Hibiscus (not Rose of Sharron!)


I was Googling around a few days ago, trying to find the origin of my latest pride-and-joy, Hibiscus syriacus China Chiffon.

I say latest: we have owned the plant for several months now and gave it a place of honour outside one of the living room windows, next to a favourite sculpture and water feature. It has recently started to flower, so now we can see what we have bought.

Hibiscus China Chiffon flowering with Verbascum Helen Johnson
Hibiscus China Chiffon flowering with Verbascum Helen Johnson

The photo shows the flower of the Chiffon series quite well, a simple flower with the addition of small petals in the centre.

From what I can gather, at least two of the series were bred in Cambridgeshire (UK) by a private gardener, with the rights to distribute sold to Notcutts, famous for Hibiscus but no longer trading, and to Briant in France.

I hate common names for plants and I have seen several listings describing Hibiscus as a Rose of Sharon, which for the British is Hypericum, especially the groundcovering H. calycinum. Life would be so much easier if we all stuck to botanical Latin!

Wandering around via Google I also noted a range of different flower types listed as China Chiffon, varying from small inner petals like ours, to full double flowers. Sometimes these effects vary depending on the weather; sometimes varieties are mixed up at the nursery. If anyone has a view on my plant, please feel free to share.

Here in central France Hibiscus grow very well and they are used as hedges in many local gardens. Often English clients are surprised when I tell them I have planted Hibiscus for them: they confuse it with  Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, which they may have grown as a houseplant. On a recent trip to visit a client in the Almeria region of the south of Spain, they were growing a range of these in the garden.

An apricot-coloured Hibiscus rosa-sinensis growning outside in Spain

An apricot-coloured Hibiscus rosa-sinensis growning outside in Spain

These tropical plants are evergreen provided the temperatures remain above 10 degrees C and are used both as hedging and specimen shrubs.

H. syriacus is deciduous and hardy. There are many varieties to choose from, offering flowers in white, blue, pink and red, with several double and bicolour types.  The RHS Plantfinder list 46 varieties, although it may be some are not available and a few others are listed here in France.

More gardening news from Chateau Elliott: on a trip to the DIY shop today I dropped in to Gamme Vert to see what they had to offer. A nice garden centre, I thought and they were discounting herbacious plants by 70%. Three paeonies were snapped up and are now planted in the garden. More on these no doubt, when they flower.

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