Flowering Maple Bush
"I've watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed."
For some while I kept an eye out for additional Abutilons or Flowering Maple Bushes, seeking cultivars that had as high a chance of doing as well in Puget Sound weather as did our A. megapotamicum 'Seashell.'
But most of them do not like to fall below 30 degrees F., & would have to be treated more as partial-die-back perennials rather than evergreen bushes, or kept in large pots to be brought indoors in winter.
At one point I thought I might collect a great many varieties. The variety & persistance of the dangling lantern-flowers are extravagantly appealing, yet the informal chaos of the maple-leafed twigginess presents a woodsy impression that I prefer above formality. I figured the more sensitive cultivars I could grown right up close to the house where they would get some residual heat from the building.
But the weak appearance of even the hardiest Abutilons during early & mid spring changed my mind about going overboard planting a lot of them. Given that I did not want them as "patio tropicals," after long consideration I decided I would likely be disappointed if I began installing specimens bound to suffer winter damage & not recover their beauty until the end of spring.
We nevertheless so loved 'Seashell' that Granny Artemis & I kept watching for a second variety that would likely do as well. My first choice would've been a bright-red flowering maple bush, but we could not find a red bloomer that would certainly be hardy all year round.
We did spot another one that local gardeners were having year-round good luck with. We eventually spotted it for sale, & added to the garden this yellow-flowering variety that is sold as Abutilon hybridum 'Luteus.'
It is actually A. darwinii crossed with A. pictum, natives of Brazil & Venezuela. The hardiness of several cultivars derived from this hybrid is almost infamouos, since they have escaped from many subtropical landscapes to naturalize in sundry places around the world, displacing native shrubs. 'Luteus' is not that aggressive in the temperate Northwest, but nevertheless very sturdy in its surprising adaptability.
We put one in our garden, along a cliff-edge fence where soil drainage is very sharp & even occasionally completely dry. We bought it in flower & it has only rarely experienced an interuption in its flowering ever since.
The young specimen is shown in the photo at top in October 2002, when it was only two feet high. The second photo of one blossoming limb is from September 2003, when it was five feet tall. Though it had grown a lot in only one year, it's not yet hugely bushy like our 'Seashell' Abutilon. Within another year, we expect it will need periodic pruning to keep it manageable, as it is capable of reaching a twelve foot height & ten foot width, being less naturally compact than 'Seashell.'
Just as with 'Seashell,' so too does 'Luteus' wants to bloom year-round, & makes every effort to do so. It is hardy down to 20 degrees & will only rarely be shocked by the random colder night. That places our Zone 8 at the bottom-edge but still well within its tolerances. The flowers are large & numerous from late spring through winter, but is a bit tired-out in early spring & takes until mid-spring or later to bounce back to full form.
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