We moved into our new home in December. The days were frigid, the nights were long, and the trees wore the mid-winter appearance of death. The maples, we recognized. But there were several other tree-like shrubs planted throughout the yard whose identity we had no knowledge of. They grew warped, woody stems, and their trunks often jutted out from the ground at an angle. To my eyes at the time, they were ugly.
Later in the spring we met the sellers, who told us the name for these tree-bushes: Rose of Sharon. I had heard the name, but I wasn’t familiar with its personality. The former owner said she loved them and planted them in pairs throughout the yard, which is supposed to encourage their growth. They were planted in lines along the outside edge of the fence and in pairs by my office and by the firepit. At that point in time, I had no emotional investment in them.
Throughout the spring the petunias and daylilies bloomed, along with the maples and the other potted plants we’d purchased. The daylilies in particular were the highlight of our day. Situated straight across the yard from my desk window, the bulbs produced new orange blooms every day till the last day of spring. We were sad that the life of the daylily was coming to an end for this year.
The very next day was the first day of summer. That was the day the Rose of Sharon bushes started blooming. I hadn’t bothered to look up any information about the plant and didn’t know what to expect, so their beauty surprised me. In some ways, they reminded me of our favorite tropical flower, the frangipani. (Americans call these flowering trees “plumeria.”)
Now I was intrigued, so I searched for information about the Rose of Sharon. Turns out, it is not a rose but a hibiscus, and it’s Asian in origin (mainly from India and China). That would be why it reminded me so much of home. In fact, Rose of Sharon is often recommended to people who want a tropical feel in a temperate climate, as it’s fairly hardy.
Our Rose of Sharon trees bloomed in four different colors: pink, purple, light pink, and white. The pink and purple grew by my office; the purple stood by the firepit, still visible from my office window; and light pink and white ones were scattered between the road and the fence. Purple is generally a favorite color of mine, but for some reason I fell in love with the white Rose of Sharon. I think it was because, from a distance, they reminded me of an actual white rosebush.
For me it is a precious thought that the previous owners planted something all over the yard that would remind me, a future owner, of my old home in Asia. I already knew this house was a perfect fit for us, but this summer I was reminded that God takes care of even the little things in life, like flowers.
After blooming daily for two months, they precipitously dropped off in August. The branches were weighed down with buds full to bursting, unable to flower during the dry season. And of course, winter is coming. The lovely Rose of Sharon will shrivel back into crooked little stems, and for a while they will look barren.
But next summer they will come back to life again, brimming with the colors of Cambodia.
Our Rose of Sharon at summer’s end.