Botanical Buzz | A cotton candy shade tree

Hibiscus mutabilis, also called Confederate and Cotton Rose
Hibiscus mutabilis, also called Confederate and Cotton Rose

It occurred to me in a spirit of playful indulgence, even wanton extravagance, that a display of shocking pink would lighten the mood most happily. We have a tear-drop garden bed in the Sensory Sector of Elizabeth Park. It is 8 metres by 4 and sadly has been through the wars.

We started over six years ago by planting Wormwood (Artemisia arborescens) next to Yellow Trumpet tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha). The Liriope muscari edge is still there and so are the three Kangaroo Paw.

However, the Trumpet tree was planted too deeply and drowned. Then the Wormwood got squashed. There was more though. We replaced the damage with an Irish Strawberry tree and it lasted 12 months with cream Lily-of-the-Valley flowers and gritty scarlet fruits.

Frustrated and baffled we were when last sum ‘Irish’ left us. Don’t blame it really, when you consider what the heat was like. Must have yearned for the ‘green hills of home.’ Or maybe it was the super wet winter of 2016? Anyway I pulled the carcass away and we were left with a multiplying invasion of Onion weed.

Disappointed I was put in mind of how this sector looked before the Sensory development. There was a foot track over the paddock which reminded me of the Thomas Hardy novel, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd.’ Ah! There was a time when people used to walk everywhere. None of this tearing around in motor cars. A pedestrian period of homespun tradesmen, journeymen, and shepherds.

I came out of my reverie with a resolve to plant the large shrub Cotton Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis). It has hairy lobed leaves and flowers white in autumn, then turns pink, and again a deeper pink; hence ‘mutabilis, for mutate. Like the popular sweet, Fairy Floss. Americans call it Cotton Candy.

But do we forego our breakfast to have our lunch? No! A shade tree is still needed and the Arbutus Strawberry tree is hard to beat. Both the Hibiscus and the Arbutus are growing in Dubbo successfully.

We’ll mound-up the soil for drainage and run a drip line for moisture. We’ll plant both! See, you can have your cake and eat it too.