Tuesday, August 30, 2011

‘Perle d’Or’

Sadly, this lovely poly-tea (having one parent that was a polyantha and the other a Tea rose) from 1884 is one I dearly wish I could grow in my garden, but my soil is just not acidic enough to suit her. I don’t even have very many flower photos to show for the time she was here. You can see from the chlorotic leaves in the second photo that she was not happy or healthy, but her peachy-pink, strappy petals were so darling, growing in large clusters of small but numerous flowers. I was always thrilled to see her in bloom. If I were more dreamy-eyed about roses as I was early on, I’d be eager to try her again in a different spot. ‘Perle d’Or’ is an Earthkind Rose, so designated for her health and vigor with minimal human intervention. I understand she can grow into a 6x6 bush, but I suspect she can be kept smaller with no problems. I would encourage you to give her a try. She’s a sweetie.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

I can cook...sometimes

Monday is my early day at work, so I had immense plans for baking a cake that would (fingers crossed) replicate a local bakery’s killer cake known as ‘Betty Cake’. I have no clue how Betty gets her white cake so creamy and moist that it can be mistaken for pudding. Dear Girlfriend says you get that texture from beating it and beating it and beating it some more. And by using cake flower. So armed with that much knowledge and the tube pan and cookbook that Sister Sallie sweetly gave me, I went to the grocery store for necessary ingredients not in my pantry.


Apparently, my dream cake is an old, tried and true recipe called ‘Whipped Cream Cake’. Now doesn’t that sound to die for? Even if it doesn’t turn out to be ‘Betty Cake’, it must be mouth-wateringly delicious.


Just one problem. Grocery stores and the subsequent unloading and putting away of groceries really pull the plug on my energy. Somehow I must have thought I was stronger today when I left work than I actually was. Throw in a long phone call to Sister Sallie, and I was barely functional when I picked up the cookbook and feasted my eyes on this beauty. Too bad that was all of the feasting I did this evening. Perhaps tomorrow night. Don’t laugh. It’s possible. I’ll need a good night’s sleep though.


P.S. Since cakes and roses are tops on my list and yours, too, I must remind everyone that the September Open Sale at Rose Petals Nursery is this coming Saturday, the 3rd. Start your long holiday weekend with some roses! The link will give you the directions. I would definitely go except that DH might finally kill me. Funny thing, my refrigerated medication arrived Friday, and DH greeted me with “Your roses came.” I snapped back, “What roses? I didn’t buy any roses.”, hoping with all my heart that I was telling the truth. When he pointed to the box in the hall, I said, “That’s my medicine!”, hoping with all my heart that he felt really ashamed.

P.P.S. Special thanks and credit go to Melissa Gray, author of  'All Cakes Considered', published by Chronicle Books, for her luscious recipes and photographs that I re-photographed. I hope everyone buys her book.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Momentary downer

August is not a pretty gardening month. In the past I learned that black spot raises its ugly head something awful in August, but even without black spot and the roses that got it, I’m seeing the ugliness of this intense summer month. The evidence is in several very bare bushes and lack of bloom. There are a few flowers but only very few. Always searching for “answers” to garden problems, I decided to feed the garden today despite the high heat. It was just necessary. It’s been a few months since the last feeding with alfalfa, and after reading that alkaline soil needs frequent feeding I decided to brave the heat and sweat and do my garden duty.

This time I used Purely Organic, a complete rose food that was last put down in February. The downer came on the way to the shed to retrieve the 50-lb bag. ‘Duchesse de Brabant’ was almost completely leafless, and I confess that my heart responded to the sight with a very negative and emotional thought. “I don’t want to garden anymore.” However, the thought did not deter my mission. Perhaps the fact that the water system in that bed had been off all week with no rain made me realize it was probably only a temporary situation. So before I did the feeding, I put the new backflow valve in place and got some water onto the area as soon as the rose food was scratched in.

That zone covers the east side of the house, front and back. After I worked toward the front and the driveway bed, my spirits were lifted first by ‘White Maman Cochet’. She’s a very young Tea rose just planted in March and already more than four feet tall and wider than that. In my experience young Tea roses are gawky and sometimes lopsided until they gradually build their structure one cane at a time. The pleasing thing about ‘White Maman Cochet’ today was that she was developing quite evenly and without the hard angles of her sport parent ‘Maman Cochet’. WMC looked very good to me, showing the early stages of a nice vase shape.

Then I crossed the driveway to feed the front circle and was greeted by a greener ‘Mme Abel Chatenay’. Lately she has been uglier than I have ever seen her with many yellow leaves and skimpy foliage. I’ve learned that yellow leaves are usually old leaves in my garden. They follow a flush of blooms when the bush starts looking very tired. This can be a demoralizing time. I think this one has been exasperated by stink bugs sucking on new growth, leaving shriveled foliage, and by grasshoppers. I’ve actually seen only a few bugs so I guess it wasn’t exactly a plague and they didn’t effect every bush, but it was enough to make me look away from my poor bare rose bushes in frustration. Today ‘Mme Abel Chatenay’ had some new green leaves and normal flower buds rather than chewed-on buds, so things were looking up even more.

Feeding up the driveway and the sidewalk and then into the circle, my next pleasant surprise was ‘Le Vesuve’. He has not been his normal spectacular self since the spring pruning, but today I was pleased to see some new growth on him, too. Then a glance at the two ‘Souv de la Malmaison’ bushes revealed lots of new leaves, and ‘Lilian Austin’ and ‘Cotillion’ were showing off many tiny new leaves. So by the time the ferts and my energy ran out, I was in better spirits and my earlier funk was gone. In fact, I’m looking forward to the next flush, hopefully in September, that will be fueled by today’s feeding. In the past I have written about the ebbing and flowing of gardens, but today I lived through the ebb and flow of one gardener. So all of this is a reminder that if we can get through August in our gardens, we can survive anything.

The opening flowers of ‘Le Vesuve’ from two days ago offer hope for better things to come in the September garden, and I’m thankful for my better mood.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Goodbye, Aaron

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Don’t know why, but Aaron the caladium became very tall and floppy this year. Two weekends ago I removed all ten pounds of the laying down leaves, and though they were more presentable then, there weren’t many left. Last weekend I figured bare ground had to be better than Aaron in his present condition. Well, I can’t always be right.

So today after work and taking Ellie to the vet, it was still early and since I had to go to Lowe’s anyway (cracked backflow valve needed replacing due to gusher), I figured I’d bip right in, grab a few ‘Red Ruffle’ azaleas (hopefully, cheap on sale) and renovate this skinny bed next to the garage easy as pie. Yeah, right. No ‘Red Ruffles’ at all. Sheesh, they run out for the first time in history just because I need some.

Admittedly, it wasn’t much of a plan, but the plan was to plant maybe 4 azaleas with daylilies in between. I figured they’d leave each other plenty of room to do their thing without spilling across the sidewalk a la Aaron. You can’t see, but just out of frame of the above photo still sits the bucket of daylilies unplanted after...what? a couple, three months? They do well in water, BTW.

And of course, the caladium bulbs need to be dug up, removed and given away. (Piece of cake. The bed is builder’s sand, slightly amended.) The Aarons need to be removed because once sprouted those huge leaves don’t share the space well. A regular bunch of beautiful green hogs. They’re lovely during June and July, but this year they started to deteriorate really early – like two months early. And then all winter there’s either nothing to look at or annuals must be planted. So I’m making a change, just not the change I figured I would make, and one impulse, albeit foiled, deserves another. Hopefully, this impulse will be a true stroke of genius. ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia! In 99-cent 4-inch pots!! They’re perennials!!! And blue!!!! They will glisten all the way to the front door!!!!! Well, that's enough exclamation points to last a blog-month.

The thought of the front door reminded me of the large pot I have at the edge of the porch. You can see it in the photo. For some unknown reason the grassy NOID plant and dianthus that was in that pot died about a month ago. Just flat dead overnight. I didn’t know alfalfa would do that. (Just joking, but I’m without any other explanation.) So the pot needed refilling, and with no irrigation it needed a drought loving plant. Ah ha! Periwinkle! In the back garden it grows to monumental proportions in one inch of granite gravel with only nature’s water. And with any luck it will reseed after the winter freezes. With a bit more luck I’ll protect them from the freezes and they’ll bloom all winter. (I know; I’m pushing my luck with that one.) Chose a nice medium pink since there was no baby pink. Then I remembered my basic container-planting lessons that I never took. Something with height was needed. Fell back on that grassy NOID by default. Move on. “Oh, wow, those are lovely big glazed pots and a sale sign – $7.48!!” Sage-y green, nice with the house color. Good size – not quite as big as the sun-faded, squirrel-chewed, plastic terra cotta one but that’s OK. Oh, switch the grassy NOID for that reddish cordyline – good to 0 to 10 degrees. Yippee! Check-out time. Load vehicle. Stick key is door lock.

Oops! Forgot the backflow valve! Use the front door this time. I guess I missed Lowe’s more than I realized. Subconsciously, I must have wanted more quality time to make up for the weeks of staying away. About another hour did the trick…the bathroom fixtures department was quite alluring.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

From little seeds mighty zinnias grow

This ‘Purity’ zinnia was the first zinnia I’ve ever grown from seed, in fact, the only  zinnia, so believe me when I say that I had no idea of what these seeds are capable.IMG_9710 (631x640)

Here she is in all her glory, filling a whole corner of the garden. However, you can save yourself some embarrassment if you don’t assume that there are several zinnia plants in this photo. That would be the wrong assumption. This is one plant, and she’s flopped over on her side. If she were vertical (verticality is an illusive thing in my garden), she’d be eight feet tall.

‘Purity’ finally needed to go when she made it impossible to see ’Souv de la Malmaison’ the younger in the front garden. This by the way may have been a blessing in disguise since the grasshoppers couldn’t find her either. She was fully leafed out when I pulled the reclining zinnia off of her.
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Eight feet of zinnia? Shouldn’t that be the subject of a scientific investigation? Perhaps I'm easily awestruck. Perhaps newbies like me are more easily impressed than seasoned gardeners. Perhaps stems of .75 inch and all this plant life from one seed is not as impressive as I think it is.
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All I can say is that next time I’ll stake this baby and an acorn has nothing on a zinnia seed.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot & sticky August garden

Most times the plants don’t seem to care that it’s hot and sticky. I only hear the people complaining about the heat index being 98.2 degrees, the temperature being 89.6 (where is that shade anyway?), the dew point being 73.4 and the humidity being 59%. Humans like to moan about such things, but the plants presently residing in my garden seem pretty serene about it.

However, I did notice some oddly shaped and marked leaves on roses. I suspected stink bugs chewing on the new growth, and I was right!! I saw one the other day but didn’t squish it. I hate being uncoordinated! And then I was surprised to find some other culprits.
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Reve d'Or shows telltale signs - black crispy leaf tips and some deformity in the leaves.
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More maturity deformity (above on Reve d'Or and below on Nur Mahal)
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Here’s a shot of the bad guys – aphids. I have the sinking feeling that the cute little orange fellow is a good guy, namely, syrphid fly. They eat aphids. Unfortunately, he got smushed with the aphids. Bare fingers, too.
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Some roses are murmuring though, particularly ‘Souv de la Malmaison’. She's been saying, “Look, ma, no leaves.” In this instance I’ve been suspecting grasshoppers, having recently killed two personally.
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But I think some of the leaflessness is just normal cycling from bloom to rebloom - harmless whining. Here she is the next day popping new leaves all over herself.
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Flowers are very, very tiny now on several of the roses. Roughly half their normal size on ‘Clotilde Soupert’, ‘Mystic Beauty’, and ‘Capitaine Dyel de Graville’ while ‘Le Vesuve’, ‘Mme Abel Chatenay’, and ‘White Maman Cochet’ are almost normal. ‘Souv de Francois Gaulain’ and ‘Enchantress’ are normally small flowered – and they’re normal, too.

Oh, did you want to see some flowers? Well, I had no idea…
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Dianthus chinensis is a wonderful plant here. Green all winter and blooming the rest of the time. To me the flowers are miraculously intricate and the colors are fabulous. They make lovely mounds of green dotted with lots of flowers. I just learned that they're biennial which explains why some have declined suddenly this year.
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'White Maman Cochet' - above and below
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Finally, on Sunday some butterflies showed up. Three or four Gulf Fritilaries and a black one that flitted away before I could see it clearly.
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Clematis 'Jackmanii' blooming again
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'Fred Ham' daylilies
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'Lilian Austin' blooming  smaller than usual
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Another incredible Dianthus chinensis
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'White Maman Cochet'
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'Mme Abel Chatenay'
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Clematis 'Westerplatte' blooming again better than in the spring
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'La Sylphide'
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Spreading the wealth

I love echinacea otherwise known as Purple Coneflowers. They make my heart sing and the scorching summer heat bearable.
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 I add more to the garden as much as I can. Last fall I bought some rather bedraggled plants off the clearance rack for half price, and they survived to bloom this summer.
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 Over the winter I started some seeds, but not very many because I was expecting a flat of 40 seedlings from an online seed catalog. Sadly, by May the seedlings had not shipped so I cancelled them, fearing they’d fry in the heat. But maybe they wouldn’t have. 
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The seeds I started all sprouted and I planted them and they’re blooming. Yay!! But I want more! I’ve been surfing for seeds online. However, the thought of doing seeds again isn’t real thrilling, but these did have an excellent success rate.

Then on Sunday as I was deadheading I spotted them. With petals long gone a few of the coneflower seedheads were black. Yippee!
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I managed to find seven of them and then set about dropping them in places where I want to see those bright flowers next year which, of course, is everywhere so there were more empty spots. Then I remembered the deadheads that I had put on my potting bench, waiting for them to turn black. I sped to the back porch and retrieved the precious potential beauties, six or seven more, and dropped them in the vacant places. I did this last year and several sprouted in the spring. Oh, goodie, I can’t wait!

And I've got lots more blooms that will eventually turn to black seeds --- but not too soon, mind you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This time I wasn’t clumsy

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I needed to reach way into the bed behind this exquisite daylily scape to cut away some dead wood on ‘Clotilde Soupert’. I’ve done this before, and it’s ended badly. Buds have snapped off, and entire scapes have broken. Been there…done that, and I wasn’t going to do it again with the last scape of ‘Joan Senior’. So I stepped in and very gently held the scape away from my body with the back of my hand. I barely felt it on my skin. And then it snapped and fell to the ground. I groaned in tragic agony. I’m still stunned. The scape is laying on my desk in front me. I can’t bear to throw it away. Eighteen buds showing and a perfect flower. Such a sad end.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A forgotten day

These photos were taken on June 28th. I don’t know what was going on that day and the days after, but it must have been pretty hectic because I never went back and looked at these photos. And that’s enough words for a Wednesday.
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