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

Souvenir de Bonn parlor maple

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I love this parlor maple in the Summer garden and in the greenhouse over the Winter.  The bright cream-edged foliage guarantees interest even when the sporadic pendulous flowers are on hiatus.  They dangle as seductively as bells, with the fat cluster of stamens just visible at the bottom, like the bell's clapper.

 

It's always tempting to raise a flower to the horizontal to check out its interior, especially when you can hold the flower up to the light.  The heavy dark veining is even more colorful when the petals are backlit. 

 

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'Souvenir de Bonn' is such an eager grower that by the end of the season you might have as tall and gawky a plant as this.

 

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Bring it into shelter for the Winter, pinching all the branch tips so it doesn't touch the ceiling. 

 

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With some pinching and restaking, I might have a 'Souvenir de Bonn' that's both tall and full to set back out into the garden. 

 

 

Here's how to grow this colorful subtropical shrub:

Latin Name

Abutilon pictum 'Souvenir de Bonn'

Common Name

Souvenir de Bonn parlor maple

Family

Malvaceae, the Hollyhock family.

What kind of plant is it?

Broadleaved evergreen shrub or small tree.

Hardiness

Zones 8 - 10.

Habit

Upright, usually but not always single-trunked.  Open and even gawky unless pinched. 

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in five months

From a one-foot starter plant set out in May, 'Souvenir de Bonn' can grow to five feet or even taller by September. 

Texture

Open, lively, and loose.

Grown for

its foliage: Although parlor maples are unrelated to shade-tree maples, their leaves are eerily similar.  Those of 'Souvenir de Bonn' are also heavily margined in white, but there's a shade-tree maple that handles that same trick, too.  The wide white perimeter of the leaves of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Drummondii' creates the identical look, but on a full-sized tree hardy well into Canada. 

 

its flowers: occasional soft apricot bells dangle like lanterns amid the foliage.  They're a luscious bonus; 'Souvenir de Bonn' would be worth growing even if it never bloomed.

 

its vigor: In the gentle warmth and sun it prefers, 'Souvenir de Bonn' becomes a true shrub over the Summer.

 

its flexibility: 'Souvenir de Bonn' is equally successful as an annual in Summer bedding or containers, as an overwintered specimen plant in a container year-round, and, in milder climates, as a large shrub or, limbed up, small tree.

Flowering season

Year-round if temperatures are warm enough.

Color combinations

The green and white foliage goes with everything.  The gentle apricot flowers are almost as versatile, mixing with pink and rose as well as scarlet and orange.  Only yellow or blue seem the odd men out, but there are plenty of other Abutilon species and cultivars—see "Variants" below—that live to harmonize with them.

Partner plants

'Souvenir de Bonn' is so snappy and bright that it can single-handedly enliven an all-green shade garden.  Its large foliage is marvelous company for ferns, but is equally adept at bringing tailored restraint to the truly huge-leaved tropicals—bananas, cannas, elephant ears—that also prefer the same rich soil, easy water, and dappled shade.  

 

You couldn't do better for an elegant and indefatigable warm-weather container combination than to underplant a 'Souvenir de Bonn' with asparagus fern and white impatiens.   

Where to use it in your garden

In containers or in-ground, starter plants of 'Souvenir de Bonn' are reliable no matter how long Summer drags on. 

Culture

Rich soil, plenty of water, and full sun or part shade.   

How to handle it: The Basics

Unless you're gardening in, say, Berkeley or Buenos Aires, 'Souvenir de Bonn' will be a warm-weather treat, planted in the ground or in a pot.  Growth should be rapid; pinch the stems regularly so the plant doesn't become gawky.  Only occasionally, you'll notice a branch with all-green foliage.  Clip it off promptly; it will grow even faster than the already-speedy variegated stems, and would soon mar the bush's whole effect.

 

Unless you plant directly into a large container, count on repotting 'Souvenir de Bonn' once or even twice over the Summer.  For me, 'Souvenir de Bonn' grows even stronger in dappled shade than in full sun, but this could be as much from protection from the dry-outs that can happen during weeks of scorching August weather as from the shade itself.  Provided it doesn't lack for water, 'Souvenir de Bonn' thrives in Summer's swelter and, if anything, seems to look even better in September. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

'Souvenir de Bonn' is such an eager, upward, and loose grower that you'll inevitably want to pinch the branch tips to bush it out.  While you're at it, clip off some of the lower branches, too, so you'll transform it into a standard.  If your plant has multiple trunks, this is also the time to reduce it to just one.

 

Standards are particularly helpful when it comes to overwintering, which is just what you'll also be considering, because it takes more than one season to get a bushy head atop a trunk as tall as you'd like.  Conveniently, the standard's head of foliage is usually high above everything else that will, inevitably, be crowding your windowsill or your greenhouse.  You can also set a smaller pot or two directly on top of the soil of your 'Souvenir de Bonn' standard, so you can overwinter two or three times the plants in the same small spot. 

 

If you don't want to bother with pinching, plant 'Souvenir de Bonn' in groups of three or five, planting individuals a foot from their neighbors.

Quirks or special cases

Over several years, 'Souvenir de Bonn' can get quite woody and awkward.  Don't hesitate to prune ruthlessly in early Spring, which then makes it all the more convenient to repot in fresh soil.  You'll be faced with what looks like a bare stick stuck into a pot of wonderful soil.  Provide sun, warmth, and water (but only when it needs it), and the stick will sprout eagerly.  This time around, pinch the new growth regularly so you can keep the awkward phase at bay longer.

Downsides

You can overwinter Abutilon plants in a warm and sunny spot, in which case they'll bloom all Winter.  You can even keep them indoors year-round, hence that common name of "parlor" maple.  But if you keep them cooler—down into the fifties at night, or even the forties—they're less likely to get the usual terrors of houseplants: white fly, spider mites, and scale.  They won't bloom as much, but you'll appreciate their floral performance all the more when you put them outside for the warm months.   

Variants

The Abutilon genus is bountiful, indeed, comprising about 150 broadleaved evergreen species—annuals, perennials, shrubs, and small trees—various of which are native to subtropical and tropical regions worldwide.  They are usually quick-growing and very precocious when it comes to blooming; rooted cuttings sold as annuals are normally in bloom when just six inches tall and in four-inch pots.  

 

Abutilon species and cultivars can be everblooming or nearly so, with flowers from white to pink to lavender and near-blue to yellow to apricot to voilet to orange to red.  The flowers of many A. megapotamicum cultivars have large and contrastingly-hued calyces, usually darker than the flowers and sometimes as deep as maroon; they can be every bit as central to the show as the flowers themselves.  I myself look forward to growing 'Ines', with dusky red calyces and white petals.  'Vesuvius' flowers are a smoldering orange with a burgundy calyx. 

 

There are scores of cultivars, whose diversity is chiefly driven by greater desire for greater dwarfness and an ever-increasing range of flower color.  Only a precious few have variegated foliage.  Besides 'Souvenir de Bonn', A. megapotamicum 'Pictum' has green leaves speckled with gold, and has nicely-coordinating yellow flowers with brick-red calyces.  A. striatum 'Aureo-Maculatum' has yellow leaves that are heavily speckled with green, with eager and showy flowers in light orange.  A. x hybridus 'Savitzii' has foliage that is mostly white with only irregular central patches of green, and rarely bothers with its pale-orange flowers.  Abutilon foliage is typically maple-leaf shaped, although A. megapotamicum leaves are small and unlobed.

 

Abutilon species and cultivars are typically very accommodating in their growth habits.  They all resprout readily in response to pinching, light pruning, sawn-down-to-a-stump coppicing, or being frozen nearly to the ground.  It's not unusual for die-back or "saw-back" plants to regrow to four to six feet that same season, blooming all the while.

 

No Abutilon species or cultivars are hardy into Zone 6, and many aren't even hardy to the cold end of Zone 8.  Then there's A. vitifolium. 

In Zone 9 and 10 of its native Chile, it's a tree to twenty-five feet, but it can survive in Zone 7 as a heavily-mulched perennial.  I look forward to seeing thriving clumps of it on the South Fork of Long Island.  Its flowers can be white, lavender or, in the 'Violetta' hybrid, violet.  I ts leaves are large and, thanks to their dense fuzziness, a soft gray.

 

Availability

On-line and at retailers.

Propagation

Abutilon cultivars are propagated from cuttings.  Species can be grown from seed.  Perennial forms can be propagated by division.

Native habitat

Abutilon pictum is native to Brazil and Argentina.  The cultivar 'Souvenir de Bonn' is over a century old.  

 

 
 
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