Hibiscus of the Month

[Click on the photos to make them larger]

February 2024

Here’s a very different one from last month’s ‘Athena’. However, it shares a nearly identical history of neglect and difficult growing conditions for years until it eventually responds to better treatment, and the result is “Wow”! A discussion online in the NZ Tropical Hibiscus group delved into a brief history of major brands of washing machine powder, and their predecessors. It was started by the frothing, foaming, sudsy connotations that the flower photos set off. My older daughter Marian responded with a couple of sentences of reactions. Her take on it was that it reminded her of being on the flattish sand that Piha surf can wash across as the last remnants of a big surf’s wave ends its journey. From that response I immediately picked up her apt choice of  “Swirling Surf”.

January 2024

This one began to stop me in my tracks over the December 23-January 24 period.  It was growing strongly under plastic in my area for new plant assessment. I knew at once that it was a keeper. The colours are not as bright and assertive as some hibiscus, but rather they have an attractive softness to them while still presenting a distinctive face. The parents’ names didn’t help my naming of it at all. What would you make of ‘Tahitian Orange Radiation’ crossed with ‘Unknown’? An old friend,  Rene Wilson, solved an impasse with a lovely name that takes the mind to better places, and still reflects a certain hard mindedness. ‘Athena’. My dictionary says she was the Greek goddess of wisdom, skills, and warfare…Athena.

February 2023

I’ve recognised for at least a year that this is a distinct and interesting flower. I took many photographs over time but I could not get my digital camera to capture and display it satisfactorily.  When I look at it I perceive it as being made up of two different colours mainly. It’s not flash or showy in terms of focussing on the actual flower, but it is intriguing. It was “different” from the others in how it achieved its effect.

At the point when I finally decided to list it here a long time friend, Rene, sent me a link to a recorded Bruce Springsteen concert in February 2023. I looked, and I heard him perform “Darkness on the Edge of Town”.  This seemed an “edgy” flower, and right at that point I decided that this particular flower could be ‘City Limits’.

January 2023

In late 2022 I finally recognised the worth of this little explosion of hot colour. My other orange-yellow ones have their virtues, and this is a small, not a large flower, on a normal sized bush in the ground at Nestlebrae North. But now that I’ve seen many of them, they do hold their own with the surrounding Nestlebrae Hibiscus flowers,  just by the sheer intensity of the hot look that they have. That’s a no-nonsense presentation!

Undoubtedly ‘A Small Furnace’!

December 2022

I’ve known about this flower for a couple of years, but have only planted it out more recently. We were talking about it a little while ago, and Toni suggested a name for it that I immediately thought was a good one. It was in full flower, we know purple is often the special colour of royalty, and this at once became ‘Royal Flush’.  And some elements of royalty do have something to flush and blush about, it seems. It’s a ‘Royal Flush’.

November 2022

I’d been aware of this new flower for some time before November, and since I became interested in hibiscus and built a collection of new plants I’ve regarded doubles a bit warily because they don’t display in the way the usual single hibiscus flowers do-i.e. a flat disc of colours. But I do have a couple, and they can be rather attractive in their own restrained way. That realisation is how this one became a keeper. It makes a nice contrast with the others, and also demonstrates yet again the amazing plasticity of the hibiscus group. My doubles are restrained in both the colour expression and their size. This one is about 15cm across. It is ‘Double Mellow Yellow’.

January 2022


From December (last month) and on through January and February 2022 I took many photos and looked at many flowers of this one as they aged over several days. Each flower puzzled me. It faded acceptably. That was not out of the usual patterns of development. But the thing was that an individual flower was particularly riveting each time I saw it during its first day of existence. I couldn’t pin down what it was. My first real intuition came when I took one to my friend the Kerikeri painter Valerie Hunton. As part of that day I thought a number of times about it.

What I came up with was ‘Inner Light’.

It goes on to become more ordinary. The extraordinary starting glow dies down. The internal lights are progressively turned off. An ant wanders across the expanse of the petals. And it is still distinctively, and quietly, interesting.

December 2021

Some years ago I had a dwarf plant that I’d grown from seed that I’d imported. It had distinctive blue and red colours. If you know anything about world football, then you’d have recognized them as the colours of the great Barcelona club. So that’s what I called it- ‘Barcelona’. It was a dwarf. The original plant is dead now, but I did have something to fall back on because I’d raised some cuttings from it. Now, this month, I first saw a much bigger and more dramatic plant in the same colours. The surface of the flower is more complex too. It’s one I really want to watch to see how these flowers develop and show themselves off. I’m calling it, for now anyway, ‘Big Barcelona’.

November 2021

Well, the story seemed to get even worse. In the period since the last 2020 entry in this section (‘Lady Midnight’ below), I still had occasional new flowers, but my attention and time with the plants was just entirely focussed on exotic fruit plants and the rapidly expanding interest in buying them. Hibiscus took a distinctly back seat. Now I am moving back into being active with growing and selling both fruit plants and cutting-grown hibiscus. In the meantime, here’s just one of my new flowers. In a year or two new plants of it should be available for the first time.

A very softly pretty new flower showed itself in the last couple of months of 2021. It’s subtle, and nice. Pink dominates white to begin with, and the soft pink dominance fades over time through to a much paler impression of the patterning by late on the third day. I’ve thought of several names, and I’ve settled on ‘Little Miss Delicate’.

January 2020

Yes, a whole year has gone by, and I’ve struggled to keep things going (back and leg issues hampering me for the first time. Oh well, somewhat better from late spring, and into early summer 2020 as I write this). This was originally a seed from Moorea (Tahiti) back in the now distant past. About 10 years ago this seed was planted with some fellows from the same cross made by a local breeder there. The plant had various treatments, but never flowered. It had better treatment in the past two years. It’s still in a bag of potting mix, now well refreshed. And the reward was this! At last, a new flower worth focussing on. A long time friend, Rene Wilson, was intrigued, and suggested several names at my request. Now this is ‘Lady Midnight’, courtesy of Rene.

January-February 2019

I think this is, so far, the best new flower that I’ve had in this rather characteristic hibiscus red-yellow pairing. It’s reasonably big at about 19-20cm diameter, has some surface patterning and interest, and just shouted! across my big plastic house the first time I saw it with two flowers open. It’s name is derived from the parents: Moorea Moon Girl.

December 2018

Whatever…!?  This seems to have disappeared. I’ll keep it available in case I work out from the cache of photos for this website what it should be.

[jdp 09.08.22]

August-September 2018

I was deeply involved in and enjoying a big (600pp) biography of Leonard Bernstein when, late one afternoon in very early May, I discovered a first flowering. It could only, in such circumstances, be ‘Lenny’. The sun was not out, putting more warmth and colour into things, yet there was a definite glow to this new flower, and a strong impact. The sort of floral beacon and event that brings instant joy. It did fade slowly by the end of the third day, and more, but still had quite a lot of the original colour and flamboyance. Bernstein was one of the greatest conductors of his era, an eclectic composer whose reputation is rising, a fine educator on US television of the 50s and 60s (it was a hugely different media era to now), and he was flamboyant in both his public and private lives. He is going transcendental, and justifiably so in my opinion, in one of the great early symphonies of Gustav Mahler.

June-July 2018

This one first blazed forth in late May and June 2018. The news was full of volcanic events and damage on the big island in the Hawaiian group. So the name was a natural one: ‘Lava Flow’.


April-May 2018

This is one that really caught my attention by fading from quite intense golden yellow with orange veining around a complex centre. The latter starts with pink going outwards to lavender. Around that is a dull foliage green circlet that ends up more green-grey. I thought the late afternoon final (4th) day photo, while still a clear example of a complex and bright flower fading, was very beautiful in a welcome way. The earlier photo is from day two, so is not quite as bright as the initial colours of the first day. Derived from its parents, the name is ‘Charley’s Shadow’.

[click the thumbnail pictures to enlarge them]

March 2018

At last! After several years of not seeing anything really outstanding amongst new blooms, this turned up in late February. I was immediately and strongly struck by the intensity and depth of the brown colour in this flower. It was not just striking- it was something I hadn’t seen before in my flowers. I have high hopes for this flower. It seems to be one that will grow outdoors satisfactorily. However, much observation and testing is still needed to prove that hopeful assertion. Of the two parents, one supplied the brown tonings to the genetic mix that is the resulting flower. It was called ‘Beauty From Pain”. So I’m calling this one ‘Beauty in a Painful World’.

January-February 2018

I had a few new flowers during this period, but none worth getting excited about. So I’ve used a photo I took during this period. These are from plants that have been out through one or more winters, in ground. They’re ones I’m particularly fond of. Top right is ‘Bruce’, mid-left is ‘John Prince’, and the smaller one on the bottom right of the group has been flowering for about 4 years. It’s still unnamed as I write this. Smallish flowers, but so far quite a good producer of them. It has really grown in my estimation. The subtlety of the colours impresses me very much, so that I can’t just take it for granted.  Then there was a mixup in naming it…so I’ll use that mixup, and from August 2022 it has become ‘Toni’s Daphne’.

Late December 2017

It’s not really time for another monthly flower, but this is being done for an exceptional reason. In December 2017 Russell Fransham died after having heart troubles. Russell loved warm climate plants, and tried many things on the beautiful, nearly coastal, property he shared with his partner Mac for the last (almost) two decades of his life. Russell collected hibiscus, and sold many of them from their nursery business. His coffin was adorned, in part, with the traditional colours of the varieties that do well in warmer parts of Aotearoa, many present in the very large funeral attendance placing a flower or two alongside his coffin. He was intrigued by some of the modern types featured in this section of my website. This newish plant that I was keeping to observe further had its first flower for Summer 2017-18 on the day his death notice appeared in the papers. It seemed, in warm colours and presence, to be an ideal choice for the name I’ve given it, and Mac has given his approval too. So here is my choice for a variety I’m calling ‘Russell Fransham’.

December 2017

I hadn’t seen anything worth noting for months. Then my decision a few months earlier to put about 90 or more new hibiscus, which had never flowered before, despite some being years old, into new potting mix, in bigger bags, and with fertilizer several times in Spring, had its first outcome. And it was an interesting one indeed. I’d not seen this colour combination, in these shades, before. Older daughter Marian commented “Ketchup and Mustard”. Still thinking of food, eh? But, it’s apt, and original.

April 2017

Moorea Tropical Shadows: This is not new, and it’s been in the ground here for over 4 years. I put a few up for sale when I added my own selections to my website under new Nestlebrae hibiscus for sale. They sold almost immediately. Here’s a nice shot of a flower after rain. It’s in its second day, and the colours from the dramatic first opening have faded, as they do. Still a very nice garden subject.  Later: unfortunately, very unfortunately, my plant died, and I no longer have this one.

March 2017

Nothing much notable appeared for the first time in the past couple of months. But March has been better. This new one is called ‘Orange Jessica’, borrowed from the names of each parent. Vibrant orange, and with a nice centre too.

January-February 2017

This had several flowers in February that attracted my attention. Actually it first flowered several years back, and then fell back into neglect. It’s a cross by Syd (Sonny) Stallings in the USA. He used ‘Blackberry Jam’ and ‘Blueberry’ as the parents. So this is ‘Berry Good Sonny!’ Several times my camera has registered very dark tonings, as in one photo. This was in low light conditions both times, at the end of the day (no flash). Normally it is more observed in the lighter tonings. Either way, it has a strong presence.

December 2016

This one has been around at my place since it first flowered several years ago. It is still under cover, so I don’t know about outside performance. But I want to keep it somewhere for sure! The pictures were taken under very different lighting conditions. The one not on the old pullover is truer to normal viewing. My name for it is derived from the parental background, and the wonderful sight it can be. It’s ‘Pastel Swing Time’. And now (as I write this sentence it’s 21 March 2017) it goes into the ground outdoors for more testing and observation. Oh, and continued enjoyment too, I hope.

Click the small images to enlarge

If you click them, they’ll come up like this-

October-November 2016

There haven’t been good new flowers for months now…OK, they were winter months, but something should have been happening. So I’ve chosen this one which began to flower before winter 2015. Now I’ve got the parentage properly identified I’ve decided to call it ‘Tahitian Silver Storm’. It combines the genes of ‘Moorea Silver Storm’ with one bred in the main population of the Tahitian group. If the flower stabilizes into good form I’ll be happy both with that fact (it can be hard to check on a flower’s strength and presentation as a garden object from just a few flowers under cover), and with the lovely bi-colour patterns.

August-September 2016

This flowered for the first time in early 2016. In this warm period it indicated it would be a medium sized flower, at the lower end of the medium range. There were two distinct colours in it, and after juggling some ideas, I settled on ‘Orange & Ginger Jam’.

July 2016

Two flowers this month, in fact. Fairly new for me. The deep red is hard to photograph accurately, but this does give a sense of the depth and strength of colour in it. The rainbow is one of the flowers I have of this sort. Though they are somewhat similar, they all have their charm, and their happy summer connotations for me. Both unnamed as I write this. Later:  but see the December entry not far above this one.

June 2016

I hadn’t seen one before like this smallish, but very colourful, and ornate, flower. Not in these colours, anyway. It seems like it will be a robust flower, but only time, and further testing, will tell. It’s a very new flower, but has gone straight into the ‘Flower of the Month’ category with looks like this. I’ve also delved back into the list of possible names from the grandchildren mentioned in the May 2016 entry. Thanks to Alex this is now called ‘The Heat of the Day’.

May 2016

After a long gap, and not too many good new flowers in the interim, I’ve come back to trying to put a Flower of the Month on here again. This was new back in April-May 2016 (last month, as I write this). I asked two of my grandchildren for suggestions. Well, I asked the older one, but both replied, and there were multiple good suggestions. However, here’s the name I’m choosing, slightly altered from the original. I hadn’t seen one before like this small-medium flower with its delicate, but definite, orange edging. It’s called ‘Yes, Alexandra!’.

April 2016

Autumn Blues? Early this year a New Zealand Hibiscus group was formed on Facebook. I joined when somebody pointed its existence out to me. Russell Fransham subsequently provided a prime picture on the group of the commercially available cultivar ‘Blue Thunder’. By chance, I’d taken photos in this month of two of my outdoor “blues”. [actually it’s really a spectrum of brown-blue-purple-grey colours that typically emerge from breeding efforts aimed this way.] Here are my examples for contrast. [Later:  The right hand photo is one that became ‘Far Blue’.  It has been quite a popular one over the years of showing people around, and now selling plants as well.]

September-October 2015

This had a new flower in October 2015, but the plant itself flowered first several years before. Neglected no more, it will be put into a larger bag, with fresh potting mix, pronto! I’ve called it Moorea Blue Queen now, and it’s to be observed further so that its growth habits can be determined. And by the way, that citrus fruit is a good sized Ugli, and not a little Mandarin, as you might be expecting.

August 2015

This is ‘Chamomile Tea’, named mostly by me for its colours, but also because the parents are called ‘Iguana’ and ‘Green Tea’. Within the mild brown/orange face are complex colours that also reach towards pink and brown-greens. Subtle. But then, it is chamomile tea, and not strong coffee!

July 2015

Good colours and style makes this one worth observing further. It was bred from parents one of which included ‘M. Violet Moon’ as part of its lineage. So, I’m calling this ‘Trace of a Violet Moon’

June 2015

Recently I put together a collection of flowers available on some of my plants, and presented them to Valerie Hunton, a Kerikeri painter. Here are some of those flowers, and the time was late May 2015. All are new ones raised by me from imported seeds. Later on I learned that the flowers I brought to her in this period were arranged and then photographed by her husband Rex.  They became the basis of the larger part of the ‘Portrait of John Prince’ that she produced, to my surprise as part of her 80th birthday show at Kaan Zamaan Gallery in Kerikeri in 2016. See the result in the ‘Exclusive Nestlebrae Hibiscus’ section of this website.

May 2015

This one first flowered for me some years ago on South Kaipara Head. I planted it soon after I arrived here in October 2011. It blooms reliably once summer heat arrives, and it is building a stronger structure amidst some other plants crowding it. Arguably the best of the new flowers I’ve had in this colour range. I call it ‘Towering Inferno’.


April 2015

One of my real successes is ‘Jane Verbitsky’. Here is an excellent cluster of flowers. This sort of flowering becomes more likely as the plants in the ground grow older and stronger. I hope that when it is twice its current age it will be like this all over in a future April, a time when heat-loving hibiscus are thriving. See May 2012 below for an earlier glimpse of this flower.


February 2015

By my standards this is an oldie, and a goodie. It’s one of the very brightest of the earliest seedlings that I raised when I first began with hibiscus. I called it ‘Volcano’s Throat’. As close as I want to get to the real thing, btw. I live in a volcanic field that stretches inland, and also back out to the coast. There are something like 27 volcanic hills and vents in the field, none of them active for over 1,500 years.


January 2015

For a long time I argued with myself about the name for this. It’s initial name was going to be something playing on the intense yellow tones in it. Instead, I’ve named it ‘Golden Girl’ with an old friend in mind. I haven’t tried it outdoors yet. Provided that it performs well in the sun, rain, and wind, then I’ll keep that name. Its namesake loves yachting, including yacht racing, so our real weather doesn’t bother her too much.


December 2014

“Very frou frou” commented my former partner, Rosemary. One of the parents, on Moorea, was a flower called ‘Tahitian Pink Princess’, so I’ve tentatively called this one, which first flowered before Winter 2014, ‘Pink Prince’. But, yes, in terms of our usual expectations of traditional and plain hibiscus flowers in New Zealand, this is definitely getting into the elaborately decorative.


November 2014


After Francesca (see the entries for the two months below this one) our main instructor was Oni until early 2015. And of course Oni deserved her own flower. I was looking through her website. I noticed a photo of her taken in Alaska. The colours in her photo fitted very well with this new flower, so I promptly named it ‘Oni in Alaska’.


October 2014

Francesca became pregnant and continued to lead us through the yoga classes. This flower was named very soon after she gave birth to a delightful little daughter, Aria Grian. And that is the name of this flower: ‘Aria Grian’.


September 2014

Early in 2012 I strained my back while lifting something overhead. This really restricted me in terms of establishing my new gardens. It took months before it cleared more or less properly, although it can still twinge if I make a bad move while bending down towards the ground. Yoga classes were suggested to me as something to try. I was pleased I tried the experience, though I am strictly an ungainly and once a week practitioner. It really helped me think about mobility, and about how restricted in movement I had become with advancing age. I was happy to name a flower after my first teacher. Here is ‘Francesca T’.


July & August 2014

Early in July disaster struck. The third major storm of the year up to that point tore the roof of my plastic house apart, right above all the new plants that I was raising in relative winter warmth. Finding someone to fix it was not easy. It took till late in August to repair the damage. This meant that all the warm climate plants, including the new hibiscus, were suddenly living fully exposed to wintry conditions within a few minutes of the damage beginning. [For a bit more on the saga, see “Nestlebrae Today” after clicking on “About Us” in the bar at the top of any page.] The last thing that you were likely to see during this time was a candidate for ‘Flower of the Month’. And that was nearly the last thing I was thinking about!


Please Note: computer problems resulted in the entries beyond this being severely interfered with. In time I hope to rectify this.

May 2014

The two big storms that hit northern New Zealand in early 2014 were remnants of fully destructive cyclones from the South Pacific tropics. They did some real damage on my developing property. I’m thankful that my older son came for a brief visit so he could give his new motorcycle a proper workout, especially on the windy roads of a trip that is 300 kilometers each way. He very handily made some repairs to damaged fastenings holding some of the plastic on my covered growing house. Purely by chance a new flower opened on the morning we were working on it. It seems very apt to call this one ‘David Prince’.


April 2014

This one flowered for the first time right at the end of March 2014. The first two people to see it thought it was suitably autumnal in its tonings and misty too, rather than with sharply defined colours. I’ve named it ‘Premonition of Autumn’.


February-March 2014

As I haven’t quite settled on a name yet, July – August 2013
It’s Wimbledon Week as I write this, and what could be more appropriate (perhaps with some cream added) than a good dish of ‘Strawberries and Chocolate’? And here it is!


July – August 2013

It’s Wimbledon Week as I write this, and what could be more appropriate (perhaps with some cream added) than a good dish of ‘Strawberries and Chocolate’? And here it is!


June 2013

I was puzzled by this flower when it first came out in the north. It was only after some hours, and several observations, that I was excited to realize that it’s one I had down south, and it is now blooming again for me. Welcome back! For a sense of how welcome it was when I began to grow new seedlings, click on “new flowers and fruit” in the line near the top of this page and select “new hibiscus – beginnings”. It was one of my very first ones, so it has a special place in my hibiscus memories, even if it wouldn’t stand out now. It’s ‘Blue Blush’.

May 2013

Now back flowering again in autumn, I’m hoping this one, in the ground since late 2011, strengthens and flowers more in the future. It’s another in my collection bred in Moorea, and its name is ‘Moorea Tropical Shadows’.  [And see a second note, alas, on this one for September 2017.]

March 2013

shows that it has in its makeup a mild thrust towards becoming a double. Mostly I don’t like the latter, but this one is really quite interesting, even cute. It’s to be called Eastern Moon Girl, a name derived from its parents.

November–December 2012

It took a long, long time before flowers began to reappear in Spring, even under plastic. I waited for a particular bud to open, but it never did. November turned into December. So, when two new ones appeared at last, and on the same day too, I decided to use them both as I now had to cover these two months. They’re not named yet, so they are just here to enjoy. The yellowish one was bred on Moorea (Tahiti) and the other one comes from a breeder on the eastern seaboard of the USA. Definitely worth assessing them both, and the yellow one really is particularly pretty in real life!

October 2012

There’s something I immediately thought about it … “Wow!” It seemed then to be really promising, and I’m looking forward to see how it comes out of winter and eventually flowers again. Excellent colours, and it’s held well on the bush for display … and so it’s easy to understand that this became, “Ness Road”. Now I’ve thought more about it at a later date. It’s been finally named ‘John Prince’ (autumn 2015).


June 2012

“Wedding Hat for a Princess”! A friend with recent Middle East experience had a better idea and suggested “khamseen” (pronounced “harm-seen”) after the wind that sweeps into Cairo from the western desert and turns the sky just that colour. It is also apt, because “it’s a swirling, eddying kind of wind”. (However, by early 2014 experience with it growing outdoors had convinced me that it does not have either good or attractive form. Conclusion: there is no substitute for proper trialling outdoors, which is where nearly all plants are grown in New Zealand/Aotearoa.)


May 2012

This one turned up unexpectedly. As it happened, I’d only just discovered the first flower on it, when I got an email from a former colleague at Auckland University who has kept in touch with me. It seemed the right name for the flower had fortuitously arrived! So here’s ‘Jane Verbitsky’.


April 2012

Here’s a surprise for the first Flower of the Month. It was only when I looked at the great subtlety of the colours in this (so far) unnamed flower it fully grabbed me. One day I’ll look at the names of the parents, and call it something more than ‘Innominata01’). A hibiscus by any other name would be…?

Where I Am