Hibuscus of the west

Cindy Morgan , Terry Tapim, Dennis Seaby and Adrian Austin

Hibiscus rosa sinensis has had a long history and successful history with the gardeners of Western Queensland.

With Blackall being acknowledged as having one of the largest collections in Queensland.

During the early 1980’s Harold Caulfield the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Curator of the day would highlight in his presentations, “the large and distinctive collection of Hibiscus that could be found growing in Blackall”.

Much of the early beautification and streetscaping of Blackall would have to be credited to the former Queensland Government Botanist Selwyn Everist. He was based in Blackall during the early 1930s and it was around this time that Hibiscus shrubs were introduced into the township.

It was during this period that Hibiscus rosa-sinensis shrubs were introduced into the township where they have flourished to this day. Many of the Hibiscus planted during this time are still growing within Blackall.

In recent times the Blackall Tambo Regional Council has started a succession planting program to re-establish many of the original trees and shrubs planted during Selwyn Everist times, including the Hibiscus.

Under the guidance of Cindy Morgan and her Parks and Garden team over sixty different varieties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have been replanted.

While there are 1000’s of varieties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis grown around the world.

Not all Hibiscus will grow successfully in Western Queensland, in fact, many new hybrid Hibiscus struggle to grow in the dry conditions. Yet at the same time, you will see old Hibiscus shrubs in full bloom and flourishing in neglected gardens.

Some of the Hibiscus with an interesting history that can be found in Blackall include Cindy Morgan’s favourite is the Hibiscus Peggy Walton X.

The reason for the cross is that this form of the lavender grey flowering Hibiscus has a pale coloured eye instead of the normal red-eye. Hibiscus Peggy Walton is a low shrub with glossy green foliage and growing to 1.2m.

Hibiscus Albo Lacinatus is an upright variety growing to 4m high with pink windmill-shaped flowers with a deeper pink centre.

This Hibiscus is one of the first hybrid Hibiscus cultivated in the world and is more than likely amongst the first varieties planted in Western Queensland.

Hibiscus bruceii is a medium-sized shrub with large green leaves.

The large bright yellow flower with a white eye appears most of the year.

Hibiscus bruceii is a very fast-growing shrub.

This Hibiscus has been grown in Queensland for over 60 years.

Hibiscus Cameo Queen the first Hawaiian Hibiscus is grown in Queensland.

This Hibiscus would have been planted in the late 1940s.

Hibiscus Cameo Queen has large single, pale lemon flowers with a soft pink eye.

It will form a bushy shrub to 1.2m high.

Hibiscus Wilders White could have been part of the first group of Hibiscus planted in Western Queensland.

It is a medium to tall evergreen shrub what is ideal as a garden specimen and suitable as an informal hedge or screen.

The large single pure white flowers with a red staminal column will make a colourful addition to a western garden.

Then there is the Hibiscus Blackall 150 “Lucy” a rosa-sinensis hybrid that is unique to the Blackall community.

Most likely this was a seedling that emerged from in a Blackall garden many years ago.

This Hibiscus produces regular single glossy red flowers with toothed petals about 10cm in diameter.

It is best described as a medium shrub growing to 2m high with glossy green foliage.

All of these Hibiscuses are varieties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and, while some nurseries have stopped growing these ones in preference for later hybrids which most likely would have been the first to die, many nurseries are now carrying quite a range of hardy Hibiscus varieties.

Although there are no known original examples in the wild, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is considered to have originated in the Indian Ocean area. All of its variants are tropical or semi-tropical.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis can be found today throughout the warmer parts of the world. Hybridized Hibiscus rosa-sinensis plants can be propagated by cuttings, air-layering, or tissue culture since the seed of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis usually produces plants that display different characteristics from their parents.

There are a tremendous number of variations, within both single and double forms.

Single blooms typically have five petals, and the doubles are identical but have extra petals in addition to the basic five, with a few of the basic types having a slight scent

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers are somewhat unique in that they do not require water and usually last only one day during the warmer months. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis varieties can range from sprawling and semi-prostrate shrubs to tall, upright screen plants growing up to 6m high. Heights can vary from about three feet to twenty-five feet.

I plan to publish some pictures of living Christmas Trees in the Christmas edition of the Longreach Leader.

So if you have that living Christmas Tree please send a picture to fishersnursery@bigpond.com