hibiscus in the garden

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When Darry and I first became active with the Master Gardeners, I had an opportunity to plan a small herb garden.  The beds were arranged in a circle, like spokes on a wheel and each bed featured a different collection of herbs.  To fill out the wheel, I used one bed to grow edible flowers.  It was then that a small obsession of mine became obvious and every year, I have plants in the garden just for the flowers.

Hibiscus Sabdariffa, commonly called Roselle, has earned a spot in my garden each year and not only are the flowers pretty, but they are easy to care for and produce many blooms.  The foliage will look familiar to seasoned vegetable gardeners because hibiscus resembles another popular garden plant; okra.  And like okra, and other hibiscus varieties, the flowers are short-lived and are only open for a day.  While some may be disappointed by this quick life, if you are hoping to make tea from the flowers, you want them to close quickly so you can harvest the best part; the calyx.
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The flowers start out yellow with a hint of blush on the tip of each petal and as the day wears on, they darken to a beautiful shade of peachy-pink.
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The plants bloom in succession starting at the bottom of the stalk moving towards the tip of the branch.  If you remove each blossom as it closes, you will encourage the plant to bloom more.  It takes a lot of blooms to make jam or syrup but for a cup of tea, you will need just a handful.  The calyx needs to be picked before it forms a seed pod so you will have to check each day for the spent blooms.  When I pick the blooms, I lay them on a tray and place them in the oven to dry using the heat generated by the oven light.  
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Finding seeds for these lovely plants is not hard, if you know a gardener who is growing them, ask them for a fully formed seed pod.  Each year I save a few pods for the next year.  Otherwise, my favorite source for seed is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  To learn more about hibiscus, read about them on the wikipedia website,

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