Friday, December 31, 2010

Saying Goodbye to 2010

I think it's fair to say that 2010 was an excellent year in my garden mainly because most everything was gaining some maturity. In other words the garden no longer looked like it should have been stamped 'Under Construction' (well, most of it anyway). 

The year started out with outrageous hard freezes and is ending the same way. January's freezes gave me several 50-cent flats of dianthus and pots of plumbago courtesy of Lowe's clearance racks, and I think the freezes may be the ones I need to thank for almost no thrips last spring.  This sad view from January 26th shows burned out liriope and barely visible rose bushes still fitting into their 2009-size clothes.

February and March brought my micro irrigation system which, if nothing else, taught me that even the most frustrating and painful experiences can be godsends. I lost my temper so many times while trying to punch holes in that 1/2" poly tubing. Arrrgh! But this year I have "a tool" that should make it easier to do the planned improvements to the system which absolutely made my roses happier with daily morning watering. Here's a photo of the front garden on March 15th. You can see the old soaker hoses waiting for the trash man and a few of the new sprinklers. You can also see the garden just waking up, having been fed, composted and mulched, but it seemed like last spring would never arrive!
On May 1st I had my first Open Garden, taking a week's vacation to get the garden meticulously prepared and as perfect as it had ever been. Very gratifying and very exhausting. During the week before absolutely everything was in bloom, on April 30th less was blooming, and on May 1st the temperature shot up over 90 - so much for a cool spring stroll through the garden. 'Louis Philippe' looked fabulous...the week before.
 As did the tea rose, 'Mrs. B. R. Cant'.
But it was a lovely day, and most of the garden was showing its stuff very prettily.

The back garden didn't get enough attention or the right companion plants in 2010. It's hoping I'll treat it with more love next year.
 Later in May 'Red Cascade' was showing off, and Ellie is camera shy.
The companion plants that I had set out before spring broke were my pride and joy this year. They filled the spaces between the roses perfectly and gave it the cottage garden look that I have come to love. I splurged on dozens of evergreen reblooming daylilies in the fall of '09. They were fantastic even in their first year. The mounding dianthus is a wonderful plant in my garden, effected not at all by 20 degree temps or even 95 degree days. They disguise the brown mulch with a lovely bright green. Very pleasing! The tall dianthus thrilled me by coming back in the spring and lasted well into the heat of summer, probably was still blooming into August. Of course, my fave is echinacea. Love, love, love them. I was overjoyed when they had added to their numbers in the spring, and I made a point of dropping their spent seed heads all around the ground so fingers are crossed that they'll pop up everywhere! Plus I managed to find 3 pots of them on the clearance rack in November.
June, of course, was lovely and naturally hot, but nothing seemed to mind as long as the garden was getting its daily morning misting. I was really surprised that even late in the afternoon it was moist a few inches under the mulch. That made me a very happy gardener! Below is an early hybrid tea, 'Madame Abel Chatenay', bred sometime before 1895.

The double Hollyhocks - one pink and one rose - that I started from seeds last winter were an absolute surprise - not just to me but to my friend who could not believe they were still blooming in July. They are my kind of frilly flower, and they looked striking, standing tall in the middle of the bed. I tried to start some more seeds this fall, but every single one of them failed to survive after sprouting. I'll try again in January. By the way one of the two plants is still green and not bothered at all by temps in the 20's. Amazing.
My shade garden in the back was another part of the garden that made my heart sing this year. 'Limelight' Hydrangea paniculata got nice and big with the addition of daily water in this normally dry bed beneath the oak trees. I even had a flower or two on the variegated lacecap hydrangea. That was a first in four years. I desperately wanted to plant azaleas in this bed when I first started my gardens, but my soil has a lot of limestone in it, and this bed was over 7.0 pH. So after several failures I dug it all out in sections, piling the soil on a tarp outside the bed, and lining the bottom with black plastic garbage bags, my theory being the plastic would hold water and prevent the native soil from migrating up into the new soil. It has seemed to work in that one azalea is thriving, but one died. We had a very wet spring this year, and I think the plastic was holding too much water. I stabbed holes down into the plastic in an attempt to save the azalea but to no avail. I replaced it with Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. There are several in the bed now along with begonias, ginger and an 'Endless Summer' hydrangea. I need more of those 'Endless Summer' bushes!

Another favorite (my, aren't they all!!) is this tea named 'Souvenir de Francois Gaulain from 1889. His silvery magenta flowers are rare for tea roses, most of them being of the pastel persuasion. Here he is a little over a year old and just full of buds in hot September. He seems to be a type of tea that grows slowly low and wide before it gets taller, and he has beautiful, healthy foliage!
The pale yellow rose above is a 'found' tea rose, 'Bermuda's Anna Olivier' shown as she looked on July 29th. Do you see any blackspot or are all those flowers just hiding it all? A very effective camouflage, wouldn't you say? 'BAO' absolutely loves the heat, so much so that she was a late starter to get going in spring. She is a fabulous shrub in my garden.
This rose is 'Le Vesuve', a China-Tea, and don't tell 'Louis Philippe', but this rose may be my other favorite due to its non-stop blooming and wonderful pink/red, flouncy flowers. I'm a sucker for pink/red! I could easily wax poetic about this rose for pages and pages - and will probably do so pretty soon.
This winter of 2010 brought me a greenhouse - a 5x6 pop-up greenhouse to be exact. Today I was watering the plants in it, and AAACK! A black snake was in there. I know they're friends, but truly they give me the willies!!!
Yes, 2010 was a grand year for this gardener. Not to say everything is just the way I want it. No doubt, that will never happen! But I definitely got smarter, more savvy about what gardening is all about, less apt to make rash decisions and yet quicker to see when a plant is not working in the garden scene. Some have called me ruthless, but the fact is I'm not getting any younger, and my garden should be just that -- my garden.

P.S. Here's the list of roses that left us in 2010 (but some live elsewhere):
Chrysler Imperial
Cramoisi Superieur
Don Juan (all but the stump)
Fortune's Double Yellow
Gartendirektor Otto Linne
Jean Bach Sisley
Kronprincessin Viktoria
Climbing Madame Caroline Testout
Climbing White Maman Cochet
Marie Nabonnand (all but the stump)
Marjory Palmer
Monsieur Tillier
Mrs Dudley Cross
Perle d'Or
R Roxburghii plena 'The Chestnut Rose'
Rosette Delizy
The Fairy

Happy New Year, everybody!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fantastic News!!

My husband's oldest son, Mark, is scheduled to receive a kidney transplant tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock. The call came this afternoon at about 4:30. Not only that, but tomorrow is his 50th birthday. Not only that, he and his fiance, who had planned to be married on Sunday, January 1st, took their vows tonight. Not only that, we got to listen via Droids on speaker phone. Interestingly, his Dad (my DH) received his kidney transplant on Thanksgiving Day, 2004. They both have the same hereditary disease, Polycystic Kidney Disease. DH's sister got her new kidneys two years ago. The wait is always frustratingly long, and my response afterwards is always the same, "I never thought it would actually happen." But it actually does. Thank you, Lord.

Repeat after me...

Chinas, Teas and Noisettes. Chinas, Teas and Noisettes. If you're a warm-climate rose gardener, those rose classes are meant for your garden. Did you know that Shanghai, China and Jacksonville, Florida are almost on the same parallel - latitudinally speaking, within a few minutes of each other? Explorers and merchants of the late 1700's brought Chinese roses (R. chinensis) back to Europe. They were the first repeating roses ever seen by Europeans and are responsible for the genetics of reblooming roses. The one I am fondest of and the first OGR in my garden is Louis Philippe, also known as...drum roll, please. The Florida Rose! It seems to be impervious to the nematodes in our sandy ground that cut short the life of most other roses. Its smallish globular flowers are deliciously scented. They remind me of Cherry candy and never fail to make my mouth water. The outer petals are red, but the petals toward the center are pink with a touch of white. All my roses are favorites, but he really is my favorite, I think. Louis Philippe is such a cheerful rose, never giving me a moment's trouble. I just love him.

About a year and a half old, maybe 3' tall x 4' wide
Two years old in March, 2009 preparing the first spring flush
The shocker is that this bush is now as tall as the 6' fence and about as wide. (It's too cold to take his picture now!!) You can see his foliage is beautiful and healthy with no spraying. Chinas have a very twiggy structure, shooting out thin canes at all angles. They really only need to be pruned for size since they cycle through flush after flush even without deadheading, typically dropping old leaves after a bloom followed by a burst of new red growth which turns a fresh green and then on with the next flowering cycle. It was a little scary the first few times he dropped leaves. I thought he was dying. As Louis Philippe has gotten older, he doesn't defoliate nearly as much between blooms but stays nice and bushy.

Every week with these roses has been something new. Looking through my photos, I am amazed at how different they looked a year ago and two years ago and even from spring to summer. I have another favorite China, but that's tomorrow's post. Oh, did I say 'another' favorite? Told ya.