Rose Of Sharons Past And Present

This is our Rose of Sharon shrub, otherwise known as Hibiscus syriacus.  Our Rose of Sharon shrub is actually made up of four separate shrubs that have grown together to appear as one.  There are two bushes that bloom with pink flowers and another two bushes that bloom with white flowers.  It has been here since we moved into the house on Glen Road.  What amazes me is that the Rose of Sharon is a late bloomer, only beginning to show its flowers in August.  As many trees and shrubs are so affected in their blooming by how much water they receive, that the Rose of Sharon always provides such beautiful flowers in the intense heat of August is amazing.  I wrote a whole post last year about the Rose of Sharon and how they grow.  This year I was more interested in how this Hibiscus syriacus got such an unusual name like Rose of Sharon.  As with most stories of origin, the answer lies in the Bible if you believe the research that I have conducted.

The name, “Rose of Sharon” can be traced back to the Bible’s Old Testament in the Song of Solomon 2:1.  Here it is from 2:1 through 2:7:

I am a Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men.  I delight to sit in the shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.

Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.

His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field:  Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

Rose of Sharon was once thought be indigenous to Syria, thus the origin of the syriacus part of the botanical name.  Because of its Syrian roots, it was believed possible that it was the very shrub alluded to in Solomon’s erotic song.  Botanists subsequently learned that this is actually one of many plants from China, but have retained the misleading species name.  It is now believed that the Rose of Sharon mentioned in Solomon’s song most likely was some sort of crocus.

I also remember the sister in the book ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck.  Her name was Rose of Sharon.  Whenever our Rose of Sharon shrub blooms, it always reminds me of my reaction to reading the book as part of a college prep course that I took when I was 14.  I was considered mature beyond my mere 14 years of life so the teacher thought I was plenty old enough to read the book.  Throughout the book, the sister, Rose of Sharon, was pretty flat, one-dimensional and boring.  All that changed after she lost her baby and in the last chapter gave us a somewhat creepy, but very hopeful ending where Rose of Sharon “helps” out the starving man.  I remember closing the back cover and screaming out in the middle of the classroom, “Ewwww, gross?!?”  I guess I wasn’t as mature as the teacher thought.  Seeing the pink and white blooms on our Rose of Sharon all these years later still makes me think of that incident and I always get a little smile and then giggle about one of my first experiences with great American literature.

If you haven’t read the book and don’t know what the creepy, but very hopeful ending is all about, please let me know.  I’m already thinking how I would write about it without angering half of my reading audience.  🙂

A New Plant – Witch Hazel

We’ve had such weird weather here in Connecticut over the last year or so.  I know I’m not writing anything new here as so many gardening blogs that I read on a frequent basis discuss strange weather as well.  However, the strange weather does cause some plants to die off as a result.  During the freak snowstorm last October near Halloween, several bushes and small trees in my garden split under the weight of the snow and, sadly, I was unable to save several of them no matter how hard I tried.  After removing the dead plants and looking at the holes their vacancy left, I have replaced many of the areas with new plants.  In some cases just a replacement of what was there and in other cases I have replaced the area with plants that are new to my garden and new to me.  I guess I’m just trying to mix it up a little since I’ve been given the chance to do so.  Above is a close up of one of my new plants–a witch hazel bush or Hamamelis, as it is called in botanical Latin.  For my Hamamelis, I have chosen an intermediate hybrid called ‘Jelena’ with copper-colored, scented flowers that look like little streamers.  The flowers appear in very early Spring and then the green leaves above turn into beautiful orange/red foliage in the Fall.  ‘Jelena’ being an intermediate hybrid, or x intermedia, means that ‘Jelena’ is a child of two parents:  the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) and the Japanese species (H. japonica).

I probably would have never purchased a witch hazel bush for my garden five years ago.  Even though I had never really looked closely at one, just the name alone was a turn-off to me.  Then I had the opportunity to see one that was blooming in early Spring of 2011 and decided that I needed one for my garden.  The streamer-like blooms so early in the Spring are quite a look and one that I wanted in my neck of the woods.  I’m just sad that the way it came into my garden was because something else had died and needed to be taken out…..I guess that’s just the way Mother Nature works it.

Phlox-y Lady

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, we saw some of the most fantastic flower arrangements in the lobbies of all of the hotels we visited.  At the Wynn hotel in particular, I was amazed at the large balls of flowers that were hung from a grove of trees that was located next to guest registration.  Admiring these huge multi-colored clusters of flowers reminded me of the phlox that were growing at home in my garden.  When I returned home, the phlox must have known I was thinking of them because they were in full bloom.

The phlox that I grow in my garden, Phlox paniculata, are the ones that most people are familiar with when you mention these beautiful Summer stunners.  Phlox paniculata are the tall garden phlox with their big, fragrant clusters of blossoms.  The blossoms vary in color but are most commonly seen in red, pink, salmon, lavender, purple or white.  They grow two to four feet tall and are most common in planting zones 3 to 8.

I have three varieties of phlox in my garden.  Along with the picture at the top, here are some shots of the bright red Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’, which is my favorite:

Here is the lavender Phlox paniculata ‘Franz Schubert’:

Rounding out the trio, here is Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’:

Phlox prefer full sun or very light shade along with light, fertile soil with ample organic matter to retain moisture.  They also need good drainage.  I try to provide adequate air circulation around the plants and also stake them up versus letting them fall over onto the ground due to the weight of the flower cluster.  You should also cut off spent blooms to avoid having the plant go to seed.  If you are looking for a great garden perennial, especially one that blooms in the heat of Summer, the phlox is the plant for you.  They are quite phlox-y (I had to write that just one more time…sorry).

What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour

This is one of my begonias that opened up a number of fiery hot blooms this week.  This begonia, ‘Bonfire,’ is a variety of tuberous B. boliviensis.  It wasn’t the only fiery hot thing going one here at Glen Road this week.  The weather actually decided to push up to 100 degrees for several days this week meaning lots of watering to keep the garden supple.  Come with me to see what else was braving the heat and blooming full and lush this week.  Besides begonia ‘Bonfire’, here’s what else was out there in full glory:

So tell me, what’s blooming in your neck of the woods?

What’s Blooming – Our First Virtual Garden Tour of 2012

If you garden much, you become very familiar with transitions.  Moving from one phase to another is a pretty common occurrence when you are dealing with soil, seeds, plants, sun and rain.  My flower gardens are ending a big transition right now.  The fury of Spring blooming is coming to an end and we are now entering the Summer period when bloomers tend to act much more slowly, but the beauty seems to be worth the wait.  Take a little look at what’s happening in the gardens right now (you can click on any picture to start a slide show).