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ALMA’s STAR: A Confederate Rose By Any Other Name Takes Its Place In The Sun

ALMA’s STAR: A Confederate Rose By Any Other Name Takes Its Place In The Sun
July 21, 2008 |

Alma Bodiford loves to spend time with friends, and, most days, she only has to walk into her backyard to do just that.”When I am given a cutting of a plant, I immediately put it in water,” Bodiford said. “I plant it and treasure it. My yard is just full of friends!”Bodiford, a Master Gardener in Luverne, recently made her claim to fame with her accidental discovery of a rare type of hibiscus with five flowers in each bloom.It was a decade ago when Bodiford, then 66 and experiencing poor health, was given some cuttings of Confederate roses, a type of hibiscus named because it was widely planted in Southern cemeteries at the graves of Confederate soldiers by their loved ones.But Bodiford didn’t feel well that day, and rooted all of the cuttings together in one hole. “As I was planting them, I said, ‘I’m sick, and I know you won’t get another drink of water,'” she recalled. “But they bloomed, and I saw where one of the cuttings had formed five flowers from one bloom.”The surprised Bodiford called on a botanist friend of her’s to come out to take a look at it. “When he saw it, he was astonished,” said Bodiford. “He said ‘Oh yes, you have something!'”Bodiford then went through the process of registering her flower with the American Hibiscus Society, and is in the process of getting it patented — a lengthy process in which one must cut and root the flower for 10 years to see if it continually comes back.Bodiford’s flower did just that, always coming back with the same bloom, same foliage, without fragrance or seed capsules and propagated only by cuttings.Today, the flower bears the name “Alma’s Star” in recognition of its discoverer and the star formed by the five rosebuds clumped together. “As far as ‘Alma’ goes, what other name would be better?” she said with a laugh.After an article about her flower appeared in Alabama Living, Bodiford said she had more than 1,000 calls from people wanting “Alma’s Star” for their own gardens. “That’s when I knew I couldn’t do it by myself,” said Bodiford, who turned to Southern Growers in Montgomery to help market her discovery.”I had been doing business with Southern Growers for a long time,” Bodiford said. “So I went to meet them with my flower and some article clippings. I wasn’t sure whether they would take it or not.”Bill Cook, vice president of Southern Growers and chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod State Committee, said Bodiford called him from her home, explained who she was and said she had a plant she discovered. “I was very interested in it,” Cook said. “When she explained it to me in person, it was intriguing.”After going to Bodiford’s home and observing her flower, Cook and his associates agreed to be her official merchandiser.”I was so excited,” Bodiford said. “Before Southern Growers got it, the plant in my garden was 20 feet high and 15 foot wide.”The 76-year-old Bodiford is proud of her discovery, but also humble.”When you get something like this, it is God who does it,” said Bodiford whose health setbacks include brain surgery, a stroke and pacemaker. “God sent the flower to me at my old age to make me and others happy.”Bodiford, who began gardening at age 5, said it’s impossible to name everything she and husband Calvin, a former revenue examiner, have planted in their two-acre backyard.She sometimes spends three hours a day in her garden, but her health problems have limited her time in sun. Still, she volunteers at the Pike Museum in Troy and works with troubled teens through her garden club, St. Fiacre’s.”Once we worked with a kindergarten class,” Bodiford fondly recalled. “We were teaching them how to plant potatoes, and I told them that we were going to cover up the eye with a damp paper towel. They said, ‘No! How are they going to see?’ It is really touching. Every one of those children calls me ‘Miss Alma.'”Still, gardening remains her love. “It is stress relieving,” Bodiford said. “You grow a plant from a baby and get it grown. Then, you get to raise its grandchildren!”Today, she’s working on making a blue “Alma’s Star” and putting her pink one in arboretums across the country. “I’ve put two ‘Alma’s Star’ in the trial garden at the arboretum in Dallas,” Bodiford said.”Alma’s Star,” which blooms from late summer until heavy frost, is available exclusively through Southern Growers. For more information or to order, e-mail
sgsales@southerngrowers.com.
or call 1-800-627-1387, Ext. 244.

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