US: Texas-bred blue hibiscus flowers arrive in stores

Released in July and primarily to Texas retailers, 'Brandy Bleu,' 'Cordon Bleu' and 'Grape Sorbet' are among the Summer Spice hardy hibiscus series developed by Texas A&M University AgriLife Research and the Texas Foundation Seed Service.

Until the breakthrough introduction of 'Blue Angel' in 2012, hardy hibiscus bloomed only in red, white and pink. More than a decade ago, Dariusz Malinowski, a plant physiologist with AgriLife in Vernon, Texas, began tinkering with hibiscus pollen as a hobby. He planted about 150 experimental plants in the Vernon yards of fellow researchers to test them for hardiness in winter and summer as well as flower color, flower size and compact plant size.

Malinowski and his team continue to work on another breakthrough: orange winter-hardy hibiscus. It is being developed from a salmon-colored hibiscus that turned up among the Vernon team's many experimental crosses.

J. Berry Nursery, based in Grand Saline east of Dallas, is supplying nursery stock to two retailers, Calloway's and Lowe's. To locate them on the sales floor, look for 2-gallon, pink nursery pots with Season to Season printed on their sides.

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