Gardening: Happy new year, bud

Each bud on a plant contains either a leaf - with the potential to grow into a shoot, stem and branch - or a flower, whose destiny, ideally, is to become a fruit.

shabbat flowers 88 (photo credit: )
shabbat flowers 88
(photo credit: )
One of the more curious expressions found in the Talmud is "hanetz hahama," which means sunrise. Scholars have puzzled over this formulation. Everyone agrees that hama means sun, but what is the significance of hanetz? Most hold that hanetz refers to the glittering, shining, or sparkling rays of light that shoot from the sun as it emerges over the horizon. Netz, however, can also mean hawk, falcon or eagle and, therefore, hanetz hahama would be an allusion to the sun "taking flight" as it begins its journey across the sky. There is a botanical association here as well. Hanatzah denotes either the development or the opening of a bud. In the Song of Songs, the young maiden tells her lover that she wants to go with him into the fields to see whether henetzu harimonim - that is, if the pomegranates are in bloom. Thus, hanetz hahama could also mean the budding or blossoming of the sun. Just as the potential of a bud is revealed when it opens, so the day's potential begins to show itself with the rising of the sun. The moment before "sun blossoming" is the most propitious time for saying the Shema prayer, and during or just after sunrise is the ideal time for the Amidah prayer, beginning with praises for God, which are really a declaration of love for Him. This is consistent with the Song of Songs, where immediately after pomegranate blossoming is mentioned, the maiden says, "I will give my love to you." The dialogue between the maiden and her lover in the Song of Songs represents the dialogue between Israel and God which, in our daily experience, is most intimate during the Amidah. Each bud on a plant contains either a leaf - with the potential to grow into a shoot, stem and branch - or a flower, whose destiny, ideally, is to become a fruit. (Although, on some trees, only a small percentage of flowers actually do so.) Whether a plant produces leaf or flower buds depends on several factors: time of year, light exposure, fertilization and size of the plant. The relationship between flowering and light exposure is best illustrated by those familiar chrysanthemums sold by the florist. Planted in the garden, they produce white, yellow, bronze, maroon, pink or lavender flowers only in the fall. Yet, you may receive a potted, flowering chrysanthemum as a gift nearly any time of the year. How is this possible? In terms of flowering, plants are divided into three groups: long-day, short-day, and day-neutral. Long-day plants bloom in spring and summer, short-day plants bloom in fall and winter, and day-neutral plants bloom in every season. A short-day species such as a chrysanthemum can be tricked into "thinking" that fall is approaching when it is grown in a shuttered greenhouse where the amount of sunlight that reaches the plants can be precisely regulated. Fertilization plays an important role in the development of vegetative (leaf) or reproductive (flower) buds. Heavy applications of nitrogen will keep plants in a vegetative state and they will flower less frequently than when they are fertilized with less nitrogen plus phosphorus, an element that promotes flowering. Much research has been done in forcing flowers from plants at a young age, prior to the time when they would normally bloom. In so doing, it has been determined that the size of a plant, rather than its age, determines onset of flowering. Plants have been kept in a juvenile, non-flowering state for decades by keeping them pruned down. Ivy, for instance, will remain a trailing ground cover as long as it is regularly clipped and confined to the shade. Allowed to develop on its own and reach the sun, ivy puts out vertical growth which bears cream-colored flowers that resemble small drumsticks. Buds are a staple of the vegetable platter thanks to one protean species: Brassica oleracea. Through centuries of hybridization and selection, this plant has assumed many forms, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, whose edible parts are, in fact, flower buds. Knowing when and where flower buds are formed is crucial when it comes to pruning. Hydrangeas spend the summer developing flower buds that will open the following spring. Thus, to prune a hydrangea now, in the fall, would curtail its bloom next year. As a general rule, it is best to prune flowering plants as soon as they stop blooming and before they can form buds for their next crop of flowers. Deciduous fruit trees may produce flower buds at the end, in the middle, at the base, or all along their shoots, depending on variety. This information is vital when pruning since you could inadvertently remove flower buds and see little or no fruit as a result.