There are so many beautiful flowers in the world from Water Lilies, Plumerias, Roses, Tulips, Chrysanthemums, Orchids but none quite like the Hibiscus. Visually speaking, the Hibiscus has few equals and it is probably my favorite flower to photograph because of its large size, vivid colors and unique form. On one of the occasions when I was photographing flowers near my neighborhood, I ran into a gentleman who had an amazing collection of flowers in his front yard. As we began talking in depth about them, his Hibiscus collection really stood out. When admiring some of his more exotic Hibiscus flowers, he mentioned that he got them from the Hibiscus Lady in Waialua. As soon as I heard she was here on the island of Oahu, I knew I needed to make a trip out to see her nursery.
Jill’s Hibiscus Lady nursery was very easy to find. She was the first listing to come up when I typed “The Hibiscus Lady” into Google. I went to her site and called to see if she was going to be able to give a tour of her nursery that day and luckily she was. She was kind enough to spend some time with me and tell me about her product and how she got started in the business of creating new hybrids of Hibiscus flowers. Some new flowers become mainstays in her collection and others get recycled into compost.
I have met many entrepreneurs and business men and women over the years, but very few have been as enjoyable to talk to than Jill. She truly loves and is passionate about what she does, which is why her business has developed into what it is today. I had a chance to ask her a few questions which I will post below for those that would like to know more about The Hibiscus Lady herself, Jill Coryell.
Q: How long were you a flight attendant and what routes did you typically fly?
A: I flew for United for 38 1/2 years, and flew out of Honolulu most of that time. I spent a lot of time flying to Chicago, L.A., Auckland NZ, Tokyo, and Osaka. Many other places also…these 5 were where I flew the most.
Q: How did you first get inspired to do this and then turn your hobby into a full fledged business?
A: I was volunteering at Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden intending to work with native Hawaiian plants. One day David Orr, the director asked if I would be the liaison with the American Hibiscus Society. I said, sure, I’ve had hibiscus my whole life so I know all about them. I joined the American Hibiscus Society mailing list and after lurking for a short while, I realized I knew absolutely nothing! I was hanaied (adopted) right off the bat by the top hybridizer in the world, Barry Schlueter, and he sent me outside to make some crosses, then more, then more, and before I knew it I was totally hooked!
Q: When I asked Jill about the difficulties on developing and cultivating different Hibiscus flowers…
A: The actual techniques are pretty easy … my 11 year old granddaughter Kalei is in her 6th year of hybridizing! The trick is to visualize what you would like to achieve and then try to combine the genes to get what you’re looking for! That takes time, patience, and a willingness to record your efforts. However, anyone can hybridize – it’s fun!
Q: Where have you shipped your items in the past?
A: Many countries have very strict import permits so it is very expensive and difficult to meet the requirements, Europe, for example. However, one of our regular customers imports our plants to Pakistan and we have a lovely lady from Singapore who has imported our Hibiscus there. We also ship all over the mainland U.S.
For those that do not know, shipping items like plants, flowers and even food without going through the proper channels can be very difficult, if not illegal. From what I have read, in New Zealand, if you are caught, purposefully or accidentally, with an orange, for example, you can get fined $400. So whatever food you eat on the plane, make sure you leave it on the plane.
Q: What is the most popular Hibiscus in the nursery?
A: The “Halem’uma’u Beauty is a consistent best seller, as is Olympic Glory. “Halem’uma’u Beauty means House of the Ama’u fern, one of the first plants to come up after a volcanic eruption. Halema’uma’u is the name of the main caldera at Kilauea volcano and it is the traditional home of Pele, our volcano goddess. One of our purple miniature flowers, Joe Friedman, is also a consistently good seller. People also seem to be fascinated with many of our purple and blue varieties, as well as our scented blossoms.
For those that do not know, the only scented Hibiscus in the tropical Hibiscus family are the Native White Hibiscus. That would include the Hibiscus Arnottianus, Hibiscus Punaluuensis, Hibiscus Waimeae and Hibiscus Hannerae, collectively known as Koki’o ke’oke’o. Jill uses these to cross with many of her fancy modern Hibiscus to create scent in hybrids. Hibiscus Kokio is the botanical name which applies to the small native red, pink and orange Hibiscus, not the native whites. H. Kokio is collectively known in Hawaiian as Kokio ‘ula’ula. Jill has developed, through her hybridizing, more Hibiscus flowers that have a scent than just the Koki’o Ke’oke’o Hibiscus.
I had a great time meeting Jill and talking to her about her business and her passion for it. She loves to grow Hibiscus flowers as much as I love photographing them. The colors that she has developed and styles that she has helped create are just stunning. If I lived a little closer, it would be hard not to stop by occasionally to see what new beauties she is growing from month to month. I will say this, as well as I try to capture these flowers with my camera, I must say that no camera can do some of these flowers justice. They are just beautiful. If you are ever on the North Shore of Oahu, Jill’s Hibiscus Lady Nursery is a must see for any flower lover. With dozens of beautiful Hibiscus flowers to choose from, it would be hard to imagine not being able to find the perfect Hibiscus for your property.
Here are a few photos from my visit with Jill at the Hibiscus Lady Nursery:
Map to the Hibiscus Lady