Ludick's interest in hibiscus started when he and his wife, Roberta, were living in North Miami, Florida, and she brought home two blooming bushes. He was so impressed with their beauty, he attended a local show with his friend, Art Stark. There, he saw several exquisite blooms, and bought a few bushes. At the time, there was only one hibiscus grower in southern Florida- in Ft. Myers- so Ludick and Stark drove there to add more bushes to their growing collections. This was the start of Ludick's longtime involvement with hibiscus.
Leading the AHS
Ludick has been a member of the American Hibiscus Society (AHS) since 1963. With Bruce Parnell, he started the Bruce Parnell chapter in Miami in 1967 and in 1974, served as its president. For the first 20 years, the chapter's shows were underwritten by the City of North Miami.
Together with Jack Hoffman, Ludick started the South Dade chapter in l977 and the Port St. Lucie Chapter in 1981. With Bill Schloss, he started the Pompano Chapter in 1980 and in 1981, he started the Melborne chapter with Linda Goode.
He became Director of the AHS in l976 and served as its president 1982-'84 . During his presidency, he saw the need for an AHS nomenclature - a recorded history and description of each bloom - and developed the first of two color catalogues that provided description to qualify for Royal British Horticultural Society standings. Ludick served as Chairman of the committee that printed the first complete nomenclature, published in '85, and chaired the committee as president of the Charitable Trust that printed the current handbook, published in '87.
As a charter member of the AHS Charitable Trust in 1977, he authored the Corporate Charter and had it approved by the IRS as a 503(c) trust. He either served on or was chairman of the trust until l995, when the assets were in excess of $75,000.
Eager to offer his experience and expertise in growing hibiscus, Ludick revised the current hibiscus manual, a handbook with instructions for spraying and fertilizing.
Awards and Notable Blooms
When Ludick first started hybridizing, there was only one single with a white eye, Lemon Shiffon. So, he set a goal to hybridize more blooms with white eyes and succeeded with Pro Bono, a deep lavender miniature. Another success was Beacon's Light, a large fuschia bloom, and Rehneric, a yellow bloom.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he set out to hybridize the first all white single and double, Great White and MT Shasta, respectively. Great White is a great success, having parented such blooms as Byron Metts, Florida Gold, Grand Hyatt, Ruth Watson, and Whipt Butta.
Ludick holds patents on two hibiscus, including JoAnne Boulin, which was named after his daughter.
His most winning blooms are Herm Geller (named after a best friend), Anna Elizabeth (named after his mother), and Mr Brett (named after his grandson). Herm Geller, a 8-9" single, was named Judges' Favorite Bloom during the 1985 Show Season and won First Place Hibiscus Of The Year, 1988. To read more about this prolific bloom, click here. Anna Elizabeth, a 7-8" double, was named Judges' Favorite Bloom in the 1988 and '89 show seasons. Mr Brett, a 6-7" pink double, won Third Place, Hibiscus Of The Year, in 1983.
Another of his notable hibiscus is Butterscotch Sundae, which won numerous Best of Shows while it was being evaluated as Seeding of the Year. Ludick shared with Gordon Howard the honor of having the most (6) seedling winners in one year: Butterscotch Sundae, Challenger, Chico Leite, Great White, Helen Fletcher, and Mt Shasta.
The brown-hued Topaz Glory is his most prolific bloom. It's a parent of a dozen beautiful blooms, including Bandito, Black Baron, Elegance, Gift Horse, Holy Smoke, Iridium, Madeline, Show & Tell, and Trademark.
Miss Liberty is also prolific, having parented such blooms as 4th of July, Angel's Kiss, Cherry Blossom, Erika Nicole, Eye of the Storm, Mary Louise, and Red Snapper.
Most of Ludick's varieties are available from Larry Johnson's Lots of Hybiscus at 1-305-624-5149.
Recently, Ludick has outlined the key factors of successful hybridizing, gathered from years of experience and advice he's received from other growers.
In pursuit of creating new varieties of hibiscus, Ludick plants more than 700 seeds a year. Out of those, only 7-8 seedling plants meet his approval and are kept. Bushes must be upright and straight with thick foliage. Blooms must have good texture, be large and firm, and last the entire day.
His next goal: to hybridize a brown bloom with white spots. Until he perfects such a bloom, he is busy cultivating several new blooms, including a very promising mini named Nikita, which won Best of Show (miniature) at the Ft. Myers Show in 2002. Alexis, a striking single with variations of red, won a gold at Ft. Myers. Both blooms are named after his great-granddaughters. Both plants are self-seeders and thrive on their own root. They are available on their own root at Exotic Hibiscus and Lots Of Hibiscus (305-624-5149).
Ludick is keeping his eye on his seedlings for one that is special enough to name after his wife. The seedling Lillian Ladd was Robert's favorite and was to have been named after her, but Ladd, the Ludick's dear friend, was very ill so they named the bloom for her.
To learn more, read Gloria White's story about JE Ludick, "Fishing for the Right Flowers -