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  • Amber Rose Ostaszewski

Witch-hobble

My last post I talked about entering Taurus season and the need to slow down and take life at a leisurely pace, and I think my intuition went running with this because a few days ago, on Earth Day, I felt the urge to spend the day in my garden. I pushed off some of my daily tasks so that I could spend time with my hands in the dirt, collecting dainty violets for more jelly (with fresh lavender this time!), and checking on my more delicate plants that felt the chill of the surprise snow we got just a day prior.


While moving about my garden, I felt a pull to my viburnum shrub, it's one of the many beauties that I am lucky to have in my yard, especially as I've found out that this particular shrub is listed as an endangered species in the state of Kentucky (although it's found in abundance in states that are further north). Some of the common names given to it are hobblebush, moosebush, American Wayfaring tree, and the one I am most affectionate toward, the witch-hobble. The witch-hobble isn't named after any "witchy" characteristics; rather, it comes from a old English word that refers to its strong, switch-like branches, similar to the very well-known witch-hazel.



What I love about this shrub is that every single part of it is GORGEOUS. The leaves feel like pleated chiffon, with soft ridges and zig-zag stitched edges, and the flowers are large and unusual. What's interesting about them is that the outer larger petals are actually "decoys" in that they aren't the reproductive parts of the plant, but help attract pollinators to the small flowers on the inside of the bloom. I like to think of them as little landing pads for the bees and butterflies that revel in their pollen. Later in the fall, the small flowers go to fruit and turn from pink, then red, and finally a black cluster of berries that the birds absolutely LOVE. I've heard that you can make jam out of them, however, I've always left them for a pre-winter snack for my backyard feathered friends. The leaves also do one final show in the fall, turning bright reds, oranges, copper, and yellow before covering the yard.


The most interesting thing about this shrub; however, is the characteristic from which it's name "hobble" comes from--the ability for the branches, once long enough to reach the ground, to take root. In the forest, it is common to find the witch-hobble branches forming long, arched thickets that will trip you up (or hobble!) while hiking if you aren't careful. For this reason, it was a perfect calling to make some flower essence with my witch-hobble's blooms, recognizing the ability to get rooted/grounded where you are, to slow down and become aware of the things trying to get your attention before tripping you up, and to recognize those obstacles that you are constantly tripping over so that you can let them go and fully rest, relax, and embrace authentic joy.






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