Welcome dear collector.
I assume collector, if you’re not one yet, you may soon be! Be warned, becoming a Hibiscus collector can take up all your time, and a lot of your money!
I started my journey on Hibiscus collection around 5 years ago in beautiful Queensland, Australia. On the Sunshine Coast to you locals. I took some cuttings from my mothers back yards and successfully propagated a few varieties, my first was the amazing El Capitolio Sport. It’s still my favourite, although for sentimental reasons. I have spent countless hours researching online on Hibiscus and have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge in a short period of time, my collection also runs somewhere around 70 varieties, however it varies because of my current climate. More on that later. You might also be surprised to learn I’m in my early thirties. To me, the general age of Hibiscus collectors is much older. I’m the exception to that rule.
I quickly saw in my research, that there was a huge international community of Hibiscus collectors, hybridizer’s and hobbyists; both professional and amateur. I also found some truly amazing online resources, a tome of information for the budding enthusiast like me. But, the problem was the truely excellent information was not maintained and was out of date, however interesting. I wanted new and more material to read, but once I had made my way through hundreds of YouTube videos, forums and societies websites I hit a wall. No new information. I know collectors are out there. We need a club. The Hibiscus Collectors Club.
Knowing more than I think
What I realised, soon after, was that I myself had a huge amount of information to share with others. Both in my own observations and knowledge I had accumulated. I needed a central repository of all the information I had learned, assuming that others were seeking the same thing. Thus why you’re reading this I’m sure.
Living in Queensland I had very few problems with my Hibiscus. However 2 years ago my partner and I moved to Melbourne, Victoria. My vast collection stayed in Queensland under the care of my (brown thumb) sister. I soon regretted leaving them behind, I missed my plants, I needed to take care of them again. You see, I work from home, and am sometimes a bit of a hermit, having my plants near me give me something to do during my off time in the longer days.
My anxiety grew, and I eventually hit my breaking point. I asked my sister to box up my plants and ship them all down to me, I was so excited to know they were on their way. I knew I would need to provide a warm habitat for them, but they were on their way and I hadn’t organized a green house to store them. It was July, and winter had begun.
The first winter
When my plants arrived in boxes, winter here had already begun, and they arrived in bad shape. Far worse than I had left them 2 months earlier. I didn’t know what to do so I stored them in my shed, away from the cold air and under fluorescent light.
I reacted right away and watered them profusely. It seemed like the most natural reaction at the time. I was wrong! A mysterious condition started to present itself. The leaves would wilt and fall off. So I provided more water which only worsened the situation. I couldn’t figure it out and it was too late. Wilt disease had taken hold and some of my most prized varieties perished with no way to replace them. I was devastated.
The cause of their demise eluded me until I did more research and discovered what wilt disease really was, a fungal infection. Frustratingly, if I had discovered the cause sooner I may have been able to save my favourite varieties. Around mid-winter I finally bought a small plastic greenhouse from eBay and my plants seemed happier. Most made it though the first winter. Although I was determined to learn from my mistakes, I was doomed to repeat them.
The second winter
The first winter came and went. Some of my plants survived and flourished through summer. I continued seeking new varieties from eBay and local garden centres. My collection grew once again. So rapidly, in fact, I started loosing track of them.
You must understand that Melbourne can get some very high winds, while not a problem for my plants,the wind took its toll on the cheap greenhouse I had bought the winter previous. I needed a new one. The second winter crept up on me. A cold snap took hold and I feared for my unprotected Hibiscus. I reacted, I moved them back into my shed under light once again. Although by now I new that over-watering was the cause of my last years misfortunes, I was sure this time I would be able to compensate and minimise the risk. I was wrong. Very wrong.
Learning my lesson… twice
Wilt disease again took hold. And quickly. By the time I was reacting it was already too late. I had ordered a new greenhouse and it was on its way but by then, I was already loosing them. My green house arrived and I thought now they would be happy. I treated some of them with a fungicide but it didn’t work. I lost 22 plants that winter to wilt disease.
Summer once again brought warmth back to my garden and my plants where happy and blooming once again, albeit without a few of their friends that didn’t make it. The second green house also suffered the same damage as the previous green house the year before. I was fed up with these cheap flimsy products. Surely by the third winter I had all the information I needed to prevent any more loss!
My home-made green house
I decided to build my own green house. From scratch with my own two hands. I love building things. Building a green house from scratch was an exciting thought. I stared building in summer, I was determined to be prepared for when winter once again rolled in. Usually without warning. I only just made it before the first cold snap.
So, why did I start the Hibiscus Collectors Club?
With all the information on the internet, the books I read and knowledge I accumulated amounted to nothing when my plants really needed me. I needed a community of Hibiscus growers that could have helped me. I assumed that because all the information I found online was old, maybe the growers had moved on to other hobbies. But surely not. Surely there are others as interested as I am in Hibiscus?
I knew this was a problem I could solve. As a web developer myself, making a website took mere moments. But compiling all my knowledge that was harder, and ongoing. I also wanted to have a community, which is why I added a forum. A place for people in need to ask for help when they need it and share their success. And if you’re in Australia I’d be happy to share cuttings as well and help others on their journey to becoming a Hibiscus collector. Articles on this site will grow over time. I have a lot of drafts in the works.
So, what happened in the third winter?
I’m happy to report that in the third winter I did not loose any plants to wilt disease. My trials have turned to tribulations.
You can keep tropical Hibiscus in Melbourne, but it’s a lot of effort. If you want to start a collection in Melbourne I’d be happy to share with you more information, please reach out to me. I have knowledge to share and I’m happy to do it.