True Romance

carefree-beauty-rose.jpgMy landscape and garden occupies a lot and a half in a very urban setting.  Pontiac, Michigan, to be exact.  I do not have a villa in the south of France, or in Italy.  I do not live in California, or England.  I am the head gardener for a small property in the upper midwest.  I live in a city.  I can hear the motorcycles and the ambulances-and the music from the party next door.  I am not complaining.  I like where I live.  I love my house.  I treasure my garden.  But that moment in early June when my modest patch of roses begin to bloom is a moment that I truly treasure.  The roses coming into bloom is all about the romance of the garden.

June-blooming-roses.jpgMost of my landscape is primarily confined to five plants.  Yews. boxwoods, arborvitae, magnolias-and lawn.  This is a landscape that that I am able to properly keep up.  This is a landscape that is friendly to my dogs.  It is a landscape about order and structure. My wild cards are few-by this I mean, manageable. I cannot come home to chaos.  I need healthy, first and foremost.  I need tended, secondarily. Thirdly, I need beauty.  My work life is such that I want peace, quiet, and delight when I go home.  But I have a few places for perennials.  Perennials-loads of work.  I have one small patch over which I am willing to fret weekly.  But then, there are the roses.

June-blooming-roses.jpgNo other plant speaks to the romance of the garden in the way  that roses do.  The blooms are beautiful, and fragrant.  When they are happy, they bloom profusely.  So many florists get instructions to send roses to a loved one for a birthday, for Mother’s Day, for Valentine’s day- and for good reason.  The rose speaks to romance.   My corgis know what it means when I say-let’s go see the roses. They race around to the rose garden.  When Buck brings home roses for me, I am a very happy girlfriend.  Even Buck is enjoying the the June garden moment that celebrates the roses.  The climbing roses-the miniature Jeannie LeJoie and the climber Eden.  The shrub roses-Carefree Beauty, and Sally Holmes.

roses.jpgThis small rose garden has a lot to say right now.  I feel no need to expound on which roses are good, and which roses are bad.  There are lots and lots of roses to choose from.  The David Austin shrub roses.  The knockout roses.  The species roses.  The tea roses.  The grandifloras.  The tree roses.  Blanc Double de Coubert-the fragrance is astonishing.    Try some.  Try any of them that appeal to you.  If they fail, figure out why.  No garden should be without a patch of roses.  No plant endows a garden with more romance than a rose.

roses.jpg

Why is the romance so important?  Romance has everything to do with what it means to be a person.  Relationships make the world go round- this includes garden relationships.  Any expression of love is an expression well worth making.   Anyone who gardens expends a lot of thought, time and money to making a natural environment that is beautiful.  Tell me if you think there is anything more romantically beautiful than a rose in bloom.  My advice?  Plant a few roses.

roses.jpgMy work life right now is busy-as in urgent.  Every day, all day long, I am working.  But every day I go home, and Buck and I eventually meet in the rose garden.  It is a fitting end to the day.  The view of the roses in bloom-beautiful.

climbing-rose-Jeannie LeJoie.jpgAs much as I design with structure in mind, I value those plants that tease, breathe, and enchant.  Roses are the Sarah Bernhardt’s of the garden.  Demanding? oh yes.  Were I to fall in line behind the demands of any plant, roses would rank high on my list.    Rob and Meg came for dinner night before last.  They went round to see the roses. Rob is right.  No plant speaks to romance better than a rose.

June.jpgMy working life is not perfectly organized.  The cold and rainy April, and the late frosts have put me way behind.  I have lots of annual plantings ahead of me-10 days worth-at least.  Every season is what it is.  Last night I went to bed at 7:30, and slept until 6:30 am.    Coming home to the roses representing-delightful.

Carefree-Beauty.jpgCarefree Beauty-this is a shrub rose that was hybridized by Griffith Buck.  I love the big blowsy pink blooms.  I like its hardiness.  Its disease resistance.  I especially appreciate that fresh scent I know as June roses in bloom.

the-garden.jpgThe corgis may not be tall enough to really have a good view of the roses.  But they understand about moments.  Every night, they get to that rose garden ahead of Buck and I.

roses.jpgTwo dogs and two people-we end the day in the company of the roses.  My very small rose garden figures in a very big way in my life.  I don’t mind the effort it takes to cultivate roses.  In my opinion, a garden needs to evoke romance.

Memorial Day Weekend

Italian terra cotta pots

Both of my crews combined yesterday to plant annuals in containers and in the ground at one of our big jobs.  We finished up about 3:30.  It was the consensus that my pots could be brought out from the garage, and filled with soil-an end of the day job.  I was delighted with the offer.

Italian terra cotta pots

Next to the pruning of the boxwood, this is my favorite day of the year.  The pots come out of storage.  I move them a few inches this way or that.  I may reconfigure them altogether.  I have next to no warning when that moment for the placing and filling of my pots will be-good thing.  The pressure of the moment is sometimes my best effort.  When I have too much time to think and rethink, I can stall and move right into a tail spin.   

Italian terra cotta

I do not like my crews glaring at me, waiting for a decision.  They want to get the work done-with dispatch.  Needless to say, all of my pots are out and placed now, and furthermore chock full of soil.  It takes my crew only moments to get this part done.  It takes me many more moments to make a decision about what to plant.  I walked by these dirt filled pots many times late yesterday afternoon.     

container planting

That I am home in the afternoon at the end of May is a rare day indeed.  Of course I took advantage of that moment. I toured every square inch.  Though what I will plant in my pots this year is so much on my mind, I enjoyed what has been going on in other parts of my garden, in my absence.

Jeanne Le Joie

My roses are starting to bloom.  They are early this year.  The climbing roses, the dwarf Jeannie Le Joie, and the big flowered climber Eden, were not a bit fazed by our terrible April frosts.  They are coming into bloom, as though all was well with the world.  My Griffith Buck roses-another story.  The buds are small.  The extreme heat we have had the past few days means some flowers have come into bloom, and shattered in less than a day. 

dwarf climbing roses

Our late April frosts are still haunting my garden.  But it was hard to be discouraged.  I was in my garden on a sunny afternoon the end of May.  This means I was on holiday. 

late spring

I was happy to be home, unexpectedly, on the Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. 

 

The Roses In June

The thought of June inevitably brings roses to mind.  How I love them.  The shapes and fragrance are like no other flower.  That said, there is no other flower could possibly be as much trouble to cultivate as a rose-that is part of their attraction..  My Mom had a hedge of tea roses that stretched all along one side of her garden.  Every year she made replacements.  I can still remember the names of some her favorites-Peace, Chrysler Imperial, and the luscious Tropicana. Some years were worse than others for the aphids and the blackspot-but she persisted in renewing and growing that rose hedge.  There are those plants that are annuals for me, no matter the popular horticulture.  Hemlocks, azaleas, columbines-and most certainly tea roses. 

Of course the worst tea rose trouble was the lack of hardiness in my zone.  Al Goldner had me pot up, sweat, and bring on several thousand  hybrid tea roses for his nursery in the mid 1980′s.  At least from him I learned to bury the graft 2 to 3 inches below ground.  The frozen soil would act like a cast around the most fragile part of tea rose life-that graft. Another annoying fact of life-their susceptibility to every fungal disease including blackspot.  One day I marched into his office, and wrinkled my nose about the tea roses.  He was famous for giving any employee enough rope to hang themselves-I was no exception.  I bought my first collection of roses from Hortico in Canada, and spent a few tense hours trying to explain to Customs why I was trying to bring a pickup truck load of bareroot roses into the US with no phytosanitary certificate. 

For whatever reason, they waved me through.  That first collection?  5 David Austin varieties.  A group of Rugosa roses, including Blanc Double de Coubert, Fimbriata and Scabrosa. A good collection of species roses-Rosa Rubrifolia (now of another name I can never remember) Rosa Canina, Rosa Complicata, Rosa Setigera.  Another group of vintage and old fashioned roses from a number of different groups. The Canadian Explorer roses.  And of course, a collection of Griffith Buck roses.     

Al Goldner had an interest in anyone who bred and grew plants.  He himself bred and grew daylilies, specifically for use in the landscape.  He grew them without much in the way of irrigation, and no fertilization.  He wanted plants that would grow under less than optimal conditions. I had the same idea in mind with my collection of old fashioned and shrubs roses.

At that time I had almost 5 acres of land-I could grow shrub roses, and never have to worry about how much room was required.  Now I have a very small yard, and even less time to devote to growing roses.  So my small collection is highly edited.  The climbing Jeannie le Joie and Eden take up no space on the ground plane.  Eden has that irrestibly old fashioned rose look.  The only work I put to them is trying to keep the canes attached to the brick.   


Sally Holmes is the one giant shrub rose I cannot live without.  Peach colored buds open to reveal single 5-petalled white flowers.  I have stakes all over in support of this big lax shrub.  The foliage is large, dark green, and glossy-top to bottom.   

In the front, I have alternated the Griffith Buck roses Carefree Beauty, and Earthsong.  Somone suggested that Earthsong was even more carefree than Carefree Beauty.  I cannot really tell the difference.  But I can speak to how I have a little time in June with an embarrassment of riches in roses with virtually no work on my part.

I do prune in the spring.  I do deadhead after the first big flush of flowers.  And I may spray several rounds of fungicide if blackspot takes hold-but by and large I do next to nothing except look at them.  The second flush of flowers is nothing like this moment-but I do not hold that against these roses.  The Knockout series of roses has great disease resistance and good rebloom, but they just do not appeal to me in the same way. 


My small patch of roses are the best ever this year.  This is saying a lot.  I have had them at least 7 or 8 years.  I have never had to replace one.  I do have drip irrigation in this bed, which I rarely use.  These roses are very tolerant of the Japanese anemone, boltonia and hardy hibiscus that live there as well.  Given more property and time there are plenty of roses I would grow.  But given the constraints of my circumstances, I have a little patch of roses representing every June that suits me just fine.

Susanne’s Roses

 

My post earlier today featured the best that there is going on outside here-that best is not so great.  It is still winter where I live.   So I went back into that stack of old pictures and projects looking for something a little less chilly and off-putting.  This landscape and garden I worked on intensively between 1986 and 1994.  A client with a beautiful house on a small piece of land-I cannot remember how we met.  But I do remember that she decided that a garden, and a great garden at that, was just what she wanted.  Though she was always clear about what she liked, she had not so much knowledge.  I not only designed and planted for her-I taught.  She wanted to know everything I knew about wildflowers, perennials, meadows-and most of all, roses.  I had a history with roses, fostered by Al Goldner.  A highly regarded landscape designer with a degree in floriculture-he put up with a young employee (that would be me) who insisted to him in 1985 that tea roses were overbred, disease prone, and marginally hardy prima donnas.  He had the confidence to allow me to order roses of my own choosing for Goldner-Walsh.  I knew he was giving me just enough rope to hang myself.

I placed an order for roses with Hortico in Canada.  I bought antique roses. Climbers.  Rugosas.  Species roses.  And a line of English roses-the David Austin roses. Everything and anything that was not a tea rose.  I vividly remember the day I pulled a company pickup truck full of bareroot roses up to the Canadian/American customs booth-of course they pulled me over.  Who knew I needed a phytosanitary certificate?  I spent hours on a bench next to a man in handcuffs-it was terrifying.  Eventually they let me go.  This was some years before Wayside Gardens began offering David Austin roses.  I potted up just short of a thousand roses, and brought them on.  I learned plenty about them, just taking care of them.  Though I was by no means a rosarian, I had a client who wanted any and all of them.  Susanne.    

There are those people you meet.  In the course of business.  In the neighborhood.  In the grocery check out line.  They encourage you to be better than you ever thought you could be.  This perfectly describes Susanne.  She lit a fire under me the likes of which happens only rarely.  Some days I would come to plant, armed with hellebore species I had stood on my head to obtain-and she would still be in bed.  I would march right upstairs (I had the run of the house by then) and roust her out.  Years later, her front porch was dwarfed by mature David Austin roses-Mary Rose to the left here, and Heritage, on the right. 

Her rear yard had about 15 feet of flat ground, before the earth dropped precipitously to the Rouge River.  That 15 feet of space-stuffed with roses.  They were lush.  She was lush.  My gardening life had an operatic quality to it, thanks to her.  Her entire property smelled of roses.  We grew roses with perennials.  We grew roses with asparagus, and grasses. We grew roses wherever we could. The we part was important there-the two of us gardened as if we only had 10 minutes to live.

Every walkway, every staircase-redolent with the blossoms, the smell, and the habit of roses.  Not one of them was a tea rose.  I could go over the names and the classifications, but that is not my idea here.  Though we also planted no end of unusual perennials, wildflowers, grasses, trees, espaliers and shrubs, the organizing metaphor of this landscape-for the love of the rose.    

The driveway garden-a mix of Rosa Rugosa Scabrosa, rosa glauca (formerly rosa rubrifolia) miscanthus gracillimus, and artemesia.  Petals on the drive-how I loved this. 

It has been so long ago that I designed and planted this garden, I cannot perfectly recall specific varieties from these old 35mm pictures.  But I do know my knowledge of roses burgeoned.  Susanne wanted to know everything she could about them-from me.  We both learned.

Her architect in Chicago built this rose arbor for her-I planted it.  This picture does little justice to that day some years later when I took this photograph.  Her passion-that’s what I see here.  I forget everything routinely-but I remember this day as if it were yesterday.   


Her home sat on a very small piece of level ground.  The back yard dropped off precipitously to the Rouge River.  I gardened this entire steep slope-species and wild roses, grasses.  Perennials.  Weeds.  The anchoring trees-yellow woods-Cledrastis. This garden on a steep slope about did me in-but it was wildly beautiful.  


All over that slope-Rosa Complicata. How lucky I was to have met Susanne.  This garden changed my my life.