Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Ode to the Abutilon

When I encountered my first Abutilon in 2001, while taking a UC Berkeley extension plant ID class, I wasn't 'wowed' at first sight. I remember my initial impression being that the blooms, though profuse, drooped sadly alongside the leggy, almost weedy looking body of the plant.

Today I can't say that I disagree with that assessment, but over the years I have become much more fond of this easy-to-grow plant. And although I never envisioned myself as an abutilon afficionado, it is because the plant does so well in my garden that I am now decidedly a fan. It's almost as if the plant chose me, rather than the other way around.

Now I am host to a number of different hybrids, as well as one cultivar. They do vary dramatically in their details, but their overall effect helps to unite the garden aesthetic. Especially since I so love to pack plants in to my petite plot, lending to a 'specimen garden' feeling that I've learned to try to camouflage by repeating plants around the beds.

I'm still baffled by the once half-gallon twigs I planted in 2004, (a hybrid dark red 'Nabob' and bright orange 'Clementine') that are now 15-footers lording over my Dickonia Antarctica tree fern. Especially whist another 'nabob' I planted in the north bed originally, then moved to the new west wall planter box when it seemed to be suffering, is still languishing with no new growth. I even dote over it like the sickly child in the garden of strapping youths. Even the pictum 'Thompsonii', which I picked up as more of a curiosity, has become the focus of the western bed, spreading it's delicate branches of strikingly mottled leaves gracefully around the surrounding plants, like arms embracing the garden.

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