Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lord Baltimore Hibiscus

Lately life has felt like a sweater unraveling. Feeble attempts at stopping this mess is just making the hole a little bigger. I have been sitting in front of my computer since before dawn, trying to get work done with little success. Each time I glance out the window, though, I'm greeted with a welcome distraction.

Lord Baltimore has decided to bloom. A large bud hanging heavy in the morning rain, has slowly unfolded over the course of the afternoon. This huge, 12-inch flower looks as if it were fashioned from crepe paper.

Hardy Hibiscus* are reliable bloomers in Zone 5, though they like to keep their feet wet. Plant them in a full sun spot where you're often reminded to give them extra water. Ruffled, crimson-red flowers are the size of that proverbial dinner plate. On a day like this (when I'm wishin' like crazy I could earn a living gardening,) they are absolutely worth the extra effort.

Tip: Three inches of bark mulch will help keep soil moist. Big bloomers like these appreciate a slow-release fertilizer. Fall is a wonderful time to plant Lord Baltimore. It uses the cool, moist temperatures of fall to put down roots and prepare for strong flowering next summer.

* Hardy Hibiscus (some varieties can handle zone 3 winters) will bloom from August til first frost with proper care. In areas with dry winters, water or shovel snow on them to keep consistently moist. The best prices I've found are at the Michigan Bulb Company.

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