One of my favorite things to do is host parties, and over the years, I’ve learned it’s usually the small things that make a get-together memorable. Whether it’s creative party invitations, fun party snacks or curiously carbonated cocktails, it seems like it’s often the little details that will stick in someone’s mind for days afterward. Therefore I’m constantly on the hunt for the strange and unusual, little things — generally of the culinary persuasion — to bring out at my next party to surprise guests with.
So when I heard about these Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup a few years ago, I was immediately obsessed with them. Unable to find them in town, I went online and ordered six or seven jars at once. A few I gifted to friends who also share a love for interesting treasures and the rest I hoarded in my pantry to break out whenever the mood hit.
While they aren’t a new trend by any stretch, these hibiscus flowers are certainly still fun to experiment with. They add a festive detail to any party, and are particularly perfect as an ice breaker during aperitifs. (That sentence made me feel like I just channeled Martha Stewart!) But honestly, even if you’ve grown accustomed to these flowers like I have, they never lose their luster.
And the best part is that they require no more effort than this:
Start with a hibiscus flower from the jar. They feel like a gummy candy crossed with a fruit leather, and they kind of remind me of these piranha plants from Super Mario Bros.
I am sure I’m not the only one guilty of planting a bulb and then six month later, when it pokes out from the ground, having absolutely no recollection of what it was. Take this little guy for instance. I bought a bag of bulbs from Costco last fall — 30 were crocuses and 15 were daffodils. The other 5 were a species I couldn’t have remembered if my life depended on it.
I kept looking at the leaves thinking…hm…a lily of some kind? A few friends thought hibiscus. My husband swore they were alliums. Finally once the first flower bloomed, I showed a picture to another friend who does wedding bouquets as a side business and she figured it out.
I had no idea that irises had seed pods, but they do! Mine had two this year. They start as green bulbs, but once they dry out, they turn brown. Then they split and the seeds fall out. Every year, my garden teaches me something new!
My grandmother is a dedicated gardener. Even though she is in her 90s, she still takes great care of her rose garden and also grows flowers from seed every spring in her greenhouse.
Since I have finally proved that I can keep plants alive, I have been allowed to take home some of her starters. This spring she gave me tiny marigolds that have since grown to a surprising degree. Even though she said they were “tall” ones, I had no idea they got that big — they are past waist-high right now.
But while I was carefully watching their progress, I noticed there was one plant that looked different from all the rest. I was sure it wasn’t a weed as I could remember my grandmother saying she had planted a variety of seeds, but I wasn’t sure what exactly it was.
My husband and I were not blessed with green thumbs. We’ve managed to kill no less than three rosemary plants, a fact that used to make plant nursery workers flinch when we’d try to explain just how bad we were at gardening. But here we are — years later — with plants that are not just still alive (!) but actually flourishing.