A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Family resemblance

In most families, you can see a resemblance from family member to family member. Pictures of me when I was little look shockingly similar those of my maternal grandmother when she was a similar age.

The same is true in the animal world, when it comes to similar species.  This concept carries over into the plant world as well.  The family Malvaceae is one that members of my family have long loved and didn't even know it!  My Grandma H. had a tropical hibiscus that she loved and tended to for years.  We used to think her silly, laughing at how she wrote down the date of each and every blossom, often noting the size of the bloom.  I now know it was with love and a sincere appreciation for each gift of beauty that she did so.  I am certain she never knew the family it belonged to, let alone all the beautiful cousins it had!

One afternoon, while wandering about the yard and garden, I noticed that another bloom in the yard looked very similar to my tropical hibiscus.   A little research taught me that the Malvaceae family (commonly called Mallow) has a number of beautiful relatives that I am familiar with.  On this occasion, the Rose of Sharon that my great-grandmother planted on my property line caught my attention.  I noticed the structure of the bloom looked a lot like my hibiscus and therefore took the same approach I take to all curiosities I encounter...I asked the magic Google gods for some answers!  Lo, and behold, they are indeed related!  I learned that its scientific name is Hibiscus syriacus.

This year, I am growing okra for the first time in our garden.  However, I had the greatest trouble catching it in bloom.  It seemed as though the tasty okra just appeared on the plants.  I would see a bloom about to open and the next time I would check, it was spent, off the plant and a tiny okra was growing was growing in its place.  One lucky day off work, I noticed a bloom poised to open early in the morning.  Given that it was my intent to spend the entire day outside, I made it a point to check that blossom every forty minutes or so until I got an eyeful.  My method paid off!  The resulting bloom was just a simply beautiful, creamy yellow with a deep burgundy, almost brown center.  But, wait... that looks so much like the other mallow family plants....  That's because it is!  Although its proper scientific name is Abelmoschus esculentus, it is also known as Hibiscus esculentus. Fancy that!

I began searching through my photos and thinking about the other flowers that I have loved so much with similar structure.  This reminded me of another beautiful Mallow family cousin, the Hollyhock.  Although they come in lots of colors, sizes and forms, they all help round out this gorgeous plant family that I unknowingly loved and cultivated in my own yard and garden for years.  This Hollyhock lives in my mother's yard.  I just love the way the sun shines through its petals, highlighting the areas where they overlap!

Seeing this familial resemblance in such a wide variety of plants leads me to think about what other plants might be related as I wander around the property....

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