produced in other tropical plants such as Bouganvilleas and Heliconias.

Red Mussaendas hybrids are used in cities on the Amazon as Christmas decoration plants. As they bloom from around November, December to April, showing up red bracts mixed with the green foliage



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