Sunday, April 30, 2017

Things Aren't Always As They Seem

You remember all those funny “why” questions? Why isn't 11 pronounced onety one? Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway? Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites? Why do croutons come in airtight packages when they are just stale bread? Why are boxing rings square? Why is it called a Confederate Rose when it is neither Confederate nor a Rose? Maybe it is a stretch on the last one . . . . 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the South’s most beloved plants, the Confederate Rose, is actually a native of China and it belongs to the Hibiscus family. The botanical name for this blooming beauty is Hibiscus mutabilis. So how did this plant acquire its name? Legend is that a wounded Confederate soldier spilled blood at the foot of the plant and the flowers soaked it up. The flowers have the remarkable ability to bloom pure white and the next day turn to pink. . .hence the romantic legend.

The blooms (are often mistaken for peonies which only bloom in the spring) can be single or double and also bloom pink or red. By the way, how do you pronounce peony? Is it pee-oh-knee or pee-uh-knee? I digress.


Confederate Rose

The Confederate Rose is difficult to find in nurseries and is now generally a pass-along plant. You can start it from seed but the easiest way is to find someone to give you a stem cutting and root it in water. It likes full to part sun and fertile soil. It blooms in the fall and comes back in our area from the roots. It will grow into a woody shrub or small tree.

The most popular plant is the Confederate Rose called Plena. The big double blossoms open white, change to pink the next day and end up red before falling. Often, you will see all three colors on the same plant.

If you are a member of Holly Gardeners here at Holly Lake Ranch, you are fortunate to have several folks that will give you a cutting in the fall. You don’t even have to ask. . pass-along plants are brought to meetings and are free!

Now maybe someone can tell me why the cereal is called Grape Nuts when it is neither grapes nor nuts? 

Ann Reynolds

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Haint - Southern colloquialism def., ghost, apparition, lost soul. Haints are supposedly restless spirits of the dead who, for whatever reason, have not moved on from their physical world. Ann, “what do haints have to do with nature and gardening?” Well, paint color has a lot to do with mud daubers. So there really is a segue!

Have you ever hear of Haint Blue paint? The original Haint Blue paint creators were Gullah or Geechee people, descendants of African slaves, who worked on rice plantations. They preserved their African heritage more than any other African American community by keeping alive traditions, stories and beliefs of their ancestors, including fear of haints. The first painted strokes of Haint Blue adorned the simple shacks of African slaves.

After noticing the blue paint and hearing the stories of haints, many Southerners also began painting the porch ceiling blue out of fear of haints. This color was thought to protect homeowners from being taken or influenced by haints or to protect the occupants from evil. This blue paint can be found on window and door frames too. The soft blue color, common in the historic homes around Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, is now referred to as Haint Blue.

Over the years, people began to notice that these painted ceilings appeared to repel insects. Most credible sources discredit this. However, this belief could be seated in historical truths. Milk and lye paints were first used on ceilings. Lye is a known insect repellent. Some folks think that insects will not nest on blue ceiling because the insects think the blue ceiling is the sky.
So I decided to conduct my own experiment. I do not like to destroy mud dauber nests because the dauber is a beneficial wasp. But, the mud nest stains the wood on my porch. So I thought of giving the Haint Blue paint a try.

So what color is Haint Blue? Most paint experts agree that the best shade of blue is the one that fits the look of the house. You don't want a blue ceiling to look like an afterthought or like it came out of nowhere.

My front porch
Unpainted area
So I picked my Haint Blue color (a soft blue-green) and my hubby bent over backward (literally) to paint the ceiling. Over the summer I watched and watched to see if the paint deterred the mud daubers and I am happy to report it did. I also noticed I did not have the big nests of daddy longlegs. More importantly, I was concerned that it would also send my little wrens packing for a different porch but it did not. 

There goes the theory of the Haint Blue being the sky. I did not notice if I had more or less ghosts.

So during your spring cleaning, you might want to try painting your porch ceiling Haint Blue. Whether the choice is based on superstition, getting back to nature or just because you think it's a lovely color, blue porch ceilings are a wonderful way to add visual interest to your outdoor space. 

Ann Reynolds