Many of you have been to Hawaii and many of you wish you could go to Hawaii. Since I
have never been there, I’m in the second group of you. However, there is something growing in my flower garden which reminds me of Hawaii and its hula girls. I have two hibiscus plants, both bearing beautiful hibiscus flowers. It’s the flower that the hula girls wear in their hair, probably because the official state flower of Hawaii is yellow hibiscus. The way they wear the hibiscus tells a story of their marital status. If a lady wears a flower on the right side of her hair, it means she is single. If she wears it on the left side, it means she is already married and not available.
I am getting side-tracked here. My whole reason for writing is to tell you about
the hibiscus flowers growing in my garden, a vivid reminder of a tropical island on the other side of the world. By the way, do you know that “hula” is the dance, not the girl, and the dance tells a story representing the movements of nature such as trees blowing in the wind or fish swimming smoothly in the ocean. Now back to the hibiscus, really! Until a few years ago when my family gave me hibiscus plants for my garden here in Pennsylvania, I thought they were tropical plants that would exist, only with much care, in the house here in the north. I was in for a surprise.
The hibiscus flowers remind me of the Rose of Sharon bush, that grew in my husband’s
grandparents’ yard. We raised our family in this home and the bush graced our yard for years, until it didn’t survive one of our winters. The Rose of Sharon is a cousin to the hibiscus, both have trumpet shaped flowers.
Hibiscus has grown for centuries around the rim of the Indian and Pacific oceans, both
tropical areas. These flowers have been cultivated there for hundreds, if not thousands of years, In fact so long that there is no record of them being found in the wild. Now we are getting closer to the secret of how hibiscus can be growing in my Pennsylvanian garden. Hawaiian hybridists crossed and re-crossed them in an extensive program and by the 1980’s there were over 4000 tropical hybrids in cultivation. Today there are more than 10,000 hybrids worldwide.
As the hybridizers worked, the fussy tropical houseplants became tough, hardy shrubs that light up gardens as far north as zone 4 and they have flowers measuring up to 12 inches. The secret is that the genus Hibiscus has both tropical and non-tropical species. And, mine of course, are the non-tropical type. They are the fabulous, hardy Hibiscus Hybrids. And, they are easy to grow.
Well, the secret is out, but some of you have never been that intrigued over hibiscus
flowers. In fact, the closest you may have come to them is seeing them pictured on a Hawaiian shirt. Now that’s another subject which we may touch on ever so lightly here. Since I lean toward plain colored shirts, I personally don’t care for them, but my husband likes them. It was film stars such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Tom Selleck, wearing these theme prints, such as palm trees and hula girls, that helped make these shirts popular wearing apparel. Rayon is the preferred fabric for them. You may have never been one to collect vintage clothes, but if you should run across a Hawaiian shirt sporting coconut buttons, take a closer look. It had to have been made in the earlier years of the shirt craze. Here’s a couple of other hints, a classic shirt won’t have fabric care labels. They weren’t added until the 1960’s. If you find one that’s marked “made in Hawaii” or “Hawaiian made” you’ve got yourself a winner. It’s been 80 years since they first appeared on the Big Island , Hawaiia, and they are still in fashion and more popular than ever.
You’ve just read my new Shirl and You for this week. Don’t you think that the hula girls, Rose of Sharon, and Hawaiian shirts, made my hibiscus story even more interesting? I know you have some additional, appropriate comments on the subjects. I hope you’ll write and add those thoughts to what I’ve been thinking.