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).

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?

Critter Alert – Another One

This is not the greatest way to start your Sunday.  When the Saint animal control guy first came to the house to remove the woodchuck I had caught in my Havahart trap, he said that where there is one, there are several.  Guess what, he was right!

Let’s start the story from where we last left off with our woodchuck gossip.  As a precaution to keep what’s left of my garden in a healthy state, I have continued setting my trap as much as possible to deter my new woodchuck neighbors.  Several plants have snapped back after being eaten by a woodchuck earlier in July and I vowed to keep it that way.  Last weekend, the food that I had loaded the trap with came up missing with nothing to show for it.  I had actually seen a chipmunk run in and bring out a piece of cantaloupe, so I figured that the food was going out in that manner–to an animal very light in weight so that it doesn’t trip the trap, but crafty enough to get the bait out.

This Sunday morning, I woke up and looked out the window as I do every morning that the trap is set.  The door was closed!  I crept out in pajamas and my garden boots.  I listened for any sounds coming out of the trap–silence.  I lightly kicked the trap.  If you were inside a cage and trapped and then someone kicked the trap, wouldn’t you run around a little or at least give out a scream?  I got zip.  So I took my scissors and cut open the black contractor bag I had placed around the trap.  Look at what was on the other side looking at me………

Woodchuck #2!

#2 is much smaller than #1 and less crazy.  Less crazy meaning #2 isn’t slamming itself against the trap door to try to escape.  I have to say that I am still not brave enough to pick up the trap and empty it, but I was less crazed than the first time I caught one.  Who knows, by the time I catch #6 in my trap, I might be a real frontier man.  I could live with the Laura Ingalls Wilder family on Plum Creek and trap my own food and drink water out of a stream.  Who am I kidding?  I’ll never be like that….and please God, don’t let there be 6!

I Have Some Good News And Some Bad News

The battle with Woodchuck was a short one.  Within an hour and a half of setting my Havahart trap on Sunday, I came home to see the trap door shut and something was inside.  By the force that this mystery creature was hitting against the door in hopes of breaking it open and escaping, I knew it was most likely my nemesis, Woodchuck.  Since it was still daylight, I also knew it was most likely not a raccoon, a possum or a skunk.  Although I was the victor, it didn’t all go down so well.  This email was sent late Sunday evening, July 15, to a person that worked with us early this gardening season to get rid of whatever was eating my garden:

Subject:  HELP!!  Our Saddest Request For Services Yet

I’m sure you will enjoy this, but remember how I had called you and you found a firm that set traps and tried to catch whatever was eating my garden?  I think it was like Enviro Care or Bio Care…something like that.  Well, after they left at the end of a week’s time, the animal that was destroying my garden struck again a few times.  Basically ruined my garden!!  So I thought I could trap the animal myself and then remove it to somewhere far away.  So I bought a Havahart trap and set it this weekend thinking I could catch the woodchuck (what I swear is eating my garden).  I did just what the company you sent us did and put the trap into a contractor garbage bag so the critter wouldn’t know what it was and stuffed it with ripe cantaloupe.  If I caught the animal, I was sure I could take it somewhere far away.

Well, I caught it.  I caught something.  I think it is a woodchuck, but can’t really tell because I can’t get the trash bag pulled down far enough to see it.  I saw a paw only and that was enough to freak me out.  It was a paw with yellow-like claws…sickening.  I am not man enough to get the rest of the trash bag off and then take the trapped animal to a new place very far away from Glen Road.  The paw, claw and the smell (a dirty smell; not a skunk smell at all) were enough to set me free.  I can’t do it.  Is it possible to call that company again and have them come get rid of the animal?  I would like to get my trap back and keep setting it and then be able to call them to get rid of whatever I catch if that is ok with them, so let me know their number and contact information again after you call them.

Sorry for this, but I thought I was tougher than what I turned out to be.  🙂  If this company can come and remove the animal far away and then bring my trap back, that would be great.  I’ll set the trap again so if I have their number I would like to call if I catch anything so they can come again and remove it.  This will save them some time and help me grow a garden.  Let me know what they say.

The trap picture above contains the critter.  The person from the removal company did come back very early on Monday morning and moved the animal in the trap to a new location far away.  He confirmed to me that it was Woodchuck.  My trap is now reset in its same spot in case any Woodchuck family members decide to come and feast on my garden.  You want to know the truth?  While I am glad that my garden may be able to grow a little during the rest of the Summer, I feel bad about trapping and moving Woodchuck.  Woodchuck was a part of Glen Road just like I am.  Maybe he should have been able to stay??  I guess Woodchuck should have planted his own garden to eat and then things would have been fine….or would they have been?