Bibor Felho, the purple cloud

– Posted in: Mallow family

She says, he says

This mallow outgrew its bounds, but I can't bear to cut it back.

Yes, it’s leaning halfway across the walk. Beauty before convenience.

She says: “Mom, you’d better cut that plant back. It’s blocking the entrance to the house!”
He says: “What gorgeous color! Don’t touch it! I’d be happy to inconvenience myself for that plant!”
I have this dilemma just about every year. To chop or not to chop. Many years ago, I ordered a packet of Malva sylvestris subspecies mauritiana ‘Bibor Felho’ from Thompson & Morgan. The best of the original plants attained shrub-like proportions, with blossoms three inches across. Those plants died after the first year, being more of an annual than a perennial for me, but every year since then new plants have grown from seed.

Could you cut down this plant?

As we all know, when plants seed themselves, they find their own best place to sprout and grow. When this particular plant showed up this spring, it was on the outside of the railing, and since I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t stay there, I didn’t pull it. Just as your hair can look fine for weeks, and then suddenly you realize you need a haircut, somehow when my back was turned this mallow developed a decided lean. Of course I didn’t realize it until it was in spectacular bloom.

Cluster of Bibor Felho (Purple Cloud) mallow flowers

It may be leaning over the walk, but it’s gorgeous

Honestly, could you cut down this plant? I know some of you could. Some of you would have noticed it leaning, and pruned it in a timely manner, and it would have bushed out from the pruning and would not be leaning and would possibly look even more gorgeous than it does.

And I bet you get your haircut before it looks like it needs it, too.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers (and the utility of search engines), I now know that bibor felho is Hungarian for purple cloud. It took me years to find that out, and it bothered me more than a shaggy haircut–or a shaggy plant.

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.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens August 16, 2008, 10:07 am

No. I couldn’t cut it. Anything that can grow with such exuberance and beauty would be left to its natural loveliness.

Nor have I cut my hair in 20 years–so perhaps you have hit upon the correlation.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter August 14, 2008, 3:58 pm

I’m ruthless with my Malva, yanking out seedlings & cutting back errant blooming stalks. Some of my Zebrinus seedlings look similar to your Bilbor Felho. I like it much better than Zebrinus.

TC August 14, 2008, 12:16 am

I won’t trim or shear leaners, I’ll stake them before I cut them.

Malva reseeds here too and yours is beautiful. Am I to understand you let it lean?

Daisy August 13, 2008, 9:50 pm

Oh, I’m actually jealous of those neat people who have everything looking tidy. I strive for that. But, I have a giant sunflower leaning over my sidewalk to my back steps. It’s gorgeous. I stake and stake and stake yet he leans and leans and leans… I walk around.

Annie in Austin August 13, 2008, 9:40 am

The color is wonderful so I’d leave it, too. But then you’ve seen my hair, Kathy.
On second thought, maybe I’d try the horticultural equivalent of a ponytail band, using green twine in a figure-8 motion between plant and pipe to tug the purple cloud enough to the right so it wouldn’t get cracked or stepped on.

Bibor Felho, what a great name!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Dee/reddirtramblings August 13, 2008, 9:06 am

Nah, I probably would let it stay. We live in the country that we and the plants can ramble.~~Dee

Les August 13, 2008, 8:16 am

I’d leave it be. I have zebrina and it behaves the same way. The original plant is gone, but not before seeding itself in several places. I now find myself watering one in the crack in the sidewalk that it calls home.

Pam/Digging August 13, 2008, 1:49 am

Knowing my neatnik tendencies, I have to admit that I’d probably cut it back. But I actually think it looks charmingly cottagey. And since it’s blocking your steps, not mine, I can cheerful say, Let it stay.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens August 12, 2008, 10:53 pm

It’s certainly an attention seeker. Seems to be saying… “don’t come up here without looking at me first”!

Cindy August 12, 2008, 10:32 pm

It’s a beautiful obstruction and the name is certainly apt. Not only do plants seed themselves in inopportune spots in my garden, I plant them in such, forgetting that plants here frequently exceed the guidelines for height & width! Sometimes I cut them back … more often I just leave them be.

Naomi in Ohio August 12, 2008, 10:31 pm

NO way would I cut that down! It’s beautiful!

andrea August 12, 2008, 10:30 pm

I’m with you – my mail person got downright cranky about a pink mallow that grew in the way of my porch steps; but then my hair get’s away from me too. I’m in a balmy zone 4/5 area in SW NH. Love reading your blog!

perennialgardenlover August 12, 2008, 10:21 pm

This happens to me more often than I would like to admit. lol But once it’s in bloom you don’t want to cut it back. I think it looks fine myself. 🙂