Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Signs of new life

The sun came out this afternoon after several days of gray and rain. When I stepped out of my car in my driveway after work, everything seemed to sparkle so I went for a walk around. Most of the rose bushes were bare as before. Some had quite a few tiny new leaves, and some only had tiny red swellings, a sign of the growth to come. Winter in a rose garden in an evergreen state like Florida can be a bit unnerving, especially for a relative newbie like me. I have learned to get a grip and not panic, trusting the roses to know what they're doing. Many of these Old Garden Roses have been making the transition from winter to spring for more than a century, so at this point I am at peace with simply watching.

'Souvenir de la Malmaison', a Bourbon and much more tolerant of cold, held on to many of her leaves and now seems well clothed with many new leaves. She's about 4' wide x 3' tall. I will not be doing any pruning on her. Only dead and diseased stuff will be removed.
By contrast 'Bermuda's Anna Olivier', a Tea, by now has lost almost all of last year's leaves and is just beginning to show new growth. I'm sure there are dead canes on her since she is pretty tender. That's all I will remove on her. She is 5' or 6' across and about 4' tall. When she is fully leafed out, you will not be able to see the fence behind her or the ground under her. She has beautiful healthy foliage and large, fat, pale yellow flowers. (The curving horizontal cane on the fence is 'Red Cascade' not Anna.)
 You can see the tiny red nubs on BAO's canes and the new leaves tinged with red, typical for Tea roses. Something else to note is her twigginess, also typical of Teas. The slender canes in this photo are pretty close to actual size, and though the bush has a basically round shape, its structure is built from all these "twigs" that grow at odd angles, becoming thicker with age. She was planted in March, 2009 as a well rooted 2-gallon plant.
'Madame Abel Chatenay' is a Hybrid Tea from 1894 and is basically naked though she is not damaged by the cold we get here. I will cut her back by about one-third to within about a quarter inch of a budeye, but it won't really matter if it faces in or out. She pretty much grows in all directions and doesn't suffer from blackspot so I don't thin out the middle as is done with modern HTs. She responded quite well to pruning like this last year. She's about 3.5' x 4', and if you grow Hybrid Teas in your garden, you know that she looks nothing like a modern HT.
Here is a close-up of her quite prickly, zig-zaggy canes.  You can see the little red swollen spots, some new leaves and a few little brown twigs. The brown, dead stuff will be removed as well. The thicker brown canes in the photo are not dead. They have just become woody with age. Eventually the green twigs will do the same thing.
Here is 'Cornelia', a Hybrid Musk from 1925 that I'm growing in a fountain form, tied to the trellis. This year I'll probably have to tie her from higher on the wall since her long canes extend too far out into the path. A week or so ago she was bare, but she's starting to sprout. I won't be trimming her at all except for dead twigs that she probably has down near the ground. She's about two years old, and some of her canes are probably at least 8 feet long. She blooms in pendulous clusters of small peachy pink flowers with buds of a deep rose color. She's in a good bit of shade (more this time of year) since HMs don't really like our strong sun and high heat. She gets a tolerable amount of blackspot and apparently doesn't mind my neutral soil or this spot is just untypically more acidic. Of the six Hybrid Musks that I have tried two are left. 'Nur Mahal' is the other one. The others couldn't hack the heat and the limestone.
Perhaps you can see a spot in the lower left of this photo where two canes emerge from the same spot on 'Cornelia's cane. This habit should make for a very bushy plant when it matures.
This is 'Softee', a miniature from 1983. Doesn't she look dead?? But not to worry. I was quite pleased with the health of this rose last year and her clusters of yellow flowers were really sweet. I may do a little trimming on her but not much since she's so young. Just some minute nibbling on her ends.
See? She's not dead!
I'm quite excited about 'Bow Bells'. She's my first David Austin rose. (I just brought home another Austin, 'Lilian Austin'.) Since I don't use fungicides to fight blackspot (and Austins tend to get BS), I have been able to resist these gorgeous roses, but it's been most difficult. The two that I have are reputed to be pretty healthy. 'Bow Bells' went in the ground in August and kept all of her leaves with hardly any blackspot. Though she's still small and low to the ground, she has three flower buds, totally exciting!! If we don't get a hard freeze tonight or in the next couple of weeks, I'll get to see what her flowers look like. Don't ask me what the brown spots are. I'm ignorant.
My absolute favorite companion plant is purple coneflower (echinacea). I love the large deep pink, daisy-like flowers with their tall orangey seed cones that the butterflies love to sit on. A wonderful attribute of this perennial is that the seed heads drop seeds if you are not real diligent about deadheading which I have stopped doing altogether. In fact, when the stems dry out, I pluck them and drop them around the garden, ardently hoping that the seeds will take, and I'll have more of these beautiful plants. These are two (maybe three) new seedlings that have popped up near the mother plant.  The two tiny leaves to the right of bottom center are weeds, unfortunately. You can see most of my mulch is pretty thin, thanks in large part to the armadillos that come through the beds like bulldozers. %$#@$%!!
With all this new growth happening, I will be feeding the garden this weekend. It may not be quite warm enough for the organics to be useful yet, but as soon as it is I want the food to be waiting on the table for my hungry roses, daylilies, et al. Composted horse manure will have to wait until the pile dries out. We've had about 8 inches of rain in the last 10 to 14 days. Yippee!!

If you'd like to view photos and complete descriptions of these roses and others, go here.


  1. Oh my goodness, thank you for visiting my blog, because now I will most definitely visit yours. I love your header pictures and I can hardly wait to see all of the roses you have growing here in FL. We're s.e. zone 10, very hot and humid in the summers, but pretty mild in the winters. I've gotten into the old garden roses myself and really love them. I had a couple of DA roses but they are long gone now, they didn't do well here at all.

    I'm so happy to meet another rose grower living in our state.


  2. Thank you for such an informative post. All my roses (4) were planted this past year. I just trimmed (timidly) my Belinda's Dream and removed a few leaves that showed Black Spot. I put Black Kow and Mills Magic around everybody. I trimmed my Red Cascade but probably should have cut it back more drastically. The RC is the only rose of mine that loses leaves in winter.

    I have a knock-out rose called 'White Out' that has kept leaves and blooms constantly all while staying about 3'X3' along with a Louis Philippe that was given to me by a rose lover as a cutting. The WO just got a tiny trim and LP is still small for his space so he was left alone.

    I didn't mean to write a book here, but I have been feeling that I didn't cut my roses back enough and seeing you just trim some of yours makes me feel better. Also, I didn't realize warmth was needed for the organic fert to work. We are a little warmer here than where you are so soon, very soon it should be nice and warm!

    Thanks again for the info contained in your post and for the pictures. It's hard to know what's OK in a rose when most pictures only show them at their peak of bloom.

  3. Sherry, your roses look great. Bermuda's Anna Olivier with Red Cascade will look gorgeous in spring, I can't wait to see photos! You are lucky to have had rain, we are still waiting...

  4. Flower Lady, isn't it wonderful when we meet someone who shares our deepest interests? It's such a thrill. I have come to love these roses. I do think the old tea and China roses perform better for me than other things such as gardenias which absolutely hate my soil and died. I'll keep everyone informed about the performance of my two Austin roses in their no-spray situation. So glad you found my blog! The more the merrier, right?

  5. Yeah, rub it in Sherry....it'll be about 2.5 months before I see that kind of growth up here. Sob....