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Hibiscus Show, Plant Sale set for Father's Day
June 11, 2019

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For the first time in 68 years, the James E. Hendry Annual Hibiscus Show and Plant Sale will be held on Father's Day, June 16, two weeks later than normal.

Featuring more than 600 hybrid plants for sale, the event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Araba Shrine Temple, at 2010 Hanson St., Fort Myers. Admission and parking is free for the event.

"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," James E. Hendry Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society President Jack Bernatz said in a prepared statement.

Sanibel resident Marsha Crawford, vice president of the chapter, is looking forward to the annual event and is hoping to have some worthy hibiscus blooms to enter in the show. A retired wholesale nursery owner and avid gardener, she became a member of the organization in 2017 after discovering a few she had planted at her Whelk Drive home were thriving - better than the bromeliads she was focused on.

She noted that one of her tropical hibiscus was a yellow James Hendry she had purchased from the chapter at one of its earlier Hibiscus Show and Plant Sales. It is also the organization's official flower.

"I was kind of new at it," Crawford said of joining the chapter, explaining that becoming a member connected her with resources and knowledgeable growers. "I'd become addicted to the plants."

She volunteered to help at the 2017 event and soon began her own hybrid collection.

Crawford explained that tropical hibiscus are different than the typical plants used by landscapers, adding that they are more diverse and colorful but also demanding. Her first year she had a successful growing season, evening winning accolades at area shows, but this season has been a little tougher.

"Between the heat and winds, it's been a constant battle to keep the plants blooming," she said.

A self-described problem solver, Crawford explained that she was getting plenty of buds on her plants, but the buds did not want to bloom. After doing some research, she learned it was a watering issue.

"That's the thing I like about gardening," Crawford said of solving issues that arise.

Having identified the problem, she is keeping her plants watered and has added more mulch to retain the moisture in the hope she will have some beauties to showcase at the chapter's upcoming show.

"With a little bit of luck," Crawford said.

Despite a tougher growing season, her passion for tropical hibiscus is far from faded.

"The flowers - just look at the diversity," Crawford said of why she loves them. "Many of these flowers can be 9 (inches) to 10 inches across - the colors. And they have really cool names."

She noted that there is no feeling like seeing one of her plants covered in blooms.

"It's very satisfying," Crawford said.

And, it is a continual learning experience. This year Crawford learned how to grow root cuttings.

She recommended that anyone with the slightest interest consider joining the chapter.

"It's really a great group of people with a lot of skills and information to offer," Crawford said.

She explained that they try to have a speaker or demonstration at each meeting. Some topics covered have included hybrids and grafting. They also hold raffles for door prizes, such as cuttings.

"So more people get to go home with a free plant," Crawford said.

She welcomed the public to come out for the show and sale.

"Anyone who is even remotely interested in getting involved and learning about these plants, there's no other venue like this around," Crawford said. "You'll find nothing like what you'll see there."

"Just the show itself, seeing what people are doing," she added. "It's mind-boggling."

During the event, there will be 50 different varieties of hibiscus for sale, which are being brought from the chapter's grower, Sun-Fire Nurseries in Sarasota, according to Treasurer Charlotte Harff.

Some of the hybrid plants will include Black Jack, Bridgette, Byron Metts, Cajun Paprika, Daddy's Angel, Groovy Grape, Lemon Kisses, Mother Nature, Nectar Pink and Imperial Dragon.

She said they will set up the plants the morning of June 15, so they can set up the hall and showcase pictures of every plant for sale.

"We are excited about it. It should be a really good day," Harff said of the event.

She said they usually have at least three of their expert members in attendance for those who have questions about the plants. In addition, Harff said they give out a hibiscus care sheet and have tables with information about the flower.

Members receive a $5 discount off each plant purchased.

At the sale, the 4-inch plants are $10 for members and $15 for the general public and three-gallon planters are $25 for members and $30 for the general public. Individuals can join the James E. Hendry Chapter the day of the event to receive the discount.

"I got addicted to hibiscus through my daddy (Woodrow Watson)," Past President Wanda Schmoyer said, adding that she is honored to have the plant sale on Father's Day. "My daddy was the reason I got involved. We have a bloom this year, Daddy's Angel. It is beautiful, a pink and white beautiful bloom."

"Why don't you come down to the show - take your daddy out to lunch and buy him a special hibiscus for Father's Day," she said.

In addition to the plants, free raffle tickets will be give away every 30 minutes for gift certificates from an assortment of businesses.

Like Crawford, Harff also encouraged people to join the chapter.

"We always have speakers and how to at our meetings. They can certainly bring their questions and concerns," she said."

The James E. Hendry Chapter meets on the second Sunday of each month at The Berne Davis Botanical Garden, at 2166 Virginia Ave., Fort Myers - except during the summer.

The next meeting will take place on Oct. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Serving a two-year term, Bernatz said it is an honor to be the chapter's president.

"I have enjoyed it and happy that I can help us get to better places in the way that we operate," he said.

Some of the things Bernatz has been working on is going to the grower directly for the show, as well as giving out three scholarships annually. One of the recipients is a faith garden group that teaches mostly youth how to grow vegetables and harvest them.

"It's a good teaching tool for young people to spend their time wisely," Bernatz said.

For more information, visit www.hendrychapterhibiscus.com.

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