Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

The Best Season Ever: The Mature 'Red Flyer' Hibiscus

As the intense heat of late summer burns on, there's evermore triumph in plants that, one way or another, think that such weather is just dandy. Red Flyer hibiscus is one of the more bodacious of the possibilities.


My clump enjoys being center stage in the long alley of grass that heads west from the house. Below, the cane-like stems soar skyward through a fluffy tangle of bamboo muhly and purple barberry.


Hibiscus Red Flyer overall from the west upper 090618 915 


Seen from the other direction—this time, looking outward to the far west of the garden—the hibiscus flowers only just hold their own amid a tub of Ehemanii canna (with its unique weeping clusters of pink flowers), a tall standard of purple-flowered Paraguay nightshade and, at back, a tower of purple hyacinth bean. 


Hibiscus Red Flyer overall from the east upper 090618 915.jpg


In high summer, nothing succeeds like excess: This showy group is foregrounded by a specimen variegated elephant food, itself fronted by a tub of green-leaved society garlic.


Hibiscus Red Flyer overall from the east 090618 915


In such vivid company, you'd better be big and loud to hold your own. More proof: I was up on one of the high ladders today, for a bit of housekeeping with the hyacinth-bean tower. Looking down the alley, the aesthetic assistance that big details provide in late summer can't be overstated: Amid the rolling surf of hundreds of happy plants at their peak, the huge hibiscus flowers are as welcome as lifeboats.


Hibiscus Red Flyer the alley looking east from on high 090618 915


How is this garden's massive bulk kept aloft? The obvious answers—the large number of shrubs, small trees, and vines given height by being trained up high towers—aren't the only ones. Other plants, including Hibiscus 'Red Flyer', are as big as they are because they can keep themselves fully hydrated. They are, literally, inflated with water, and don't for a minute lack as much of it as they need.


Plants growing directly in the ground have an easy task with hydration thanks to my deep, rich, level soil and high water table. I don't have to water established plants; I don't even own a sprinkler. But in the garden's grass alley, only the purple barberry is planted; everything else is in containers. Keeping many score of containers watered from May into October is, true, a half-time job. Fortunately, some of those container plants—like Red Flyer—thrive when growing aquatically. 


See, below, that the perennial's pot is set in a galvanized bucket that I keep topped up with water.


Hibiscus Red Flyer overall from the west 090618 915


Keeping a bucket full of water is easy: I dump a pail of water onto it every other day. There's none of the careful patience needed to water container plantings whose soil surface is exposed. For them, I need to stand patiently with the watering can, trickling the water all around the rootball to soak it but not erode it.  


Hibiscus Red Flyer submerged pot 090618 915


The rootball of the hibiscus is a solid mass that's impervious to the downward "splooosh" of a bucket of water emptied atop it all at once. Watering this container, then, takes just seconds. Plus, with the rootball submerged in water, there's that much larger a margin of error if the water level gets low. Before the rootball itself would dry out, the water level of the bucket itself would need to sink to the bottom. By contrast, if this huge perennial were growing in a tub of normal potting soil, there wouldn't be that surrounding "submergement" of free water to draw upon.


Worse, I'd have needed to have potted the clump in a huge container of potting soil to have anywhere near as much free water available to the roots. That would be a huge amount of lugging when I bring the clump into shelter for the winter, and back out to the garden the following spring. By growing Red Flyer aquatically, its eight-foot clump can thrive in a comparatively small three-gallon nursery pot. From such a compact base, a gigantic mass of top-growth can remain erect and aloft regardless of how hot it gets—and, when it's dormant fall into spring, I can carry the dormant clump easily into shelter and back. All summer long, all I need do is keep splooshing on those buckets of water.



Here's a look at this same specimen when it had just begun producing flowers in 2011. I've also updated the How To chart to reflect my current findings on culture and handling. 


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