Rose of Sharon

My mother loved flowers. Although daddy thought planting anything you could not eat was a waste of time, he made sure she had a nice flower bed that ran between our side yard and the field on the other side. It was about 200 feet long and ten feet wide and contained a huge variety of flowers, including annuals and perennials.

There were also a few blooming bushes, like the Rose of Sharon that grew right at the end of the bed closest to the house. This was her favorite and she thought it was a biblical flower. But it was really a Hibiscus syriacus, a deciduous flowering shrub native to east Asia.

I always wanted one in my yard and thanks to my mother-in-law I do. There is a big one at her house and she gave me one of the sprouts that grew up around it. I planted it near my woodshed but it had a rough life.

A big limb fell and broke it to the ground the third year it grew. But it recovered and was about six feet high when a fire in my woodshed killed the trees around it and, when they were cut down, it was again broken to the ground. But it recovered again and is now about ten feet tall and covered with blooms.

For years I had daddy’s attitude and planted only edible things. But then some of my mama came out and I started planting some flowers. I was never real serious about it, planting marigolds around my tomatoes and some impatiens in a shady bed near my carport, but I did try to have a bed similar to mama’s.

I have always liked wild flowers or flowers growing wild in ditches and old home places. When I worked as transportation director and rode all the back roads of Pike County checking bus routes I kept a shovel and bucket in my truck. If I saw a flower in the ditch I would often stop and dig it up and take it home.

I made a long, narrow bed across my back yard between the woods and yard, something like my mother had where I grew up. It contained several kinds of daffodils, many tiger lilies, another of my favorites, and one of my favorites growing up, butterfly bushes.

Mom never had butterfly bushes but they grew in ditches around my house. I’m still not sure what they are, and they may just be weeds, but some nurseries sell them. They are small and have bright orange feathery flowers. I found several to bring home.

Tiger lilies, or what we called wild lilies, grew everywhere and I had a bunch of them. These bright orange striped flowering plants can be grown from the roots or from seed and they make a great border plant.

A rare flower I saw in the woods sometimes is a pretty, white cup-shaped flower on short stem. The one flower on a plant stands out under trees. I found out they are wood anemones. I tried bringing a few home, but they are hard to find and do not transplant well, so I never had much success with them.

One plant I had way too much success with and should never be planted in your yard is wisteria. I planted a small piece of root by an eight-inch-thick oak tree by my woodshed and another in the edge of the yard. I let the one by the wood shed grow up the tree and kept the one in the yard trimmed, trying to make it umbrella shaped, with hanging bloom clusters.

Both were a big mistake. Within a few years the vine growing up the oak tree was thicker than the tree and all the trees around it were covered in vines from the roots spreading from the original. The one in the edge of the yard spread with roots just under the ground everywhere and I have to cut them away from my garage and yard light pole. They got so thick on the pole they covered the light until you could hardly tell when it came on. And it almost killed the fig bush daddy brought me to plant by the garage.

Although the grape like clusters of lavender to purple flowers are pretty, I wish I had never brought this one home!

Daffodils are pretty and easy to transplant and grow. They line the edge of my flower bed and start blooming before anything else. They are often the only color in late February when everything else is drab browns and grays. The splash of yellow reminds me spring and good fishing is close.

Daddy did like his fresh fruit. We had a huge fig bush by the side door and he planted peach, apple, pear and Japanese Persimmon. And one of my favorites was the overhead scuppernong arbor. I loved standing in the shade under it and reaching up to pick the golden fruit.

Somewhere I tasted Niagara Grapes. You cannot buy them in the store, they do not ship well, but they are delicious. I made trellises around my back yard and planted three Niagara and three Concord grape vines. Home grown Concord grapes taste better than any you can buy, like most anything else you grow.

I was warned we are too far south for those varieties to grow successfully. My vines produced abundant clusters of grapes for about five years then died. Now wisteria covers the old trellises. But they surely were good when I had them.

Fruit trees take a lot of work, and if you don’t spray them they will not produce. My plum tree gets a disease that makes the fruit rot when it first starts growing and I always forget to spray it in the winter when it is dormant. And my pear trees got what I was told was “phony pear” disease, causing the trees to grow tiny fruit like a Bradford pear.

Maybe I should stick with flowers.

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