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20210822-gm-garden_Rose of Sharon.jpg

The Rose of Sharon, distinctive and beautiful.

It bloomed all summer long, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I would pick the big colorful flowers and hope that my neighbor Dixie would never miss them from her garden.

She wasn’t really much of a gardener, but she had a beautiful Rose of Sharon bush growing by the back path. Funny, all these years later, I think of that bush every time I see these familiar blooms.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a shrub that can grow more than 12 feet tall and 2 to 10 feet wide. The thin, grayish stems form from the bottom of the plant and do not branch out much, so when left unpruned, create a V-shaped shrub.

The V-shaped shrub is nice, but it is really all about the flower. The plant produces nonstop blooms from June through the early fall months. The usually pink, but sometimes white or dark pinkish-purple flowers are easy to recognize.

Blooms are three inches across and are made of five petals. Deep inside the flower, or the flower’s throat, is a darker, contrasting color giving the cone-shaped bloom added dimension and making it easily recognizable.

The protruding yellow-tipped white stamen also makes the flower easy to identify. This is where the pollen is produced and what attracts the bees and hummingbirds.

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When planting a Rose of Sharon, pick a sunny spot. Although it may grow with part-time shade to get the most flowers, make sure it gets at least six hours of sun a day. This old-fashioned plant is quite tolerant of poor soil and once established, will quickly reseed — so much so that you may need to relocate or gift new plants to fellow gardeners.

I mentioned little pruning is needed to maintain the V shape, but should you prune, do this in late winter or early spring. The Rose of Sharon flowers are formed on new or the current year’s growth, so once new limbs begin to appear, hold off pruning until the end of the blooming season.

It is easy to think of hibiscus when looking at this flower. Rose of Sharon can withstand a much cooler growing climate than tropical hibiscus. The Rose will survive the winter above ground then produce new growth on the same branches in the spring.

Thinking of this bush has taken me down memory lane. My childhood neighborhood has changed, and the Rose of Sharon bush on the corner is long gone. That flowering shrub witnessed me riding a tricycle, removing training wheels from my first big girl bike, a decade of Halloween costumes, and meeting my still-to-this-day best friend.

We must have walked by this bush and picked these flowers hundreds of times. Good thing the bush kept on blooming, and Dixie never looked out her back window.

Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia University Extension Service master gardener through the Kanawha County chapter. She is communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Find her blog, “Gardening in Pearls,” at gardeninginpearls.com. Contact her at janeellenpowell@aol.com.

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