CRAZY FOR COLOR

Mon­soon Mixer and Hawai­ian Big Kahuna pro­vided a sum­mer full of en­joy­ment

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - GARDEN - By Nor­man Win­ter

Mon­soon Mixer and Hawai­ian Big Kahuna were two plants that brought us a load of trop­i­cal joy dur­ing a long grow­ing sea­son that started with mon­soonal rains and fin­ished with what is now be­ing called a flash drought.

Trop­i­cal hibis­cus has a way of awak­en­ing those is­land thoughts that lie dor­mant in the hid­den parts of the mind. Mon­soon Mixer and Cre­ole Lady are both names given to one of the most beau­ti­ful and unique hibis­cus plants, on the planet.

You may won­der what is so hot about Mon­soon Mixer; does it change col­ors or some­thing? The an­swer is, yes, it does. It of­fers rare col­ors and pat­terns that gar­den­ers ev­ery­where are sure to love, whether they have a trop­i­cal cli­mate or a grow­ing sea­son that only lasts a few months.

Not since Rum Run­ner, have I been so thrilled with the change of col­ors in a hibis­cus bloom. You will al­ways see mul­ti­ple col­ors in the flow­ers but in the morn­ing, it starts with a deeply sat­u­rated coral sur­round­ing a laven­der swirled throat.

Of course, you want to shoot photos be­cause by noon, or shortly there­after, the coral be­comes a bright gold with a throat show­ing hints of blue mixed with the laven­der. By late af­ter­noon it is soft yel­low, with a shade of blue and an in­ner throat of laven­der-pink.

It is a lit­tle pot luck on the col­ors you will see dur­ing the hours of the day, cou­pled with the chang­ing pat­terns of sun­light and short­en­ing day length. This is the hibis­cus that truly pat­terns the quote from the “For­rest Gump” movie, “Life is like a box of choco­lates, you never know what you’ll get.”

Hawai­ian Big Kahuna is dif­fer­ent, its color stays the same. I should say col­ors as you will see a soft yel­low gold around the mar­gins fol­lowed by a large swath of white part­nered with a deep bur­gundy throat. The most note­wor­thy trait is that it lives up to its name, it truly is mono­lithic in size.

I re­mem­ber the first time I saw a hum­ming­bird feed­ing on the flow­ers I thought the hum­mers were ba­bies or minia­ture but in re­al­ity, the flow­ers are just mon­strous. Even one flower will stop you in your tracks but imag­ine with sev­eral open at once.

No mat­ter where you live there is a sea­son for the trop­i­cal hibis­cus. It be­longs in the land­scape whether com­bined with ba­nanas, can­nas, ele­phant ears, or grandma’s cot­tage gar­den. The re­quire­ments are much like any other an­nual we grow. Plant your hibis­cus in well-drained, well­pre­pared beds be­cause they ab­so­lutely can­not take wet feet, but use a good layer of mulch to keep the soil evenly moist through the sea­son and, of course, to make weed con­trol eas­ier.

Choose a site with plenty of sun­light. Morn­ing sun and fil­tered af­ter­noon light are just about per­fect in our state. Hibis­cus blooms on new growth so it is im­por­tant to keep it grow­ing vig­or­ously through­out the sea­son.

Keep them well-fed and wa­tered dur­ing drought pe­ri­ods.

If you are grow­ing hibis­cus in con­tain­ers dur­ing the sum­mer, they must be wa­tered daily. Keep in mind that the nu­tri­ents quickly leach from the soil. You will have to ap­ply a di­lute, wa­ter-sol­u­ble fer­til­izer weekly or add timere­leased gran­ules per for­mula rec­om­men­da­tion.

The hibis­cus brought my fam­ily great joy in sum­mer 2019 and we will be grow­ing them next year. I hope you’ll look for Mon­soon Mixer. Hawai­ian Big Kahuna and at least keep your eyes out for those spe­cial va­ri­eties at your gar­den cen­ter.

NOR­MAN WIN­TER PHOTOS

Hawai­ian Big Kahuna is mono­lithic in size.

The Mon­soon Mixer, at 9:48 a.m., changes col­ors all day.

The vi­brant plant at 12:22 p.m.

The Mon­soon Mixer at 1:42 p.m.

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