Tuesday, January 22, 2013 20 comments

A closer look at the new Eyeconic roses.

Dr. Jim Sproul's first big success, Eyeconic ™ Lemonade
There is no hard and fast rule as to when the hybridizing bug first bites its victims.

Eight-year-old schoolboy David Austin wished to create a new flower like the world had never seen. 

Twenty-something Bill Radler hoped to breed a rose that didn’t require constant pampering. His Knock Out filled the bill.

Ben Williams never gave the subject a thought until a chance encounter with a German hybridizer after World War II sparked a passion that burned until he passed away in 2006. He went on to help invent the miniflora rose -- a category of  “in between” bushes that were too big to be miniatures and too small for full-size roses.

Dr. Jim Sproul enjoyed breeding guppies in his early teens, then as an adult, his hybridizing interests turned to roses. Over the past fifteen years he has been working to create a line of roses bred with Hulthemias, plants considered more of a weed than an ornamental in the desert regions of Iran and Afghanistan.

The humble Hulthemia has inspired a new line of roses.
Although Hulthemias (rosa persica) are described as ugly bushes with thorny, rambling branches, the flowers have a distinctive red blotch in the center that has fascinated hybridizers for decades. 

They are not true roses, but breeders hoped they could cross the once-blooming desert plant with the modern Queen of Flowers to produce new varieties with the fascinating blotch.

The pioneering efforts of breeders around the world including Peter James, Chris Warner, Jack Harkness and Ralph Moore paved the way for Jim Sproul’s breakthrough work.

The Eyeconic™ line of roses are Sproul’s reward after fifteen years of trial and error, success and failure, and many hundreds of crosses. 

Eyeconic Pink Lemonade
His first big introduction was Eyeconic Lemonade, a shrub with sunny yellow, gently ruffled blooms and a magenta red blotch at the base. Lemonade is a heavy bloomer with slightly scented, non-fading flowers.

Pink Lemonade soon followed – a pretty light pink with a frilly bloom and of course, the blotch. Both varieties grow to about 3’ and boast dark green glossy foliage.

This year brings two new members of the family to catalogues and nurseries.

Landscape shrub Eyeconic Melon Lemonade is orange to apricot in color, with a red ring around the inside of the petals. 
Eyeconic Melon Lemonade (Courtesy Star Roses)

Eyeconic Pomegranate Lemonade is a miniature -- a deep pink and white blend with a dark magenta eye. It features exceptionally large non-fading flowers on a bush growing only to about 12”. Pomegranate also has the best blotch of the bunch thus far.
Eyeconic Pomegranate Lemonade is classed as a mini (Courtesy Star Roses)

Eyeconic Lychee Lemonade (Courtesy Star Roses)
A new addition to the color palette will make its debut in 2014. Semi-double Eyeconic® Lychee Lemonade is a pleasing ivory cream with a deep burgundy blotch. The plant is vigorous yet compact, making it a good choice for containers and small gardens.

All of these roses are fuss-free, self-cleaning and well suited for the Western U.S and Canada.

However in the East and South, the current Eyeconic series may require spraying because they are reportedly susceptible to black spot.

I don’t know if the black spot warning is for real or just cautionary.

In any event I’ll be keeping my eye on them all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013 28 comments

Tis the season when the catalogues cometh


While we were in New York last month, enough gardening catalogues arrived to give our Sapphire mail ladies a double hernia. Eight on seeds, four on roses, five on perennials, three on garden supplies, two on wild birds -- and they’re still coming.
It seems a new avalanche arrives every year about this time.  That’s because I’m undoubtedly on a list somewhere labeled “Garden Sucker.” (Also as a member of the Garden Writers Association of America, I’m fair game for every gardening concern.)

I'll be ordering more foxgloves, catmints and Centranthus ruber
 I do at least thumb through every arrival before tossing them in the recycling bin. Having written for the White Flower Farm catalogue and website for a number of years, I know how much work goes into each endeavor.

Daylilies are growing on me
Over the years I’ve learned from trial and error which companies live up to their promises and which simply offer pretty pictures and tall tales.

I’ve had good luck ordering from Bluestone Perennials, Spring Hill Nursery, American Meadows, Southern Living Plants and Oakes Daylilies.  If  I ever  receive a wilted plant or one that doesn’t grow as promised from any of these companies, a fresh replacement is sent immediately, no questions asked. 

Botanical Interests offers wonderful gardening tips

For seeds, it’s hard to beat Renee’s Garden. I used to love her very attractive catalogue and the tantalizing recipes sprinkled throughout the pages. Like many companies, Renee Shepherd has moved to an online publication. Sign up for her free E-Newsletter and you’ll receive great garden ideas and yes, recipes!

I also like the selection of seeds at Botanical Interests, especially their collections such as Grandmother's Cut Flower Garden. They also offer expert gardening tips, yummy recipes and eye-catching seed packets.

Fairy wand grows wild here but can be ordered from a specialty nursery
Now that we’ve moved to the mountains I’m very interested in finding wildflowers that are right for our area. Gardens of the Blue Ridge is a great source for seeds and plants  as well as advice (and they have an informative newsletter, too.)

When it comes to ordering roses by mail my advice is to definitely not believe everything you read. Several years ago I was hoodwinked more than once into ordering from a company that undoubtedly employs the world’s most persuasive copywriter.

I plan to grow Wollerton Old Hall as a climber
The ‘Climbing Cecile Brunner’ I sent for promised “delicate soft pink sweetheart buds and blooms on a vigorous climber... continual blooming...may be grown 20 feet plus into a tree for a gorgeous sight.” This description bore no resemblance to the 3 inch twig that arrived. It didn’t grow, much less bloom.

Since then I have several favorite rose sources I would recommend without reservation. David Austin English Roses never disappoint. And I’ve also received strong, healthy plants from Roses Unlimited, K and M Roses and Edmunds Roses.

Baron Girod de l'Ain, a Hybrid Perpetual from 1897
RosePetals Nursery is a wonderful source for antique, heirloom and  Earthkind roses. They also have a five-acre display garden where you will marvel at the collection of old garden roses.

This rose I spied at a gas station could be Midas Touch
So now that the catalogues have come and the websites have been scoured, I am making my list and checking it twice. 

As far as roses, I am expecting Wollerton Old Hall, England’s Rose, Lady Salisbury, Mystic Beauty, Midas Touch and Whimsy to arrive in early April.   

New perennials on the way include Centranthus ruber, Ilex Golden Verboom (male) and Nandina Lemon Hill.

Peter Cottontail will be hopping into my rose border
I’d love to hear about your favorite gardening catalogues, as well as your ordering success and horror stories.

 I’ll report the results in an upcoming posting. Although I can’t imagine there’s a great garden source I haven’t heard about, I’m happy to entertain the thought that one might exist.

 In fact, perhaps some new goodies are waiting for me right now. I just saw the mail truck go by.