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Annual show to feature 700 hybrid hibiscus plants

By Staff | May 31, 2018

Stop by Araba Shriners this Sunday for a chance to see more than 700 hybrid hibiscus plants, which are for sale during the 67th annual Hibiscus Show/Plant Sale put on by the James E. Hendry Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society.

“The event will showcase hundreds of different hybrid hibiscus blooms in a variety of colors and forms, which will be judged in several different classes including amateur, collector, open collector, commercial and seedlings,” said President Patricia Myers in a prepared statement.

Valerie Costa, who lives in Bonita Springs, moved to the area almost two years ago from Philadelphia. She said although she loved hibiscus while living up north, she was not introduced to the exotic ones until she moved to Southwest Florida.

After Costa saw an advertisement about the annual sale, she called her sister, Beth Meehan, a Cape Coral resident, and said they had to go.

“We went to it and it was unbelievable. We got there early and there was already a line out the door,” she said.

The atmosphere, Costa said was a madhouse as everyone was grabbing the plants they liked. She said her sister’s husband sat in one place, protecting the ones they kept finding to purchase.

It was a great surprise for Meehan to discover the number of hibiscus varieties there are after becoming accustomed to seeing the typical reds and yellows found at big box nurseries.

Before moving into an apartment, Meehan had about 30 hibiscus, all red, at her home, which surrounded a palm tree. Some days those hibiscus produced 100 blooms all over the front yard.

“I had the most beautiful hibiscus ever and I did nothing to them,” Meehan explained. “I really like hibiscus. I am someone who likes big flowers. I don’t like little flowers.”

With the plans starting on a new home off of Burnt Store Road, she has already forewarned her husband.

“Be aware . . . just stay out of my way because I am going to go for it. I am going to have a bunch out there,” she said, laughing. “Now that I know what it’s like to have nice hibiscus, and not Home Depot hibiscus, my yard will really be fantastic.”

After she attended the annual Hibiscus Show/Plant Sale two years ago she created her own oasis at home with different color variations.

“Our shows have these unbelievable exotic hibiscus that you will be able to grow and fall in love with,” Meehan said of the plethora of colors, as well as single and double flowers and mini flowers. “Two years ago I went to the hibiscus show and I was just amazed. I had no idea that this whole world of hibiscus (was out there) before I started going to the show.”

The James E. Hendry Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society 67th annual Hibiscus Show/Plant Sale will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Araba Shriners, 2010 Hanson Street in Fort Myers. The admission is free. Free raffle tickets will be given away every 30 minutes for an abundance of different prizes.

Meehan encourages those who are interested in hibiscus to come to the show and take a look.

“They would be amazed at what we have as far as different kinds of hibiscus. It’s a whole new world of flowers from Home Depot and Lowes,” she said.

Costa also encourages people to attend the show because they have the opportunity to win prizes, see a variety of blooms, as well as talk to members who are very educated on hibiscus.

“You will see blooms. They are judged, so you are seeing award winning blooms,” she said. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere. You can buy plants, see beautiful blooms, have access to people that are extremely knowledgeable and win raffle prizes.”

Those who want to become a member of the society, $40 a year, will receive $5 off each plant.

“That is an incentive to join and it also saves you money,” Costa said.

From there the sisters learned that they could be guests at the society’s meetings, held at The Berne Davis Botanical Garden, 2166 Virginia Avenue in Fort Myers on the second Sunday of each month at 1:30 p.m.

“I have to tell you it is a wonderful bunch of people. Everyone is so friendly, so willing to share their knowledge. (There is) a lot of instructional information at the meetings,” Costa said.

During last year’s show Costa joined the society as a member and has been enhancing her garden since with hibiscus.

“I have some that are 8 inches across,” she said of the flower’s bloom.

One of Costa’s flowers changes colors as the day progresses. It starts as a red flower before changing to an orange color in the afternoon and then yellow at the end of the day.

“I am really hooked on them,” she said because of the array of colors. “They are unlike anything you have ever seen. Some of them have four colors on the same bloom.”

As her love has grown, she began growing plants from cuttings, as well as growing her own seeds. Costa said growing from a seed is not as hard as she initially thought.

“I planted 11 a couple of months ago. About eight came up,” Costa said, adding that they are about three, four inches tall. In about a year, she said they will flower.

Meehan enjoys the meetings because it has furthered her involvement of learning, admiring and adding the beautiful flower to her lanai.

“They are the nicest group of people I have ever met in my life,” Meehan said of the society members. “Everyone brings in cuttings from their hibiscus and swaps with each other. There is lots of information about hibiscus.”

One of the meetings featured a speaker from a nursery, who shared information on how to control bugs on their hibiscus. She said at the house she never had problems with bugs, but once her plants were moved to the porch they surfaced.

“I have been fighting bugs for a year. I got this stuff and the bugs are gone. My plants are looking better than they ever looked,” Meehan said.

With limited space, she has four potted hibiscus, which are doing wonderful.

“You can do it in a small area with a few pots. They are out on my balcony,” she said.

Two of the plants include sweet cheeks, a white hibiscus with a pink center and pink mountain, which is purple with pink edges.

“It’s just stunning. Some are six, seven inches big diameter-wise,” Meehan said.