Monday, June 25, 2012

Let there be sun

With Tropical Storm Debby still spinning not far away in the eastern gulf and still dropping rain on us the tree guys decided to do our trimming work today anyway as long as there was no lightning. Unfortunately, I missed three-quarters of the show and then stood ogling them for a while before I remembered the camera. So under a steady drizzle I caught them trimming up the last tree while holding my breath as limbs were gently lowered down from aloft. Of course, gentle is relative when the item being lowered is a weighty hunk of wood with spreading branches. I can proudly say, however, that I kept my cool and didn't get hysterical as limb upon limb was laid on my roses.

First cuts have already been made, and there are already limbs at the base of the tree and hanging. Smaller ones have already landed on 'Mrs B R Cant' and been taken away - mostly.

'Arcadia Louisiana Tea' is in front of the right side of the arbor, and 'Mrs B R Cant' is between the trees.
The guys tried hard and did a good job of protecting the roses. There was only minor damage.
But these scenes were a bit unnerving.
Breathe, Sherry, breathe.
I had originally wanted to have the center tree, where the pink clematis is, removed completely, but I changed my mind on Saturday as I was rearranging 'Francois Juranville'. My compromise was to have them top the tree above the clump with the clematis, so that's what they did. That should allow more light under FJ and to the shade bed, keep some shade on the bench, and give FJ something to climb on. The loss of the next limb up cost some branching to the right which surprised me. I thought the branch was on the tree by the bench. The hairiest part of the job for me was when they lowered the very top section of this 40 or 50-foot tree onto the top of the arbor. I had visions of the two sticks of rebar being badly bowed, but apparently it only looked like the weight of the tree was on the arbor or else three-quarter-inch rebar doesn't bend that easy. FJ is pretty flattened though, and lots of canes have come loose from the trees.
I thought sure the roses were flattened - permanently.
One by one the branches were carried away. Still not much breathing going on.
Aren't tree guys amazing?
More clouds rolling in, and heavier rain falling.
Pretty much cleaned up. Hopefully, 'Mrs B R Cant' will bloom more and get huge, 'Arcadia Louisiana Tea' will ball less, and the daylilies will rust less. And maybe even the Sasanqua camelia in the square pot will appreciate the sun.
I did step out on the path but decided against a closer inspection. The whole garden was basically flattened from more than eight inches of rain yesterday and today. I saw a large crushed daylily in the front no doubt laid upon by a heavy limb from above. What do they say about the better part of valor being discretion? In other words I chickened out, quit looking and went inside. Tomorrow's another day for assessing the damage. I don't like the looks of those gashes from the tree guy's spikes.
Perhaps you can't tell it, but even on this cloudy, rainy day it was brighter under these trees. The 'Limelight' hydrangea to the left of the glass ball has not bloomed this year in total shade, so this will be a good thing.
Our lake is back, and the aquifer is getting fuller. Yay!!

The roses are happy about having more sun which makes the gardener happy. After all, doesn’t the gardener live to make her roses happy? DH is so-so about having less shade (and about writing the check), but doesn’t he live to make the gardener happy? (Just quoting him.) Alas, no choices in the garden are easy. On the one hand we were becoming entombed by the trees which were growing rapidly like weeds. On the other hand we love trees. Living – and gardening – is a game of trade-offs.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Francois Juranville’s new do

There was no cutting involved, just re-styling with a grabber from an 8-foot ladder. And though I scared myself a few times, this time I didn't fall off. I think the same people who shouldn't handle sharp knives also shouldn't climb tall ladders.

Francois’ old 'do' was definitely dreamy, and all the ladies loved it.
But I really think his canes need to be horizontal in order to add side-shoots for lots of blooming.
There was also the matter of all the shade he made for all the sun-loving plants in this bed.
Look what I found!!
Clematis 'Ville de Lyon' is twelve feet up in the tree!! She was only planted this spring! Never figured she'd go up there.
Francois was laying around everywhere.
Peek-a-boo! 'Mary Rose' would rather not play hide and seek. So now that you've seen the before, I know you're wondering about the after.

Voila! The upswept look.
All of those long, long canes now go to the left and to the right and as far up as I could reach.
His canes must have been fifteen feet long or more.
Fortunately for me he doesn't have a lot of prickles - just enough to catch in the tree.
Some canes were laid across the arbor. A few of the more strategic canes were tied in place - insurance against the wind.
Now you can see the baby clematis, and hopefully, the daylilies and the rose will start doing a little better.
Ah, there's Mary.
The bench now has a view, and the chimes can be seen.
In some not too distant spring these trees will be decorated with fat, pink 'Francois Juranville' blooms. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A cautionary tea tale

I think immature teas, noisettes and Chinas are exactly analogous to young human beings. Just as toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers do not remotely resemble the adults they will grow into, roses go through stages that do not at all indicate what the mature bush will be. Of course, we don't look at our boy toddler or 10-year-old and say, "Arghh! You don't look like a 175-lb man with bulging muscles, beard-whiskers and deep voice, so I'm throwing you out." That is a ridiculous thought, but we do it with roses because at least in the cases of us newbies we have no clue what a muscular, whisker-faced, deep-voiced tea rose bush looks like. We are really winging it, and typical of anyone who is fairly new at something our insecurities drive us into blaming our poor gardening skills or a "bad clone" for the unexpected, unforeseen condition of the rose.

Early on I had a 'Duchesse de Brabant' that grew all to one side for two and a half years like a leaning Statue of Liberty in a scorching hot spot in the garden. It looked awful, and the gardener was embarrassed. Adding to the awkwardness was the lack of foliage so that she looked invisible to the camera, making it impossible to show off my baby. Along about the middle of the third year she was suddenly round and 5'x5' - how did that happen? - but still sparsely leafed. Unfortunately, by then my mind was set to not liking her, and in October I gave her away. Of course, she immediately became beautiful in the new garden. Before I dug her up I took two cuttings, both took, and I potted them up and set them in the cooler pot ghetto. When they bloomed, they looked gorgeously different than the bush had looked in the ground, so I decided to plant one on the east side of the garden (and gave away the other). This baby is in her second season probably in a little too much shade. In the first year her few thin, squiggly canes were practically on the ground, but I ignored her, knowing not to get antsy about her. This year there hasn't been much change until the last month. She now has one new thicker vertical cane ending in a blooming candelabra of typically beautiful DdB flowers with fragrance. It's about three and a half feet tall, so she has a long way to go, but it was an enlightening moment.

The first couple of years of the garden I was out with a magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes cap examining every nuance of the bushes, and then I stopped doing that, thinking myself a more mature gardener no longer hyper-ventilating over the details. However, I feel like I have missed some of the adolescent aspects of the roses, so again I'm reacting in my old knee-jerk fashion, thinking this and that rose HAVE to go. I forget or never knew that seasonal conditions are not static. In addition to normal growing pains there are the after-effects of harsh weather conditions like the 20-degree nights at the end of a very warm winter and roses filled with lush new growth. Perhaps dead canes weren't the end of it. Perhaps the plants suffered in ways that were not visible and are still recovering.
All this is to bring us to my point. Unless the bush is dead or dying, is three or four years of growth something to be shoveled out of the ground? Or is this a time for the exercise of REAL gardening patience? Is this where the rubber meets the road and we get down to the nitty gritty of allowing nature to just BE? Am I looking at a defective rose plant or merely the suddenly big teenage nose and pimples of my adolescent bushes? Have I prematurely judged the ugly-duckling stage of an immature rose as a loser before it has had time to become the over-21 adult? And how different will the young adult be when he's a solid late-twenties guy?
The bottom line is that this idiot-gardener has the power of life and death in her hands without the wisdom needed to wield it judiciously. And she should STOP wielding it until she's gotten wiser. Perfect and beautiful teenage swans are the exceptions, and they aren't teas, Chinas and Noisettes. In my garden they're the poly, ‘Clotilde Soupert’, and the early HT, ‘Mme Abel Chatenay’. The teas are a totally different story. At three and four years old they have much more maturing to do. They are like the 13-year-old boy standing next to his 20-year-old cousin, and how many 30-year-olds don't in the least resemble their yearbook picture? Tea roses are deceptive, and this gardener has been too gullible.
Yes, I WISH there was a way to make these roses put out more basal growth faster. This business of 2 or 3 canes - or less - per year makes for very slow progress and the real likelihood of prejudging these plants long before they become what is in their nature to be. I WISH those canes would put out lateral growth sooner, but here's the kicker. I wouldn't have even known to wish that if I hadn't just seen 'Maman Cochet', doubling the number of her canes this spring and adding shoots off of them in the last couple of weeks. Suddenly her structure is beginning to bulk up - three and half years later. She can even be seen in a photo now without massive zoom. It is a thing to behold as it happens before my very eyes. They said it would happen. I hoped it would happen. I kept the faith with her, and it is paying off.
This tea rose gardening thing is not like plopping an azalea in the ground. They do not shoot out a bunch of canes early on and simply get taller and fatter with time. They put all of their energy of a season into one or two canes, and then it takes all of the energy of those canes to do it again the next year and the next and the next. And please don't cut them, they don't like it. Leave them be. And hold onto your hat and your impulses to intervene and/or give up. Sometimes it will be two steps forward and one step back. It will look like no progress is being made except in the wrong direction. Raising teas is a lifetime commitment - like kids. But unlike kids we didn't know that going in. Our minds had not accepted the fact that this was going to be a progression of years and not weeks or even months. If you're growing young tea roses, chill with me. These kids are gonna take a while.

P. S.  The post that you just read was originally posted a few days ago on the Antique Roses Forum without photos, but I thought you’d like seeing the tea rose, ‘Duchesse de Brabant’, mentioned above. I know how anxious this rose made me feel while she was here, but looking at the photos, I could only think how incredibly stupid I was back then. So stupid that this post should get me banned from the gardening blogosphere. I can only say that stressing about roses in one’s garden can make normal people see horrors that are not there and do idiotic things that a wiser gardener would not have done. I felt awful last night (and still do) upon seeing these photos with a wiser eye. The self-flagellation and condemnation that was going on last night was not pleasant.  

Thankfully, this rose still lives – in Susan’s Ocklawaha garden.

Beautiful baby, 2 months in the ground - May 19, 2007
June 28, 2007
A year later twiggy but bigger - March 5, 2008
A month later the bushiness of spring - April 9, 2008
And lovely blooms - May 17, 2008
New growth showing & canes at odd angles - June 13, 2008
Two mature canes standing high above the early growth. I didn't have a clue that more and more canes would come and she'd be big and round one day in the distant future. No clue. - July 14, 2008
IMG_5840 (Small)
My stressing point - leaflessness. I didn't know that even teas have a tough time in August - August 30, 2008
More leaflessness but now it's cooler. What is the problem?? - November 2, 2008
Looking better - January 11, 2009
Two year old bush. If you were standing by the broken birdbath, you'd see her "leaning" toward the house. - March 1, 2009
Nicely leafed out and the gawkiness doesn't show - March 23, 2009
Blooming beautifully in her spring flush but still a very immature bush - May 17, 2009
New growth coming, old leaves going, a lot of air between her canes - June 8, 2009
Getting beautifully buxom but don't be fooled, still a very young tea - June 28, 2009
I can't believe she ever looked this magnificent. Oh, the pain - June 28, 2009
Here she goes again, sparsely foliated with a little new growth. It would be about a month later when I realized that daily watering worked better for the roses, keeping them from losing leaves in the heat and going into dormancy, so an irrigation system would be installed in early 2010, too late for DdB. Gardening is one big learning process. - September 8, 2009
Yes, she has more leaves and blooms - September 12, 2009
She really is a beauty - September 12, 2009
Had I known the nature of tea roses, this could not have bothered me, but I didn't know that over the next few years she would add more canes and they would add laterals and she would fill out and bulk up. My inexperience caused me to be totally intolerant of this wide, open bush. I thought this was what she was going to be and had no clue that she was just a skinny teenager - September 16, 2009
I hated being able to see through her. It drove me nuts - September 16, 2009
I was worn out at this point with stressing over her constant nakedness. I was done, decision made. She was moving out. Not only that, but 'Duchesse de Brabant' would remain a bad memory, a rose that I had a prejudice against. But just look at the structure of this young bush. It's beautiful with a good shape. To show how immature she is, she only has a couple of thick canes. Everything else is still the twiggy stuff. - October 20, 2009
Waiting in a bucket of water for Susan to arrive. Only two years and seven months after planting, this should not have happened. It shows that we don't know what we don't know, but now we know. Give your tea roses time. Find something else to do while you ignore them. They're just kids, you know.
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to remove a rose. This was NOT one of them, but until last night I suffered under the delusion that it was. Reality bites!