Have you ever received plants in the mail (or via some other delivery service)? Maybe they were from an order you placed, or due to a trade you had arranged with distant gardening friends? It's great, isn't it?

Know what's even better? Receiving a plant in the mail when you were not expecting one. That's right, surprise plants!


Actually it was just a single plant, but you get the idea -- it's exciting!

For the past year or so I have been bugging some of the warmer-climate gardeners I know who grow desert mallow to collect some seeds for me. I first saw this plant in the desert around Las Vegas five or six years ago, and I fell in love! Those orange blossoms -- just fantastic! Doing some research I found out that it was probably Sphaeralcea ambigua or "desert mallow", a plant that is probably not cold-hardy enough for my garden, although sources conflict on that. I grow plenty of plants that are not cold-hardy, so this didn't deter me -- I wanted to try this plant!

I received some seeds from Cat at The Whimsical Gardener last year but they never germinated -- Cat wasn't sure that they were fully mature, and I guess they weren't.

This winter I asked Cat to keep an eye out again for any seeds, and emailed Jenny at Rock Rose (who has such a lovely Texas garden), asking her to collect some mallow seeds when she could -- no hurry.

Yesterday I got an email from Jenny saying "Mallow should arrive by Friday. Hope it survived." Literally 10 minutes later my wife walked in with the mail, holding a package.

Jenny had sent me a desert mallow plant!

Dropping everything to open the box, I found a little bit of soil spillage but an otherwise fine-looking plant.

Jenny's note said that it had been 90ºF (32ºC) the day she packed this. A bit of a shock for the plant to arrive when it was 32ºF (0ºC), but no harm done. Tough plant, right?

I love the fuzzy leaves!

A nice, woody stem, and because of the soil spill I was able to see a nice root system too.

There were seeds in the box too, collected by Jenny from a wild plant in Arizona (if I can read the soggy, soiled note correctly). I got those started right away, as I'm always nervous having only a single specimen of a plant I really like.

I wonder if I'll get to see any blooms this year, or if I'll need to wait until next year? (It's a bit early to start thinking about overwintering strategies for next year, so I'll worry about that later.)

Thank you Jenny!


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sandy lawrence –   – (March 22, 2013 at 9:32 AM)  

Good luck with your mallow plant and seeds, Alan! I love this plant, too, and I'm (still) waiting for local nurseries to catch up w/Austin in offering this plant.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 22, 2013 at 10:07 AM)  

That is so cool! People like Jenny make the world a better place.

Desert mallows are beautiful plants! I received a Sphaeralcea from a local gardener last fall. It isn't ambigua (the leaves aren't that fuzzy) but I can't remember the species offhand.

Alan  – (March 22, 2013 at 10:10 AM)  

Gerhard: is it S. munroana? That one is more cold-hardy, so if that's what you have, I'll take a cutting. :)

Rock rose  – (March 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM)  

I was at the Wilflower Center today and noticed the one they have there is labeled S. incana. The ones from Az may be S. lindheimerei. Mine are in glorious full bloom now. they have bloomed right through the winter and I cut them back about half. It certainly is a wonderful plant and I don't know why San A doesn't sell it!

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