Monday, June 6, 2022 1 comments

A thorn by any other name

 

While pruning my roses, I started thinking about thorns. 'L.D. Braithwaite is loaded.

 

Thumbing through a compilation of favorite sayings, you might find 300 or more quotes referring to roses. Many of these adages also mention the dreaded thorns. For instance, Anne Bronte wrote “he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” 

And of course we all know “every rose has its thorns.”

But the truth is, those nasty spikes we call thorns are not thorns at all. Botanists actually call them prickles. 

According to the American Rose Society, a thorn is a branch of a plant that becomes woody, hard and pointed. Cactus plants, locust trees and many varieties of citrus have thorns. These thorns are deeply embedded in the plant itself and are difficult to break off. 
 

 The Bourbon rose 'Zephirine Drouhin' is thornless

Rose prickles, on the other hand, can be snapped off quite easily since they are part of the outer layers of the stem. Just give a prickle a little push sideways and see what happens. 

Prickles are smaller than thorns and are useful in helping roses climb across other plants. They can also give potential predators a painful rebuke. (Tender bunny feet hate thorns.)

Although prickles aren’t supposed to be as intimidating as thorns, my arms, legs and face can’t tell much of a difference. When I’m out doing a little impromptu pruning and neglect to dress properly, I come in covered with scratches. I always tell people it’s because my roses love me and want to give me hugs.

Seriously, however, there’s an important reason to protect yourself from prickle punctures. 

Commonly known as rose thorn disease, Sporotrichosis is an infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii that usually affects the skin but can spread to other parts of the body. Infections in the joints, lungs and central nervous system are possible, although rare.
 
'James Galway' doesn't snag me
 
The fungus is found naturally in soil, on the tips of rose thorns, on sphagnum moss and hay. It enters the skin through small cuts or abrasions and first appears  -- sometimes several weeks after getting pricked – as small bumps. Left untreated, these bumps can later develop into open sores. 

The best advice is to completely avoid this ugly disease by wearing long sleeves and sturdy gloves while working around your roses. I truly love my Bionic Gloves – they are triple layered goatskin gauntlet gloves designed by a hand surgeon that protect my arms up to the elbows. After a weekend of serious pruning I ended up with nary a scratch, avoiding a potentially thorny situation.

 'The Lark Ascending' will sting me when she can
 
Kahil Gibran noted that “the optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.”
 

I admire the rose but remain mindful of the thorns just to be safe. And I say thorns because even though I know better, I can’t bring myself to call them prickles.

“Every rose has its prickles” simply doesn’t sound right.

And I prefer the sentiment of this German proverb: “Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” 



Monday, February 28, 2022 4 comments

Clematis, Queen of the Climbers


Perfect companions, Roses and Clematis

While living in England, I fell in love with country cottages covered in climbing roses. Whether arching over a doorway or smothering a brick wall, climbing roses appeared to be garden showstoppers.

After creating my own garden, I quickly found that climbing roses aren’t exactly eye candy between flushes of bloom. So it made sense to find companion plants that would twine around the rose canes and add interest throughout the growing season. The captivating clematis family, with its broad palette of colors, filled the bill.

'Starry Nights'

The good news is these vines aren’t just great companions for roses. They pair beautifully with hydrangeas, weigelas, lilacs, and viburnum.  And, of course, they are classic choices for covering arbors, scrambling along fences, or growing up into trees. New, petite varieties allow the patio gardener to enjoy these summer favorites as well. In fact, given the wide selection of colors, flower shapes, and sizes available, there is a clematis perfect for every garden.

The large-flowered climbers attract the most attention. Some sport flowers as large as 10 inches across on vines that can grow to 12 feet or more. However, many new selections, such as Vancouver 'Starry Nights', are shorter in stature, which make them ideal for containers and small gardens. The small-flowered varieties make up for their lack of size with bloom power. They tend to produce many more flowers and can be easier to grow.

'Josephine' is a traffic-stopper

I am kind of a sucker for the showy varieties. My ‘Josephine’ starts blooming in May and still throws out a flower or two in October. But it likes to sprawl, so make sure you have enough space for it.

'Piilu’ is kind of the best of both worlds. It is ideal for a container and starts the spring with eye-catching double blooms, then continues later in the season with single flowers.

'Piilu' has a long blooming season

Once you discover the pleasures of clematis, you’ll want to plan for a procession of bloom to last the entire growing year. Just select an early, mid-season, and late-season cultivar, and plant all three in the same vicinity, such as around a fence post. Plant shorter varieties throughout the perennial border to add pops of color in spring, summer, and fall.

Despite misconceptions that clematis are difficult to grow, care is fairly straightforward. The flowers like sun, but the roots like to be shaded to help retain moisture. Dappled sunlight will work for some varieties. Dig the planting hole twice as big as the pot, and make sure the root ball is two inches below the soil level. Take care not to disturb the roots.

After-planting care is critical, says Dan Long, owner of Brushwood Nursery in Athens, Ga. “So many beginning gardeners plunk a plant in the ground, water it once or twice, and then walk away. Varieties of clematis are capable of tremendous growth, but they need plenty of water right away if they are to thrive and live to 50 years or longer.

Mr. Long, also known as the Vine Guy (his nursery carries more than 300 varieties of clematis alone), says it’s hard to say how long it takes a clematis to get established. “I’ve seen some grow 10 feet in a year and bloom with abandon, while others take time to settle into their new homes.”

The best plan is to maintain a generous watering schedule for at least the first year and fertilize regularly once the plants are established. Watch for the same insects and slugs that bother other garden plants. Read the garden tag, consult your local nursery, and be patient. It can take as long as three years for a clematis to hit its peak performance.

But boy, the wait is worth it!

Pink 'James Galway' and deep purple clematis in my garden

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 3 comments

New faces coming to my 2022 garden



Dave Bang's 'Strawberry Swirl' courtesy Bill Kozemchak

 Every Christmas my sister Lisa gives me an Audubon Songbird calendar. It is now up displaying January 2022. It is a new month, in a brand new year. Which means it's time to start dreaming about which roses and perennials I want to add to the garden this spring!

  

Of course, I have things in my “driveway garden” from 2021 and earlier that are still waiting patiently in pots for me to plant them. There is a lovely golden yellow buddleia, the David Austin rose ‘Dame Judy Dench’ and the beautiful multi-color Delbard rose ‘Edward Degas’.

'Dame Judy Dench' is a lady in waiting in my driveway
 Truth is, I don’t really have a space in my small garden to place these plants. But never mind! It will all work out. It always does. As I have written in the past, a love affair with roses can become an addiction. No matter how many roses you have, there is always room for one more.

 So, let’s get this party started!!

 I saw my first selection in a posting on Paul Zimmerman Roses Gardening and knew I had to have it. ‘Broceliande’, is named for the enchanted forest in Brittany, France that is believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It has already cast a spell on me even though I haven’t actually seen a bloom in person yet. Fortunately, it was in stock at Palatine Roses in Canada.

'Broceliande' Courtesy Palatine Roses
You must purchase a minimum of three roses to order at Palatine, so I was forced to pick two more! The grandiflora ‘South Africa’ has been turning a lot of heads and rightly so. It is another wonderful rose from Kordes and is described as having “rich, glowing amber flowers” that can will catch your eye even from a distance. Some have described ‘South Africa’ blooms as the color of a ripe cantaloupe. We shall see!

'South Africa' Sunbelt Palatine Roses
Then I selected another Kordes standout, ‘Caramella Fairy Tale’which produces beautiful sprays of amber blooms with a darker reverse all season long. I think it would look perfect beside the yellow buddleia should I ever find room for them.


'Carmella Fairy Tale' Courtesy Kordes

 Last summer I saw an article about hybridizer Dave Bang’s unique and stunning striped miniature roses. After seeing the photos in the article, I immediately checked out the dazzling variety on the K&M Roses website. I restrained myself and only ordered six. I’ll be doing a Dirt Diaries posting on them as soon as I get my hands on these beauties.

'Swizzle' Courtesy Bill Kozemchak
 Roses like companions

 I have always believed in the concept of the Cottage Garden or the “tidy mess’ as Gertrude Jekyll used to say. The concept is to mix roses with a variety of perennial partners so there is always something blooming in the garden. The trick is picking the right perennials. 

My Maryland Cottage Garden
 Over the years I’ve experienced a number of failures with my choices. I’ve never had a coreopsis live to bloom again. Coneflowers disappear, too. Even the Centranthus I couldn’t kill in Maryland has been a flop in the North Carolina mountains.

'Blue Boa' Agastache Courtesy Terra Nova
In 2021, I hit on some successful combos. The agastaches bloomed most of the summer. Low growing dahlias were perfect in the garden borders. And I’ve fallen in love with salvia hybrids. From ‘Hot Lips’ and ‘Amistad’ to ‘Black and Blue’, they put on a show all summer.
Butterflies and hummers love 'Black and Blue'
I particularly loved the ‘Rockin’ Blue Suede Shoes’ hybrid salvia. The color was a beautiful and unusual light blue. Although ‘Black and Blue’ is supposed to be considered an annual, mine come back every spring. I hope ‘Blue Suede’ does, too.

 Countdown to Spring

 All my new roses and a few new perennials will arrive the first or second week of April. I am already counting the days. Will ‘Broceliande’ live up to the hype? After all, copywriters make every offering sound fabulous. (I should know, I wrote descriptions of plants and flowers for White Flower Farm catalogues for several years.)

 Right now, all we can do is hope and dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 
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