Wednesday, May 28, 2014

there is no perfect rose part 2

Three days of 90 degrees and today's 30 mph winds have tested the roses. 

'William Shakespeare 2000' was well on its way to being a close contender for the near perfect rose for me: great color, vigor, blooming well, great form, and terrific fragrance. I had cut a flower for the office, and indoors, the fragrance was almost too strong (!). Then today's wind hit and shows the plant's other great weakness (other than weak stems and need for lots of water), intolerance to heat and wind. Interestingly, it was the center petals that showed the most dehydration.

Even the newly opened flowers had crispy edges. 

'Eden', my other contender, but failing miserably in the fragrance department, fared a little better, but even before the wind had some browning of the outer petals. Now there is more browning. 

I guess it's not really fair to compare 'Marie Pavie' since the first flush was already fading. It was at the top of my list last year, when she showed the ability to grow and bloom well in the August heat. A distinct musk fragrance which wafted gave her an edge, although the grayish pink color made her less than perfect to me. We'll see how she does through the rest of summer. 

'Mrs. B R Cant' doesn't even get started until the weather heats up, so with this heat, she is just beginning. She is on the verge of getting removed since the flowers are not fragrant, and she didn't seem to tolerate the winter very well. But if she puts on a good show in the heat when all the other roses are languishing, I will reconsider.

Annemarie's heritage rose is finishing its first flush, and the flowers are hardly fazed from the heat and wind. It's not the prettiest rose, but it sure is tough, and flowers smell like sweet peas.

What shouldn't have been, but was a surprise to me, was that the clear winner of today's survey was 'Iceberg,' which hardly seemed fazed (Annemarie's rose is second but only because I'm not fond of the flower form, not because of any intolerance to dry hot wind). In the late afternoon, 'Iceberg' had a fragrance as strong as I would desire, although not as strong as WS2000. It is not really comparable though, since the fragrance of 'Iceberg' is like warm honey over vanilla ice cream, whereas the fragrance of WS2000 has a sharpness to it.

This is one of my plants, still a baby, but blooming away with it's first flush. 
I just planted 'Bolero' so I can't compare, but everything I've read suggests that it might be the winner in terms of weather tolerance, flower form and fragrance. The ones that I planted over a month ago that have survived their torture trip of shipping seem to be tolerating the wind okay. Time will tell.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

there is no perfect rose

Searching for the perfect rose is like searching for the holy grail. It may not exist, but the joy is searching for it. It probably does not exist because we are imperfect ourselves, and that representation is of searching for the perfect in ourselves. I planted two of the roses last year that I think are among the most beautiful roses I've ever seen, and they are starting to open now.

I first saw 'Eden' when I was in France, where it is planted everywhere, but I first saw it at the Jardin du Luxembourg. There it is called 'Pierre de Ronsard.' It impressed me not with its huge blossom, but the delicately shaded fading to almost white on the outer petals and darker pink in the center, so that the overall impression is of light loveliness. This was a weird thing for me to realize, since pink roses are a dime-a-dozen, and I am not a "pink" person (at all) but I liked this one. I really liked it.

'Pierre de Ronsard Jardin du Luxembourg 2006

Sadly, when I went back in 2012 to the Jardin de Luxembourg, Pierre had been removed. 
'Pierre de Ronsard' 2006

Then I saw one in my neighborhood 2 years ago, peeking over the wall. This year it is even more impressive, and I almost stopped my car in the middle of traffic to gawk at it.

It's funny that the photos do not capture this rose well, so you may think 'Eh!", but I knew that I should have one in my yard.

'Eden' is not without its faults. The outer petals get brown edges in my climate. The leaves are a coarse like a hybrid tea.  It has large thorns. The leaves could be a richer green (but that may be my fault or my garden's fault). I've heard that it is susceptible to thrips and some foliar disease, but not so far in my garden. It's biggest fault, which is nearly unforgivable in my book, is the lack of scent. You would expect a rose that looks like this to have a gorgeous fragrance, and it is described as "moderate" by some, but to my very sensitive nose, it is barely detectible.

William Shakespeare 2000 on the other hand, has a delicious fragrance. I don't remember my first sighting of it, probably on the web, but I remember I found myself a bit slack-jawed. Then when I smelled on in person, I was lost. That's what a rose should smell like. It was strong, rich, but even better, with nuance. This is one of the first flowers on my two bushes (twigs, really) of WS2K this year. Although not perfect, they still stop me in my tracks. So maybe now you know why I was so angry with the wind for snapping one bush at the base.

William Shakespeare 2000 is not a perfect bush. It has weak stems, and I realized that it was the only rose bush in the garden where the branches were broken by the wind, and you don't get flowers if the stems are snapped off. The stems also do not stand upright, but I consider that part of the grace that separates it from Hybrid Teas.

One big fault is that it does require moist soil. To produce a big dense flower, this needs a lot of water. WS2000 wants to grow in a swamp (at least it seems that way in a desert climate and granitic soils). 

 To me, the English roses look their best when fully open, or at least half open. Roses in the bud are much less interesting. I suppose that's why I like the English roses, since the Hybrid Teas are supposed to look their best in the bud or at most half open. That's a very short time, especially in the heat. Another analogy with life, I suppose. Older is more interesting. My honey should be happy with my perspective on that.

Boring in the bud.
So neither are the holy grail of rosedom for me. But they are a start. I've just got to keep looking.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

salvia daghestanica: luminous

I thought that Crocus speciosus had the monopoly on luminosity, those fall globes glowing as if they were filled with their own light. But when I saw the Salvia daghestanica in the late afternoon light, I realized that Crocus speciosus had some serious competition.

High Country Gardens calls Salvia daghestanica  "Dwarf Silver-leaf Sage," which is as good a nickname as any, I suppose, but I suspect that it is a made-up name for marketing. HCG used to say that when David Salman first saw this, he caught his breath and stopped in amazement, or something like that. I assumed that it was a bunch of silliness created for the catalog, but recently, with mine blooming, I can see that happening.

The Silver Dog (or Dagh), as I call it, blooms once in the spring and doesn't rebloom but the silver leaves that look like silvery oak-leafed lettuce remain throughout the rest of summer, turning brown as the plant goes dormant in the fall. The tips of the flower stems produce leaves which turn into  plantlets, although I have failed to get those plantlets to root. I will try again this year.

The plants also root at the base of the spreading stems, so it might be possible to divide the plants, but I would instead pry up a rooted stem from the outer edges, since I would be afraid that the deep rooted plant might die if dug up and divided which would cut off those deep roots that sustain the plant, and watering extra might cause the plant to rot. I might be wrong about that, but in my old garden, established plants didn't need watering at all, and young plants needed careful watering to establish. Hmm, the Silver Dog blooms in the spring, and Crocus speciosus blooms in the fall. Sounds like it might be a good combination.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

side yard

The side yard is finally starting to come together. The apple trees are getting trained. The Salvia daghestanica is putting on a nice show, as are the Nepeta 'Walker's Low.' We removed the  6 clumps of mostly dying aspen ourselves. The overgrown woody clumps of Salvia 'Maraschino' were removed and planted with rosemary 'Gorizia,' cuttings from the old yard. The gravel taken up and sifted, replaced. I revised the watering system. The overgrown Cytissus (was on the left above the retaining wall) removed. The struggling lavender removed. The dying Mugho pine removed. Still to be done: the roses need to arrive and be planted. The scabiosa will be removed and drip installed for lavender. The lavender in front of the left apple tree (too small to be seen in this photo, but where the drip lines are visible) needs to grow in.The rosemary cuttings need to root and then planted behind the 'Walker's Low.'

Things take a while in my garden. Not only do I do all the work myself (or with my SO's help), but I have to wait for the proper planting time, for orders to arrive, for cuttings to root. For example, I waited until the new growth of rosemary 'Blue Spires' to be of (hopefully) the proper maturity before taking cuttings from the old house (waited until the day before I closed on the sale). I suppose I could have just planted the commonly available 'Tuscan Blue' or 'Arp' but 'Blue Spires' is more upright than what is sold around here as 'Tuscan Blue' and seems to be hardier, and has greener foliage and brighter blue flowers than 'Arp.' I could have ordered them on-line, but it seems a shame to be spending $50 for four plants, more for shipping than the plants themselves. So I wait.

rose winners and losers

'Fresh Pink'

Another trip to the Albuquerque Rose Garden, this time without the wind. There were some clear winners and loser, but a number of roses that were winners in some areas, but lacking of other qualities, putting them in a "needs further evaluation" zone.

One clear winner was the miniature rose 'Fresh Pink' which was blooming its heart out, in a luscious color of girly pink. It had only a slight fragrance, but it was definitely there, and more than you could say for most miniatures. 

'Paul Neyron'
'Paul Neyron' continued to impress, with large flowers over the entire bush, and a luxurious fragrance. The only drawback to my eye, is the stiff upright growth habit, not graceful at all, but would work in a bedding scheme or a cutting garden.

'Bow Bells'

'Bow Bells'

The old Austin rose 'Bow Bells' was a standout to both me and my sister. This one is consistently an entry into the Albuquerque rose show, which tells of its reliability. This one may be on of those roses that do very well in a specific climate, since it is no longer offered by David Austin Roses, being supposedly superceded by better cultivars, and said to be susceptible to mildew and blackspot. There was no evidence of either of these diseases today, possibly due to our dry climate. The fragrance is said to be "mild", but to my noseometer, and my sisters, it was at least "moderate." The globe shaped flowers were charming and prolific. The only negative mark, is that the bushes were a bit sparsely foliated, but that may be an issue of culture.

'Belle Story'
Also an older David Austin hybrid, 'Belle Story' has been consistently beautiful, undamaged by sun and wind, and fragrant, with color edging on the side of peach. The only drawback is the bush shape, which appears identical to any hybrid tea.

'Jeanne d'Arc'
 The Alba rose 'Jeane d'Arc' is still blooming, just as much as when I visited the garden nearly 2 weeks ago. So although this is a once-blooming rose, it has a longer season than, say, peonies or irises. It is still nicely fragrant, disease free. Extra points: this is a graceful vase-shaped shrub 6-8 feet tall, with disease-free foliage. I wonder if I should have planted this, instead of 'Madame Isaac Pereire.'

'Falling in Love'
 I kept going back to look at, and to smell, 'Falling in Love'. My sister and I were both captured by the color, the form, the fragrance and the only slight damage of the flowers from sun/wind. We were both horrified by the intensely thorny canes, however. So although I have placed this in the "Winner" column, it makes it only barely.

'Pink Gruss an Aachen'
 The low bushes of 'Pink Gruss an Aachen' impressed me with the lack of damage, fragrance and good foliage. Too bad this pale pink does not appeal to me.

'William Shakespeare 2000'
 On the homefront, WS2K opened its first flower, and so far it is a winner, despite the wind damage I moaned about previously. Although not the perfect flowers that first drew me to this rose, this one so far is not heat damaged and the rich fragrance is detectable several feet around the single flower.

'Outta the Blue'

'Fragrant Plum'
'Outta the Blue' and 'Fragrant Plum' may look alike in the photos, but 'Outta the Blue' grows like a floribunda with smaller flowers and short bushy stature, whereas 'Fragrant Plum' is a grandiflora with larger flowers and Hybrid Tea-like growth. Both had rich color with no damage from sun/wind, great fragrance, and disease-free green leaves.

'Ebb Tide'
In contrast, I didn't even take a photo today of 'Ebb Tide' or 'Twilight Zone', both dark purple flowers with rich fragrance, since I was most impressed with how popular they are to these bugs. My sister wouldn't even attempt to sniff the open flowers because there were so many of these six-legged creatures coating the flower buds. Nearby roses in the lighter purple shades did not have this vast quantity of insect life. We also were not impressed by the muddy quality of the color, but even if it were gorgeously colored and fragrant, it would go into the 'Loser' column for its attraction to vast quantities of these repulsive bugs (these are bugs, as defined, aren't they?).

'Louise Odier'
Although 'Louise Odier' can have beautiful fragrant flowers, on most occasions I see it like this: sun/wind damaged. The whole bush looked like this. Even the barely opened flowers and buds showed damage.

Although 'Evelyn' did entrance me with the peachy fragrance on my last outing, there were no undamaged flowers or buds on this outing, which places 'Evelyn' in the "Loser" category.

'Belinda's Dream'
 I keep wanting to like 'Belinda's Dream' since I have seen such incredible photos of this rose from HoovB's website, but here, Belinda is always heat-damaged. It does have a bit of fragrance. The plant is disease free, but seems to want to grow as a ground cover at the ABQ rose garden. It goes into the "Loser" pile.

Falling into the indeterminate category, 'Jude the Obscure' got points for color and fragrance, but the flowers were damaged by sun/wind and it's not clear to me if the flowers would open up and be lovely or if they would just stay at this stage since all the flowers on the bush looked like this.

 'Showtime' would make it into my 'Winner' category for the abundant undamaged blooms and perfect leaves, but it has not one iota of fragrance.

'Marie Pavie'

'Marie Pavie'

Although I waxed rapturous about 'Marie Pavie' last year, I am on the fence about her now. Flowers still have the rich wafting fragrance, but the flowers have a muddy look about them, she does hang on to her dead-heads, the bush has an awkward growth pattern (maybe just needs some time to grow, however) and the leaves have a chlorotic look about them. Maybe it's a matter of culture, but I have given her ironite without improvement.

Things have been on the 'Loser' side for rose shipments for me this year. I ordered a number of 'Bolero' roses from Regan nurseries, and I received my six bare-root plants that were leafed out in the box, leaves without any chlorophyll (how long were they stored, anyway?). The leaves turned crispy as soon as I removed the plants from the plastic bag, but I still planted them out. Most are making some growth (as in 2-3 leaves), but here we are with disappointment.

I also usually get great plants from Joy Creek nursery but the first 'Madame Isaac Pereire' they sent me, promptly shriveled and turned brown within 3 days of arrival. They sent me a second, in a gallon pot (good customer service, they have), but it is still looking frail. Don't get me wrong, I would/will order from this company again, but poor MIP seems to be struggling.

I ordered a couple of 'Snowbird' from Rogue Valley Roses, but May rolled around and they still had not arrived. I called, and they told me they were shipped a month ago and would check. Six phone calls later, I talked to someone new, and they gave me a refund. I'm chalking it up to a weird year.

I received great roses from Roses Unlimited last year, but the 'Bolero' I ordered was delayed due to slow growth. They told me they would ship May 5, and when I called, they told me May 19. I hope they arrive up to their usual (i.e. last year's) standards. It's not a surprise that their growing season is delayed, given the freakish cold in that part of the country this winter.

 Don't get me wrong, I am not putting any of these companies in the "Loser" category yet. I'm putting this year into the "Loser" category for shipped orders.

Addendum 5/23/2014: Order arrived from Roses Unlimited. Plants look great. I'm happy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

ila crawford

So it turns out that the spuria iris saved from my old garden is 'Ila Crawford' and not 'Arts Alive' that I suspected. Which is fine, because I love the color and form of Ila. Even if it has yellow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

rose cuttings: note to self

Note to self: do NOT put rose cuttings in a plastic bag, as much as you want to (and I know you can't help yourself). Photo to help you remember: Pot in front was 5 days after cuttings were in plastic bag. Pot in back, not in plastic bag. See? Do you want the leaves to yellow? Then don't do it. Both cuttings from 'Winchester Cathedral', using the method I developed last year. Rosemary is different, even thought they both start with "rose." Put rosemary in a plastic bag (thus the plastic bags in the photo), cuttings in perlite only, no peat or they will rot.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

abq rose garden

I took a trip to The Albuquerque Rose Garden today, it being May, I figured the roses would be blooming, and I wanted to catch their only alba rose in bloom to see if I waxed rapturous and people seem to be when smelling the albas. The Albuquerque Rose Garden will never be as luxurious a rose garden as, say, the Huntington Rose Garden, or the San Jose Rose Garden, and today was ample evidence why. Dry winds gusting hard enough to knock me off balance was enough to cause damage to the roses. This happens every year, when the spring winds coincide with the main flush of roses. I think that to grow nice roses here, you've got to have roses that rebloom, or bloom again in the fall, when the weather is nicer.

First, my yard, with the flush of Knockout Roses. I admit that they do put out a nice flush. I've voiced my opinion of Knockout roses before, and I don't feel the need to repeat them.

This rose in the parking lot of the rose garden caught my eye first. It is not labelled, but I think it is the ubiquitous Dr. Huey rose, that understock for all the grafted roses in this area.  I resented Dr. Huey in my old yard, for being a gangly climber of a rose, which bloomed once in the spring with scentless flowers, and regrowing from the mile-deep roots when I tried to remove him. He also has a propensity to mildew and the flowers fry when the sun gets hot and the wind blows, which is just about when he likes to bloom. But I've grown a fondness for him, when I realized that his flowers are a rather rare shade of ruby red. Not just a red, which many roses have, but these petals have some kind of depth to them that can't be photographed.

I've been reading the rhapsodies of Zephirine Drouhin on-line, and have only sniffed the flowers once, last fall. I wasn't impressed. Neither was I impressed with the flower form and color. It is in full bloom now, climbing lustily up an arch, and I can't say that I am any more impressed with plant or flower form. The color is a warm pink, which is okay, but nothing to get excited about. The fragrance however! Even with the warm dry 50mph gusts, the flowers held fragrance which was delightful. This fragrance is rose-like, to be sure, but also a unique something, which I would describe most akin to amber. Sweet, warm, honeyed. 

Yes! The rose garden's lone alba rose was in full bloom.  I wish they had a 'Maiden's Blush' or 'Madame Plantier' or Alba semi-plena, all of which I've read about as having incredible fragrance. The rose they do have is 'Jeanne d'Arc'. It is a good 8 feet talk, and sprinkled liberally with smallish 2-1/2 inch very double white flowers. When the wind wasn't whipping past my nose or throwing thorny branches into my face, I did detect a lovely fragrance. Maybe not enough to roll around like a cat in catnip, but enough for me to bury my nose in a blossom 4 or 5 times. Or 10.

Paul Neyron was looking good despite the dessicating winds, which was amazing, considering the size of those blossoms. Easily 5 inches across, maybe 6, enough that I could blind myself in petals when going in for a sniff, and with that button form that I love so much. Alas, the wind had blown most of the scent away.

This bank of 'Linda Campbell' was very impressive, but scentless, and if memory serves me correctly, not much rebloom. 

The original 'William Shakespeare' in all its glory.  Not the best looking bush, but I wonder if that is a matter of culture. The color, form and fragrance add up to just about the perfect flower to my eye. Too bad about the plant. Still might have to get one.

This guy was unlabelled but my guess is 'Eglantyne.' A cute button eye on most of the flowers, and a light scent which might be stronger when the winds die down.

'Graham Thomas' has "weak necks" so the flowers all hang down. I happen to like this look, but it would be better on a taller plant. I hear that he gets tends to get tall, so maybe this one is just pruned down. I can't be sure that this is 'Graham Thomas' since the color doesn't look right, but that's what the label said. I was very impressed with 'Prospero' to the left when I saw it last year, but today I am not very excited about how the flowers change colors so dramatically from red to purple, or how the flowers are so variable in size. Last year, the one flower on the bush was a good 4 inches across, this year they are more like 2-1/2 and some quite a bit smaller than the others.

I'm always impressed with 'Julia Child' which seems to be forever in bloom, with flowers that were not damaged despite the gusty winds.  Behind it, the climbing rose 'Night Owl' was blown flat against the wall, reminding me of Gulliver being tied down by millions of tiny threads.

I took this photo to remind myself of what 'Evelyn' looks like here. Not bad for a first year plant, but certainly not the perfection of form and huge flowers that you see on the web. The last time I smelled the flowers, they had a peachy scent, but the wind must have blown that away today.

'William Shakespeare 2000' showing off its ability to produce "quarter pounder" blooms. The lens cap that I'm holding is 3" in diameter. It is quite similar to the first WS,  but as others have commented, on a floppier but better foliated bush. I was surprised at the large variability of the flowers, some being quite a bit smaller and with much fewer petals than this, the largest one. In this way, the original WS seemed to be better, if today's perspective was an accurate representation.

This was the only flower on 'Jude the Obscure' today. Yes, I went down on hands and knees to sniff it, and it does have a rich and fruity fragrance even in the high winds. But the plant was weak and sickly looking. I wonder if it is a culture issue, since I don't read about it being a weak plant.

The flowers of 'Carding Mill' were abundant and perfect, although the Juicy Fruit fragrance was mostly blown away by the wind. 

The one Hybrid Tea that I felt compelled to photograph was 'Mister Lincoln.' He had enormous flowers today, a good 6-7 inches in diameter, buffeted by the winds but still undamaged. This plant exhibited the classic "lollipop on a thorny stick" look that Hybrid Teas are criticized for having. But after sniffing this flower, 'Mister Lincoln' is still, in my mind, the quintessential rose for fragrance. I also sniffed 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' which is described as "The Queen of Beauty and Fragrance" but I found her to be neither. I found the color to be muddy, the flower form to be lacking (too few petals?), and the scent to be too much like bread. Now, I like bread (too much!), but although others have spoken highly of it, it wasn't for me. Good thing I smelled it before buying it.

'Queen of Sweden' was quite impressive. It was one of the two most floriferous roses in the Austin bed. I have not been fond of flowers of this pale pink, but in this case it was very charming. Part of that might have been the sturdy cup-shaped flowers, a form I am particularly fond of.  Not much fragrance, but then again, nothing had much fragrance in this wind.

 'The Shepherdess' is an older Austin variety, and is supposedly superceded by better cultivars, but this was the other very floriferous rose in the Austin bed. As a second year plant, this is impressive.

Although I was mostly looking at the Austin roses, 'Suzanne' was very impressive. A bit of scent, and a once bloomer at least in my observation, but as impressive as 'Cecille Brunner' as far as small pink scented roses on a big bush goes. 

Although a terrible photo, I probably did a triple take of 'Reba K. Rowland' with hanging double but scentless flowers on a climbing plant. Behind it was 'Showtime', a single rose with particularly eye-catching but scentless flowers. Nice to look at, but I'm not planting them. Other disappointments: 'Belinda's Dream' which is said to grow so well in Texas. Apparently not so great in the ABQ rose garden. 'Louise Odier' of which I've seen glorious photos of camellia-like flowers, had an odd scent when I first smelled it a couple years ago, but on subsequent sniffings was delightful, has not tolerated the sun and wind well. Most of the flowers had crispy edges. Maybe I'll have to take another trip when the wind dies down, just to see what survived the wind best.