Monthly Archives: June 2011

….and speaking of roses

Tonight I am giving a lecture on “Easy Care Roses” at the Blackstone Public Library, so while I was out cutting some roses to bring along, I took the camera out and snapped some photos.

June is when the roses come in to their own and start what for many will be 5 months of bloom. That is a lot for one flower to give.The secret to a long bloom time, not having to  spray for foliar diseases, and NO DEADHEADING (my least favorite chore in the hot summer garden months) is the selction of the right cultivar, and that is what I will be speaking about.

I cheat a little here  and grow a few roses I would describe as anything but easy care, but I am weak sometimes, and their beauty and fragrance drew me in, and now I am a slave to their whims . But most I grow are super easy and put on a spectacular show all summer.

This is an unknown red climber given to me by my mother. It looks lonely today because it’s companion plant , a Betty Corning clematis, was looking very funky lately and got sent off to UNH Plant Diagnostics Lab yesterday.

This next one is a rose I can no longer find in cultivation from a series named after National parks and landmarks, it is called the Canyon Rose and is a large shrub, or as grown here, a short climber.

Not yet blooming, but loaded with buds (in this photo) is the rose we call Grammy’s Rose. It was grown from a cutting taken in my grandmother’s garden from a old fashioned rambler that was a gift from her mother in the 1930′s. It gets black spot like nobody’s business, and often powdery mildew too. It is thorny as all get out and blooms only once a year for five minutes (well really about 3 weeks. ) Here it is in bloom  so you can see why , besides sentimental reasons, I keep it around.

This pretty pink is Capt. Samuel Holland, one of the Canadian Exporer Series, I grow it as a standard…

and this is another climbing red(name unknown) growing on the arbor leading to the newest gardens.

The knockouts, pink hereand red are two of my favorite shrubs. They bloom like crazy.

Rosa Gluaca has just about finished blooming but it’s foliage will serve as the backdrop to my perennials in the back 40.

Flower carpet is amassed in bloom near the end of the boxwood walkway…

and New Dawn is just getting it’s act together after some horrible encounters with the rabbits.

Christopher Marlowe is my favorite David Austin rose, I love the color……

the pink rugosa is loving life where I planted way out back so it can run to it’s hearts content without having to be thinned which causes  me incredible pain since it is so thorny.

The Fairy rose is just starting to open for its summer long show

and yet to even open are Golden Celebration (another David Austin), Climbing Iceberg, Don Juan, and Carefree Beauty. I am glad they are not flowering yet, as it can get a little garish here at times, plus I like to extend the show as long as possible.

After they are finished blooming , many of them have beautiful hips (the seed capsules or “fruit” of the rose) of which RosaGlauca’s are my favorite. They are just starting to form now. Wish me luck tonight!

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Although I could not pronounce it to save my life, myrmencochory becomes the very bane of my gardening existence here in the sand box from late May until October.

Myrmencochory refers to the phenomenon of  seed dispersal by ants. Theory is, some  plants evolved to have seeds with an extra ‘food body’ on them that is attractive to the ants, who carry it down to their nest, feed the nutrients from the food body (called an elaisome) to their larvae then discard the seed itself  from the nest where it germinates and grows. This saves the seed from predation and ensures succession of the plant species. What frickin ever, to me it just means more work weeding.

Only certain plants have this symbiotic relationship with ants, I think the other million seedlings they cause are due to their constant  tunneling .In the gardens here ,everything under a few scant inches of improved soil  is sand, therefore the digging is easy. Their massive  nests have taken down entire sides of raised beds, recycled whole areas of gardens so now the sand is on top and the soil is under, and given me hundreds of hours of extra weeding.

Bill calls them “nature’s farmers” which is a better name than they derserve. I call them” milions of creepy soon to be dead crawlies” ,and do not appreciate their farming efforts at all.

All the beds here are either raised up with local rocks, or edged with them , and when they disturb an area enough to knock the rocks out of place and I have to re-place them, I enevitably get bitten by the stupid things whenI  absentmindedly kneel down and pick one up. It hurts like H-E double hockey sticks and then itches like crazy .

While I apprecaite the scientists who study such things to give us a better understanding of the world around us, I also apprecaite the scientists who work for Ortho and give us fancy  ant bait stations to kill the little suckers.  When we moved here not even one living thing greeted us in our yard upon arrival. I think the ants moved in first and started a chain of followers and interlopers  that have conspired to undermine my beautification work and thwart me at every turn.

 Maybe I am paranoid, maybe just a-noid (couldn’t resist…sorry), maybe I should be more tolerant. Sigh.

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Not many people I know grow comfrey, an herb well know for it’s thug like behavior in the garden. It can grow up and into even the most densely rooted plant and will spread underground taking over any open ground and trampling any plant in it’s way. When you attempt to weed it out, any little molecule left in the ground will form a new colony by the time you get to the compost pile. The species self seeds crazily so defines the word garden pest. So……… why grow it?

Well, a well know fact to most European gardeners  is that comfrey leaves make unbeatable fertilizer. The plant acts as a miner, pulling out nutrients from deep in the soil and storing them in it’s leaves. You can put the leaves as is in your compost for a nutrient boost, or put them in a container to decompose,( a little smelly so put your bucket far away from the windows) then dilute the thick black liquid they form with water to make a foliar fertilizer. Recipes are  here and here although I just use a 5 gallon bucket and a brick . The fertilizer is totally organic and totally  FREE!

I could say that is why I grow comfrey, but I think that may come off as , well, the bold face lie that it is. I grow it for the amazing color show. The buds of comfrey when they are all tight and closed have a surreal pink glow to them, especially against all that dark green foliage. Then they open to the most beautiful blue,yes blue, true blue, not a purple masquerading as blue or an if I squint my eyes that resembles blue blue, but real honest to goodness blue. AND they bloomfor a looooong time. I pea stake them or use a cats cradle set up in the spring so all that blueness rises above the other plants near them ( they will flop without it) and I enjoy their show.

When they go wayward, I spade out the offenders and compost them or add to my bucket of leaves . Thug or not, I would not be without it, and when I leave this world it will be a race between the comfrey and the trumpet vines to see who takes over this little acre first.

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