When it comes to fabulous flower faces, orchids are always the scene stealers. They’re the ones that get passersby to stop and stare. They’re the ones that get the awards and command top dollar at flower sales.
All the while, though, there are other equally fabulous flower faces — wallflowers just waiting for someone to notice them. Maybe they have an interesting color or a unique fragrance or a great backstory. That was the gist of the previous post, inspired by Hollywood’s Golden Age. In that piece, I profiled a bromeliad (pulled from my neighbor’s trash) and a bleeding heart vine (a cutting from my grandfather). Now, those two are joined by two more plants on my list of Four Fabulous Flower Faces.
Mexican Cotton Flower
My friends Rick and David, avid gardeners, gave me a small rooted cutting of a Mexican cotton flower. Although they explained to me how the plant would grow, it wasn’t until I saw it in action that I was able to appreciate its wonder and beauty. It’s a lot like an actress who continues to surprise and entertain and who doesn’t let a thing like age stand in her way.
After planting it into a larger pot, buds eventually appeared, each surrounded by bracts resembling a feathery pyramid:
A white flower soon pushed through, looking a lot like hollyhock:
Once pollinated, the white bloom faded to a dusty pink:
After the flower completely withered away, it was followed by a balloon-like bud, which seemed to swell with each passing day:
As much as I was tempted to pry it open, I restrained myself — and then, one morning, it popped open — at least I imagined it making a popping sound, because what other sound could a cotton explosion make?
Beneath all of that cotton, there are seeds that can be easily propagated. Truly, this is a plant that keeps on giving.
Some people take lists very seriously. They debate and argue if this movie deserves to be on that list, or if a particular celebrity is worthy of being named best dressed on the red carpet. That’s how it is with hibiscus. Beautiful? Yes. But in South Florida, it’s a pretty common flowering shrub that’s often taken for granted.
Then, this one put on a show for me, its color very much reminding me of the “Jungle Red” lipstick referenced in one of my favorite films, The Women, starring Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, and a host of other Hollywood legends.
Here’s the backstory:
Joe and I have some friends, Jennie and Linda, from Pennsylvania, who winter in Fort Lauderdale. Whenever they come down, they often go plant shopping to pick up a few things to dress up the front door area of their condo. This year it was a red hibiscus grown in tree-form.
When we visited them for dinner, about a month before their return northward, Jennie asked if I could look at her hibiscus. The leaves were wilted, some were yellowed, and there weren’t any flowers. She had kept the plant in the same black growers pot in which she purchased it, placed that in a terra cotta pot, and then placed that near the west-facing door of their condo.
The diagnosis was pretty easy. Our friends had baked their hibiscus. It was literally dying of thirst. Jennie then asked if I could place the plant in my home nursery — and if I could restore it, I could keep it and the terra cotta pot. Challenge accepted.
Step one was to replant it into a larger pot, in a somewhat sheltered location, and water it deeply. Any distressed foliage eventually withered and fell off. Once it looked like it had survived the transplant and was bouncing back, I reintroduced it to longer stretches of full sun. Hibiscus love sun.
It’s now planted in a large terra cotta pot outside of the dining room window. The double blooms have been spectacular, although I do have to keep an eye on iguanas that view hibiscus as a delicacy. I’m hoping the plant’s closeness to the house will deter them.
What’s especially fascinating, though, is that the bloom is beautiful front and back.
This, in turn, reminds me of a Hollywood starlet who knows how to pose for the paparazzi along the red carpet — first the front, then the back, coming and going — and when that happens, she knows she’s going to be on the Four Fabulous Flower Faces list.