The other day I visited a gentleman who had advertised on Craigslist that he was selling an entire set of kitchen cabinets (not pertinent to my gardening question but they were 22 cabinets new-in-box and you wouldn't believe the deal I got, yowzah!). Anywho, he had a very large beautiful garden, I was entranced, and upon seeing my interest he took me on a tour. A lot of unique and interesting plants, it was wonderful!! I wish there was a tactful, not creepy/stalking, way to keep in touch with him, I'm sure I could learn a LOT.
One very large plant had huge gorgeous deep mauve flowers. He said it was a wild hibiscus and that it could stay out all winter (unlike a regular hibiscus). He said it's readily available, however, today I Googled "wild hibiscus" and got a thousand hits having to do with hibiscus flower petals in wine (huh???) but I couldn't find anything about the plant, where I could buy one, etc.
Has anyone ever seen one of these? Any advice where I might find one?
If they were huge flowers he was probably referring to Hibiscus moscheutos aka Hardy Hibiscus. If you take a look in Plant Files you can see pictures of many different varieties to see if that is what you are referring to...for example Kopper King:
There should be truly wild populations of Hibiscus moscheutos growing throughout your area on the New Jersey shore. I see them all the time along the NJ Turnpike which is inland from your location at Bayville NJ. I will be vacationing in Sea Isle City this August and plan to collect wild specimens of Hibiscus moscheutos of specific color combinations, if I can find them and collect them legally.
In 1970 Dr. Harold F. Winters published the following paper on Hardy Hibiscus which references wild populations of Hibiscus moscheutos in New Jersey.
The H. moscheutos in which I am most interested is pure white and in is show in the attached picture extracted from the paper but flowers with yellow coloration have also been reported. Dr. Winters is the developer of the Blue River II, which is a pure white H. moscheutos hybrid which doesn’t have any New Jersey ancestry in its heritage.
The red Hibiscus you saw in the garden was most likely a hybrid between H. moscheutos and H. coccineus and several closely related species which have been selected for hardiness and color. Most New Jersey garden centers have two or three cultivars for sale put you should expect to pay between $25 to $35 and the selection is limited.
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If you purchase any Hardy Hibiscus, be sure to include 'Moy Grande’ from Texas which is reported to have the largest Hibiscus flower ever created with a diameter of over one foot. A truly Texas sized Hibiscus flower from Texas.
If you find any interesting wild H. moscheutos in your area send me a DMail. There are wild populations growing around Packanack Lake, Wayne, New Jersey but no pure white flowers.
p.s. The caption on the graphic reads:
"Fig. 1. White flowered plant from Cape May, New Jersey, showing mostly the characteristics ascribed to Hibiscus moscheutos subsp. palustrus (L.) Clausen."
In Google Books I located a 1903 paper by A. B. Stout describing the New Jersey native species Hibiscus oculiroseus which is now considered a subspecies of H. moscheutos. A color plate is included in the paper. Your location in New Jersey is at the center of this wild Hibiscus population.
In the panoramic picture, there are white Hibiscus, the question are they pure white or do they have red eyes which is the typical form. For more information on the facility see the following page. http://www.fws.gov/northeast/forsythe/
If I find anything I will post with GPS coordinates. Hibiscus moscheutos should be throughout southern New Jersey.