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Hibiscus Show Tests Color Lexicon in Blooms Big and Small

Jan. 20, 2008 — Blooms big and small, sporting more shades of color than there are color names, graced the Country Day School library Sunday at the St. Croix Hibiscus Society's annual hibiscus show.
"We had some really great top winners this year, as you can see," said Erroll Chichester, co-president of the Hibiscus Society. "The bloom count is down this year but we still have high-quality blooms."
Entrants are divided into four categories: seedling, miniature, single and double. Most hibiscus have five petals. A double is any hibiscus with more than five. Singles generally have a clearly defined set of petals, while doubles are more complex in shape. Miniatures are dwarf varietals. Seedlings are grown from seed rather than from a grafting or clone and tend to be unique.
"Each flower produces a seed pod with 60 to 65 seeds and when you cross pollinate two breeds, each seed may produce very different colors and characteristics," he said.
Entrants compete as amateur, collector and professional growers. The flowers are first judged objectively on texture, physical damage, visual blemishes, size and symmetry of the blooms. The second round of judging is based purely on the judges' personal preference. Ribbons are awarded for each flower category in each competitor class. Then four "best of show" winners are chosen, one for each flower category, from among all the winners.
"Anybody can grow hibiscus," Chichester said. "Once you water, fertilize and take out any bugs, that's it."
The bloom count depends on the weather, he said.
"If it's very hot, petals tend to drop and very dry weather hurts. Millibugs and midges can defoliate the blooms as well. If you remember a few years ago the pink hibiscus midges really hurt the crop."
The annual show is the big Hibiscus Society occasion for the year. But they are active year round.
"We've got about 20 to 23 members," Chichester said. "We want to grow the hibiscus club. Our meetings are every third Saturday of the month in room 1 of the Country Day School library. Every month we address a different hibiscus growing topic; grafting, repotting, fertilizer use, pest control; just the basic care and breeding of hibiscus. And once you are a member of the local St. Croix chapter of the hibiscus club, you are also a member of the national club."
Jim Burns is the other local co-president.
Asked how long the Hibiscus Society had been going, Chichester said he joined in 1986. "But it was around way before that," he said.
Growing hibiscus is, apparently, a happy addiction.
"What I like about hibiscus is they are all shapes, sizes and colors and they bloom 366 days a year," he said. "I gave away over 300 hibiscuses and now I have 100 again. It's hard to give up."
2008 St. Croix Hibiscus Show winners for Best of Show
— Single: Clement and Johanny Magras, "Georgia Pearl"
— Double: Debra Tryon," "Mon Ami"
— Miniature: Bradley E. Christian, "White Dandy"
— Seedling: Clement and Johanny Magras, "Blushing Virgin"
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