Bibor Felho: Now I Know!

– Posted in: Mallow family, Plant info
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Mr. Hinsley, the publisher of the Malvaceae Info site that I mentioned in my previous post, emailed me concerning the meaning of Bibor Felho, and addressed himself to other statements in my blog entry that I didn’t bring up in the email. He is better at search engine use than I am. He searched on bibor and felho individually, something that I neglected to do. He discovered that the words were quite common on Hungarian websites, so he looked them up on a Hungarian-English online dictionary and came up with ‘Purple Cloud.’ He notes, “Felho is correctly spelt, in Hungarian, with an accent on the o. (I think the accent is a double acute accent, also known as a hungarumlaut.)”

For him, ‘Bibor Felho’ blooms earlier than Malva alcea ‘Fastigiata.’ It is possible this is due to climate, or due to the fact that my ‘Bibor Felhos’ don’t usually winter over, and so they are always first year plants. He further explains:

Malva sylvestris is variously annual, biennial or perennial. Southern forms tend to be annual or biennial, and northern forms perennial. Regardless, they tend to be short-lived, and perhaps intolerant of waterlogging in winter – you could try growing a plant in a large pot and see if it overwinters better than way. . . . A couple of miles away from me is a wild/feral specimen that reached 9 feet last year, even after being cut back by hedge trimming.

‘Purple Cloud’–and 9 feet! I’m so glad I had the nerve to email a total stranger. I’ve learned a lot, including better search engine strategies and the existence of a punctuation mark called a hungarumlaut. Remember that for your next Scrabble game! Seriously, I am less concerned about whether the hungarumlaut is necessary to make the cultivar name valid as I am curious as to who named the plant and introduced it to commerce. I think I will email Mr. Hinsley again, but since he had to resort to a search engine for the last question, I doubt he will know. (He didn’t.)

And I don’t think I will try growing it in a large pot. For one thing, it would have to be a very large pot; the tap roots of mallows can easily go down a foot or more. And then said pot would have to be protected from winter cold. I doubt Mr. Hinsley was thinking about the logistics of protecting a large pot from -30 degree F temperatures. (That’s -34.4444444 degrees Celsius, according to Google. Yes, Google will do conversions for you.) But I will consider improving the drainage next time I purchase seed. And I will continue to visit Mr. Hinsley’s site to learn more about this big plant family.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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