loving the hibiscus


I have a certain awe and respect for the hibiscus, although I've never lived with one. My fascination began long ago in Oshkosh on my Aunt Lillian's veranda and it was renewed soon after I first discovered the formal summer plantings above the Swan Boats dock in the Boston Public Garden. A glorious hibiscus "tree" stood at the center of a fascinating group of trailing and spikey plants in one of those giant iron Victorian urns popular at the turn of the 20th century.

The hibiscus always seemed to me to be a survivor from an earlier, gentler time, and it certainly had no place in the horiculturally-challenged garden of my mother's house. It also seemed to be both exotic and surprisingly ordinary, depending upon which of its parts were being observed. Above all, it wasn't the least bashful about its colors, and I loved them all.

Apparently Andy did too. I only realized recently that the Warhol image which probably most rivals that of the soup cans for its familiarity was inspired by the same hibiscus which decorated both Aunt Lillian and Boston.

The yellow specimen in the photo above was waving to me this afternoon from the edge of the sidewalk as I walked pass my local florist on 8th Avenue. I immediately captured it with my little magic camera, but I went inside to ask if there was a chance it would survive in the microclimate of our roof garden. The shopkeepers were encouraging, but a quick Google at home persuaded me it would be an impossible relationship.

Fate keeps me from living with either Warhol's hibiscus or the living original, but it's left me this image.

Inane fact: The red hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia. :)

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Published on June 18, 2004 6:20 PM.

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