Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Meltdown. Aaarrgghhhhh!!! In with the good air; out with the bad.

So, yesterday I had a complete meltdown.  The cause --- several hours’ worth of pointless conversations (and being on hold) with Centerpoint Energy.  I think there is a problem with my electric meter and Centerpoint doesn’t care – about the meter or about customer satisfaction.  They don’t care because in my area – they are the only game in town for servicing meters, lines, poles, etc.  And, it shows in how their customer service (a very loosely used term) people interact with unhappy customers (me).  By the end of the phone calls, I burst into tears, stomped around the house, and my blood pressure jumped up to a scary couple of numbers.  I resorted to my “drug of choice”.
Tension Tamer Tea and
Chocolate Chip Cookies!
Therefore, today, I am going to talk about growing things – pretty growing things – pretty and useful growing things.  In with the good air – out with the bad.

I have Althea’s growing in my yard.  I have two but one is hidden amongst the ginger, so really, I just have one.  Mine is not a pretty plant – it’s old, shrubby, about 6ft tall with woody branches that stick out from ground to top.  But it blooms and makes pretty flowers. 

Althea or Rose of Sharon, is a member of the hibiscus family.  It grows just about everywhere (zones 5-10) except maybe the most northern states where the snow is deeper than I am tall.

The name, Althea officinalis, originates from the Greek word, altho, meaning to heal.  The leaves and roots have been used for digestive problems, coughs, and inflammations.  The plant is also edible – cook the roots along with onions as a side dish.  Tender leaves can be included in a salad along with the flower.  Some Althea’s produce a round flat “fruit” called cheese (yes, weird – don’t know why), which is also edible.  But mostly today, this shrub is planted to attract hummingbirds and butterflies and generally add beauty to your yard.

It’s very easy to propagate from cuttings.  Just take a cutting from an existing shrub – a stem that will bend in your hand, crack and break.  Chose a stem with at least two sets of leaves.  Strip away the bottom leaves, dip the stem in a rooting hormone and put it in a pot filled with perlite or peat moss.  Keep it in a warm moist location (I put cuttings in a plastic ziplock bag) and wait until roots start forming.  Ta-da! new plant.

They like sunny locations best but are pretty good about growing anywhere and in any type of soil plus it’s drought tolerant.  It handles our heat and humidity well and I’m told also grows nicely in cooler climates.  While they can get as tall as 10ft, they can be easily pruned as required.  Hint – if you are going to prune your Althea, do it in late winter.  It produces flowers on new wood.

Oh – and something else – Althea has a very fibrous wood and can be used to make rope or twine.  It’s also been used in papermaking.  Plus, the flowers produce a blue dye.

Lets see – medicinal, culinary, fabric dying, cordage, and beauty uses – all from the Althea.  Good choice for any yard.

Take care.

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