Blossom XLIV: Brilliant Hibiscus

Hibiscus coccineus


Brilliant Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus, blooms in our August garden.  Its first blossoms unfold weeks after the Hibsicus moscheutos and Hibiscus syriacus begin their annual display. 


Last evening’s bud opened early this morning.


Also known as scarlet rosemallow, this beautiful Hibiscus is native to our coastal plain, here in the Southeast.  We live along its northern most range, and it is found more commonly south to Florida, and west across the Gulf Coast to Louisiana.

Hardy to Zone 6, brilliant Hibiscus grows in full to partial sun in moist soils.  This is a great choice for rain gardens, along streams or ponds, and places where the soil takes a while to drain.

Though a white flowered form is available, we have only the scarlet in our garden.



This beautiful native welcomes hummingbirds, butterflies, moths and bees.  As you can see from its outrageous anatomy, it offers hospitality like few other summer flowers.

It’s a large plant, growing to 6′ or more tall where its needs are met.  The flowers are large and are carried near the top of the plant.  It eventually forms a small clump, and like other Hibiscus, will spread its own seeds around in late summer.



Unlike our Rose of Sharon tree Hibiscus plants, these woody Hibiscus will die back to the ground each fall, and should be cut back before spring.  New stems emerge from the ground in mid to late spring each year and quickly grow, eventually forming buds by early August.

The buds will open, one or two at a time, and then brown as their seeds ripen.  Seeds are a favorite autumn treat for many birds.  The stems may be left in place through winter, or cut and used to construct shelters for many bees, small wasps and other insects through the winter months.



Hibiscus coccineus is a dramatic and beautiful plant through all of its stages of annual growth.  I’ve never found it grazed by deer or rabbits.  It takes little care from the gardener, aside from keeping it watered in dry spells.

You’ll find many hybrid Hibiscus bred with this native as one of the parents.  It is prized for its unusual leaves as well as for its flowers.  Look for hybrid cultivars with burgundy or purple leaves and plants that remain a bit shorter over the season.

Untroubled by heat, humidity, intense sun or torrential rains, this is a stalwart and dependable native for gardeners in the Southeastern United States.



Woodland Gnome 2018
Blossom XLIII: Verbena
Blossom XLII: Carrots in Bloom

Fabulous Friday: Hibiscus in Bloom

Hibiscus moscheutos opens its first blooms of the season today.


We always celebrate when the Hibiscus moscheutos bloom.  These easy native perennials largely care for themselves.  Although they die back to the ground each autumn, they grow quickly once their stems finally appear again in late spring.



Native Hibiscus prove very accommodating and will grow in a variety of conditions.   Seen most commonly in the wild near water, they appreciate a little irrigation when the weather turns hot and dry.  They grow in a variety of soils from partial shade to full sun.  Happy, well irrigated plants grow to between four and five feet tall.

We let them seed themselves around and grow where they will, always delighted when their colorful blooms quite suddenly appear in mid-summer.  Each stem may produce a half dozen or more buds.  Once the flowers fade, interesting seed capsules ripen and persist into winter.  Many of our songbirds enjoy pecking ripe seeds from the open capsules until we finally cut their dried stems down.


Hybrid Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ is much showier than our native Hibiscus with somewhat larger flowers. Its foliage is also more attractive… until the Japanese beetles have their way with the leaves.  This cultivar was introduced by the Fleming Brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, who have produced several Hibiscus hybrids based on crosses of H. moscheutos and H. coccineus.


While many cultivars of H. moscheutos are available on the market, I believe that most of ours are the species.  We planted H. ‘Kopper King’ about four years ago and it has grown into a large and vigorous plant. Various Hibiscus volunteers in our garden bloom deep pink, light pink or white.  We see them, too, in the marshes along the James River and creeks that feed it.


Hardy Hibiscus coccineus will start blooming by early August.


Native Hibiscus prove a reliable, hardy and very beautiful perennial in our garden.  We have more native Hibiscus species yet to bloom; and the Asian Hibiscus syriacus, or woody Rose of Sharon, is in the midst of its much longer season of bloom.


Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon


The woody shrub form of Asian Hibiscus also seeds itself around the garden, growing quickly from seedling to blooming tree in just a few years.  Although new cultivars are introduced each year, we have four or five different flower colors and forms which keep us quite happy.  A non-native, it also feeds many creatures with its nectar, pollen, leaves and seeds.


Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus


It is fabulous to enjoy a plethora of gorgeous showy flowers with very little effort on our part during this muggiest part of summer.  It is also fabulous to watch the beautiful and varied bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit to enjoy their abundant pollen and sweet nectar each day.


Rose of Sharon in our shrub border bloom prolifically from mid-June until early September.


Woodland Gnome 2018

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious;

let’s infect one another!



“Seize the moments of happiness,

love and be loved!

That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

It is the one thing we are interested in here.”


Leo Tolstoy


One Word Photo Challenge: Carmine

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Deepest Ruby;

Rubellite Tourmaline,

Radical Red!


Pinot Noir.



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Alive and vibrant,

Pulsing with life and living.

Sweet and slightly salty,


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Earth’s life’s blood;

Ancient, elemental pigment:



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With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

for her

One Word Photo Challenge

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Cool August Morning

August 16, 2014 garden 006


This morning found us out in the garden watering, pulling grass, deadheading spent flowers, and generally admiring the beauty around us.

Morning sun shines through the Hibiscus and Cannas, illuminating their leaves like stained glass.

Morning sun shines through the Hibiscus and Cannas, illuminating their leaves like stained glass.

It was the sort of cool, breezy morning which invited one out of doors to enjoy the day; and to look around for things which need doing while enjoying it.

I’ve finally had a stretch of days at home, and have turned to pulling grass and weeds in preparation for some late summer planting and sprucing up.

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The first warning to go gently came from friend turtle. 

One of our Eastern Box turtles had sought shelter at the base of a Dogwood tree, under the lacy canopy of grasses.

As I worked steadily closer to him, he made no noise and gave no sign of his presence.

When I finally pulled out the grasses sheltering him, he turned to look up at me, but stood his ground.  Our turtles know us by now, as the lizards do, and know there is nothing to fear so long as we see them.

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Finally turning my attention to the stump garden, after a good watering, I worked my way around the bed trimming  spent Gladiolus stems, pruning the Catnip,  pulling the odd vagrant weedy growth, and trimming the Comfrey.

My attention was on the plants, and I almost didn’t see the delicate web of this  black and yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia.


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The sparkling drops of water caught on its strands caught my attention just before I cut one of the stems anchoring it.  What beauty!


The male spider

The male spider


My partner came over and we admired the web and two resident spiders for a while.


The larger female spider, with yellow markings, is joined on the web by a more slender male spider.  These non-poisonous spiders garden spiders are common throughout most of the United States.

The larger female spider, with yellow markings, is joined on the web by a more slender male spider. These non-poisonous spiders garden spiders are common throughout most of the United States.


Large spiders like these begin to show themselves and cover the garden with their webs in late summer, here in Virginia.  It is nothing to find webs several feet across from  shrub to shrub sparkling with dew in the early mornings.


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So long as our butterflies don’t end up trapped in the webs, we try to leave them alone and bless the spiders for each mosquito they can eat.

So after photographing the spiders and their web, I gathered my tools and moved on, leaving the spiders in peace.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly tree this morning.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly tree this morning.


The signs of autumn have appeared all around us here in Williamsburg.

These cool nights and mornings feel more like late September than mid- August.  Dogwood trees along the Colonial Parkway have taken on a rosy hue as the chlorophyll fades from their leaves.


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Sweet Autumn Clematis came into bloom this week, and our Tulip Poplar trees have begun to turn bright yellow and to drop their leaves.

It will be an early  and cool autumn across much of the United States.  Summer has been compressed this year between a late spring and an early fall.


The Devil's Walking Stick, , Aralia spinosa, is in full bloom now, and is covered by bees.  Notice the leaves beginning to change colors.

The Devil’s Walking Stick, , Aralia spinosa, is in full bloom now, and is covered by bees. Notice the leaves beginning to change colors.


We have enjoyed the cooler summer, and we’ve had enough rain to make things green and lush here.

But this is not the year to sow late crops and expect to harvest them before frost.


Our mild weather has been kind to the roses this summer.

Our mild weather has been kind to the roses this summer.


Cold winds will blow down from Canada and the Great Lakes with frost much earlier than most expect them.

But not for a while yet.  At the moment we are still celebrating the butterflies and hummingbirds who find our garden.


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We’re encouraging the lizards to gorge themselves on insects, watching out for the turtles, and admiring the spiders’ weaving.

And planting….


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But I’ll show you the garden bed I’m rehabilitating in another post.

For now, let’s just enjoy this beautiful August weekend, and celebrate summer in our Forest Garden.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Scarlet Mallow

Hibiscus coccineus

Hibiscus coccineus


This gorgeous scarlet flower caught my eye today.

It is the first blossom to open on the Scarlet Mallow, Hibiscus coccineus, we purchased at the Williamsburg  Farmer’s Market in May.

The beautiful, deeply cut foliage drew my attention at the market.  Almost lacy, like some Japanese Maple leaves, it appealed to me.


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The plant wasn’t even in bud yet, but I knew a native Hibiscus would work in the border. no matter what color the bloom.

So I bought it on impulse and brought it home to the garden.

When the Japanese beetles attacked the Cannas and other Hibiscus, they left this one alone.  It’s quietly grown into its spot without drawing too much attention to itself…. until today!

Wow!  What a huge, elegant flower!

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Native in the deep south, Scarlet Mallow is hardy north to Zone 6b.

It can eventually grow to 8′ high, though it dies back to the ground each winter.  The plant is upright and sturdy.

It prefers wet soil, and will even tolerate flooding.  No chance of flooding where it is planted in our garden, but it is on the downhill portion of a slope and will catch run off in a heavy rain.  Like all Hibiscus, it appreciates full sun.

As a native, this plant will pretty much grow itself.  I’ve given it compost and a little Plant Tone thus far.  The deer have grazed around it, but have left it untouched.

I hope it is self- fertile and the seeds it produces will sprout.  I plan to gather the seeds when they ripen this fall and sow them, hoping for more of these gorgeous plants.

Scarlet Mallow grows near Azalea and Ginger lily.  The Ginger Lily will come into bloom soon with huge white flowers.

Scarlet Mallow grows near Azalea and Ginger lily. The Ginger Lily will come into bloom soon with huge white flowers.

If you’d like to grow Scarlet Mallow in your own garden, it is available at Plant Delights Nursery.

You will likely see more photos of these gorgeous flowers as the season progresses, so I hope you like them.

They inspired me to  look for “red” around the garden, and so here is a bit more of the scarlet found in our garden today.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Hardy HIbiscus

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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