Saturday, January 29, 2011

Garden work

As usual, I didn't get done what I thought I wanted to do, but I did get stuff done. I put out the epsom salts in the back and side gardens and some of the front before I ran out. I will have to run out tomorrow and get some more. I have found that Walgreens has the best price. I paid $2.99 on sale for a 6 lb bag of very fine crystals that are easier to apply than the kind from the garden stores. I also put out sulfur on my lime-y back garden. I went to Seminole Feed to get it today and there decided to buy the wettable sulfur (very fine powder) in a 25 lb bag for $20.99 (cheaper than 4 lb of large granules for $8.99) since I've read that the finer it is the faster it lowers the pH. Just be careful not to breathe it. I did the front garden a few weeks ago with the large granule soil sulfur, so we'll see if I can see any difference. Oh, I also got a 50 lb bag of alfalfa pellets. Good stuff!!

I also moved 'Madame Scipion Cochet' out of her pot and into the ground. I should have taken a photo of this Hybrid Perpetual rose bush. She is leafless (well, there was one yellow one which I removed), but she has lots of swollen budeyes. I'm very curious about how this rose is going to grow. Her canes go out and around, or that's the way it seems so far. I also moved 'Martha Gonzales' from a 3-gallon nursery pot into a nice heavy ceramic pot that's taller and wider. This means I have only one rose in a pot that needs to be in the, at least until next weekend. That's when three new roses are coming home with me. 'Lilian Austin', 'Cl Clotilde Soupert' and 'Souv de St Anne's'. Hopefully, I'll get them in the ground the same day but maybe not.

While I was out today, I went to a nursery to get some Evergreen Giant Liriope, but instead I did a risky thing. I bought an azalea for the spot - a $9.99 azalea to be exact. Thankfully, azaleas have shallow root systems, and hopefully, the roots of this bush won't go much farther than the 16" or so that I dug down, removing the powdery fine, light gray sand that I know is bad for azaleas. The spot is right at the base of an oak tree, so I had to dig around the roots with my glove-covered fingers to get out as much bad stuff as I could. Then I sprinkled some sulfur around, added peat moss (unfortunately already pH adjusted up) and composted manure to the bottom, then filled the rest with newly amended, old amended soil that I had removed from the hole and, of course, put the azalea in the middle. This azalea is a 'Duc de Rohan'. A few weeks back I had scribbled its name on a stickie note by my computer after reading good things about it. It's a salmon pink flower, and the tag says it blooms from November to February in Florida. Maybe that's why I wanted it. I can't remember now. It's a long bloom time for an azalea. The plant I bought had spent blooms on it as well as open flowers and buds, so maybe I can believe the tag.

This area of the garden needed an evergreen bush, because there are four hydrangeas in this bed which are bare for an awfully long time. I will say though that I am starting to admire their silvery grayish branches that practically glisten when the light is right, especially the 'Limelight' hydrangea paniculata.

Oh, and I replaced the leaky hose that ran from the hose bib to the timer with 1/2" poly and two hose-end adapters. So now that section of the garden can be watered automatically again instead of using the hose and 10x more water! Of course, how much easier it would have been to have done it this way to begin with, but, alas, I didn't know what hose-end adapters were for. What can I say?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Got a few hours?

And do you love rose photos? Well, do I have a website for you! I'll just give you the bait and let you run with it. Cass's Garden with Roses is in Mill Valley, California, and she's a lovely (in all ways) rosarian. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

About this time of year...

I look out at my mess of a garden that has been made so ugly by nature while also thinking of all the work that goes along with spring in a garden, and my heart sags as if already bearing the fatigue that is coming, weighed down by the seemingly endless back-breaking tasks that are required to make the garden healthy and beautiful - again. I don't know the psychology behind the human tendency to despair. It's just the opposite of the optimism of The Little Engine That Could. When I look out at the dismal sight that is my garden, I'm not thinking "I think I can I think I can." I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, what was I thinking? This garden was a colossal mistake."

This is how I react to pressure and overload. I think defeated thoughts even before the battle is joined. I'm immobilized for a time not knowing exactly which huge first step to take. Invariably, however, I take that step and the next and the next. I don't think I know what it is that makes me take those steps. Is it the human spirit, my spirit or God's spirit? Oh, gee, there's my answer.

Let me back up a bit. My original thought for this blog was to say it will all work out in the end. That is to say that God has always made it work out for me in the end. So I should have more faith and a positive, joyful attitude at the beginning, celebrating, if you will, in advance what He will do. However, the previous paragraph took an unexpected turn for me. As many times as I have accomplished big things and thanked God for His provision and enablement at the end, I always still start out with a defeated spirit. Oh, sure, this wasn't a problem in the first couple of years of the garden maybe because all was accomplished with raw energy and sheer adrenalin. That was human (not to diminish the divine inspiration on many levels), but the maintenance of this garden has seemed to be a different matter. Is it a different matter? What is the difference?

Perhaps it is simply the curse of work, day in and day out, the sweat of the brow thing. That attitude, my attitude is wrong. I'm feeling cursed when I should feel blessed. I should take heed of Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord..." OK, there it is. It's His garden anyway. It's all His. How cool! I'm the gardener in God's garden. My work will produce a garden that will please its Owner, and He will be pleased when His blooms cover His rose bushes.

So, as is often the case, motivation is the critical factor. Am I working hard simply to make roses grow and bloom? Then no wonder I'm despondent when their nature cycles to barrenness. Why do I garden? To say I do it for God sounds overly pious and is untrue. OK, the truth is that I haven't been doing it for God. I've been doing it for me mostly. Maybe it would be good if each time I went out into the garden, I knew my purpose for being there. Kind of a get-my-priorities-straight moment as I go out the door, a moment of direct contact with Him before I begin. Yes, and a moment even now to acknowledge that my perspective needs to change if I expect to find joy and optimism instead of despair and dread. Thank you, Lord. I didn't know this would be what I would write here, but You knew it was what I needed to hear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Daylily Hunting

I could easily be daylily-obsessed were it not for their prices, but there are enough evergreen or semi-evergreen reblooming daylilies out there priced under $10 a piece for me to be nearly obsessed. I just spent about two hours going through the list on a website I had not seen before where the prices were pretty good with many under $8. Like roses, I move back and forth between tabs, trying to find more information on the ones I think are pretty not realizing I am sitting here with my neck and shoulders becoming more and more knotted up. It just shows that any kind of shopping is a painful endeavor. Here are two of my beauties.

Well, I didn't pull the trigger on the order. Too tired to make a decision. Plus this seller doesn't ship until April 25th. That's too long to wait. I'm not very patient, am I?

Besides shopping I was sowing tonight. Most of my warm season seeds are now done except for some I will do directly in pots. Seeds sown tonight are Mealy Blue Sage (I hope this is the one that I love that's already in my garden), Dahlberg Daisy, Coreopsis lanceolata, Red Pirouette Petunia, Rosemary, Dwarf Red Plains Coreopsis, Calendula 'Apricot Daisy', Purple Coneflower, 'Purity' Zinnia, Petunias Double Cascade Orchid Mist and Burgundy, 'Royal Bride' Antirrhinum, Hulk Aster, 'The Bride' Gaura, 'Summer Carnival' Hollyhock, Daddy Mix Petunia, Fairy Wand, and Aladdin Yellow Petunia. I planted them in two huge rectangular aluminum baking pans and a leftover aluminum turkey roasting pan. I've got my mini "greenhouse" from Harbor Freight set up in the dining room with lights, so we're off to the races. This is my third real attempt at seeds, so I'm hoping experience will bring success. I feel more confident this time anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spring Training

My very sports-minded DH said to me last night, "Your long layoff makes 'spring training' rough, huh?" Oh, yeah! Saturday's efforts in the garden rewarded me with very sore muscles in the backs of my thighs...the kind that you have to sit down on so gently or they yell at you. I'm still stiff now - two days later, and getting out of bed this morning caused a few groans. I'm not one for exercising, but I've been thinking about it. This aging business keeps coming up, doesn't it? Funny thing. I was telling a friend last week how nice the lady at Lowe's was for going back to get a great big bag of potting soil for me. She slung it up on her shoulder and away she went. "And she was an older woman," I said before realizing the truth. "Gee, she was probably younger than I am." My friend, two years my junior, quickly replied, "yeah, we forget we're not young anymore."
My point is not to be depressing but rather to remind everyone to be careful in the garden this spring. Lugging heavy bags of soil, digging holes, reaching awkwardly all can result in a wrenched back or twisted knee so easily. Watch where you step and how you step -- and how you lift. Stretching warm-ups probably would be a good idea. Perhaps start now walking regularly to get those muscles back in shape and the juices flowing again. Once we get out of shape it's harder to get back in shape, and the activities we never thought twice about may now get us in trouble. All is not lost though. Look at Jack LaLanne, who passed away today at 96. We can stay fit and able to do the gardening that we love. We just have to be smart about it. After all, one of the perks of aging is wisdom.

P.S. That's Duchesse de Brabant, a tea rose bred in France in 1857. How amazing that exactly the same rose grows in my garden in 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cloves! And other garden surprises

Facing up to competing priorities is difficult, but I did it today and was happy with my decision. I attended the January meeting of the Marion County Rose Society (my poor track record has been one meeting per year) which meant no work in the garden today. We were treated to an excellent speaker and Power Point presentation on fertilizer with bonuses of delicious food, raffle prizes and, of course, good company. Many new members made for an almost full house. If you're within a county or two of Ocala, you ought to check out the link in the sidebar for upcoming events and meeting places. Next month's meeting is the pruning demonstration. Rose people are truly the nicest you'll ever meet.

I did manage to throw on DH's jacket over my pajamas (nobody else does that, right?) and get out to take some photos on this chilly day. It all started with the Stock beside the sidewalk. It appeared to have a fresh flower on it. Hmm, I thought, they're supposed to be fragrant. Let me check this out. Now this plant is only 8" tall, so getting down on both knees on the sidewalk was a risky maneuver, but it worked out OK - and was definitely worth the effort. Wow! That flower was like sticking my nose in a can of ground cloves! Wonderful! These plants were from Lowe's, but I have planted several seedlings of Double White Stock (Matthiola) that I bought online from Monticello, Jefferson's home. They're supposed to be 36" tall so they'll be easier on the knees.
Another surprise was this cute Lupin 'Tutti Frutti' seedling. I have no idea what shape it will grow into but these little leaves are darling.
'Maman Cochet' gave me a shocker with a basal break 3" above the mulch. Lots of other new growth popping, too (and on other roses). Poor things have no clue that we still have to get through February.
But the pièce de résistance was 'Rose de Rescht'. This little guy went into a big purple pot in November.
And look at him today, boasting three new canes from the soil and a basal break.
I guess the garden appreciated the three inches of rain on Thursday night. Me, too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fearless Pruner

I can be a little cocky now. My armor arrived today. Man, are they sweet! I think I'll move the silver and store these gauntlets in the lined case that the spoons and forks have been lounging in. Never having owned a pair of rose gauntlets, I have been skittish about choosing a pair, evidenced by the fact that I've been going toe to toe with Climbing Maman Cochet for three years without armor. I hate buying the wrong thing. I hate spending a lot of money, but I hate second rate even more. Well, I spent the money, but it looks like I got first rate, top of the line. These gloves are gorgeous and as close to being iron as leather can be, I think, soft and supple iron. The glove is goatskin, and the cuff is cowhide. Did I mention that they're beautiful?

Ok, I'll stop being coy. I got The Protector from Using their measuring directions and fitting advise, my gauntlets fit perfectly. The cuffs extend above my elbow. They're made in the USA. They are exactly as described, but they didn't say how beautiful they are. I probably should have bought their Leather Wash and Restorer. I don't intend to get them dirty or wet, but I don't know how wet the cowhide cuffs will get from normal sweat. I want to keep them nice, so I'll probably get it. A very nice touch was the handwritten Thank You card. I should say, "Thank you, Wes and Cher!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Planning the weekend and beyond

I've been taking my vitamins and gingko biloba again in an effort to get all cylinders firing. I feel like they haven't been for a while. Chilly weather doesn't help, and neither does staying up too late. So onward and upward. All of my projects for the rest of the winter and spring are in my head but all in a jumble, I think. I think making a list (anathema in my younger years when all data was stored in tact and recall was uncompromised) would be helpful for organizational purposes and possibly even more so for motivation. Last spring I made a list, and it worked out well, probably 95% of the list got accomplished, and it was a long one. So here goes...and the neat thing about making the list here is the ability to sort it so that time-sensitive items can be put at the top.
  • Finish planting winter seedlings, dianthus & patio pots
  • Pot Marchesa Bocella
  • Plant liriope in back bed (buy more liriope?)
  • Go to Rose Society meeting (Sunday)
  • Put out Epsom Salts on roses
  • Put out soil sulfur in back garden
  • Sow the warm weather seeds (probably a kitchen project that can be done in the evenings)
  • Finish digging out the new bed alongside the driveway, removing what's left of the top 10" of sand
  • Break up the next 10"-12" of sand
  • Request dear husband to go pick up a load of composted horse manure
  • Incorporate CHM and other amendments (this time including plain cat litter), preparing the bed for White Maman Cochet
  • Plant White Maman Cochet and other plants after deciding what others will fit in the sunny & shady portions of the bed
  • February 5th: go to Rose Petals Nursery & pick up new babies
  • Remove Parade, plant new Climbing Clotilde Soupert
  • Dig up Hermanos and plant next to CCS
  • Plant new Souv de St Anne's in Hermanos' old spot
  • Plant new Lilian Austin
  • Remove metal arbor in the front garden, dig new post holes
  • Complete (that is, get it out of my head and onto paper) the design of the arbor, calculate the lumber needed, buy the lumber & build the new arbor that will hold Sally Holmes, Pink Perpetue and Lamarque (if it ever decides to become a climber)
  • Complete (that is, get it out of my head and onto paper) the idea for the tunnel/bower for E. Veyrat Hermanos. Plan so far is for rebar construction.
  • Prune roses around 3rd week in February
  • Build EVH bower and tie him to it
  • Back patio renovation (remove river rock between the blocks, re-stain the blocks gray, buy crushed granite to replace old river rock, do necessary leveling)
  • Build two fence sections. One to extend the fence to property corner and the other to block view of pot storage area
  • Set up the metal arbor from the front garden in the back garden next to Francois Juranville
  • Tie up Reve d'Or & Climbing Pinkie
  • Buy alfalfa & milorganite
  • Feed the garden
  • Spread composted horse manure (probably 5 or 6 or 7 pick-up loads)
  • Get and lay weed cloth for new walkway near new bed 
  • Have delivered and spread mini pine bark mulch in all beds and walkways
  • Adjust & add to micro irrigation system
  • Find a use for river rock removed from patio
  • Look into possible water feature in backyard, possible fish
  • Build patio planter
I think that's everything. Now I'll print this and tape it to my forehead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Making new rosarians

As much as we are addicted to roses, I think we may not fully realize the power of roses to seduce and enthrall and eventually to overcome. I have just come to this conclusion because of the ease with which it happened to a friend. A dear friend and co-worker (you know the type, stoutly independent and convinced of her convictions) is my case in point. When I would talk about roses (which was rare because of lack of interest), she would say that the only rose she wanted was a wild one that grew in the woods. She said one day she would go out and dig one up and plant it on her fence. She was not interested in cultivated roses (except for 'Mr. Lincoln') even after I showed her photos of Mermaid and others. Her interests were her husband, her horses, her dogs, her chickens, her home renovations. Roses were way under her radar.

Time passed, and my attempt in October, 2009 to obtain two more copies of the China/Tea rose, 'Le Vesuve', resulted in my having two of 'Jean Bach Sisley' instead, growing by my back patio. Misidentified roses are a natural part of buying roses, I suppose, but my disappointment was compounded by the knowledge that I had to dig them up and plant again. I really do hate to discard a rose. It feels heartless and wrong unless there's a good reason. So in the spring I asked Bonnie if she'd be interested in these roses. If she was, I'd repot them for her. To my surprise, she said yes, and after nursing them for a while, which gave her time to prepare the bed with her own composted horse manure, I gave them to her. She loved them, and they have done well. Then last fall I had had enough of Climbing White Maman Cochet. (A word to the wise: don't ever plant one in an 8' wide alley.) I asked her again if she wanted my cast-off and showed her a photo. "Oh, yes!" So I cut her down to a few 4' canes, saved as much root system as I could (no root balls in sandy Florida) and brought it to work in a 20-gallon pot. She planted her where she was free to be big, and I've gotten good reports ever since. Then a couple of weeks ago she said she was preparing a large bed in front of her house for more roses. I suggested my favorite nursery and then remembered I had some roses at home but no place to plant them, so I mentioned to her my 'Duchesse de Brabant' (grown from a cutting), 'Pink Gruss an Aachen' and a baby 'Le Vesuve' that I had started in September. A few days later when I asked if tomorrow was a good day to bring them in, she said "Oh, I thought you were just telling me what to buy. Oh, yes, tomorrow would be great."

Those 'Jean Bach Sisley's weren't the wrong roses. I was the wrong owner. My friend, who once thought she didn't want cultivated roses, was the right owner, and now she owns six of them, six Old Garden Roses spreading their joy to another garden. I'll venture to say that it won't be too long before she'll be giving away cuttings and making more rosarians.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'Super Blue' Liriope and other purchases

It has been ages/weeks since I've been to Lowe's so I got my fix after work. I bee-lined it for the clearance racks. Amazingly, they had tons of 4" pots of mounding dianthus (my favorite year-round blooming groundcover), normally 99 cents, for 25 cents each. Wowzers! I could only figure they had too many, because there was nothing wrong with them. I bought eleven, magenta and variegated pink. I would have liked some deep red ones, but they were regular price. No deal there. They also had some freeze-damaged Dahlberg Daisies for 50 cents. I got three but should have gotten more. I was only thinking of them for pots, but they'd be nice in the ground, too.

I've mentioned my dry, shady bed that would be perfect for azaleas except that they don't like my limestone ridden soil. I have hydrangeas and 'Mona Lavender' in there and three azaleas that are defying the odds, but it occurred to me I need something small and evergreen around the edges. The only problem is that evergreens seem to like acidity. As I was wandering amongst the plants, I spotted the liriope. I love liriope, especially 'Evergreen Giant'. Those big balls of waving green ribbons are such a delight. They would meet my needs perfectly and only $1.89 each. I ended up with five 'Super Blue', thinking of another and another spot to put one. I think I need more. I googled this 'Super Blue' variety, and it appears I made a good choice. Thank you, Lowe's. 'Variegata' is the one I really adore with its green and cream stripes, but with the hard freezes fresh in my memory, I steered away from them since they are more tender than the solid green ones (which, alas, freeze, too). But the variegated ones would really brighten my dead shade back there, and the tree canopy would probably protect them from all but the lowest temps, so I'll be going back for some of those, too. The ones in the front yard with no protection are a sad, sad lot now, but others under a tree are perfectly fine.

The hard work will come after the last freeze when I have to give those frozen buggers their haircuts. Hard on my hands and hard on my back. They do eventually look OK if you don't, but those brown leaves among the new growth made me crazy when I didn't cut them. Laughably, one year I tried removing the brown ribbons one at a time. Not one of my brighter moments.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Managing rose inventory

There for a long time roses were coming in and going out at almost the same rate - or so it seemed. The end of 2009 saw some "ruthless" cleaning out, because I wanted to reduce my numbers, but spring of 2010 saw a good many newcomers. It was with a disappointed heavy sigh that I read the tabulation of ins and outs after last spring. It was a wash. I hadn't reduced my inventory at all. I so much wanted to get under 90 for the sake of my sanity. Ninety-six is way to close to 100 and lends credence to the idea that I have no self-control. Don't you think 89 has a much more reasonable ring to it? To my credit, I did have the total down to 87, but then it went up again.

Last fall the outgoings were flying out of here. I simply decided that in order to live here a rose had to meet some minimum pleasure requirements - for me. Primary on the list of requirements was canes with leaves, then canes that didn't turn black, then flowers that didn't ball all the time, then leaves that didn't blackspot all the time, then leaves that didn't cry out "I need iron" all the time, and finally plants that wouldn't at any moment engulf my entire property and dwelling. Apparently, not growing veggie centers wasn't a requirement, because I kept one that did that so there must have been another requirement that caused one exit. In both evacuations I found homes for several roses that left, but some moved on to the happy compost pile in the sky since I didn't feel it would be nice to pass them on to an unsuspecting friend.  (I've gotten quite adept at cutting them into little pieces.) Then in September and November there were more incoming. There were some Buck roses I wanted to try, and the coming closure of my favorite nursery (though admittedly temporary) pushed me to get more, totaling about eight or ten or twelve more (no need to be specific). Sigh. Back again to that magic number 96.

That brings me to yesterday. I went out to plant some more seedlings which I did do, but I made a command decision to move some roses as well and quite efficiently. Archduke Charles went into the ground from his 20-gallon pot, the last of my 'permanent container roses' experiment. He went into half of the space left by house-eater 'Cl White Maman Cochet' about whose ultimate size I was perfectly clear to her new owner. In a desperate attempt to save my investment in the Hybrid Musk 'Jeri Jennings' (shipping from California for a single rose more than doubles the price) she has a new home on the east side next to the fence kind of under 'Reve d'Or'. I'm hoping that this will be a cooler situation for her and she'll hold on to her leaves more tightly. And tiny little 'Souv de Pierre Notting' was moved out of the shade of 'E. Veyrat Hermanos' into JJ's former sunny spot. That left me with four roses in my pot ghetto: 'White Maman Cochet' (destined for a new front bed), 'Marchesa Bocella' (heading for a pot home), 'Mme Scipion Cochet' the Hybrid Perpetual (planned for a switch with a non-descript tea that does nothing for me and that's saying a lot because I love teas) and Martha Gonzalez who will be staying in a pot, I think. Quite unbelievably, all this juggling left one vacancy in the garden.

So, as circumstances often do, today they conspired to fill that vacancy. Just on a lark, I went up to the Rose Petals Nursery website where previously all roses were designated, "Item cannot be ordered." Imagine my glee upon seeing the words, "Available from stock." Well, right off the bat I knew there were two roses I really wanted (uh-huh, I can see you doing the math in your little heads), 'Lilian Austin' and 'Souv de St. Anne's'. I had seen them in November when visiting a friend's garden, and they stole my heart. Now, as to the math, Lilian will go in the vacancy, and SdSA will go in the spot of one of my three 'Hermosa' bushes who will go in a pot, a lovely one, I'm sure. Well, as long as I was there, I figured I'd look at the Polyanthas. After all, they're small. (And don't argue.) And this is where the conspiracy enters the picture. Someone put a climbing polyantha in with the bushes. So obviously this was meant to be. There before my eyes was 'Climbing Clotilde Soupert', proclaiming her availability. Someone knew that I'm a sucker for this rose since I have two bush forms, and she performs wonderfully for me. Someone also knew that Parade has been living here on borrowed time, saved by her flowers that I love but doomed by her, shall we say, foliage. Ah-ha, 'Clotilde Soupert' would be the perfect climber for the prime front porch location of 'Parade', and 'Parade' could go somewhere in the back, somewhere I'm not sure where, but later on that.

I'm counting and counting again. Dang, 97! It's a conspiracy, that's all. One thing's for sure though. I'll never have more than 100, because that's all the markers I have.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting smarter, annual-ly speaking

Normally, I would try to claim the title of Dumbest Gardener on the Planet for myself, but I strongly believe I'm not the only one. I think there are more of us out there, and we could get together and form a pretty sizable association. Dumbest in the sense that when I started I had never seen most plants I'm using now. I knew azaleas, impatience, liriope, camelias and porterweed. Other standards like phlox, hollyhock, aster, snapdragon, nigella, lupin, stock and everything else were words with no pictures. So in addition to not knowing what would grow and then survive in Florida's long heat and humidity, I didn't know what the plants would ultimately look like, how large or what shape they'd be. Consequently, I made mistakes as previously noted. The beautiful lavender blue mums became great half-spheres of dense growth, too big for my small garden and getting bigger every day. The cosmos never grew a wit until they disappeared weeks later. I had two successes, echinacea and mounding dianthus. Consequently, they're my favorites. I love them because they love me.
Of all the books I've bought one has been the most helpful, A Cutting Garden for Florida by Betty Barr Mackey and Monica Moran Brandies. Mackey and Brandies share their own Florida experiences, successes and failures in the Tampa area. They explain that it is possible to grow northern type cottage garden plants, but it must be done in the fall, winter and spring before the high heat of summer sets in. They discuss annuals and perennials, hardy and half hardy, northern, central and southern Florida, sowing seeds, nursing seedlings, bulbs. I went through it meticulously making lists of possibles for my garden then cross referencing with the internet for seed availability and images of more than just the bloom.
Whole plant photos have been hard to come by even though I have bought a dozen or more books on annuals and perennials. I've been quite disappointed with the books after I got them in my hands. They've been basically lovely books that left me just as uninformed as before they arrived. However, I just received one that has prompted this post, Annuals with Style by Michael A. Ruggiero and Tom Christopher. There is not a flower-only shot in the whole book. It is all and only very clear photos of gardens, in other words growing plants in real beds in real gardens. Because some of the gardens have some tropicals in them that we use such as canna, coleus and caladiums, I had to check to see where the authors live. The closest I came to knowing that is their affiliation with New York Botanical Garden and Martha Stewart Living. So they're not Floridians or even southerners, but knowing what I know now, the gardens they have included seem doable here at least in the cooler months, and they provide inspiration for the summer months with some appropriate substitutions that I'm sure we can figure out for ourselves. I would venture to say that I took something away from almost every single photo and could easily see my garden taking on a similar look - not a rose garden but a garden with roses.

Style is the keyword. The gardens that the authors present are colorful, blooming ones featuring drifts, grasses and natural looks without the wild and weedy look. They are orderly yet unpretentious. Their subtitle hints at what the book is about, design ideas from classic to cutting edge. I think between these two books we can put together a fairly year-round garden. And that's saying a lot for a bunch of dummies!

And now I'll go curl up on the sofa with a blankie and a good book - a very good book. Click here if you care to go shopping.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Excitement is catchy

I ordered dear son Mark's birthday present before he went in the hospital (btw, he went home Monday and is doing well except for the small wrinkle that his new kidney is "asleep"). DS owns a 1938 bungalow and is considering purchasing a larger 1900 bungalow. I was browsing the weekend before his birthday when I saw this book, "Outside the Bungalow: America's Arts & Crafts Garden" with a cover photo of a wisteria climbing up the front porch column. I did not consult DH or even hesitate to order it. It finally arrived today after being returned to the sender because the label got damaged and was unreadable.

So I settled onto the sofa after work with the book in my lap wishing I had two of them. I came across a landscape plan that would be perfect for the "new house". Wide borders down each side of the large front yard and along the sidewalk with a curvy walk running to the front door. In my mind I could place roses, evergreens, small trees and the flowering plants that I have learned will do well here in those borders in such a way that it would be a garden with roses not a rose garden. It would involve a lot of digging, but my heart was ready to dive in. Instead of a wisteria on the front porch there would definitely have to be a climbing rose, perhaps Climbing Cecile Brunner or Reve d'Or. And since it's the front yard, I would choose roses that have proven to hold their green leaves in the face of frigid temps. There would be gaura, salvia 'Victoria', echinacea, coreopsis, double hollyhock, evergreen liriope, loripetalum, crape myrtle, Ilex crenata, azalea, purple fountain grass, reblooming hydrangea, perhaps a dogwood, and the roses would be Mrs B R Cant at the two front corners, Enchantress, Bermuda's Anna Olivier, Clotilde Soupert, Souv de Francois Gaulain, Souv de la Malmaison, Blush Noisette, Le Vesuve, maybe some others and maybe two of some in mirrored positions. And some of the roses would certainly be from cuttings taken from my garden.

Just one issue comes to mind, and that is the dear son himself who rarely wants to take suggestions let alone give up design control. Ah well, perhaps there will be no garden with roses at DS' new house, but at least now my blood is rushing and my heart is pounding to get to work on my own garden. This awful, incessant cold weather has put such a damper on my enthusiasm and on my get-up-and-go. On top of that I was afraid it was my age. I've been feeling too old lately. Perhaps I'll hold on to this book for just a while longer. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'll never do THAT again!

My first attempts at companion plants were not good. In fact, they were terrible. When a novice gardener has no clue what a plant will do or become, it's pretty risky to use it, but how else does the novice learn? My gardening inexperience was plain for all to see in my front yard, and as much as I would try to be positive with myself, I still had the creepy feeling that it wasn't working. Maybe someone could have made it work, but periwinkle was really not a good choice for my antique rose garden and especially not a good choice in close proximity to this rose, Le Vesuve, the centerpiece of my front garden. Some observations follow.
Plants are not appropriate simply because they are readily available at Lowe's.
Florida bedding plants never end up the way they start out, so beware.
Even though they hold up well in our heat and humidity, tropical Florida plants might not be a good match for pastel roses.
Though every venture will not turn out well, every venture will be an opportunity to learn.
Daylilies are now the companions of Le Vesuve.
The important thing is that I kept trying. At least, I think so.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good Reading

A lot of my reading on the subject of gardening is done on the computer via Google. Since I spend so much time on the computer, most of the many, many beautiful gardening books on my shelves have basically become "picture" books and have been read very little. Only lately have I determined to do more reading in them. However, the fact is that I don't even need the fingers of one hand to count the books I have that deal with growing roses in Florida. So the reading that I am recommending here is on the internet, specifically the University of Florida IFAS Extension website. You name it, they've researched and written about it.

When I start delving into the documents of UF IFAS, I am usually quite astonished at all the stuff I didn't know or was wrong about. What do they say, "Knowledge is power"? Well, in order to be an empowered Florida gardener, knowledge is crucial. Gardening, especially gardening in Florida, is not just digging in the dirt and dropping in a plant. After all, how many plants do you think really flourish in sand? Like any other endeavor, a little study is helpful.

So I thought I'd pass on a few examples of the good reading available online, courtesy of the State of Florida.

Nematode Management for Bedding Plants
Nematode Management for Perennial Landscape Plants
A Word or Two About Gardening
Rose Culture
Hillsborough County Garden Almanac

The first two are similar, but they include important lists of plants and their susceptibility to or tolerance of nematodes. (Interestingly, roses are only 'susceptible' not 'very susceptible' and 'will grow satisfactorily'.) The third article concerns rose growing in Miami-Dade, the fourth article is on roses in general in Florida, and the last one is a really cool one - what to plant and when throughout the year. Even though it's about the Tampa area, I think it's useful to many of us, and those with more or less cold probably already know the adjustments they'll have to make.

So cuddle up in front of your computer and expand your gardening mind with some good reading.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Foliage...or Not

Living in normally evergreen Florida has ruined me for all things deciduous. I used to say that February was the ugliest month of the year in Florida, and yet the snowbirds flock here in February and love it. Last year I had to amend that statement and add January to the ugly month list. Then this past December added insult to injury with several nights in the 20's. Woe is me, three months of straw-colored lawns and trees devoid of leaves. Not very eloquent but yuck!

Not only are my roses not blooming (thanks, December), but many barely have leaves or none at all. However, for some of these leaves merely remaining attached is not much of a boast. The leaves look pretty awful, yellowish/brownish with scattered large black spots. This is what freeze damage looks like. So I thought I'd share the names of the roses that are robed in green, that is, that haven't lost much foliage and what is left is pretty healthy. Now by extension these must be the most winter hardy here in my garden in north central Florida.

Bow Bells                                        Sweet Chariot
Leonie Lamesch                               Mrs. B R Cant
Le Vesuve                                        Louis Philippe
Enchantress                                      Souv de Francois Gaulain
Nur Mahal                                       Climbing Pinkie
Alexander Hill Gray                        Full Moon Rising
Madame Antoine Rebe                    Reve d'Or
Duchesse d'Auerstadt                      Duchesse de Brabant
General Galieni                               General Schablikine
Climbing Maman Cochet                 Jaune Desprez
Clotilde Soupert                              Arcadia Louisiana Tea
Duquesa                                           Rose de Rescht
Etoile de Mai                                  Crepuscule
Quietness                                         E Veyrat Hermanos
Souv de la Malmaison                    Climbing SdlM                               
R. Fortuneana                                  Comtessa du Cayla
Martha Gonzalez                             R chinensis serratipetala

Having made the list, I'm surprised. I would have thought there were fewer which shows that my attitude just isn't very positive this time of year.

Bushes with few if any leaves
Cornelia (none)                              White Pet (none)
Red Cascade (none)                       Gruss an Aachen
Pink Gruss an Aachen                     Lamarque
Mme Scipion Cochet (HP)              Polonaise
Mlle Franziska Kruger                    Hermosa
Anda                                               Rita Sammons
Pam Tillis                                       Lady Ann Kidwell
Cal Poly (none)

Some of my roses did not make either list.  A few don't have many leaves, but that's normal. Jeri Jennings, Archduke Charles and Maman Cochet come to mind. The first two will be relocated before spring, and MC is still filling out.  A few are very young, and some I haven't looked at in a while so don't know their status. And poor Bermuda's Anna Olivier hates winter with a passion. You can clearly see that she'd rather be in balmy Bermuda. She currently has less than half of her leaves, and they look really sad. I think she's looking for a ride south, and I'm going with her.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I wish I were an early riser...

...instead of a night owl. Well, I really wish I could be both, but I'm afraid I'd collapse in a very short while. I have much to do outside, and it would be so wonderful to get an early start. There are lots of seedlings to plant. They really should have been planted in October or November, but they were so teensy then. I'm sure they wouldn't have survived, and then December got in the way. So late though they may be this is what I need to plant. White double stock (matthiola), larkspur, lots of varieties of viola and pansy, old-fashioned mustard, China asters, Foxy foxglove, nigella, echinacea (White Swan & Pink Parasol), and maybe one or two phlox and lupin have survived. Oh, and some blue convolvulus for containers.

I also have spring bulbs, Florida-style. Coral, rose and pink Rain Lily (Zephyranthes Prairie Sunset, Rosea and Grandiflora), red and pink Spider Lily (Lycoris Radiata and Squamigera), Dutch Iris Apollo and Clusiana var. Chrysantha Tulips. A total of 98 bulbs!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am very disorganized in the garden. I try very hard to be just the opposite, but I always end up going to and fro from spot to spot, forgetting this item over there, making multiple trips to that side of the garden (I only have two hands, you know) only to wind up spinning like a top, searching for something I left somewhere but where. It would probably work better if I plotted out on paper where I'm going to plant things, but really, who does that? I mean, I haven't memorized all the empty spots, large and small. Of course, I could take the pad of paper outside and place the seedlings in exactly the right spot on paper as I walk around the garden. Then I could put all the tools, amendments, seedlings, at al, on the wagon and go step by step from spot to spot. Or maybe even roll on my garden stool. No wasted steps, no desperate searching for lost whatevers. Hmmm, this might work.

Ya know, it's about time I started doing things the smart way instead of my way. Gee, I'm really liking this blogging thing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Tis the season to buy roses...

Fa La La La La La La La La.  So here's a few dozen recommendations from my Florida garden.

Arcadia Louisiana Tea - Tea
Bermuda's Anna Olivier - Tea
Borderer - Polyantha
Climbing Maman Cochet - Tea
Duchesse d'Auerstadt - Tea/Noisette Climber
Duquesa - Tea
Faith Whittlesey - Tea
General Schablikine - Tea
Lauren - Polyantha
La Sylphide - Tea
Leonie Lamesch - Polyantha
Le Vesuve - Tea/China
Louis Philippe - China
Madame Abel Chatenay - early Hybrid Tea
Madame Antoine Mari - Tea
Madame Antoine Rebe - Tea
Maman Cochet - Tea
Mrs B R Cant - Tea
Red Cascade - Mini Climber
Reve d'Or - Noisette Climber
Souvenir de Francois Gaulain - Tea
Souvenirde la Malmaison - Bourbon
White Pet - Polyantha

Alexander Hill Gray - Tea    Would be a safe bet except that he was just planted in November. Flowers are a beautiful shade of yellow.
Archduke Charles - China  
Blush Noisette    Going into 2nd spring, probably fine, just hasn't grown into its shape.
Capitaine Dyel de Graville - Bourbon   Only a year old but looking good.
Climbing Pinkie - Polyantha   New in my garden last September but looks good.
Clotilde Soupert - Polyantha   I love this rose. Repeatedly gets covered with with globular fragrant flowers. She does ball sometimes but not a lot.
Comtessa du Cayla - China   Being a China, she's probably fine, but she's been a slow grower and small - which isn't a bad thing.
Duchesse de Brabant - Tea  Everyone loves this rose. I'm on my second try with her. 1st one couldn't keep any leaves on her. This time she's in a cooler spot.
Enchantress - Tea   Personally, I love this rose for her beautiful, abundant, healthy foliage and magenta flowers, but she does tend to ball. Some might find that objectionable. I don't care.
Hermosa - China/Bourbon   Gorgeous lilac/pink blooms on leggy small bushes that defoliate a good bit between flushes in my garden. I will trim more this year after blooming, hoping to promote more bushiness. I have three, and they're staying.
Madame Lombard - Tea   New in my garden last October. Probably should be a Safe Bet. Good color.
Mlle Franziska Kruger - Tea   She produces a lot of veggie centers which can be appealing - or not. Only in this spot since March and a total bloom machine. Pale peachy flowers, perfect tea form.
Mystic Beauty - Bourbon   Only a year old but looking good.
Souv de Pierre Notting - Tea   I need to move her into more sun. She's probably a Safe Bet being that she's a Tea.
Sweet Chariot - Mini   Really quite a good, healthy rose. Probably should be a Safe Bet.

Bow Bells - Austin   New in August, perfect healthy foliage even after our freezes. It looked good growing at Rose Petals Nursery, too.
Crespuscule - Tea/Noisette Climber   Very slow to take off in my garden but started to grow last fall.
Fellemberg - China/Noisette 
Etoile de Mai - Poly/Tea
General Galieni - Tea   Very slow in developing and irregular shaped blooms, but their nearly red (!), and besides, he's a Tea.
Niles Cochet  - Tea  Unbelievably slow to grow, but he's a Tea in the Cochet clan.
Polonaise - Shrub   New in September. Beautiful flowers that last and last. Quite healthy.
Quietness - Shrub   Here since October and looking good.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Generosity, thy name is Rosarian.

Have you ever noticed that rose lovers/gardeners are the nicest people around? They will give you their best advise - for free. They will give you plants - for free. I don't doubt they will even give you the shirts off their backs - for free - if there is a need. They have made me a better person and a better friend - for free. 'Thank you' is not enough to give in payment for all the 'free stuff' I have received from folks who love roses. I guess I just need to pay it forward - a lot.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hybrid Teas are not all alike OR all bad.

Now, before anyone slugs me, let me just say, "I'm joking!!" I only have a couple of Hybrid Teas in my garden. One is a baby (too early to make judgments), and the other, 'Madame Abel Chatenay', I absolutely love. The reason I chose her is that she's an early HT from about 1894. She's not a widely grown rose, so I thought I'd put the spotlight on a season in her life.

According to accepted rose classification standards, the 'modern era of roses' began in 1867 (and, of course, you can probably guess that there are debates about that year) with the hybridization of 'La France'. Hybrid Teas began as crosses of Hybrid Perpetuals and Teas, and similar to people, some offspring look like one side of the family, and some look like the other. 'Madame Abel Chatenay' resembles her Tea parent in that she is twiggy, fairly round in shape and not so tall with elegant, scrolled Tea-like flowers. (For a picture of what I just said, click here to see Vintage Garden's very helpful - and treasured - website.) For my small garden MAC's size and growth habit makes her perfect. She fits in just right with the cottage-y companion plants (by Florida's definition of 'cottage-y' anyway) that I have chosen, and since I placed her close to the street, planning for the roses to be taller toward the house, being shorter is exactly my hope come true. Sometimes my planning does work out well.
Mme Chatenay's only peculiarity is that she pretty much defoliates in the winter like a deciduous tree. I've learned that it doesn't harm her in any way, but it was a little distressing at first. Here she is on November 14, 2009, 14 months in the ground, about 3' tall and quite spindly. 
 In early March, 2010 I pruned her. I don't know who was more scared, her or me, since she was my first or second pruning ever. The red flowers are an azalea.
 On April 25 she's leafed out and full of buds.
 And the first open flower.
 Her buds are quite large and rounded not pointed like a tea rose.
 Two bush shots from opposite sides on May 2nd.

On May 17th she's about 3' tall, and her spring flush is done.
On June 3rd about six and a half weeks after her first bloom she's full of buds again. I promise she was never without flowers for the rest of the season.
June 7th - Her canes are long, thin and a little zigzaggy. They tend to flop and lay down under the burden of her large, heavy blooms so I propped her up. Interestingly, even though she is in full sun all day on the south side (and our sun is quite high in the sky) she not only leans south, she grows south. She has a tall cluster of canes in what should be her middle, and every other cane grows on her south side.
Some of these photos make her flowers look very pink, but they actually have a light coral cast to them.
I can honestly say that I don't remember her fragrance, probably simply a clean, fresh scent. I am so gaga over her flowers that I rarely think about fragrance.

 The next two shots are from the end of July, and may I point out how disease free she is?

Her only foliage issue isn't her fault. The soil she's in is alkaline, and it shows on her leaves, but she's a trooper.
This photo was taken on December 19th, and the liriope and the grass in the distance testify that we've had two or three hard freezes already, but you can see in the bottom of the shot that she was still blooming until the end.
I don't spray any of my roses, and 'Madame Abel Chatenay' stays cleaner than even some teas. May I add, though, that Connie of Hartwood Roses in Virginia grows her, and there she needs fungicide (the rose not Connie).

 This is definitely a lovely rose for Florida and worth experimenting with anywhere.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Someone tell me this happens to you, too.

Sometimes I feel like when things are going well, that's when they're about to turn to poop. It was 75 degrees and lovely this afternoon, and I was preparing to set out some seedlings in the back garden. I picked up a flat of Viola seedlings from a shelf inside the greenhouse.
  I turned toward the door, took a step, heard a crack and flip! Everything in the flat, all those sweet little baby plants, were upside down on the gravel. All I could see was potting soil while some sort of blood-curdling scream was filling the air.
 The odd part was that even as I was heartbroken and delicately rescuing the cubes of soil to a rightsideup position, the thought came to my mind, "Get the camera! This will make a great blog." 
Kind of like Reality TV. My life is blog material.
The good news is that everything in the flat was saved.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Have Pittosporum and Viburnum really stolen your heart?

Descriptions of roses often include the term 'good garden rose'. My interpretation of a 'good garden rose' is one that has a handsome shape, foliage that stays healthy and abundant, and is an attractive addition to the garden in its own right. To me it is pretty much the highest praise that can be given to a rose bush. How much more can be said than that a plant is good in the garden? But when we think of shrubbery for our landscape, do we think of roses? When we want to add some privacy to our yard, does a rose bush come to mind? When we want to accent the foundation of a building, we often think of azaleas but why not Old Garden Roses? When we want to plant a hedge, do we think of a line of beautiful vase-shaped tea roses that repeat their luscious blooms over and over from spring until after frost? Are we so fond of ligustrum that we wouldn't trade it for fragrant roses? When we want to hide an old chain link fence, does the picture of a lovely climbing rose draping that fence with blooms come to mind? There is a rose, in fact, a multitude of roses that will fit the bill for each instance I just proposed. Chinas, Teas, Polyanthas, or Noisette shrubs and climbers...there are literally hundreds from which to choose of all shapes, sizes and growth habits. 
Roses aren't just for cutting, you know. A rose is a rose is a rose is a bush.