Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So much to talk about

You may just want to go now and refill your coffee cup, because this will be a catch-up post. Starting with yesterday and going back in time. It may seem as though I’m going back to the last millenium. I am just convinced that there’s no other way. I have made good progress in the garden; I’m getting organized and philosophically straight in my head about the reality of retirement; I’m even cool about the plan not being a plan, i.e., what happens happens. However, jumping back into the blog mindset has been difficult. Back in the days of employment, my brain had no problem finding the energy for posting at midnight nearly every night of the week, but my energy level is so low in the evenings now that I can idle away hours playing Spider Solitaire in front of the TV because I can not put two thoughts together for the blog let alone walk to the PC and wade through/edit the hundreds of photos I’ve taken. So the retired me is still a work in progress. The good thing is that I’m thinking about the blog – all the time. In my head I write with excitement on the day’s hot topic determined by the photos I’ve taken, but that’s as far as it ever goes.

So the only way I can see catching up is to do a mega post which means you need to run to the potty and then get comfortable. We’ll see how many of my hot topics we can get done in one breath.

I’ve already told you that Carolyn Parker, lovely rose gardener, author and photographer, will be here in Ocala this coming weekend (yes, it’s this weekend. Are you ready?) Well, I was prepping by reading her gorgeous book, R IS FOR ROSE: Reflections from a Passionate Rose Lover. To say that she had me at hello would be a huge understatement. Each and every rose she described I wanted, starting with A, Rosa Rugosa ‘Alba’. On many levels this should not be a rose I would get excited about which is a tribute to Carolyn’s writing and photos – in other words, salesmanship. I was swept off my feet by the idea of 4-inch white single flowers and healthy, crinkly foliage that turns golden in autumn. So I emailed Cyd at Rose Petals Nursery, and yes! she had an Alba for me. Dare I read on for the other 25 roses of the alphabet??

Since Rugosas sucker, that is, sprout new plants from runners, I had to do something to alter Alba's nature or at least curb her habit some. So I cut the bottom out of one of the 20-gallon tubs that I'm not using anymore and dug a round, deep hole.
Easy as pie.
I'm kind of hoping that Rugosas aren't particular about sand. I wasn't as meticulous as usual, but I amended the bottom with sulfur since my ground is neutral, 7.0 pH, and added a bunch of composted horse manure. Now that's a story. Free compost from a rose gardener with horses. Must be good stuff - worth digging myself (no front-end loader like before). I figured I wouldn't be able to fill the truck but it was worth doing. "Uh-hmm, there's no way you can pull the truck up to the pile, so you have to fill bags. Do you have bags? Oh, well, use these horse feed bags." From the pile to the truck was the longest 40 feet I've ever dragged bags of manure compost. I managed to fill six bags since it was a 48-mile round-trip. The kind lady was apologetic, thought maybe she would move the pile someday, and commented that I'm more of a slave to my roses than she is. Uh, yeah. Oh, well, the gas was cheaper than six bags of Black Kow...and the labor was free.
Now aren't these the most gorgeous rose leaves you've ever seen?

Her description says she's "armed with thorns". I would have to agree, but I'm happy to have her. I just hope she respects the pot and stays within her bounds. Left to right, that's the little slip of the slow-to-grow 'Graham Thomas', my new $7.99 fiberglas-handled shovel from Harbor Freight, and three glass surprises to be explained later.


Contrary to my good sense, I placed two daylily orders a while back. I can not say no to myself when they’re on sale. So I have a goodly number to get into the ground, but first I have to find spots for them in a garden with no vacancies. Voila! Yesterday R. Fortuniana’s old spot looked perfect.

Some old plastic edging, not too squirrel-eaten, and some composted manure has transformed this eyesore part of the garden.
That's my second 'Louis Philippe' - poor bedraggled guy was hip-deep in oak suckers until the other day. Hopefully, now that the tree to the right is gone, they'll stop suckering. I have plans (not real plans) to paint the plastic shed and fence to look like a cute, cottage-y garden shed. Not purple but cute anyway.
Before the after. Should I move 'Serratipetala' rose behind Louis or 'Endless Summer' hydrangea? I can't decide.
'Louis Philippe' is such a handsome guy.
He smells good, too.
For some reason the light was good and his red was photogenic. A first for me. 


Sunday was a day of interruptions and detours…but in retirement there is no such thing as a bad interruption, only sweet opportunities for more joy. I made the tough but correct decision to make my cassoulet before heading out to the garden and thought it would make a good blog post so I was ready with the camera. Then sometime after the celery chopping but before the mushrooms dear #2 son called long distance, and we all had a delightful, long conversation. I didn’t realize what a mindbender it is to try to put together a recipe correctly, document it for posterity and carry on a conversation all at the same time. I guess that’s why I forgot the garlic and some photos. I am absolutely thrilled with the idea of cassoulets. Of course, since I recently discovered that the real cassoulets are a French version of baked beans with meat, I may have to call it Sherryocala’s cassoulet. Mine is more like a thick stew or ‘baked beans plus’ on the soupy side. It is a rich, satisfying dish that takes a little time to put together but then it’s all done in four hours without doing another thing, and you have enough food for several meals.

The flavor base of all things good, I've learned, is onion, celery, and carrots. The carrots I cut up as for stew, and to the onions and celery I added bell pepper.
The true French cassoulet calls for meat (whatever is on hand), sausage, and confit duck, which is marinated and richly flavored. Usually I use Hillshire smoked beef sausage which adds such a wonderful, rich flavor throughout the dish, but this time I used a smoked turkey wing. It was good but not as rich as the sausage.
Onion, celery and bell pepper cooked until translucent.
DH loves mushrooms so I add 8 ounces of portobellos, sauteed separately then added to the onion, celery and Bell pepper.
I've used Great Northerns and pinto beans, but I learned that the French prefer Cannellini beans which are white beans, so I tried them this time. I like the creamy flavor of Great Northern the best.
I used the whole quart of chicken broth and a cup of wine. Maybe it could have used more wine. (Did I mention I tend to cook by the seat of my pants? I'm dyslexic with recipes anyway so why bother on something like this?) I know zippo about wine though I'm trying to learn. I season with it, I don't drink it, but I did taste this Pinot Grigio. Pretty yummy. I only know that chicken gets white and beef gets red with nuances in between. I guess I need to get an internet education on wine.
It's just coming to a boil in my cast-iron knock-off of the Le Creuset pot. You could use a crock pot. You can put the cast-iron pot in the oven. Whatever you like. Simmer on very low. My other meat was two chicken breasts, cut up like stew meat, salted well, dredged in flour and lightly browned. Add garlic (which I forgot), basil, salt, pepper and bay leaf. The beans absorb some of the liquid which becomes a nice, thick cream.  It was good. Perfect timing for the cold weather - high thirties here this morning, pretty unusual.


Sunday I didn’t actually get any gardening done – which was perfectly cool with me – but I did get to stroll through it with the camera. My garden is making its comeback, but it’s not there yet. Though these flowers are lovely and I’m totally grateful to have them, they are basically all there was, just a sprinkling throughout the garden, but I couldn’t not show them off.

'Madame Abel Chatenay' - Hybrid Tea - 1894
'Sweet Chariot' - greening up after a feeding a couple weeks ago
'Le Vesuve' - Tea rose - 1825
Yay! The weeds are gone! 'Le Vesuve' (top left corner) is looking better but just barely. Only half a bush is left from all his dieback (which is still happening) and not much greenery on him. I'm still hoping he'll perk up.
His blooms are wonderful.
'Le Vesuve' is called a China/Tea or a Tea/China because he shows traits of both, but he's really pretty unique.
Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana'. For some reason these tufts of spent blooms remind me of Dr. Seuss. FYI, this plant is on a 4-foot obelisk (too small) and went brown and crispy sometime in July (I think - I wasn't paying attention) which I thought was awfully early. So in late August (I think) I cut it back close to the ground and said goodbye for the year. Almost instantly it covered the obelisk again and covered itself with these gorgeous tulip-shaped flowers. A very good plant for Florida.
I debated including this photo of 'Maggie' because you have a better eye than I if you can see her (her base is just to the right of the sprinkler), but I'm so proud of her. She was a tiny rooted cutting in February when I planted her, and she withstood the onslaught of the huge, flopped-over dahlia 'Le Baron' in the background which covered most of her until recently. She has 4 or 5 canes about 3 feet long and is blooming and fragrant as ever. Maybe she'll give me a floater for the festival.
Dahlia 'Le Baron' bud just opening. This is a definite must-have in at least my part of Florida. He is more purple than this photo shows, and he laughed at the heat and rain and is still blooming. Give it support.
My $7 'Chrysler Imperial'. Not too shabby and surprisingly healthy. We'll see how the Dr. Huey rootstock lasts.
'Madame Lombard' - Tea rose - 1878. Blooming at the top of a cane that's as tall as I am (5'8") on a 2-year-old plant that's still quite gangly, of course. 'Princess Diana' clematis is borrowing her structure.
'Madame Lombard' - I guess I missed a nice semi-flush.
Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana'
I absolutely love this variegated flax lily, Dianella tasmanica varigata. Anything green and white is my favorite.
'Quietness' - Buck rose - 2003
Mr. Cherry Candy himself - 'Louis Philippe' - China rose - 1834


‘Maman Cochet, Climbing’ aka Big Mama is a mere shadow of herself. She has been loaded with dead wood all summer, perhaps from the freezes and perhaps from some dire unknown malady, since I hardly cleaned her up in the spring and have not paid any attention to her since. A few weeks ago I finally did. I got the loppers and started lopping. I have a huge pile of dead canes (and some living ones) to show for it. Looking up into the bright sky makes it almost impossible to distinguish a dead brown cane from a living brown cane until you have it on the ground where the green leaves are plain as day. That’s definitely an “Oh, s**t!” moment. When I was done, there was still dead stuff left, but I had bled enough and was feeling sorry for Mama.

'Maman Cochet, Climbing' - Tea rose - 1909
Happy to see new growth where I lopped.
My lopping did proceed cautiously, cutting back little by little to good wood. There is a brown speck in the center of the white pith. Did I cut far enough?? I was also desperate to protect the new growth from the squirrels, hence, the odd tying to keep it off the netting.
This new cane needs a couple more inches of growth to reach the perfect length for the squirrels to chew off the top, and I'm getting more and more desperate.
Big Maman looks like she has fall foliage on her, but it's all of her new growth after the recent lopping and feeding.
My brainstorm born of desperation was to cover the trellis inside the rose with the bird netting that I had hung on the outside of the rose for the clematis to climb on in an effort to keep the squirrels off the canes. My frustration grew when I realized they could probably reach right through the netting as close as the canes are to it and chew away, so I started stuffing the netting around and into places to obstruct the path of the squirrels which use the trellis and fence as their railway.
Road blockage on the left.

Road blockage on the right on the second and third rungs from the top. I need more netting.
So far so good. I haven't seen any squirrels on the trellis and no new growth has been chewed. Hopefully, the netting is the reason why.
The next rose down the fence is 'Reve d'Or'. There's no way to put the netting in there neatly since the fine nylon thread catches on everything, so I resorted to another blockage.
This sight broke my heart. There is not a single recent cane beneath the canopy that is not chewed off. I wonder if this destruction isn't responsible for the massive dieback on these climbers, depriving them of the necessary energy to support themselves.


New babies are always thrilling, don’t you think? I have lots of new baby roses that need to be put in the ground, so Saturday I got started. I see you’re confused that I’m adding roses to a full-up garden. Well, we’ll get to that later.

'Rhodologue Jules Gravereax' - Tea rose - 1908. Wow!! One of its parents is 'Madame Abel Chatenay'. I'm thrilled, and mama is right beside the good Rhodologue, French for a specialist of roses and their culture. Jules Gravereaux built the first ever complete garden devoted exclusively to roses in 1899. It became so popular that a few years later the village changed its name to L'Haÿ-les-Roses. (Pronounced [lai le ʁoz]). It is apparently now called the County Rose Garden Of Val-De-Marne.
First flower of 'Rhodologue Jules Gravereaux' - still not fully open today.
He's a little guy but he'll grow. He took the place of 'Souv de Francois Gaulain'.
'Rosette Delizy' is back in my garden. She's a Tea rose grown in 1922. Gone is 'Enchantress'.
Don't worry. She'll easily grow to 5' - 7'.


You may remember I did this once before – in June right before the tree trimmers came. Well, like any bouffant hairdo when all the bobby pins fall out, all the hair falls down, and that’s what happened to ‘Francois Juranville’. Like the girl with the hair in her face, he was a mess all summer. His 20-foot-long canes were everywhere, laying all over the gravel and grabbing you as you tried not to step on them along with the volunteer Periwinkles growing among the weeds in the gravel. So last Friday after DH got the 8-foot ladder out to trim another tree, I moved it over to FJ and began the tedious task of festooning his flowing locks from tree to tree with pretty green ribbons of stretchy plastic which I hope lasts a long time in the Florida sun. Ha! That’s a good one.

All neatened up.
The arbor is 8 feet tall. I was on an 8-ft ladder reaching with one of those grabber things. This time I tied it at more points.
I have a garden again, and only one cane is hanging loose after the winds of Sandy still blowing since before the weekend. Yay! Maybe 'Mary Rose', planted underneath, will grow some leaves now with more sun.
'Alexander Hill Gray' - Tea rose - 1909. So far not a huge bush.
'Shooting Star' hydrangea planted this past spring. So far it's growing sideways close to the ground in 2 or 3 directions and quite large, but at least it's blooming. More than I can say for a few other hydrangeas I have.


Reality bites. It would be a pleasant tale if I could say I never had to eject a rose from my garden – more like a fairy tale. I think my record is somewhere in the 40% range for rejects out of the total purchased. In other words I come close to throwing away as many as I keep. I thought I had settled on my final selection and we would be together until the end of time. Like many lifetime commitments, it didn’t work out. Some just had to go. I had given them three or four years, and that was all I had to give. So for a few brief moments my garden had vacancies – well, not really. The interlopers are already here.

'Arcadia Louisiana Tea' and 'Jaune Desprez' used to be here. They have new homes now at Rose Petals Nursery, and I didn't even have to dig them up. 'Blush Noisette', 'General Schablikine' and 'Duchesse de Brabant' (again) are also dug up and gone.
Here are six roses that I did dig up and repot for transfer to RPN, waiting for the 'bus'. They are 'Princesse de Nassau', 'Crepuscule', 'Rita Sammons', 'Gruss an Teplitz', 'Mme Joseph Bonnaire' and 'Bermuda's Anna Olivier'. No longer pleasing to me or simply gone to make room for another 'more exciting' rose. Time to amend my list of roses.
All loaded up and on their way to the nursery.
Cydney and Art Wade, owners of Rose Petals Nursery. Sweeter people you will never meet, and Art has the proud distinction of being the only male to ever dig in my garden. DH is proud to let him have it, too.


Sunday before last was our October meeting of the Marion County Rose Society, and what greeted us when we walked in were tables of roses on display. No, the Festival of Roses wasn’t two weeks early. Someone just had the brilliant idea to get us all in the mood for our big weekend. To get you in the mood, too, here’s a flyer so you can read all about the event. Just click HERE.

The 2012 Festival of Roses will be entirely "judged" by the public with the Queen of Show chosen by guest speaker Carolyn Parker.
There will be lots of beauties to sniff and drool over (bring hankies). Hopefully, one or two will be mine.


Way back in Hot Topic #1 I teased you with this. These are my cloches. Cloche is the French word for bell, and they are used to protect plants from cold and sometimes to provide a nice humid place for cuttings in propagation. I came home from the Rose Society meeting with several stems of luscious roses – patented roses, I might add, so if I told you the names of these cuttings, I’d have to kill you. I wasn’t going to try to root them since the last time I tried they all rotted (but not in cloches). Stuck in the ground this way is the only way I have ever succeeded since I don’t have a mist house and my jerry-rigged ones have not worked. However, at DH’s goading I took down my two glass decorative thingamajigs off the hutch and stuck the cuttings from the meeting. Then I took cuttings from ‘Mrs. B. R. Cant”, a non-patented OGR, and stuck her under an upside-down vase. I’m very excited, because I’m sure these will root. For some reason my cuttings prefer garden dirt to potting soil in little pots. We’ll see anyway.


I just don’t know what I’m going to do with all these roses, since before I stuck these I ordered the two roses in question. They should be arriving this week. I don’t know if I should tell you what I ordered since then I’m pretty sure you could figure out which roses are in these cloches, and then the rose police will surely be after me. So I won’t say. I really don’t want to go to jail just when I’m getting acclimated to retirement.

Now go potty. And me, too. Unbelievably, this post has taken me eleven hours to do. I guess I'm slow, but I enjoyed it. Funny that I started on it at 3 o'clock this morning since I fell asleep on the couch and who can get back to sleep in the bed? Not me. Might as well blog, right? Hope you lasted for all "ten posts" - and are happy about it.