Gardening is such an amazing activity. I think if you lived three lives you could never know all there is to know about plants. That being said I am trying my hardest to learn! Learning comes from a number of places; blogging, friends, families, books, experimentation, professional shows, lectures, organizations and just about everywhere. When I learn from special people or people close to me it is always a lesson I will remember. One such lesson was taught to me by my husband's family.
A few years ago we were watching a video of Mr. Fix-it's grandmother. Mr. Fix-it's grandmother lives in Washington State and is probably at least 85 but she still gardens. I hear she is under five feet tall and a force to be reckoned with. As she was videotaping her garden she came upon her 'SWEET BUBBY BUSH' and began to jump up and down with the camera. "There's my sweet bubby bush! I managed to fit one in and itsa bloomin!" Mr. Fix-it's grandmother is originally from the mountains of North Carolina along the Tennessee border. If you are from that area you are most definitely familiar with sweet bubbie bushes and the kind of unique accent people from this area have (not knocking the southerners here now you know-I'm from Maine and that accent can be a bit unique too!).
I asked my father in law what in the world was a SWEET BUBBY BUSH and he very jocularly asked me "You don't know what a sweet bubbie bush is?!" Well, I was about to get my lesson about gardening right then and there.
This is the lesson about the SWEET BUBBY BUSH, aka Calycanthus floridus, or also known as Sweetshrub, Carolina allspice, Sweet Bubby bush, Strawberry bush, and probably many more names. Church is very important to folks and the people of the mountains of North Carolina are no exception. They go to church faithfully every single chance they can get and always have. Therein lies the story. While most, if not all, churches are now equipped with air conditioners back a few generations this was not always the case. Summers in the south and in the mountains of North Carolina can get very hot. Nonetheless church is still in session-all year long every week. Sitting in a hot stifling church for a few hours listening to a sermon can really bring out the-ahem-worst in people as in body odor. It gets hot, we sweat and we sometimes stink. It's just the way it is. Thank goodness for air conditioners! To combat the problem of body odor it seems women would pick the fragrant blooms of the sweetshrub and place those same blooms in their bras under their breasts. As they sweat the odor of the bloom would come out and mask the body odor. Most of these blooms smell like strawberries or strawberries and bananas so the scent was not altogether unpleasant and the bloom really helped to solve a problem. That is the story of the SWEET BUBBY BUSH but there is more.
My theory on where the nickname SWEET BUBBY comes from is only a theory and my theory only. I surmise that the word BUBBY is a friendlier or more acceptable word for BOOBY-as in breasts. Polite folks, and southerners do polite the best I've seen anywhere, do not say the word breast or booby anywhere so bubby is a great substitute. Now I can't find any proof to back up my theory though I tried. Not only did I try but so did my father in law. He went so far as to call in to the local radio show to ask if anyone knew where the nickname of SWEET BUBBY came from; with no response. We canvassed nurseries and asked a lot of folks if they knew where that name came from and none did. If they did they weren't admitting to it. But, being the YANKEE that I am, I have no problem with sharing my theory on the SWEET
in the garden....
The above picture is of one of my Sweet Bubby bushes. It is a new purchase from Nashville Natives. The cultivar is 'Athens'. This cultivar has a distinct strawberry/banana scent and I purchased it in bloom for that very reason. You must buy these sweetshrubs in bloom because that is the only way you'll know you are getting one with a good scent. I also attempt to grow the red flowered sweetshrub. The red flowered ones are more common and you'll find them easier. I am not having luck with my sweetshrubs much to my chagrin. While I believe this is a woodland plant it is probably an edge of the woodland plant and needs more sun than it receives here. My good friend Naomi has a spectacular red flowered sweetshrub that grows in full sun. It's a beauty indeed and all sweetshrubs are nice additions to the natural garden. Mine are extra special to me due to the family connection and the lesson my father in law taught me about the sweetshrub.
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden