Monday, April 30, 2012

Clotilde’s almost not homeless

Took today and tomorrow off as vacation. In my world vacation is puttering in and around the house. So this afternoon when the sun was good and high and the temperature was good and hot, I decided to finish dispensing the Milorganite which lead to deadheading the front garden, including the viciously armed ‘Le Vesuve’. DH came to my rescue just as I got finished and was lightheaded after two hours in the sun – with a wide-brimmed hat. Mmmm, that hot dog was good.

So afterwards we’re sitting on the sofa, and I said, “I think I’ll work on the goldfish-pond-in-a-pot.”, but instantly and with the sharp precision of Zorro, DH said, “Can you finish the front porch…before the lumber rots?” He had me dead to rights. So without hesitation I got started…gathering tools, ladder, which screws, where’s the circular saw?, clamps, a 2x4 to connect the posts, power cord, sawhorses, measuring tape, marker, drill bit. So much paraphernalia – of course, each item required a separate trip into the garage or wherever - that I was nearly exhausted before I started. DH graciously volunteered to supervise, offering much needed pointers on virtually every aspect of the job which were seriously appreciated. When the second battery for the drill died, we called it quits. Why do ladders turn your legs into quivering, overcooked macaroni?

So the four 1x4x10’s and the 2x4’s that they rest on are in place, warped but solid. I guess two months laying on the front porch floor did them no good. The 1x2’s are laid up there, and while I was waiting at the top of the ladder for DH to find another more appropriately sized drill bit, I figured out how to space the curving 1x4’s precisely with a couple of clamps until the screws can hold them there. Wow, that made all the difference in the world and gave me confidence that this arbor was not going to looked as half-a$$ed as I feared. I got a single screw in the first 1x2 slat when the drill clocked out. Must be a unionized drill. After putting away the drill and the saw for the night on the bench in the foyer I stood on the sidewalk under my handiwork and thought, ugh, it looks pretty ratty, needs to be painted to match the trim. Then a bit of color in the bed at the end of the sidewalk caught me eye, and I thought oh, a new daylily, but no, it wasn’t. I sniffed a whiff of ‘Duquesa’ and turned to go back toward the house, getting a view of the arbor. It looked really good from a distance!

So tomorrow I'll finish attaching the slats, though the ones on the left are gonna be tricky. There’s no sidewalk over there…only nice soft garden soil. Hmmm, maybe a board can be laid on the ground for the ladder  – an eight-footer, by the way – to stand on. Oh, well, I won’t think about that right now. I wonder if I’ll get the painting done…

Poor ‘Clotilde Soupert, Climbing’ is just an ungraceful lump right now, but her canes are more than long enough to reach up there. I’ll have to break out my pruning gloves to get that job done. Caught a glimpse today of her hooked prickles that come in pairs…scary.

To read the next installment of this project go HERE.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Roses & pots

You can thank Cyd for this post. She was so taken with them that two days after her visit she called and said my next post should be on the potted roses. Being easily led and very open to good suggestions, I have done as I was told. There’s just one catch. I have no great how-to lesson to pass on. And I will tell you that I have read absolute statements that roses can not be grown organically in pots! What can I say? I guess the following photos are figments of our imaginations.

I have three thoughts that may explain my success…well, maybe four. First, the roses themselves. There have been rejects, but the ones you see here are great in my garden. Second, Milorganite. Someone needs to write a love song about sewage sludge so I can sing it. Third, composted horse manure. And fourth, using organics eliminates the salts of chemical fertilizers which over time accumulate and do damage to plant life.

Roses look best – in the ground and in pots – with leaves on them. Good foliage comes from good health. Good health is mostly genetic and depends on your location. When I selected the roses for my front circle, it was based solely on the recommendations of the owner (Linda at the time) of Rose Petals Nursery. She was mostly right. My failures were mini roses. The successes are polyanthas. Well, heck, one is a mini, but it must be an exceptional one, and one of the not-so-successful ones is a polyantha. So much for hard rules. Size does matter unless your pot is a hot tub. A rose that wants to be six feet tall and wide does not belong in a pot.

'Lauren' (on the left) and 'Sweet Chariot'
The reason “they” say you can’t grow roses organically in pots is that maintaining microbial life in artificial conditions is difficult and eventually probably impossible. In the ground nature is constantly moving and shaking, consuming and replenishing. In a pot the normal consuming works fine, but the replenishing doesn’t always. Periodically – three, four years? – they say the rose must be unpotted and repotted with new soil (I haven’t done that yet) unless (keeping my fingers crossed) you get really lucky with your organic amendments (still hoping) and are diligent about your replenishing duties. You see, you have taken on Mother Nature’s job in the little world of your potted rose. I use a complete organic rose food. I didn’t say completely – though it is – but rather complete in that it includes the whole spectrum of nutrients – major, minor, all of them that roses need and in the right proportions. (I use this because that’s what I was told to do.)  I also use Milorganite in goodly quantities which will not burn the plant and is basically timed-release. It feeds the organisms and gives a clarion call to all earthworms in the vicinity which, of course, aerate the soil and leave their poop (more organics) everywhere they go. I also use alfalfa which is really hormonally good stuff for roses and organic. And last but not least, composted horse manure which is naturally full of live organisms and periodically adding it to the pot provides the army of microbes that will consume the organic matter (that you will replace), converting it into a form of nutrition that roses can utilize. I don’t want this part to discourage you. CHM is what I use (mostly because it’s free for me), but it isn’t the only compost that can be used. The important thing is that the compost must have life and air in it - no air, no life. By the way, good compost does not stink. It smells like soil, good old fashioned, healthy (for plants) dirt. Or maybe it won’t smell at all. Or maybe like urine, but don’t tell that to the scaredy cats. I can hear them now, "Eeewww!"

'Sweet Chariot' is a magnificent rose. Not quite purple in color, it is fragrant (I know this for a fact after weeding next to her last weekend) and a prolific bloomer. Today she was a bit past her peak but still beautiful.
She is so healthy and green. Pretty much no black spot. Of course, she will cycle through a period of dropping old leaves that have yellowed but that's life, and we all have to get over it.
The poor thing is lopsided since mama hasn't been good about rotating her. Like a houseplant, garden plants grow toward the light. I'm not positive about the size of the pot. Maybe about 16" diameter, 10-gallons, but that's a guess. That's probably the minimum you'd want to use unless it's going to be a small rose when it grows up. This one is about 3-1/2 feet tall including the pot and about as wide.

'Lauren' grows a little taller. She's about 4-1/2 feet tall including the pot, and she is here way past peak and needs deadheading and feeding. For these polyanthas I remove the whole cluster back to the next budeye/leafset since I want to keep them fairly compact. I'm not looking to see how huge I can grow them in these little pots. I want them to be "in balance", copasetic, in tune with their true nature as potted roses. No, they don't do yoga. I'm just tryin' to be cool and not kill them.
'Anda' is the not-so-successful polyantha to which I referred earlier. Well, I see on HMF that she's half floribunda, so that may explain her weakness for black spot. It's not an awful weakness, but I have become so used to looking past her that I probably overlook her neediness, too. She may just be demanding more food, and I keep saying I'm going to give it to her, and then I forget. Mother Nature wouldn't do such a thing.
Her big clusters of single red blooms are my weakness, so I keep her. None of us is perfect, right?
'Softee' is the successful miniature to which I referred earlier. She's green, green, green, covers herself with pale yellow flowers, pretty much deadheads herself, and is thornless. She finished blooming not too long ago and has leafed out, raring to go again.
Apologies for the bright western sun. She is so bushy - take my word for it.
'White Pet' aka 'Little White Pet' is very healthy and becomes one big pompom - or almost - at peak bloom.
This year she has thrown two long canes, much longer than previous growth. She has a slight fragrance.
And she has prickles, sharp ones. Here you can see the two longer canes.
She, too, is lopsided, growing more toward the southwest.  She doesn't bat an eye at the heat. I have another 'White Pet' in the back garden planted in the ground.
Look at that...a red, white and blue bed.
'Marchesa Boccella' is a Damask Perpetual which I had always assumed was disease prone, so I've been amazed at how healthy it is in my garden. However, upon reading the HMF description (hadn't I read it before? or did I just not believe it?), I find that she's "very disease resistant". We can all vouch for that now, can't we? And it also says "shade tolerant". Voila! She's in a lot of shade!
She had a lovely flush recently, still has three open flowers & more buds. An excellent, fragrant rose!

Another 'Sweet Chariot' (center pot) and a 'Red Drift' are on the back patio. The Drift roses (I have four, two red and two peach) are completely healthy so far, growing well and blooming a lot.

Here's the other 'Red Drift' and behind it, my potted 'Pink Gruss an Aachen' which is not doing as well as the one in the ground to the right of 'Red Drift' in the photo above this one. I theorize that it needs more of something than I am giving it - whatever that is. She stays without question, however, because of her totally gorgeous and lusciously fragrant she usually looks better than this.
'Pat Austin' is new to the garden this spring. I was advised to put her in a pot because she's "iffy" and "weak". Maybe so, but her blooms are neither iffy nor weak. They are drop-dead gorgeous - and shades of orange. And I don't even like orange.

Do not be alarmed by the fact that the following photos are unrelated to the current topic. They’re here because they are beautiful – to me, anyway.

No, I didn't forget to rotate my tulips photo. For one thing they're not tulips. They're 'Princess Diana' clematis growing outward from the obelisk in the front garden. Pretty amazing.
The buds of 'Madame Abel Chatenay' and the blue of Salvia farinacea. 'Clotilde Soupert' is in the background.
Mr. Bumble Bee adores Salvia farinacea, too. Boy, he was big!
'Absolute Treasure' may be on her way to being my new favorite daylily. I had to step into the bed to take her photo because she was bending low and facing/almost touching the potted rose on the patio. But I got her!!
My new 'Gruss an Teplitz' is blooming! Thank you, Cyd! But oh, how I wish reds wouldn't explode in my camera.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All my children

…and can I remember all their names?

'Absolute Treasure'
'Marietta Dreamer'
'Crimson Pirate' - Not positive since I didn't save the name on the Sam's box but pretty sure of the ID
'Elizabeth Ferguson' - very large flower and tall
'Mary Guthrie'
'Sherry Lane Carr'
'White Pet'
'White Pet'
I have no clue.
'Byzantine Emperor'
Dahlia 'Lucca Johanna' - Walmart came through beautifully on this one.
'Madame Abel Chatenay'
'Madame Abel Chatenay'
'Chrysler Imperial'
'Chrysler Imperial'
'All American Magic'
Clematis 'Princess Diana' unless I have them mixed up and it's 'Duchess of Albany'.
'Souvenir de la Malmaison'
'Sherry Lane Carr'
Salvia farinacea
'White Pet' - one huge cluster
''Faces Of A Clown' - first flowers often aren't perfect, missing a sepal.
'Lucca Johanna'
'Madame Abel Chatenay' - Her fading flowers remind me of a Victorian lady's flouncy dressing gown. What else would an 1894 rose look like?
'Madame Abel Chatenay'
Echinacea aka Purple Coneflower
'Souvenir de la Malmaison'
'Caribbean Perfection Plus' described as canary yellow. Glow-in-the-dark yellow is more like it. More glowing than this photo.
The rose fairy came today. A baby 'Rosette Delizy' was delivered in person by the lovely Cydney Wade of Rose Petals Nursery. I'm very excited to have the beautiful 'Rosette Delizy' back in my garden. She'll go into a 2-gallon pot and be planted next spring. Many, many cuttings of 'Mme Abel Chatenay' and 'Capitaine Dyel de Graville' were taken back to the nursery. Wait for them.
'Gruss an Teplitz' in a 3-gallon pot also arrived today with 3 buds. Can't wait to see and smell them.
I'll break the bad news first. 'Bermuda's Anna Olivier' didn't make it. She probably would have though had it not been for the murderous squirrels. Unbelievably, the day after my post about her all of the tiny new upper growth was gone, and the three basal breaks were chewed off. As more new canes sprouted, they were chewed off to nothing. I finally gave up hope and pulled her out. I could not bear to see her tortured. She had a handful of short roots and without the squirrels perhaps she could have made it. The good news is that this little baby is 'Bermuda's Anna Olivier'. She'll also be potted on to a 2-gallon pot for planting next spring. In the meantime Salvia farinacea fills the void.
Clematis 'Venosa Violacea', a viticella
The back garden just before dusk.
'Absolute Treasure' in the evening light looking unlike herself in the first photo above but still beautiful.