Mmmm Marshmallows and butter

Mallow Family

mallow family

This month’s subjects all belong to the family Malvaceae; common names for this family include Mallow Family and ‘Hibiscus family’ (Hibiscus is the Greek name for marsh mallow). All are extremely pretty and rewarding in the garden.

The first is Pavonia Praemorsa, a shrubby perennial that can grow up to two metres tall. Its flowers are simply delightful – buttery yellow with red veins on the undersides of the petals. A bud about to unfurl appears maroon red and opens to a flat, soft yellow flower with five petals. With both red buds and yellow blooms appearing simultaneously, this unusual little shrub is especially pretty.

There is nothing bully like in its growth habit, instead it is slender and can be tucked into any bed, never overwhelming its companions. It likes a sunny position and can be pruned to encourage bushiness. I particularly like to tuck Pelargonium Tongaense (which I covered in my article last month) at its toes; the brick red hues of both plants complement each other perfectly.

Pavonia Praemorsa occurs naturally in bush and thicket between Humansdorp and the Eastern Cape. Unfortunately it is little known and used in gardens in our country; but it is available for sale in many other parts of the world. It is even to be seen in the National Botanic Garden in Belgium. How did the rest of the world leap on to this treasure when it is hardly known here, I wonder? I discovered one of its common names to be ‘butter bits’ – it is so perfectly apt.

Hibiscus Pedunculatus ‘Forest Pink Hibiscus’ is an all time favourite of mine. It is especially pretty and happy in semi shade, with its masses of soft pink flowers appearing throughout the summer. This dear little shrub grows one to two metres tall and is wonderful when used in forest plantings – where I always plant it in groups of three or more. When grown in a sunny spot it tends to be a tad bushier and can be planted alone.
Interestingly, my dogs eat the leaves continuously – they must surely believe it benefits their digestion. Hibiscus Pedunculatus is lovely when planted beneath Indigofera Jucunda ‘River Indigo’.

Similar looking and equally useful for providing long-lasting colour are the Anisodonteas. Pink mallow – Anisodontea Scabrosa – is well known and freely available in nurseries. If pretty, flowering borders are what you desire then plant masses of these little shrubs, which can grow up to 1,8 metres in height. They will reward with an endless succession of pink flowers. They love a sunny spot and will not flower or thrive in shade. Less well known but more appealing, in my opinion, is Anisodontea Julii – a shrub of high altitude.

I will never forget the sight of hundreds of these flowering at the base of Sani Pass one summer, and I have used them in gardens ever since. This shrub flowers profusely for a few years and then simply dies, as though exhausted by its efforts. Nevertheless, it suckers so freely that your garden will never be without this lovely mallow.

I trust that I have piqued your interest to the point where you make sure these lovely plants find their way into your garden in no time at all. You’ll be so pleased with the result!

The Gardener