Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hartwood Roses in the Newspaper … Again.

I spent last Monday in the garden with the managing editor of the Culpeper Times. She heard me speak at the Culpeper Garden Club’s meeting in July, and she thought the garden here would be a interesting subject for an article.

Here is the article.  I think she did a really nice job of capturing the atmosphere I try to create around here.  Come visit, and see for yourself.

'A Rose is a Rose is a Rose'

By Anita L. Sherman
Source: Culpeper Times

It's a hot muggy morning and Connie Hilker has a lot of tending to do — there are roses to water, roses to plant, roses to move and rose beds that need weeding. "It's rare that I'm not covered in dirt," said Hilker, who currently has some 800 roses that she lovingly tends.

Visiting Hartwood Roses, like one of her favorites Double Delight, is a two-fold pleasure. A stately brick home, Hartwood Manor, takes center stage on the nine acres. It was built in 1848 in a Gothic-Revival style. Connie, along with her husband Steve, purchased the place in 2002 and has since been renovating it. Surrounding by aging oaks and a majestic pecan tree, Hilker's nursery, which opened in June, is perfectly nestled in history.

Hilker has not only found a home that is the perfect niche, but also a business and passion well suited to this place out of time — raising heirloom old garden roses.

"I can't compete with the large commercial growers," said Hilker. But that's fine with her, as her specialty is the hard-to-find, less-common varieties of roses — perhaps those that bloomed in your mother's or grandmother's garden.

Hilker's collection includes some she has rescued from cemeteries or a bulldozer's path. Pointing to one diminutive bush, Hilker said sadly that the mother plant was gone.

A longtime rose aficionado, Hilker's interest in starting her own nursery gained momentum when a grower in Waynesboro retired. "He was a real super guy, and I wanted to carry on what he had started," said Hilker who has acquired many of her roses from nurseries that have gone out of business.

Hilker's main garden is on what was once a large vegetable garden. Looking out on her row upon row of roses, Hilker said that the first row represents her favorites – China Roses. "The soil here is really, really good," said Hilker, "and it drains very well."

With many ancient European varieties, a stroll through Hilker's gardens is a walk through time, with small tags resonating from 1857 and the Duchesse de Brabant or Daphne from 1912. Then there's the stately General Washington, circa 1860, and delicate Evangeline from 1906.

Specializing in ramblers and climbers, Hilker's roses are all grown on their own roots and propagated on her property. A greenhouse nurses tiny cuttings that are taking root and are gently misted in a recycling water system.

Hilker recently gave a presentation at the Culpeper Garden Club. She has strong ties to Culpeper as her parents live on Lake Pellum, and she has a sister in Stevensburg. A member of the Richmond Rose Society, Hilker is keen on educating people about her heirloom beauties.

If you're not able to come in person, Hilker now offers her selection of vintage roses online.

Open officially each Saturday from 10 - 3 p.m., Hilker spends most of her time looking after her roses. "I'm also open by appointment but, you know, chances are most days I'm here and you can find me in the garden."

(written by Hartwood Roses.  Hartwood Rose blog)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How I Make My Rose Beds.

Let’s go back in time this morning, to see how the bed of Hybrid Tea roses in the front yard came to be.

The area where the beds are was once occupied by a very large bush of some sort. It wasn’t a nice bush, and it blocked the dogwood tree, so I had a tree crew remove it. You can see a little bit of it in the lower right corner of this photo … taken when we first looked at the house with our realtor in July 2002. My, my things have sure changed around here. (The ugly above-ground pool is gone, thank goodness.)

It looked like this after we cut down the ugly bush. The beds are sections of a 40' circle, made using string and marking paint, with the trunk of the dogwood tree as the center.

After we finalized the layout and the paths, I sprayed the grass inside the bed lines with herbicide. When the grass was dead, the husband used the rototiller to stir things up.

We spread a whole truckload of rabbit manure into the beds, which was a depth of about 2 inches. Friends of ours breed show rabbits, so rabbit manure is my organic amendment of choice. The husband tilled the beds again to mix it in, and I raked everything smooth.

Here are the pots of roses, all laid out in their correct places. The roses in these beds are placed on 3' centers. They're hybrid teas, which tend to grow up rather than out, so this spacing will create a lush look. Some of them haven't behaved as expected, others were mis-labeled and turned out to be climbers instead of shrubs. These will be moved when the weather cools this fall.

After the roses were planted, it was time to lay the irrigation lines. All of the roses in the gardens here are watered using drip irrigation. Layers of newspaper underneath the mulch helps to keep weeds from sprouting through … and it’s a fabulous way to recycle your old newspaper. (Look how tiny the roses are.)

Here is what it looked like after the roses had been in the ground for a few months.

... and a few months later.

This is what it looks like now:

and here's a close-up:

This whole process, from the beginning when I laid out the lines of these beds until I had roses in the ground, took about a month. It takes two weeks for the herbicide to completely kill the turf. It only took one day to plant all the roses (there's 80 of them in these beds), and I wouldn't recommend that pace to anyone. Fortunately the soil was in prime condition and easy to dig, but I still almost killed myself doing it. Add a few days to put down the newspaper, install the irrigation, lay the brick border, and mulch ... and you'll have a rose bed in no time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How I Spent My Weekend Away

This weekend was so much fun!!

We went with three other couples to the New River Gorge in West Virginia to go zip lining.

We stayed in this cabin at Hemlock Haven. It was wonderful and relaxing, and dog-friendly.

Saturday morning, we loaded up to go play in the tree tops.

They outfitted us with harnesses, and gloves, and helmets.

Clipped us to zip lines, and we flew through the trees.

We walked suspended bridges.

… and we finished our adventure with a 40-foot rappel.

This is a video that I took while zipping through the tree tops on one of the longer and faster lines. Ignore what looks like a terrible collision at the end of the video. I had to drop the camera (it was tethered to my belt-loop) so I could use my right hand to brake and come in for a soft landing.

Here's the URL, in case this link stops working.

(written by Hartwood Roses.  Hartwood Roses blog)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Closed this Weekend.

I hope there aren’t many of you who were planning to visit this weekend, because I won’t be here. Friends and I are going to West Virginia for two days of much-anticipated R & R.

There haven’t been many visitors for the past few Saturdays. I guess it’s part of the process of building the business and my reputation. Once the rose community knows I’m here, things should pick up. Besides, it’s August and it’s hot ... but summer is the perfect time to plant potted roses. I have some I’m going to plant later this morning.

The garden looks really good. The Chinas and Teas and Polyanthas in the rose field, and the Hybrid Teas in the front bed, are blooming like crazy.

I will be taking my show on the road, doing two plant sales in September: Hartwood Days Festival at Hartwood Presbyterian Church on September 12, and the Fall Sale at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Friday and Saturday, September 18 and 19.

Summer weekend traffic on I-95 has caused problems for some of the people who come from northern Virginia on Saturdays. Last weekend was particularly bad. I’m here most of the time, anyway … so why not come during the week? I’ve always advertised that I’m open by appointment during the week, but only one person has taken advantage of that. Give me a call or send an email, and I’ll be sure to be here for you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A New Bed Out Front.

I realized last week that there are no roses on our property that are visible from the road … not the best situation for a rose nursery, don’t ya know. The first roses that anyone can see is the garden of antique hybrid teas by the house or the OGR border along the side fence between the front yard and the pasture. With all the roses here that are trapped in pots, surely I have some to plant by the road for passers-by to see.

It would be lovely to plant roses along the entire front fence, but there’s only a small area with full sun. The south end of the fence is shaded by oak trees, and the north end is behind the magnolia tree.

I decided to make a small semi-circular bed and plant two roses at the base of the nursery sign: Cadenza, a bright red climber, will be trained to wires on the fence, and Sunshine Sally, an arching yellow shrub, will grow at Cadenza’s feet.

Here’s what it looked like after the herbicide I sprayed last week did its job ... and all the grass and weeds are dead.

Before ....

Cardboard is the perfect thing to put under mulch. It keeps just about everything from growing up through, worms love it, and it degrades over time and feeds the soil. (We happen to still have a few moving boxes lying around, saved just for this purpose.)

Cardboard Under the Mulch

All finished! It’s going to look a bit threadbare till the roses grow. I have to resist the urge to pack more into this space … once these two get bigger, there won’t be room for anything else.


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