Nothing reminds me more of sandy beaches, tropical island holidays and fun times than the very flamboyant Hibiscus flower.
I have always imagined this showy flower to be Nature’s ‘Diva’ – outgoing, confident and always resplendent in joyful carnival colours.
I first noticed the Hibiscus flower in art when, as a teenager I became fascinated with French painter Paul Gaugin’s work.
Gaugin painted a series of Tahitian native women (‘Woman with a flower’, ‘Tahitian women on the beach’, The seed of the Areoi', etc) wearing a red or white hibiscus flower behind their ears. According to Tahitian custom, this is to indicate whether they are single or available for marriage.
American painter, Georgia O’Keefe, on a sojourn in Hawaii to recover from a nervous breakdown also painted the Hibiscus flower. One of her most famous paintings is a beautiful work called ‘Hibiscus with Plumeria’, a simple and elegant piece featuring a pale pink Hibiscus.
Last week while walking through the botanical gardens in the CBD of Brisbane, I noticed a large area right along the eastern boundary of the park filled with amazing colour. As I got closer I realised it was a collection of mature Hibiscus bushes, each one covered in brilliantly coloured blooms.
It was an incredible sight to see so many different species of this 'diva' in colours ranging from a pure white to bright yellow, clear orange, pale pink, lilac, fuschia, deep vermilion and various other combinations of these colours.
I had absolutely no idea that there were so many varieties of Hibiscus!
There was the variety I had grown up with – flowers with five simple overlapping red or pink petals with fused stamens in the centre.
Then there was the double flower variety whose flowers could almost be mistaken for rose-like blooms.
Some varieties had two-tone frilled petals in complimentary colours that looked just like elaborately designed formal gowns.
And others that seemed to be accessorising with matching mini-petals encasing the central stamens.
Flower sizes also ranged from tiny and dainty to large, heavy blooms, some the diameter of a large dinner-plate.
Even just reading the names given to some of these hybrids gave rise to evocative visions of exotic tropical islands with endless white beaches, golden sunsets and brilliant blue seas ...
Strolling through these bushes with my camera, I could almost hear Elvis singing ‘Blue Hawaii’!
All images in this blog were taken at the City Botanic Gardens in Roma Street, Brisbane and are available as greeting cards, prints, framed prints, canvases or large wall art.
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