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.  🙂

Friday Dance Party – Emeli Sandé’s ‘Next To Me’ With A Routine I Like

It’s time for another edition of Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

So I know my post is late today versus previous Friday Dance Party posts.  There is a reason and it has to do with routine.  I have been thinking a lot lately that I am getting sick and tired of doing the same routine day in and day out.  I want my life to be more exciting, more spontaneous.  Honestly, I do the same things at the same time day after day after day.  For example, I brush my teeth every day at 7:15 AM.  I leave for work at 8:10 AM.  I eat the same foods over and over.  I go to bed at the same time every night.  I am feeling like an old boring man and I want to change it up.  I want to live life more on the edge.  Be careful what you wish for…..because today I got my wish!

I walked out of the house this morning thinking my briefcase was in the car.  I was the last one to leave the house and so I locked it up tight.  With just my car key, my cellphone and a Pepsi Max, I went to my car only to realize that I did not have my briefcase.  It wasn’t inside my car.  Instead, it was inside the locked house.  Which means I don’t have a house key, an office key, a file drawer key where I lock my work computer up each night or a security badge to get into work.  All of these things are in my briefcase.  So I call everyone that has a key to the house on Glen Road and, of course, no one answers.  They just don’t answer their phones, but their texts and emails as well.  Smartphones are great if everyone utilizes them at the same time!  I finally decide to go to work–I’ll be in there in person and, worse case, I won’t have my computer.  However, most of my remaining morning has been tied up in getting a temporary security badge to get into my company’s building, then waiting for security to come unlock my office.  I have found out there are loaner computers, but they take an hour to be delivered and another hour to load with your personal settings.  Bottom line, it’s noon and I’m sick of change.  I want my old, boring, routine life back.  What was I thinking?  I don’t want to have to beg, plead, show my ID or pay money to get one-day replacements.  Can Friday start again the old way for me?  I just want everything I like and need to be right up next to me.  Which reminds me of this week’s song.  It’s ‘Next To Me’ by Emeli Sande.  Emeli is a big hit in the UK and only now being heard in the US.  So turn up your speakers and dance.  You’ve scored another week.  Even if it’s been a little wild and frenzied, like my Friday, it still counts.  I’ll see you later….it is about 12:30 PM here….that’s the time I ALWAYS eat lunch.  I love my routine!

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).

You Can Teach An Old Garden New Tricks

To be honest about it, when I realized that my original garden was not growing very well because the plots were not getting enough sun, I was filled with many emotions.  There was disappointment and sadness because I had worked so hard to grow all of the plants from seeds under my grow light and so to see them struggling to live was hard.  Anger was present, of course.  How could I be so stupid and not realize that the sun was not going to shine through the surrounding trees once they were filled with leaves?  The money part weighed on me as well.  It wasn’t cheap to build four beds with nice gravel between them and then surround the plots with a secure fence to keep assorted critters out.  At the end of the 2011 gardening season, I thought it was over for my garden sanctuary.  It was time to dismantle the whole thing and just give up.

Over the Winter and into the beginning of the 2012 gardening season, I took some time to think about what, if anything, would grow and prosper in the area.  I came up with a list of crops that thrived in early Spring and actually would be harvested before the trees surrounding the old garden would be full of leaves.  I decided to not give up on the garden, but try planting three of the four plots with early providers–namely, a large plot of asparagus, another plot of horseradish and, last but not least, a third plot of rhubarb.

With these three groups of plantings, I am hoping to allow them to start growing in very early Spring when the surrounding trees are leaf-less.  The three groups are some of the earliest plants to show their faces (or leaves) when Spring has just barely arrived.  I also hope to get a few spears of asparagus, some off-white roots of horseradish to grind and some stalks of tangy rhubarb and be done with the plants by the time Spring has fully sprung and the area becomes more shaded.  At that point, the plants can continue to grow, but their best performance will be behind them.

At this point, the plants in the three plots are in their first year of growth.  While they seem to be growing and multiplying, it is too early to make a call if they are going to make it in the coming years and produce enough asparagus, horseradish and rhubarb for us to eat.  It’s better than nothing, right?  Keep your fingers crossed.  As well, I still have one plot left and empty.  Any ideas on something similar that I can put in my last plot of garden?

Friday Dance Party – Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’

Guess what?  It is time for another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Do you ever have one of those weeks that seem to fly by?  So fast that it is almost a blur.  You know you went through it, but you don’t remember much about it.  Well, this seems to be the week that I’ve had.  I’ve been working a lot and so that has left little time to do other, more exciting things.  Who would have thought that the woodchuck trapping adventure would be the highlight of my week?  It seems for a while that all I was doing was running a 24-hour woodchuck reporting network.  I was so crazed to catch that animal and save my garden!  One part of the story I didn’t write about yet was that every time I went out to deal with the trap I hummed or sang Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ under my breath.  The song just seemed to get me into the proper mindset for the work that had to be done.  Funny how I feel bad now about removing the animal from our property.  It’s like the universe is going to hunt me down or something for upsetting the cosmic pecking order of things in the environment.  So here’s to the woodchuck and all the excitement that he caused.  Yes, the woodchuck was ‘Wanted – Dead or Alive’.  Glad the alive part worked out for him.  Glad the week worked out for us.  Another one down and we made it through.  Let’s celebrate and dance to my personal ode to the varmint, Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’.  I’ve always liked this song and the video with the big hair from the ’80s brings back a lot of old memories.  Honestly, I kind of miss that big-haired rocker look.  Do you?  Have fun dancing!

We’re Back – Random Thoughts And Shots From Las Vegas

I know that what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I won’t give too much away from our trip.  As usual, the weather was hot and so was the Strip.  Lots of great food, some wild cocktails, a trip to see Celine, some shopping and lots of gambling has to add up to a great time and this trip was no exception.  Turn up Elvis and enjoy my random thoughts and shots from our trip.  It’s good to be home, but Viva Las Vegas!!

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Friday Dance Party – Luck Be A Lady Tonight

It’s time for Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

It’s time for a little vacation for us here on Glen Road.  We’ve decided to head out to Las Vegas.  Nothing is smarter than leaving Connecticut when it’s 99 degrees outside and heading to Las Vegas where it is 107 degrees!  Don’t worry that we will go up in flames and melt into the desert.  For the most part, we hardly go outside.  If you do, it is usually off to the pool where you can find a cabana to shield you from the sun or misters that blow water on you to keep you cool.  While we like to gamble, we also like a few days in Las Vegas to hit up a few restaurants, see some shows and just have fun.  But back to the gambling…..it would be nice to win a little bit of money.  I’m not talking millions (well, maybe I am), but at least enough to cover the cost of our trip.  It just never really seems to happen.  We must not have that much luck.  That’s where Frank Sinatra comes in.  I’ve decided if I listen to this week’s song “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” over and over and over, then I will get enough luck to win some money.  Either that or I’ll get so sick of listening to the song, I will never want to listen to it again.  So, turn your speakers up a little and go back in time with Frank on his wish for luck.  You’ll notice Frank does a little dancing and you should too.  You’ve made it through another week and deserve it.  If you don’t hear from us again, you’ll know that we hit it big and are looking for our new house in Beverly Hills.  Wouldn’t that be great!?!

Restaurant Field Trip – The Whelk

Last year at about this time, we visited Le Farm restaurant in Westport, CT.  The restaurant’s owner and head chef, Bill Taibe, is one of the leaders in the area for the farm to table movement, where fresh food is bought from local farmers, brought into his restaurant and served to his customers.  In January of this year, Bill Taibe opened up his latest restaurant, The Whelk, along the water in Westport.  This new restaurant is heavily concentrated on seafood.  Just like Le Farm, The Whelk shares the same artisanal philosophy, using as many fresh and locally grown ingredients as possible.  The Whelk is also focused on fresh and sustainable seafood.

Question:  So, you are asking, what is a whelk?  The answer is below.

While the Whelk is just above the Saugatuck River, the windows in the rectangular dining area face the street, not the water.  Yet the interior has the feel of an informal seafood shack with large harbor lights hung above the bar and slatted picnic chairs and benches, the kind you might find outdoors at a roadside spot.  During our visit, there were eight main course offerings, but it is the smaller plates and appetizers that were the draw for us.  The food that we ate was so good, we are planning to return for a second round next week.  Come see what we ate at our first visit to The Whelk:

We started off with appetizers and small plates.  As in a typical seafood shack, our first courses were served on plates covered in newspaper.  Here is one BBQ little neck clam left from a plate of eight.  These were fresh clams with a little bit of BBQ sauce and bacon placed on top before being placed under the broiler for a few minutes.  These clams went fast.

Another favorite was the hot smoked trout dip served with trout roe and crackers and bread.

We have a friend who says she has never met a potato that she doesn’t like.  Here are some french fries with ketchup and a delicious smoked mayo.

A good wine that was recommended to us by our server.  The Whelk has a large list of by-the-glass and by-the-bottle wines.  This French selection was a little more acidic than I would normally like, but that worked well with the seafood that we ate during our visit.

One of my favorites!  Gulf shrimp and grits with pickled jalapeno-ramp butter and country ham.  Reminds me of our trip to Charleston, SC.

One of the more unique offerings the night we were there.  This is squid ink cavatelli with red shrimp, mexican chorizo and preserved tomatoes.

Cornmeal fried catfish with early summer slaw and walnut-pepper romesco (partly devoured at time of photo).

Rare seared line caught tuna with bacon and black olive and green pea dressing.  An offering that was limited, but we were lucky enough to “snag” one.  Get the seafood joke here?!?

My vote for “Best Of Show”.  Norman’s (we don’t know who Norman is, but he is a man with good taste) lobster butter with leeks, peas and fingerling potatoes.  We were told this is a lobster that is slowly poached and then removed from its shell.  The poaching liquid is then reduced and the lobster meat is added back along with the potatoes, peas and leeks.

What’s dinner without some dessert?  The Whelk offered a small and homey dessert menu for us to choose from.

A quickly devoured set of Whoopie Pies.  These pies never disappoint.

Two at a time…a magic bar in the background with butterscotch and sea salt.  In the front is a meyer lemon posset with cornmeal cookies.  Yummy!

As in our visit to Le Farm, we all left full and happy.  Like I said, we’ll be back on Tuesday so that shows how good The Whelk is.  If you are around Westport, you need to give The Whelk a try.  If you are like us, one trip just won’t be enough.

Answer:  So what is a whelk?  A predatory marine mollusk (family Buccinidae) with a heavy, pointed spiral shell, some kinds of which are edible.  As Bill Taibe has said, calling his restaurant Le Mer would have been too easy.

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?