Roses On The Mend

007Once the piles of snow melted this spring, the rose news was not so good.  All of my roses were holding onto their dead leaves for dear life-as if our terrible winter caught them completely off guard.  This scene just about broke my heart. A good part of the heartbreak was the uncertainty about the future.  Were my roses dead? The early spring was cold and unfriendly.  The garden was groggy, and slow to wake up.  This story was a story about uncertainty that went on for weeks.

AQpril 26 2014a (17)I did not touch them-that was pure instinct.  It looked as though every cane was dead. The idea of giving up this old rose garden was very tough to take. The late spring meant we have had an incredibly busy spring at work.  I quit looking at the roses, and hoped for a miracle.  Hoping for a miracle-what else was there to be done?

ROSES 2014 (2)More than a few readers of this blog have suggested that our foul winter meant the roses got a rejuvenation pruning.  This is polite talk for dead back to the ground. Dead back to the ground, I have learned, does not mean dead.  I am glad I have been to busy to fuss over them. It took well into May to see what was gone for good, and what would survive. I watered deeply when it was hot and dry-that’s all. Today’s story? Most of the climbers died back to the ground.  The few canes of Jeannie Le Joie that survived are bravely blooming.  All of the climbers, including Eden, are coming back strong, from the root. Only one shrub rose is dead.  Two of them I suspected were dead send up new canes jut a week ago.   I decided not to cut back the dead climbing canes.  My idea is to attach the new canes coming on from the ground to the trellis made by the old canes.  How do those surviving canes look today? Not gorgeous.  Just brave.

ROSES 2014 (4)My Carefree Beauty and Sally Holmes roses are coming back strong from below ground.  The foliage is glossy green, and full sized.  A scant month ago I was sure this garden would need to be replanted from start to finish.  Not so.  The will to live is a very strong will indeed. Any plant that is challenged by a brutal winter, or a lack of water, or a swarm of Japanese beetles-plants respond on their own schedule. The first and the last word belongs to nature. The Carefree Beauty roses I have blooming now are indeed a little miracle.

ROSES 2014 (6) I am delighted about this turn of events.  The two burned spots in the boxwood is the only winter damage I have to any of my boxwood. I was lucky in that regard. The roses are almost 5 feet tall.  The Japanese anemone and boltonia are spreading their wings, with all the space and sun they have now.

Sept 8, 2013 (182)I took the following pictures last June. This June is remarkably different, but I wonder if that winter rejuvenation pruning to prove to be all for the better. I have the feeling I will have beautiful roses again.  It just may take a while.

Sept 8, 2013 (184)Roses blooming

Sept 8, 2013 (153)Roses

Sept 8, 2013 (160) I am pleased the roses are on the mend.

 

 

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.