Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Abutilon × suntense

Abutilon × suntense | Flowering Maple

Abutilon × suntense is a large deciduous shrub to 4m tall with felted maple-shaped leaves. During the bloom season it produces a profusion of lavender to mauve flowers. Abutilon x suntense is a hybrid —a cross between Abutilon ochsenii and Abutilon vitifolium. The photo at left is of Abutilon × suntense 'Violetta'.

Several cultivars of Abutilon x suntense are available, flower colors ranging from bluish-mauve to lavender, to pinkish and white. Abutilon vitifolium and it's various hybrid forms are magnificent shrubs for warm, sheltered locations, growing vigorously in well-drained soil, flowering freely in late spring and early summer. Pruning is not strictly necessary, but plants can be shaped by cutting out any exhausted or surplus growth immediately after flowering. Like its parent Abutilon vitifolium, these hybrids may not necessarily be long-lived plants, sometimes described as prone to 'suddenly dying'. I remember seeing a beautiful flowering Abutilon × suntense 'Violetta' in a nursery garden one spring day a few years back. When I returned in summer, I asked why the plant was no longer in the garden. The Nursery owner jokingly said "it bloomed itself to death". That may not be far from the truth.

Historical Information: The Abutilon x suntense cross was announced at the 1969 Chelsea Flower Show when Geoffrey Gorer, of Sunte House in Haywards Heath, exhibited a plant he raised from seed —a beautiful mauve-flowered abutilon. It was a suspected cross between two abutilon species, both from Chile: Abutilon vitifolium, was introduced to Britain in 1836. It is a tall shrub with fleecy foliage and mallow-like flowers that are typically lavender but also white (var. album ). The other suspected parent was Abutilon ochsenii, with darker green leaves and violet flowers, a rarity that had arrived from South America a decade earlier. Later, nurserymen deliberately crossed these same two Chilean species, producing something very like Gorer’s original specimen, confirming that it was a hybrid. In 1971, this hybrid was formally published in the RHS journal as Abutilon x suntense, in honor of Sunte House where it first appeared.