Browse Category: Flowers and Plants

Fantastic Design Plant: Roselle Tantalizes With Beauty and Flavor

I think it’s high time we brought back this old-fashioned dooryard fruit. It is not technically a fruit, but instead the bright red calyx formed around a seedpod — and unlike other real fruits, roselle is an annual and needs to be planted each spring. It’s more of a candy vegetable than a fruit.

But do not get bogged down by these details. All these hibiscus plants flower in late summer to autumn and are a heck of a lot more attractive compared to pepper and tomato crops (which also need to be implanted each year), and their tart and exotic appearing calyxes are delicious and valuable in the kitchen.

Botanical name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Common names: Roselle, hibiscus, Jamaica sorrel, Florida Cranberry
Where it will grow: Annual — increase as you’d berries
Water necessity: Drought tolerant once established but gains from moisture
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide
Seasonal attention: Appealing broad leaves and red stalks yearlong; blossoms and fruits from late summer to fall
When to plant: In spring after the last frost

Distinguishing attributes. So, why bother with a fruit imposter which needs to be planted each year?

First, ignore the capacity for fabulous flavor and focus on the foliage. You would be hard pressed to find such a stunning and leafy tropical to get a temperate garden, due to roselle’s dramatic upright habit, dark and glossy palmate leaves, and bold mahogany-red stems.

Castor bean crops (Ricinus communis, annual) have long been grown to achieve a tropical appearance in the garden in spite of the fact that they’re poisonous, but roselle is so safe as to be edible and has quite a similar tropical impact in the landscape.

How to use it. Roselle is also very tasty and can be enjoyed in a great number of ways. The calyxes surrounding the seed pod could be eaten directly off the plant as a refreshing treat, or you’ll be able to bring them into the kitchen for all sorts of fun.

The calyxes could be dried to create a tea similar to the Red Zinger tea sold in shops, which is made from roselle. If you can bring yourself to forgo eating them fresh, you can even create some delicious syrups and preserves, due to the calxes’ flavor and higher pectin content.

You can make a Florida cranberry sauce for family gatherings by simmering three cups of the calyxes together with 11/2 cup of sugar and a cup of water.

And then, obviously, there are the blossoms, still another reason that you provide roselle a shot if your climate is too cold for a big harvest.

Just think about it for a little. As opposed to buying a costly hibiscus plant in the nursery which will inevitably die in winter, you might have a tower of exquisitely delicate peach-colored blossoms in late summer, from one seed.

Planting notes. Plant roselle in April or May (regardless of climate), but make sure you provide this vigorous plant a lot of space and perhaps a little support, since the branches may split in the bottom when they are weighed down by a heavy crop.

Stakes or cages should help. When the plant reaches 1 to 2 feet tall, prune the tips of each stem to encourage a fuller and stronger plant.

Fertilizer is not necessary, but a little application may help if your land is poor. Do not use more than half of the usual sum, though, as it could delay flowering. Besides, roselle does just fine without any help.

Simply to give you an concept of how enormous it could become with minimal care, the roselle plant pictured here began from one seed and was not once fertilized. The only irrigation it received in addition to organic Florida rainfall was a occasional watering by hose on the weeks it did not rain — it became so prolific that most of the branches collapsed in a rain bath recently, dividing at the bottom. Oddly enough, the branches continued to bloom and fruit though nothing had happened at all.

Harvest. Roselle plants begin flowering when the days become shorter and will begin fruiting earlier in temperate regions in which the days are shorter, although not all gardeners will have a crop from the first frost. To cure this, prune the plants back after they have reached 1 to 2 feet tall, use fertilizer or choose an early-blooming selection, such as ‘Thai Red’ (Hibiscus sabdariffa ‘Thai Red’, annual).

The calyxes may be harvested and enjoyed before the blossoms even open, but if you abandon them to bloom and mature for a couple of days, you will be rewarded with bigger, juicier and tastier Florida cranberries that signal their ripeness by their own slight parting, showing the seedpod inside.

Pick them in this stage with scissors or pruners before they get hard and woody. To eliminate the seedpods, use either a metal tubing like the ones used to eliminate strawberry tops, or even a knife.

Here’s a picture of some freshly harvested roselle calyxes which have begun parting to show the seed pod inside. I have included a yellow pear tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum ‘Yellow Pear’, annual) plus a cayenne pepper (Capiscum annum CV ‘Long Slim Cayenne’, annual) in my photo simply to show how simple that this plant is to grow from the summer garden. Plant roselle just as you’d plant peppers or tomatoes — with plenty of space — and expect a big crop of Florida cranberries.

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Great Design Plant: Astilbe

It isn’t simple to find a showy plant that thrives in shade and looks great even as the flowers die. That’s why I’m such a fan of astilbes. These gorgeous plants possess feathery plumes that make them look spectacular en masse and let them stand out in a combined garden.

Astilbes originated in Japan and China in the 1800s, and German and Dutch botanists could not get enough of crossing them producing new cultivars and brightening up their color. While astilbes today come in a range of pinks and purples, we’re going to look at the very first astilbe colour the Europeans saw back in the 1800s: white.

Botanical name: Astilbe chinensis or other special variety
Shared name: Astilbe, false spirea
USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Regular watering. Soil ought to be moist, so rich in organic material and well drained.
Light requirement: Light to medium shade; filtered light or three to four hours of light each day are ideal.
Mature size: 24 inches high up to 18 inches wide
Benefits and tolerances: It is a brassy shade plant that thrives in moist/damp lands. It cannot tolerate drought or sun. Astilbes are mostly insect resistant, such as deer and rabbit resistant. The exception is that the black vine weevil.
Seasonal interest: Beautiful base of leaves in summer; gaudy summer blossoms. The spent blossoms seem good in the fall and the dried blossoms can decorate the house.
When to plant: Mid-spring or after the last frost

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Distinguishing traits. Astilbes possess delicate, feathery plumes that blossom over the base of the leaves in June or July, based on your zone.

When not in bloom, the plant’s fernlike leaves are appealing. The flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies.

Summerset Gardens/Joe Weuste

Since the blooms begin to fade in the fall, their structures still add a unique texture to the backyard that a lot of individuals find lovely. Actually, astilbe is known to be a blossom.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Astilbe is a versatile plant. Here are the best ways to use it:
In a combined perennial gardenIn a cutting garden (those were originally grown in Europe for because of their worth as cut flowers)In all-white gardens, such as moon gardensFor foundation plantingsIn an all-astilbe border gardenEn masseAs a woodland border

Planting notes. Astilbes prefer neutral or acidic soil. Add organic material to any soil that’s lacking in nutrients. Space 12 to 18 inches apart; dig holes as deep as the container or about 6 inches deep for bare-root specimens.

Keep plants watered and soil moist; extremely hot weather and shortage of water will quickly kill astilbes. Otherwise, they are quite tolerant and powerful.

Split every three to four decades.

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