Florist puts the palm in Palm Sunday services

March 27, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

If it weren't for Wessel's Florist & Weddings in historic Ellicott City, the Rev. Rod Ronneberg and other local ministers might go empty-handed at their Palm Sunday services today.

Each year, Don Wessel, the florist shop's owner, sells palm crowns, $4.50 a bunch, to five local churches.

Churches also rent palm trees from the 18-year-old shop to decorate their sanctuaries for Palm Sunday.

Without Wessel's, "I don't know what I'd do," said Mr. Ronneberg, pastor of the 700-member St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Fulton.

Wessel's is one of several florists in the county who supply palm fronds to churches for Palm Sunday, the first day of the Christian Holy Week.

Palm Sunday -- always the Sunday before Easter -- commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to the Scriptures, people spread their cloaks on the road or cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road, shouting, "Hosanna, to the Son of David!"

"This is the kind of palms that were used when Jesus came into Jerusalem," said Mr. Wessel, holding a thick, green palm crown in his store last Thursday. "It's a symbolic thing."

The palm crown is a thick bundle of palm leaves, generally found at the top of the tree, which yields the fronds used on Palm Sunday.

Many of the palm fronds that churches buy come from the cabbage palmetto, a type of tall palm tree grown in Florida, which has a similar climate to Israel's, said Wayne Bennett, owner of Wayne Bennett Ferneries, a florist wholesaler in Pierson, Fla.

The budding cabbage palmettos' crowns are cut with a sharp ax, Mr. Bennett said. Each palm crown can yield between 60 and 100 leaves used as ceremonial palm fronds, he said.

The cabbage palmetto is just one kind of palm tree that provide leaves for Palm Sunday services, he added. Another is the date palm, a type of desert palm tree with a stout trunk and large leaves, which also grows in Israel.

Mr. Wessel said that local churches order their palm crowns months or weeks before Palm Sunday.

Once the churches get the palm crowns, their altar guilds separate the leaves.

Mr. Wessel said he buys one case of palm crowns, containing about 20 crowns, from Claymore Sieck Florist Wholesalers in Baltimore.

Each crown yields about 50 leaves and comes from the swamps of Florida.

The Rev. Stephen Bryant, of Emory United Methodist Church in Ellicott City, said he usually purchases two palm crowns for his 180-member church.

Some members make crosses out of the inexpensive palm fronds, he said.

At St. Paul's Lutheran, Mr. Ronneberg blesses the palm fronds before he distributes them and encourages his parishioners to hang them behind crosses or crucifixes in their homes.

That's done "to remind everybody of the entry of Jesus and his eventual death," he said.

"Some people put them behind religious pictures of some kind."

And once the palm fronds dry, the pastor collects and burns them to make ashes for next year's Ash Wednesday services.

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