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.