Mobile County Master Gardeners
President’s Message by Elisa Baldwin August 2011
I hope you all are rested after our summer break and ready for the many ac- Inside this issue:
tivities that are scheduled for the rest of the year including a bus trip to Cal-
laway Gardens, the MBG fall plant sale, and our Christmas greenery sale. President’s Message 1
Introducing Jim Todd 2
On Wednesday, August 3, twenty-two new interns will begin the MG course. I
August Meeting 3
appreciate all of you who volunteered to mentor them as well as those who
will be assisting Dorothy White with the classes. She would welcome a few Discouraging Mosquitoes 3
more people to help to set up the tables and chairs, hand out materials,
grade tests, and provide snacks each Wednesday. Please call her at 973-1128 Herb Day 4
if you are available. It’s a great way to refresh your knowledge of soils, en- Fall CEU
tomology, turf, pesticides, etc. The Hardy Hibiscus 5
Mission Statement 8
Jim Todd, the County Extension Coordinator, will now also be the coordinator
for our Master Gardener program. He would appreciate it if you would help
him get to know you by wearing your name badges when you are at the Ex-
Dates to Remember
If you are a weather junkie like I am, you might be interested in exploring
August 2 Board Meeting
NOAA’s online Climate Watch Magazine (http://www.climate.gov). I just
read an article entitled “The New Climate Normals: Gardeners Expect August 3 New Class Begins
Warmer Nights.” US Climate Normals are 30-year averages of many pieces of
August 4 General Meeting
weather information collected from thousands of weather stations nation-
wide. The current 30-year window is 1981-2010. Recently, the decade September 24 Herb Day
1971-1980 was dropped, and 2001-2010 was added. Since the 1970s were an
unusually cool decade, and 2001-2010 was the warmest ever recorded, it is September 27 Fall CEU
not surprising that the average temperature rose for most locations. How-
ever, it was not the daytime highs, but the overnight lows that rose the most
compared with the 1970s.
Stay cool surfing the web. I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon.
Introducing Jim Todd - New Coordinator
August is here and with it comes a new class of Master Gardener Interns. There is always a buzz of excitement
around the Mobile County Extension Office when a new Master Gardener class begins…an anticipation of new
faces…an infusion of veteran Master Gardeners…a welcome site indeed. Our first class is August 3 rd so please
drop by, meet the new class, lend a hand, or just visit…get involved! This year will be both a little bitter and
sweet. Master Gardeners and Extension staff alike will miss the presence of Tom (last name Daugherty to
those who may be new to the program/office). Tom will be sorely missed, but we all can appreciate his desire to
relax in retirement with Robin and look forward to his participation as a Master Gardener, himself. Tom is
staying involved with the new class as well and will be on hand to teach a few sessions…those as he said, he
really enjoys. Congratulations again Tom!
I will serve in the role of Master Gardener Coordinator and really look
forward to a more hands-on involvement with the program once again. I
served in this role early in my career when I came back to Alabama in
1992 and directed the Master Gardener program in Etowah County until
I moved to Mobile as the Extension Coordinator in 2000. Since that time
I have enjoyed the successes of the Mobile County Master Gardener pro-
gram. I have fully supported Tom as the program grew by leaps and
bounds. I am always impressed with the level of volunteer involvement
both within Extension programs and within our own local communities.
As a volunteer training program, the Mobile County program continues
to over achieve in its mission and that of the Alabama Cooperative Ex-
tension System. Mobile County Master Gardeners truly do improve the
quality of life of the citizens in our communities.
I began my Extension career in Vidalia, Louisiana as a 4-H Agent in
1983. An opportunity to teach at a local community college in Natchez, Mississippi….just across the river, lead
me back into horticulture in 1987. Landscape Technology was the two-year program of which I developed and
taught 13 courses. I enjoyed teaching and was able to use my BS in Ornamental Horticulture-Landscape De-
sign from Auburn University to a much greater extent. After completing a MS in Vocational Education from
LSU, I left the community college to return home (Alabama) and to Extension in Gadsden in 1992. Extension is
just so versatile and provides opportunities to work with both youth and adults alike.
Lisa, my wife of 28 years, is a native of Larose, Louisiana. I was raised in Cullman and later lived in Decatur.
Our children are Matt and Kari and are just out of Auburn University. We reside in west Mobile and enjoy
gardening, camping, fishing, golf, and tailgating at Auburn.
The Mobile County Extension office is fully committed to continuing the tradition of providing a quality and
successful Master Gardener program. Although I will serve to coordinate the program, we will take a team ap-
proach to support the overall home horticulture programs here in the county. James Miles and myself will
back-up the horticulture information line with James supporting fruit, vegetable, and turf issues and myself
handling the ornamentals. We will also be available to support the programming of our veteran Master Gar-
deners and I will serve as advisor to the Master Gardener Association. As we continue to build a strong and
viable Master Gardener program, we encourage your involvement and participation and want you to know, our
door is open to you at any time.
Page 2 The Dirt
August 4 The speaker for the August meeting will
be Denise Heubach. Denise is new to
the position of Urban Regional Extension
Agent at JAC. Tom introduced Denise
to us at the March meeting.
7:00 Meeting In every home - large or small, new or
old, city or county - there are potential
sources of pollution that can affect the
health of your family, your community, or
the environment. The main focus of the
program will be identification of possible
health and environmental risks for your
home and property with voluntary actions
to reduce those risks and prevent serious
I suppose that for most people
one of the darker joys of gardening
is that once you've
it's not at all hard to find someone
a little bit less than you.
quote by Allen Lacy
The Dirt Page 3
Join us in Montgomery September 27 for the 2011 Fall CEU event.
Kerry Smith will e-mail all local MGA presidents with registration details. This year,
it’s all about TREES. Knowing the tremendous value trees add to a landscape and
remembering the amount of devastation caused by our spring storms, we thought this
a perfect topic. Whether starting over or just starting, we’ll cover what you need to
know - selection, preventive pruning, sizes, root health etc.
Page 4 The Dirt
The Hardy Hibiscus by Ray Allen
'Disco Belle 'Old Yella' 'Kopper King' 'Lord Baltimore' 'Blue River II'
NOT THE FUSSY TROPICALS, BUT TOUGH, HARDY SHRUBS THAT LIGHT UP GARDENS AS FAR NORTH
AS ZONE 4 WITH FLOWERS UP TO 12 INCHES ACROSS!
Do you know the story of the fabulous hardy Hibiscus Hybrids? They’re part of a
confusing group of plants called Hibiscus, rose mallow, althea, rose of Sharon,
giant mallow, swamp mallow and other things, but forget all that, these are mid-
size hibiscus shrubs created from some of our most beautiful North American
Here’s the main confusion. The genus Hibiscus has both tropical and non-tropical
species. We’re talking here about the non-tropicals. These are not the famous
florist plants that have similar, but smaller flowers. That’s Hibiscus rosa-sinensis,
the “China rose”. With thousands of hybrids, it’s the state flower of Hawaii, and
the national flower of Malaysia. The tropical hibiscus is wonderful, and it you live
in Miami or Hawaii, you can enjoy them in your frost-free yard. Otherwise,
they’re houseplants, and not very easy to grow.
The Hardy Hybrids. We’re more interested in the hardy hybrids, like the one at
left, in a front yard in Texas. Hybridized from wildflowers that have the largest
flowers of them all, these are yard shrubs that are winter-hardy as far north as
Zone 4. They’re not brand new, but they’re finally getting the nationwide fame
they deserve, since they display their stunning flowers all summer and fall. The
photo of the beautiful pink one on the left is one of the most famous of the
group, 'Lady Baltimore'. But there are now several other stars including 'Kopper
King', shown at right. And the story about them is fascinating.
Wow your friends. They’re easy to grow. Don’t think these garden treasures
are difficult. It’s quite the opposite. All they ask is full sun, decent soil (they’re
adaptable), and some pruning once in awhile. They leaf out very late in spring,
so don’t think they’re dead and chop them down. Be patient, and in a few
weeks you’ll have attractive foliage (often finely cut, and sometimes
copper colored) and soon thereafter a summer full of spectacular bloom.
Even John Bartram was stunned by these flowers. As early as 1807, the cata-
log of John Bartram and Son in Philadelphia listed the precious seeds of the wild ones. John Bartram
(1699-1777) was one of the earliest and most famous plant explorers from England who traveled in the
New World to find new plants. Specimens grown of the mammoth-flowered plants were an instant sensa-
tion in Europe. But the wild versions are mostly swamp dwellers and/or rangy tall shrubs with few flow-
ers. In time, the hybridizers would work on all this. Today’s hybrids have solved those issues and more. A
few hardy hybridizers have done wonders with the species. Cont. on page 6
The Dirt Page
The Hardy Hibiscus by Ray Allen cont. from page 5
The wild species. (photos, right) The upper photo is the solid red species H. coccineus
which is also called Scarlet Rose Mallow, Texas Star, and other common names. The one
below is the most famous, H. moscheutos. Photo Credits: Top, Missouri Botanical Gar-
den, Bottom, NC Roadside Wildflower Program. (See chart at bottom.)
Modern Named Hybrids. Modern cultivars begin with Robert Darby. He did his work in
Maryland, and named his two most famous successes after Lord and Lady Baltimore, both
still very popular today. During the 1950’s he created 'Lord Baltimore' (a solid red hy-
brid) by crossing several quite common, but mostly unknown wild hibiscus species that
haunt wetlands all the way from Louisiana to New Jersey. Most wildflower enthusiasts
have never seen one in the wild HIBISCUS COCCINEAUS
In 1977, Darby followed the “Lord” with 'Lady Baltimore'. His patent explains
that both the Lord and the Lady were created by crossing at least four native hi-
biscus species: H. militaris (which is now renamed H. laevis), H. coccineus (the
solid red species), H. palustris (Palustris means “swamp” in Latin.), and the best
known wild one, Hibiscus moscheutos. You can always find several of these spe-
cies in any good wildflower field guide.
Our beautiful photo of ' Lady Baltimore' is by Professor Wm. C. Welch at Texas
A&M University. As he tells us, that beautiful plant is his own, in his own yard in
Texas. Dr. Welch, by the way, calls these plants Giant Rose Mallow, and explains
that they “have the largest flowers of any cultivated perennial.”
During the 1960s, the Sakata Seed Corporation in Japan HIBISCUS MOSCHEUTOS
began hybridizing hardy hibiscus. Their work produced the very successful H.
'Southern Belle' and H. 'Dixie Belle', but their greatest hits were produced in the
1970’s and 80’s with the spectacular 'Disco Belle' series. (See 'Disco Belle Pink' in
the 5 photos at the top of this article.)
In more recent years, the story of the Hibiscus Hybrids shifted to Lincoln Ne-
braska. There, the now-famous Fleming Brothers became interested in hardy hi-
biscus. The Flemings’ nursery, called
Fleming Flower Fields, is shown at right
with some of the incredible hibiscus hy-
brids created there. They are all pat-
DISCO BELLE SERIES ented plants.
The Flemings are a fascinating family. The three brothers never mar-
ried, always stayed on the home property, and devoted their entire
lives to hybridizing flowers. Their mother was the State Naturalist
for Nebraska, so they had a deep knowledge of
native plants growing up. Today, they’re fa-
mous as the creators of some of our most val-
ued perennials from Dianthus (”Pinks”) to Ve- FLEMING FLOWER FIELDS
ronicas to Crape Myrtles. But later in life they
specialized in hybrid hibiscus, and what spectacular results they achieved!
Early in 2001, Dave Fleming, the last of the three Fleming Brothers, appeared in an
article in American Nurseryman Magazine, with a bloom of his favorite, 'Kopper King'
in his hat. Dave was the last of the three brothers, and passed away later in 2001.
Page 6 The Dirt
The Hardy Hibiscus by Ray Allen cont. from page 6
Today, their fantastic masterpieces of hybridizing are
With the popularity of container gardening, more com-
pact varieties are the newest offerings. Although
reaching mature heights of between two and three
feet, the plants still maintain the huge flowers. Since
they are indeterminate bloomers, the flowers are pro-
duced at the nodes on the flowering stems rather than
just at the top like some other cultivars. This trait
keeps them blooming from summer until the first
Now there is a hardy hibiscus for every sunny garden.
The wild ones, all North American native wildflowers. Most of these spectacular native plants
are swamp and marsh dwellers with common names such as swamp rose mallow (H. palustris),
halberd leaf marshmallow (H. laevis), Texas star (H. coccineus), and many more.
Hibiscus Species Height Bloom Color Native Range
H. moscheutos 3-8’ white or pink Wetlands in MA south to FL, west
w/purple center to NM, KS, IL, WI
H. coccineus 3-10” red Swamps and brackish marshes in
VA south to FL and west to LA and
H. laevis, previ- 3-5’ pale pink Riverbanks, swamps, MN, IL, IN,
ously H. militaris. w/purple center OH, and PA south.
H. palustris 5-7’ white or pink Brackish or Salt Coastal Marshes
w/red center from MA to NC and Great Lakes
H. grandiflorus to 10’ pink, red center Coastal plain marshes, LA, FL, GA
Photo Credits: FlemingFlowerFields.com, AmericanMeadows.com, Missouri Botanical Garden, NC Roadside Wildflower Program, Dave's
The Dirt Page 7
Mobile County Master Gardeners
Mobile County Office
1070 Schillinger Rd. N.
Mobile, AL 36608-5298
President Elisa Baldwin ‘06
1st Vice President Suzanne Hoffman ‘08 The Alabama Master Gardener
2nd vice President Nancy Adams ‘08 Volunteer Program is an educa-
tional outreach program provided
Recording Secretary JoAnne Ortmann ‘00
and administered by the Ala-
Corresponding Secretary Margaret Gordon ‘96 bama Cooperative Extension
Treasurer Susan Morrison ‘07 System.
Board of Directors Term Expires
Alice Marty will publish the Dirt on the 25th. of
Beth Brown ‘01 2011 each month. Articles for inclusion must be re-
Dianne Miller ‘05 2011 ceived by the 15th of the month and may be sub-
Myrna Sedgeway ‘07 2012 mitted to Alice Marty MCdirt@comcast.net or the
Ann Singleton ‘07 2012 Extension Office.
Betsy Yager ‘03 2013
Ray Hester ‘09 2013 Issued by
Past President Janice Covert ’05 Jim Todd
Newsletter Editor Alice Marty ‘07
Volunteer Activity Coordinator Jane Trawick ‘03
Volunteer Hours Coordinator Jo Hayes ‘99
2010 Class Representatives Beth Martin, Adrienne Young, County Extension Coordinator
Penny Claiborne alternate
ACES Advisor Jim Todd