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Islander to compete in 67th annual hibiscus show

By Staff | May 30, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Marsha Crawford stands in front of her James Hendry or Hula Girl hibiscus that she first acquired about a decade ago.

Sanibel resident Marsha Crawford joined the local chapter of the American Hibiscus Society only a year ago, but she has already received accolades and is ready to take on this weekend’s big show.

The James E. Hendry Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society will host the 67th annual Hibiscus Show and Plant Sale on June 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Araba Shriners in Fort Myers. Free and open to the public, it will feature hundreds of hybrid hibiscus blooms, plus an assortment of plants for sale.

“They’re not likely to see a wider selection of hibiscus elsewhere,” Crawford said.

Originally from Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband first became seasonal island residents in 2001 when they purchased a condo. About 11 years ago, the couple became full-time residents, buying a house off Whelk Drive. During the first years, Crawford planted a bed of hibiscus on the property.

“At least one of those plants I bought from them,” she said the annual show and her yellow James Hendry or Hula Girl hibiscus.

TIFFANY REPECKI Ice Fairy, which falls under the category of miniature.

For years though, her gardening interest was bromeliads.

“I had a lot of bromeliads,” Crawford said.

The retired wholesale nursery owner explained that the plants did not do well in the ground, but she noticed that the hibiscus seemed to be thriving. In May 2017, she changed her focus from bromeliads to hibiscus and joined the local chapter to learn more and network, doing her own research in addition.

“I didn’t have many plants at that time,” she said. “It was getting your feet wet.”

Crawford volunteered to help with the 2017 show, starting her own hybrid collecting in the summer.

PHOTO PROVIDED Love Story, the double hibiscus that won Marsha Crawford the John Martin Award in early May in Punta Gorda.

“They’re just amazing plants,” she said. “Some of them are really spectacular.”

Crawford estimated that she now has about 50 or 60 plants.

“These are all hybrids and they’re really colorful,” she said. “It kind of becomes an addiction.”

But, it is no easy task caring for the plants as they take upkeep and bugs can be deadly.

“Growing them is kind of a labor of love,” Crawford said. “You’re always out there doing something for them.”

PHOTO PROVIDED African Safari, which will be for sale at the show.

She noted that the reward for all the hard work, however, is a beautiful flower.

The first show Crawford competed in was held in West Palm Beach. While she walked away with no awards, she considered it a learning experience, especially in terms of how to transport her blooms.

“Every little flaw counts off, so it’s hard to transport them,” she said.

The second show she participated in took place in St. Petersburg; she made it to the “head table” with her Humongous bloom. In early May, Crawford earned the John Martin Award for her Love Story entry in Punta Gorda. She explained that she completes in the amateur category until she reaches two years.

Crawford is excited about the upcoming home show.

PHOTO PROVIDED Beautiful Desire, which will be for sale at the show.

“I’m hoping to enter a lot,” she said of her flowers. “I have a lot of buds coming.”

But nothing is guaranteed on picking day.

“It’s hard to predict how many plants will cooperate,” Crawford said.

In addition to competing, she hopes to one day have about 70 plants, which would qualify her as a collector. Crawford was recently elected the vice president of the local chapter for the new year.

“I’m always happy to share my knowledge of the plants,” she said.

For more information about the show, visit online at www.hendrychapterahs.com.

The Araba Shriners is at 2010 Hanson St., Fort Myers.