Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Promise of Spring in the Greenhouse

Now that the days are longer, growth on the roses in the greenhouse is really picking up speed.  Even though the weather outside is cold and damp, the inside of the greenhouse is warm and protected.  The roses are growing big and healthy, and they are ready to move up to their final, half-gallon pots.

This is Abraham Darby, ready to go into his new pot.

I am really pleased with all of the healthy root growth!

Last month, it was easy to see the individual cuttings in their little pots in trays on the greenhouse shelves.

Photo taken on March 4.

Look how much larger they are now!!

Photo taken March 29.

A few of the roses have even produced buds ... which I should have snapped off to encourage the plants to put their energy toward growing leaves and roots, but I didn't have the heart to do it.  My soul is tired from the long cold winter, and blooming flowers are just what the Dr. ordered ... even if it's a little bit ahead of the season in the greenhouse.

I found this flower on Pink Joy, hanging over the edge of the pot.

This bud on Mutabilis is almost ready!

If tomorrow is sunny, which will warm the greenhouse and make it comfortable to work out there, I will continue to work on repotting the roses. 

My greenhouse isn't large enough to hold all of the roses in these larger containers, so I'm going to do as many as I can ... starting with the ones that REALLY need it right now.  I will do the rest as soon as it's finally warm enough to transition them to outdoor conditions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Garden Symposium in Lynchburg, Virginia

This past weekend, The Husband and I went to Lynchburg, Virginia, to attend the annual spring Garden Symposium at the Lynchburg Old City Cemetery.  This is an event that I look forward to every year!  It is incredibly well organized, and there are fabulous speakers.  Combine this with the atmosphere of the cemetery, and it makes for a wonderful weekend!

The Old City Cemetery is a treasure!  It is owned by the city of Lynchburg, and operated in cooperation with the Southern Memorial Association, a non-profit foundation.  The cemetery's 27 acres contain five museums and an impressive collection of historic bulbs, shrubs, trees, and ROSES ... all beautifully maintained in a park-like atmosphere.

The roses are all pruned and staged for their big show later this spring.

The Symposium was lightly attended this year.  This made for a very intimate atmosphere for us in the audience, and gave us ample opportunity to have all of our questions answered.  The weather was threatening, with cloudy skies all day, but the rain held off until we were on our way home on Saturday evening!

This is the Confederate Section of the cemetery, with row after row of simple headstones.

The speakers this year were superb, as always.  Peggy Singlemann, Director of Horticulture at the Maymont Foundation in Richmond, spoke about using flowering shrubs to spice up our gardens.  Cherie Foster Colburn, a landscape designer and author from Houston, Texas, presented a program on how to create a garden to be enjoyed at night.  The final presenter, a man I am proud to call a friend, was Rev. Doug Seidel ... who spoke about the history and tradition of plants in cemeteries.

After the formal presentations, we went out into the cemetery (where it was WAY colder than the late March date would have suggested), and Doug walked through the Cemetery's rose collection and told stories of the various rose varieties growing there.  We were all totally captivated!

The roses won't be blooming until May, but the Hellebores were certainly putting on a beautiful show!

If you have been here for very long, you already know how much I love to spend time in cemeteries.  I adore a cemetery's peaceful atmosphere and the great love that exists among the stones. 

I love the simplicity and pattern of the simple head stones in the Confederate Section.  The rest of the cemetery has a wonderful variety of fencing and flowers and stones ... almost worthy of a sculpture museum!

This was my very favorite epitaph.  I think it applies to most of us ... don't you?

I hope to be back in Lynchburg on May 7, to help with the annual Antique Rose Festival and sale.

Later this week, I'll take you to see another one of Lynchburg's treasures.  Stay tuned.

(The photos in this post were taken with my new camera ... a Canon SD1300.  I'm still getting used to it.  Please forgive the weird colors.  I trusted the 'Auto White Balance' feature, and I shouldn't have because everything turned out a lovely shade of icy blue.  I did my best to correct it in Photo Shop, but they are all still a bit off.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Snapshot ... Snow This Morning

It was a long, exhausting weekend for The Husband and me, in a good way, and bed was a very welcome place when we got home last night.  I slept incredibly well, waking at 6:30 this morning, feeling charged and ready for the upcoming day.  I looked out the bedroom window, and found SNOW!

A small weather system has brought us about an inch of snow, which accumulated only on grassy areas ... as you can see on this little weed in the crack of our driveway.

I don't expect this little bit of snow to affect my plans for today.  This morning, I hope to clean out my car ... the inside of which is beginning to resemble a dumpster.  This afternoon, I'll head to Richmond for a rose society meeting.  I love the Richmond Rose Society, and I do whatever I can to attend every meeting.  Besides, Richmond is south of here, and they probably got even less snow than we did.

This coming week will be a busy one in the greenhouse.  It's time to plant the baby roses in their 'big boy' pots, to settle them in and ready them to go to their new homes later this spring.  Most of last year's left over roses are sitting in the nursery, waiting patiently for spring to REALLY arrive.

I think it'll be here any day now.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Roses Are More Than Just Roses To Me

When I was invited to speak at the Northern Neck Rose Society's Christmas luncheon back in December, I struggled a bit as I tried to think of a topic.  A luncheon isn't really the place to lecture and teach like I usually do, and I wasn't sure what I could talk about that would be appropriate and interesting.  I decided to 'introduce' myself and tell the folks about how roses have been a theme that has followed me, and how roses are more than just 'roses' to me. 

The beautiful 'Honorine du Brabant'

I spoke mostly off-the-cuff, as I am most comfortable doing, with only a few notes to keep me on track.  The Society members listened, smiled, snickered, nodded, and genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. I'm going to see what I could do to put my thoughts and stories into this post ... so you can all get a better sense of why I grow roses and what they mean to me.  (This post is L-O-N-G ... so grab a snack or something to drink and get comfortable.  I guarantee that you will have a much better understanding of who I am by the time you reach the end.)

My Grandmother grew roses.  She grew Hybrid Tea roses with Hall of Fame names ... 'Peace', Mr. Lincoln', and 'Mirandy' were some of her favorites that come to mind.  Her southern California garden was an ideal place to grow these roses to perfection.   When I was a newlywed in our first house in the early 1980's, I wanted to grow roses ... my Grandmother's kind of roses.  That first spring, I went to a nursery and bought roses, and I planted them proudly in a blazing, south-facing bed against one wall of our house.  Those poor roses suffered from the heat, the poor soil, and my complete ignorance of even basic rose care.  My Grandmother did what she could to help, but she couldn't be of any real help since she was 3000 miles away and in a completely different climate than mine.  For example, she called me in January that first year to remind me that it was pruning time.  I tried to make her understand that roses in Virginia are often under snow in January, and we have to wait until March or April to prune.

My grandmother, c. 1930

My husband and I lived in that house for four years and the roses survived, though they were never beautiful.  At our second house, a new, larger house with a similar south-facing wall, I again planted another row of Hybrid Tea roses in the blazing sun in unimproved, back-fill soil ... having obviously not learned anything from the suffering of my original roses.  These roses (Angel Face, Peace, Tropicana, Chrysler Imperial ... or was it Mr. Lincoln ... and others) suffered even more than my first ones did.  I dubbed them "The Mangy Roses", a name that stuck and it accurately describes their pathetic appearance and unhealthy condition.

Mr. Lincoln, growing beautifully in a friend's garden.

One afternoon, fed up with the struggle I went through to try to grow decent roses, I decided that they looked awful because I COULDN'T grow roses.  In a fit of frustration, I dug them all up and tossed them into the back of The Husband's truck, and he drove them to the dump for me.  While he was waiting for his turn to dispose of his load, a woman came over and asked if he was throwing those roses away ... if so, could she have them.  He agreed, of course.  The Mangy Roses were transferred from his truck to hers, and I have often consoled myself with the thought they undoubtedly had a better life with her than they ever could have had with me.

'Chicago Peace' in my current garden -- not mangy at all, now that I know how to make it happy.

Most of the yard at that house, in its wooded neighborhood with mature trees, was quite shady.  My urge to garden was strong, so I learned which plants thrived in that shade and I created a shade garden that I was very proud of.  The rest of the yard developed beautifully, but I never could get anything to survive in the spot were the roses had been.

House #2.  I took this photo the day the For Sale sign went into the yard.

Our next house was also in a wooded neighborhood, with sunny conditions only in the front yard and the driveway.  I made a lovely shade garden in the backyard for my own enjoyment, and put traditional landscaping in the front, as dictated by the over-zealous homeowner's association.  By this time, I was educated in gardening enough to realize that I couldn't force roses to grow where they wouldn't be happy ... a lesson that I have since passed on to others many, many times.  I worked three roses into the design, with 'Blaze', a red climber, on an arch by the front door, Knock Out beside Blaze (a hideous combination, by the way) and 'Verdun', a dark pink Polyantha (my first OLD ROSE) at the end of the sidewalk by the garage.


In 2002, I went back to school to study Horticulture.  During the first class, the instructor asked us to introduce ourselves and to describe why we were there and why we were interested in horticulture.  One of the other students introduced herself, explaining that she was a Master Gardener and that she coordinated volunteers at the James Monroe Library in downtown Fredericksburg, and that she was a member of the Fredericksburg Rose Society.  This woman seemed like my kind of person, and I introduced myself during the break.

She and I became friends, and I volunteered many hours at the James Monroe Library, manicuring its small garden and planting ROSES.  One day while we were working, I told her that I liked working with her, but that I COULDN'T grow roses inmy garden.  She laughed at me and said something that I will always remember ... she told me, "If you think you can't grow roses, you are probably trying to grow the wrong ones."  This was all the encouragement I needed.  Under her guidance, the rose garden I have now started that day.

She introduced me to Old Garden Roses, and patiently answered my questions.  We made trips to Sherando Roses (an old-garden rose nursery that was about an hour from here.)  Sherando was a wonderful place, run by a retired teacher who shared his huge love of roses.  I would go see him with a well-researched list of roses which I thought would be perfect for my garden.  He would take my list, nod and concur with some of the choices, and he would poo-poo other choices, saying, "You don't want this one.  Let me show you ...".  He would lead me to the garden to show me his alternative to my choice, which always turned out to be better than what I thought I originally wanted.

Sherando's gazebo -- where I spent many hours talking roses.

By this time, we owned this old house we live now, but we didn't live here ... I was working full-time on the renovation.  This house is my dream house, and its property has fertile soil with nine acres of sunshine that is perfect for growing roses.  I didn't have time for much gardening then ... I had more pressing things to do, like paint stripping, masonry, plaster, roofing, and a full kitchen remodel to deal with. 

This is me sanding the family room mantel.  The hose comiing from the sander is attached to my shop vacuum to collect the dust, so I don't spread the dust around the house ... or into my lungs.  Notice the heat gun and the carbide scraper in the background.

While I was working on this house, and still living in the house with the shady yard, the roses I was buying from Sherando lived in pots in our driveway ... waiting for the day that I could plant them in gardens at my dream house.  The driveway had great sun, and easy access to the hose.  By the end of 2003, I had a virtual hedge of large pots of roses in a double row that stretched most of the way down the driveway, forming a hedge between our property and that of our neighbor.  Our neighbor loved the view from her side, because she had the sunny south side of the 'hedge' where the most flowers always were.

My fascination with roses grew at a lighting pace as work on the renovation progressed, and my roses-in-pots garden numbered about 60 inhabitants by the end of 2004.  Our renovation was supposed to be finished enough for us to move by summer 2005, and it seemed perfectly within our ability to move this many roses, continue to care for them in their pots, and plant them in gardens that were yet to be designed.  As is common with renovations, this one encountered obstacles and took longer than planned.  We were finally able to leave our former house and move into this one in October 2007 ... and, according to my database, I had 138 roses in pots in the driveway at the time.

It took three trips with The Husband's truck to move all the roses from our old house to this house.

It was during this time that I discovered online rose discussion forums, and it was very rewarding to 'converse' with folks with similar interests from all over the world.  This is how I found my friend Robert.  He and I 'met' on GardenWeb's Antique Roses Forum.  We corresponded and we realized that we lived only about an hour away from one another.  Another Forum friend (who I also had never met in person) mentioned that she was planning to visit Robert and his garden.  I sent her a message, asking if she'd like company for the trip.  Picture this ... two women, who had never met each other in person before, driving to spend the day with a man neither of them had ever seen.  Before you get all excited about this seemingly dangerous situation, let me tell you that Robert's name is unique enough that I checked him out pretty thoroughly online, and I satisfied myself that he wouldn't turn out to be an axe murderer.

The Rose Tunnel in Robert's garden, in full bloom in May.

Robert and I liked each other instantly (he calls it love at first sight), and our friendship has grown to be something that I treasure ... as trite as that sounds.  It's about a LOT more than just roses, but it all began by sharing our love of roses that afternoon in his garden.

'Leontine Gervais', my favorite rambler, in Robert's garden.

In 2008, Sherando Roses closed.  This hit me hard, because it meant the loss of the only Old Rose nursery within hundreds of miles of here.  Robert and I were talking one day afterward, wondering what we would do without Sherando.  Robert encouraged me to follow my dream, and open my OWN nursery.  He said that this wild-hare idea of mine wasn't nearly as crazy as it seemed.  He assured me that I would be good at it, and he told me he would help in any way he could.  He is my Number One hole digger, a great listener, and a dangerous person to go to a nursery with ... I wish I had a picture of what it looked like one afternoon when we stuffed his BMW completely full of plants.

Once I committed to starting the nursery, I threw myself into collecting roses at a dizzying pace.  I hadn't planned to add so many roses to my collection so quickly, but circumstances presented themselves and it seemed like I had little choice but to roll with the opportunities as they came.  Three of my favorite mail-order nurseries closed in 2008 and 2009, potentially taking with them the commercial availability of the rare and unusual roses in their inventories.  I felt that I couldn't let this happen, so I went on a HUGE rose buying streak to collect any of the roses these nurseries sold that I wanted to have here.  According to my database, in the two year period between January 2008 and December 2009, I added more than 650 different roses to my collection! 

Roses waiting for spots in the garden, living in pots in the driveway, in August 2008.  Forgive the blurry, through the window screen view.

This is what it looked like at ground level.

Opening this nursery has brought many friends into my life.  Some have come as customers, visiting the gardens here in season and sharing their love of roses.  Others were online Forum friends that have become real, flesh-and-blood friends ... much like the blog friends that I now cherish.

Blurry photo of Jim and Robert and me.

I cannot separate my relationship with roses from my membership in Rose Societies.  I attended my first Rose Society meeting in 2002, with my friend from Horticulture class, and I discovered that Rose Societies aren't at all what I thought they would be.  I imagined a group of straight-laced, white-glove-wearing, tea party ladies ... no men allowed.  Things USED to be like this long ago, I am told, but it is not at all like this today.  Rose Societies are full of generous rose growers, who want to do whatever they can to help members (and anyone else) GROW BETTER ROSES.  Monthly meetings are important because personal IN PERSON contact is the best way I have found to learn.  Experienced members mentor beginners, often sparking lifelong friendships.

Frenzied preparation in the staging area at the 2009 Colonial District Rose Show.

My dear rose friend, Rick, came into my life as a fellow Rose Society member.  He and I see eye to eye on a lot of things, and I can always count on his advice when I need it.  (I introduced you to Rick's garden in THIS post.) 

That's Rick, second from the left, judging the rose show.

As I delivered my talk at the Christmas Luncheon, and I told of my experience, I think I got my point accross.  Roses mean a lot more to me than their role as flowers in the garden.  Roses have followed me in one way or another for my entire adult life.  Sometimes I was struggling with them, or longing for them, or (now) thoroughly immersed in them.  Roses have taken me to places I didn't know about, and have brought me friends I can't imagine being without.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Consequences of Making Mulch Mountains

We've all seen them ... the neat, cone-shaped piles of mulch around ornamental trees.  I have heard them called Mulch Mountains, or Mulch Volcanoes.  Whatever you call them, they are HORRIBLE for the health of the trees they surround.

The trees in the photos in this post are in a parking lot island in a large commercial development.  Because of their size, I imagine they are original to the development, which was opened in the mid-1990s.  All this time, the landscape maintenance crews have been refreshing the Mulch Mountains, piling them higher and higher as they spruce up the development each year ... and what you see below is the inevitable result.

When I saw this the other day, I knew that it was a perfect example to use to spread the word and try to educate folks about what can happen.  (I could talk about this all day, but a graphic photo or two gets the point across a lot better.) 

Piling mulch against the tree's trunk like this traps moisture and creates a perfect atmosphere for girdling roots to sprout around the tree trunk.   

Most folks don't realize that mulch piled high against their trees can cause damage like this.  They think that professional landscape crews must be experts, so why not do what they do.  Don't fall for it!

If you choose to mulch the base of your trees or shrubs, try to keep the mulch from piling up against the trunk. In the long run, your trees will thank you.

Here's a video to show you how it's SUPPOSED to be done.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Inspiration for the Front Porch

I'm still busily collecting information and inspiration for the final design of the ornamentation for our front porch, and I thought today would be a good day to share some of what I'm thinking about.

This is to remind you of what our porch currently looks like.

In the photo above, all of the flooring and trim and the beadboard ceiling are new.  All that's left to do is to decide on a design for the posts and railing and brackets and the rest of the decoration.  Unfortunately, no evidence exists to give me any clue about what our porch looked like originally, so we are making this up as we go along.

In my LAST POST about this, one lovely reader reminded me about the Historic American Building Survey collection online at the Library of Congress web site.  I dug through hundreds of photographs looking for details that I could use as inspiration, and I found this wonderful porch on a house in California.

Photo of the Andrew Landrum House from HABS site.

I love how the brackets and posts are ornately decorated, but the decorations are not the first thing that catches my eye.  It's the way each element is used in perfect proportion that I love about this porch. 

HABS photo

My favorite porch so far is one that I saw on a trip to West Virginia earlier this month.  If I could teleport the decorative elements from this porch to my house, I would do it in an instant.  It is totally, completely perfect!!  Perfect enough, in fact, that I would make a return trip if I had the time to trace the brackets and balusters and use them as is on our house ... this is saying a lot, because I rarely copy anything.

Isn't this gorgeous????

I love the chamfered posts, and the brackets are perfect.  The barge boards that were original to our house had a motif on them that is similar to the three-winged design on these brackets.  They seem more Gothic than Victorian, and that's exactly what I'm hunting for.

If I decide to copy some brackets or balusters (that aren't already available commercially) I ran across a web site yesterday for Victorian Woodshop, a woodworking shop in northern California that specializes in reasonably priced Victorian brackets and other ornaments ... and he does custom orders and historic reproductions!!  I imagine he will be getting an order from me, when I finally decide what I want. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

This was Supposed to be a Post About Pruning Climbing Roses ...

Yesterday was a perfect day to be in the garden.  The sun was shining (making a necessity of a thorough application of sunscreen moisturizer), we had temperatures in the 60s (16-18C), with a light breeze.  What a wonderful day to grab my pruners and other tools and head to the garden to work on the climbers.

Photo of Pink Perpetue from last year.

I started with the pillar roses on the Arcade, because they're the easiest for me and require the fewest decisions.  Working left to right, taking each rose in turn, I was making pretty good progress.  As I worked, I realized that this would make a good blog post (and a good section in my presentation on climbing roses).  I always have my little camera with me, so I pulled it from my pocket and took photos at intervals as I worked. 

Swan Lake, also last year.

At one point while working on Sombruiel, or was it Parade, I sat the camera down on the ground ... intending to pick it right back up.  As I stood up, I accidently put my knee onto the camera, and the retractable lens is now jammed.  The camera is 'stealth bomber black' and I just didn't see it sitting there.

Yes, Folks, I have destroyed another camera.  Here is the last photo it took:

This is what the base of Swan Lake looked like after I pruned out the dead, damaged, and puny canes.

I don't think I can repair this one, like I did when I broke the LCD screen on my last camera.  (Did you miss this story last year?  Click HERE to catch up.)  I guess I'll be camera shopping this weekend.  Until then, there will be no more impromptu photo opportunities, pulling a tiny camera from my pocket.  Instead, I will be toting around my Nikon DSLR, and treating it very gingerly.
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