Midsummer gardens are now shifting gears, from flowers leading the display to foliage plants showing their muscles. It is also the pinnacle of hibiscus, with the garden’s largest blooms of the year, with choices of several species and many amazing cultivars.
Mill Pond Garden will open to welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday, August 1, at 31401 Melloy Court, Lewes.
Tickets, available at millpondgarden.com, cost $15 to admit one vehicle for up to six visitors.
There is something wonderfully dramatic about large-leaved plants; they can make viewers feel like they’ve gone to their own tropical garden paradise without leaving home. Think bananas, palms, hostas, caladiums, taros, aspidistra, elephant ears, colocasia, cardoon, canna, ginger, agave, palm and the amazing fatsia evergreen. Add the colorful highlights of mature coleus and the garden turns into a jungle. Ferns filling holes with their own magic include natives with fronds four or five feet tall, such as the giant ostrich fern or the even taller king fern, taller than many shrubs.
The hardy banana musca basjoo is a perennial plant from the Cape region. It dies to the ground in frost and returns late next spring, rapidly growing up to 12 feet. It is important that the root of the tuber stay dry in winter or it will rot, so the usual custom is to plant it on a mound or cover it to drain rainwater in winter.
Ginger lilies, elephant ears, caladiums and cannas are mostly locally hardy except in very cold winters with low temperatures below 15 degrees F. They can be left in the ground or dug up and stored in a thawed garage or crawl space.
Colocasias are tender; they must be dug up and stored in a space protected from frost. Aspidistra is an evergreen that adds lushness to winter gardens, and it’s very hardy here at least to 10 degrees F or lower. The needle palm and many types of agave are hardy here and even much further north. Cardoon and coleus are annuals. Hostas are hardy perennials. All of these large leafy plants add a lot of interest to the garden for the summer.
Huge hibiscus flowers complement the tropical look of large-leaved plants. Hibiscuses for gardens include three types. The woody, hardy shrub Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, which blooms profusely from mid-spring to late summer with rose-sized flowers in purple, red, blue or white, is somewhat invasive , so be warned. Non-hardy tropical Chinese woody shrubs called hibiscus chinensis are sold everywhere as seasonal patio decorations with large blooms of varying colors. The native perennial hibiscus moshuetos is available in pink, white or red, and the tall hibiscus coccinea is available in red and white with lime green leaves, a favorite at Mill Pond Garden. These native hibiscus have flowers 10 inches across and are popular with some pollinators. They bloom generously in full sun, and natives can do well in both wet and dry soils, very useful in low or poorly drained garden sites where other plants cannot thrive.
The garden will also feature Joe Pye grass and many other butterfly-attracting pollinating plants, as well as full-blooming crepe myrtles, coleus, blooming water lilies, gorgeous views of Red Mill Pond, wildlife And much more.
Mill Pond Garden will display these mid-summer beauties for visitors to ponder their choices and find inspiration in seeing what garden plants can grow well here in the Cape Town region. Come and enjoy the summer jungle with heavenly hibiscus; flip flops are welcome. Visitors are asked to respect social distancing with other groups for safety reasons.