While I was at a home improvement center this afternoon, I was taken by a 12 inch potted plant called Anisodontea ‘Barely Boysenberry.’ The garden person told me it was a perennial bush and would grow 4 to 6 feet tall. I would like to plant it in my front garden which faces north. I live in Simi Valley. My back garden faces south. I would like it to be happy. Any help would be appreciated.
— Cyndie Dearman, Simi Valley
Anisodontea, which means irregular (aniso) teeth (dontea), and refers to its jagged leaf margins, will need a half day of sun or four hours of daily, bright ambient light to thrive. A north facing exposure is okay as long as it benefits from a significant portion of the day’s sun. The closer your plant is to the north side of your house, the less sun you will receive. Ideally, you would be situating your plant near the front of your north facing garden to maximize your Anisodontea’s sun exposure. You also want to keep in mind the amount of sun your plant will receive throughout the year, not just in summer. If it loses significant light exposure in winter, for example, when the sun traces a lower trajectory in the sky, the location may not be suitable for healthy growth.
Your backyard or south facing exposure will probably be suitable as long as your plant is not situated on or near a pool deck or patio or planted against a wall where reflected heat could be a problem. For years, I have observed Anisodontea, known as cape mallow on account of its Cape of Good Hope, South African habitat, and have noticed that it can grow in full sun along the coast but, as you reach our hotter interior valleys, it will benefit from some afternoon sun protection.
Cape mallow is adversely affected by too much affection. That is, be careful when it comes to water application. Mature plants surrounded by a two inch layer of mulch should not require watering more than two or three times a month and over watering will likely lead to proliferation of soil borne fungi and premature death.
By the way, plant propagators have really latched on to the bush fruit meme when it comes to Anisodontea, with ‘Slightly Strawberry’ and ‘Very Cranberry’ competing with ‘Barely Boysenberry’ for attention. All of them sport flowers in the pink to red spectrum.
I am partial to two plants, flowering now, that grow prolifically with a miniumum of water. One is known as Mexican or shrub marigold (Tagetes lemmonii). It grows as a dense thicket and nothing could be more wonderful than getting tangled up in it due to its unique scent, a mixture of cinnamon, lemon, and mint. I have seen it thrive in both full and partial sun. Flowers are yellow-orange and it seems to be in bloom practically all the time, barely sipping any water. The other barnstorming bloomer is a California native that we call fried egg plant (Romenya coulteri). The virtues of this beauty are best appreciated on slopes or outlying edges of the landscape or garden where it will encounter no competition from adjacent plants. At the same time, in distinction from most drought tolerant species, it grows wonderfully in a vase, where its flowers and shapely blue gray leaves, of whimsical Dr. Seuss form, will look good for a week or more. Fried egg plant is rather aggressive and will steamroll adjacent plants so keep that in mind when searching for a suitable location for it.
Some years ago, the grounds around the Veterans Administration complex in West Los Angeles underwent a facelift courtesy of Australian species. Grevilleas are especially noticeable now, blooming in their hot weather grandeur. Sometimes called spider flowers due to their tentacled stamens, grevilleas come in all forms, from ground covers to trees. At the VA, I was smitten by the ‘Moonlight’ cultivar with large, creamy white blooms. This cultivar blooms on and off throughout the year, though it does so most gloriously in summer. I also delighted in a showy honey myrtle (Melaleuca nesophila) specimen on display. This small tree is strictly ornamental, with a height and canopy spread of twenty feet. Purple pompon flowers with gold-tipped stamens are featured this time of year.
Tip of the Week: Double flowers are always a treat. Due to genetic mutation and hybridization, double flowers are encountered in nature frequently enough. Perhaps the most common garden example of this is double orange daylily, where one six-petaled bloom is perched on top of another. Daylilies thrive in full to partial sun and, even if they die back in a drought, will spring back to life with a little water thanks to their tuberous roots.
Lately, florist’s kalanchoe has appeared as a double flowered gem in red, pink, yellow, orange, and white. Florist’s kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) will grow both indoors and out,. Outdoors in the Valley, it will require frost protection and is best situated in the shade of overhanging deciduous trees. And speaking of double, triple, quadruple flowers and more, just consider roses. They are the ultimate multi-layered flowers, with some cultivars showing off more than a hundred petals per bloom.