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Brothers Grimm

Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Rose

I’ve been wanting to plant some Fairy Tale Roses for the last few years but couldn’t find them in any of our local nurseries. So this past week I found some online and Mike phoned in the order. We decided on the luscious Brothers Grimm and the elegant Kosmos, both floribundas, both extremely disease resistance and each uniquely beautiful.

Brothers Grimm is anything but grim with its distinctive, eye-popping color of orange and apricot with bright yellow on the reverse side of its 30 to 40 petals. The blooms grow in clusters on an upright bush that has dark green, glossy foliage that has a growth habit of about 3’ tall. I can’t wait to see this rose blooming in our garden. Brothers Grimm is hardy to Zone 5 and is just one in a series of Fairy Tale roses bred by Kordes Roses.

Kosmox

Kosmos

Our second Fairy Tale Rose is Kosmos. I thought my knowledge of fairy tales was fairly extensive, but I have to admit that I’ve never come across a character named Kosmos in any of my childhood reading. (If you know who Kosmos is, let me know.) Kosmos has 40 delicate, creamy white petals around apricot centers and is described as having a light fruity fragrance. I’ll let you know. The foliage is matte green and the bush grows to a height of 3 to 4 feet.

Both Brothers Grimm and Kosmos have been awarded the prestigious ADR award which is given to roses that are tested in German gardens for 3 years and are not sprayed with any pesticides. These roses should thrive in our New England garden and, hopefully, be virtually black spot free. With their old-fashioned form and their many-petaled blooms, I anticipate that we will be able to add them to our list of sustainable, easy to grow roses.

Do any of you grow Fairy Tale roses? If so, let us know.

Photos by Kordes Roses

2014 Spring Flower & Garden Shows

Flowers in a BugWill this winter never end! Here it is, March 2, and temps last night were in single digits and the weather forecast is for still more snow tonight. Paf!

BUT, last weekend was the first round of spring – really mid-winter – New England flower shows. The Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show as well as the Connecticut Spring Flower & Garden show were blessed with fine weather for their 4-day runs and attendance at both shows appeared heavy on the days when we were there.

'53 MG

’53 MG

In Providence, the Rhode Island show’s theme was “Vintage Gardens” which featured antique and classic automobiles as unique centerpieces in each display garden. I overheard a few grumbles that the cars distracted from the horticulture. I disagree. The cars were all in tip-top shape and were skillfully integrated into each garden’s design, creating interesting and novel exhibitions of gardening excellence.

Sand SculptureThe sand sculptors were back again this year and, following the show theme, carved a full sized old-timey automobile out of damp sand. This isn’t strictly horticulture either but it has become a popular feature at the show guessing by the number of visitors taking photos. I liked it, too.

Vintage Roadster

Vintage Roadster

I also liked a stylish entry that showcased an elegant vintage Art Deco wedding table with centerpieces, place settings and fine china set in a classy garden during the Roaring Twenties.

Roaring Twenties Wedding

Roaring Twenties Wedding

Our Friday lecture was titled “Discovering Easy-Care Roses” where we explored sustainable, winter hardy and attractive rose varieties that will flourish in a pesticide-free environment. We explained the process of selecting disease-resistant roses that can thrive in New England gardens and identified many easy-care roses currently available. This thoughtful process of discovery eliminates much of the frustration experienced by home gardeners by planting the right roses in the right gardens. Judging by the size of the audience, there was a great deal of interest in the program and we signed quite a few books at the end.

Pruning Demo

Pruning Demo

On Saturday, we conducted a much different program called “The Art of Pruning Roses.” I brought an overgrown potted rose bush that I dug out of the snow in the winter crib and demonstrated easy-to-follow steps that demystified rose pruning. The lively audience was very curious about pruning and many had felt that pruning was some form of alchemy and that they would destroy a rose with poor pruning. Not so. Lots of Q and A during and after the demo.

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show was held in the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Their 2014 theme was “Backyard Paradise” and it was indeed a paradise. This convention center is really, really big with three acres of convention space and the huge main show floor was packed with over 300 booths on one side and gorgeous gardens on the other. Our favorite was a full-size, nicely landscaped bocce court.

Bocce Court

Bocce Court

We conducted our most popular program, “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” twice on Sunday. Home gardeners want to grow roses and this program shows then how. This is our favorite program and regardless of the number of times we have presented it, it never gets old.

The next stop on the show circuit is the Boston Flower & Garden Show in two weeks and our “David Austin’s English Roses for New England Gardens” is scheduled for Saturday, March 15 at 12:30. We have updated this program with lush photos of new 2014 Austin introductions as well as many of the old Austin favorites.

Spring (and winter) flower shows come at just the right time, when the gardening spirit is rising in anticipation for the coming season. However, the price we pay for this vernal hope is this persistently cold, dark, dreary, dank, desolate, and dismal winter. Nevertheless, days are growing longer and spring will not be denied, just delayed.

Tranquillity

Tranquillity

This is the time of year when Mike and I consider what rose varieties we’ll plant in our garden this spring. This past weekend we presented the program “David Austin Roses for New England Gardens” and included the five roses that Austin has introduced in the US for 2014.

With limited space in our garden, but with plans for an additional cottage garden, we’re looking at incorporating at least 2 of David Austin’s new introductions. While pursuing our quest for more white roses, we’ve chosen to add Tranquillity. When we saw the photo of Tranquillity with its pure white flowers each packed with over 100 petals and buds that start out with red and hints of yellow we were ‘gobsmacked.’ In addition to its beautiful blooms, this variety has typical light green foliage and very few thorns with an upright growth habit. Perfect  for our cottage garden. Another plus is its light apple fragrance. Hardy to Zone 5

Heathcliff

Heathcliff

The rich saturated crimson color of Heathcliff with 100 or so petals formed into rosette shaped blooms was enough to convince me that this was another Austin rose I’m putting on my list. This variety, reminiscent of the old red Gallica Roses, has an upright growth with shiny deep green foliage. Hardy to Zone 5

The three other 2014 introductions for the US include:

Boscobel

Boscobel

Boscobel has rosette blooms of salmon to deep pink. It has 78 petals and forms an upright, medium-sized shrub with dark green, glossy foliage. It is described as having a medium to strong myrrth fragrance. Hardy to Zone 5.

Royal Jubilee

Royal Jubilee

Royal Jubilee’s flowers have deeply chalice shaped, deep pink blooms with broad petals that curve inward. It is an Alba hybrid whose growth habit is typical of English Albas. Royal Jubilee, named in celebration of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, has a rich fruity fragrance, and grey-green glossy Alba foliage. Hardy to Zone 5.

The Lark Ascending

The Lark Ascending

The last 2014 introduction is The Lark Ascending described as a different English Rose. Its loosely cupped, soft apricot blooms of 22 petals grow in clusters on a shrub with tall airy growth that can reach 5’. Some of you may recognize the name The Lark Ascending which is taken from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ piece of music which is a favorite of Mr. Austin’s. Many in our audience also recognized the name and were fans of Ralph Vaughan Williams music. Hardy to Zone 5.

It’s always difficult to choose what roses to plant each year and with the introduction of these Austin roses, my wish list grows longer. If only we had unlimited space!

Note: All photos are from David Austin Roses

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring

We thought we would have to go to Amsterdam to see Vermeer’s iconic painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” When Angelina and I heard that it was part of a Dutch traveling exhibit coming to the Frick Museum in New York City last year, we made plans to go. Since we had no great desire to fight big-city traffic, we chose instead to stay in Stamford, CT and take the train into the city. The hour’s train ride into Grand Central Terminal (often referred to as Grand Central Station in error.) was uneventful. The first of several surprises of the trip was Grand Central itself. When we walked into the cavernous Main Concourse from the underground platforms, we were stunned by the sheer size and elegant Beaux-Arte architecture of this beautiful building which opened in 1913 and was extensively renovated over a 12-year period starting in 1994.

Inside Grand Central Terminal

Inside Grand Central Terminal

We took some photos and then ventured outside into the rain to the taxi stand to head to the Frick. That’s when our New York adventure really started to ramp-up.

Taxis were everywhere, a vast armada of yellow cars and vans warily patrolling the streets of Manhattan. We told our driver where we were going and off he went, bobbing and weaving through traffic, tooting his horn impatiently. He zigged, he zagged, but most of all, he zoomed down Madison Avenue. Is this what fighter pilots do when they retire?

Queue at the Frick

Queue at the Frick

We soon arrived at the Frick in a driving rain only to see a very long queue of umbrellas snaking down the street and around the corner from the entrance. However, we had anticipated this and purchased our tickets online in advance, allowing us to walk to the head of the line and right into the museum. Nice.

Frick CollectionHenry Clay Frick was a wealthy industrialist with a passion for fine art and the wherewithal to buy it. And buy it he did. Over time he filled his Fifth Avenue mansion with Old Masters, fine furniture, sculpture, and porcelains. After his death in 1919, he willed the entire estate – building, furniture, as well as the art collection to the public.

But we were there for the travelling exhibit of Dutch Masters on loan from the Mauritshuis in The Hague. We followed the crowd into the two special galleries where the Dutch paintings were displayed. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was the star of the collection hanging by itself in one room while the others were in a nearby gallery. The exhibit was very crowded with most gathered around “Girl” which was cordoned off by a velvet rope and watched over by two security people. However, each person was able to get in close enough for a good look, everyone polite to the point of good-nature. The security was tight; guys in blue blazers were everywhere. However, they were courteous and, given the size of the crowd and the high value of the collections, I did not find their vigilance unreasonable.

The size of the group in front of “Girl” would drift up and down and when it would drop I would scoot back for another look. Who knows if we would ever see her again? Once, for a brief instant, I was alone with her, her famous eyes gazing into mine from 350 years ago. A golden moment.

Angelina enjoyed “Girl” as well along with a painting by Jacob van Ruisdael titled “View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds.”

We explored the rest of the museum to see the permanent collection. The Frick may be small but the collection was mighty. Henry Clay Frick had acquired not one but three Vermeers and they were all on display during our visit. I counted no less than 5 paintings by J.M.W.Turner, including two large beauties in the main gallery. In the Dining Room, large full-sized Gainsborough portraits hung on each wall. Works by Rembrandt, Holbein, Hals, Whistler, Constable, Van Dyke, Goya, El Greco and a portrait of George Washington by Rhode Island’s Gilbert Stuart were also on display. By this time we had been in the Frick for several hours and one thing we have come to expect is museum-fatigue regardless of how good the collections are.

NY St. SignsThe cab ride back to Grand Central was anticlimactic due to heavy traffic. Even fighter pilots need a break. That’s when we noticed the 48 foot sculpture of Hercules, Minerva, and Mercury atop the front of the terminal, still more impressive art in New York City. We had lunch at a busy fast food restaurant called Juniors where we could sit for awhile. Junior’s was located in the Lower Concourse which had been transformed into a giant food court. We ordered cheeseburgers, fries and merlot (yes, cheeseburgers, fries and merlot). The wine came prepackaged in a small sealed plastic container like a milk carton. We rolled our eyes at this but both the burgers and merlot were quite good.

Grand Central TerminalWe arrived back at the hotel in Stamford by late afternoon, weary but satisfied that we had been able to catch this rare exhibit of such fine Dutch art and discovered an extraordinary new museum as well.

Pomham Light & ducks

Pomham Light & ducks

Mike and I like to walk along the East Bay Bike Path. Our favorite section takes us past the Pomham Lighthouse in the Providence River where it meets Narragansett Bay. We often stop to observe big oil tankers and barges being unloaded at the Mobil terminal and especially enjoy watching the tugboats as they chug out into the bay to meet the ships. It’s amazing to watch two little tugs nudge a giant ocean-going vessel loaded with oil ever-so-gently into the dock.

Snowy Path

Snowy Path

At this time of year we mostly have the Bike Path to ourselves. This was the case a few days ago, the day before this year’s first snowstorm. Ours were only the second set of footprints in the fallen snow. The air was cold, the sky was gray and there was a mist that obscured the shoreline across the river. We saw a great flock of ducks bobbing all together in the water in the lee of a small island away from the direction of the wind. They seemed to know that bad weather was coming and had hunkered down. The lighthouse made a picturesque backdrop to the scene.

We were covered with snow by the time we returned to the car and my hands, despite fleece gloves were cold, but this walk, I knew, had to last us a while, since the forecast predicted 8-12 inches of snow and the path would soon be impassable.

Flash forward to the day after the storm, – 9 degrees. Mike’s outside clearing the snow, the birds have finally discovered our bird feeders, our roses have a natural protective layer of snow that will help keep them dormant when the temperature rises in a few days and I’m inside keeping warm, wondering how long we’ll have to wait until we can walk the bike path again.

Winter Solstice

Good as Gold

Good as Gold

Today is the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight in the year. Starting tomorrow, the amount of daily sunshine will start to increase, imperceptibly at first, unnoticeable until late in January during the coldest part of the year.

Hilled up Rose

Hilled up Rose

The winter solstice is the official end of my gardening season. The gardens have been winterized – each rose lightly pruned and hilled up with a foot or so of horse manure. The potted roses have been gathered together into a large, open-topped wooden crib covered with leaves that allow rain and snow-melt to percolate through. (The winter protection in the garden as well as the cribs serves to keep roses dormant until late March avoiding premature loss of dormancy during mid-winter freeze/thaw cycles.)  The long canes of large shrub roses and climbers have been trimmed or pegged and transplanting is complete.

Crib with Potted Roses

Crib with Potted Roses

It’s done! Whew.

Each year I tell myself that I will start this process sooner and be done sooner but I never am and it’s always after Thanksgiving before it’s complete.

Looking back at this past season, I’m reminded again that all gardens are dynamic entities, always changing in some way all the time. I like to have a hand in this natural morphing and, for the first time in several years, I replaced a large number of varieties in the back garden last May. Since one rose has to go before another rose can be planted, I put in 16 new varieties and said good bye to a few old favorites that were past their prime as well as some others that had worn out their welcome. Of them all, the big surprise was a new hybrid tea named Good as Gold that I planted with some reluctance since I am phasing hybrid teas out of the gardens altogether. But this variety was new and I was very curious about its color. And what color it was – a true gold with peachy undertones.

Tree Coming Down

Tree Coming Down

The biggest change, though, came from the loss of a very large maple tree that provided shade for both our home and gardens. It was damaged in Super Storm Sandy and had to be removed in November last year. This summer, as expected, the rose garden was infused with morning sunshine that it never had before and responded with robust growth and bloomed almost a week earlier than it has in the past. Plus the insidious invasion of nutrient-robbing tree roots into the rose garden finally ceased. That was the good news. The bad news was the totally unexpected intense mid-afternoon heat that blasted our once-cool shady patio. When temps hit 113F in mid July, it was time for an awning which was installed a month later. I sweat just thinking about it.

New Awning

New Awning

Bud Grafting Workshop

Bud Grafting Workshop

Each season brings its own special pleasures. I love opening the gardens in the chilly, very bright sunshine of early spring, then watching them grow like crazy in May and explode into bloom in June. I look forward to the annual bud grafting workshop in August after the second flush. Then autumn roses with their extra bright colors blossom in September, this third bloom cycle is the swan song for the year.

Now it’s over for 2013 and Angelina and I are looking forward, as we always do, to four months off to get ready for next season. We have plenty to do in the meantime with a busy calendar of lectures scheduled for 2014 plus a trip to Ireland in May.

So, on this “shortest” day of the year, as one season quietly slips away, I look towards the next and all its inherent change, expected and otherwise, with the same grand anticipation as I do every year. It never gets old.

Happy Holidays.

Easy to Grow Rose: Kiss Me

Easy to Grow Rose: Kiss Me

2014 promises to be an interesting year.

Angelina and I are planning a trip to Ireland in May exactly 100 years after my grandfather, Thomas Healey, immigrated to the United States. He had been an estate gardener, first in Ireland and later in Scotland, then continued that occupation when he arrived in Southboro, Massachusetts as a young man. That must be where my green thumb comes from.

Mike at Newport Flower Show

Mike at Newport Flower Show

2014 is also shaping up to be another busy season on the lecture circuit. We have accepted invitations to speak from garden clubs and other horticultural organizations as well as from the three major New England spring flower shows. (See the complete list of 2014 programs, dates, and times on our 2014 new Lecture Series page.)

Tranquillity

Tranquillity

The season opener is for the Rhode Island Rose Society on Saturday, February 8 when we roll out the updated David Austin’s English Roses for New England Gardens program featuring new Austin introductions for 2014. We especially like Tranquility, a medium sized, almost thornless rosebush with buds that start out showing red and yellow as the sepals fall but turn  pure white when fully open. The rosette-shaped flowers with a whopping 110 petals and a light apple fragrance, are hardy to zone 5. Given our affection for white roses, Tranquility is on our plant list for 2014.

On Friday, February 21, we’ll once again be in the Providence Convention Center at the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show. The program, Discovering Easy-Care Roses, reveals the secret that plant selection is the single most important step in successful rose gardening. The following day we’re back at the Rhode Island show demonstrating The Art of Pruning Roses. Pruning roses is not alchemy; come and let us show you how.

Spring Pruning

Spring Pruning

We’re off to Hartford, CT on Sunday, February 23 to the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show. This is our first visit to the Connecticut flower show and we will deliver our most popular program, Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening, twice that afternoon. “Backyard Paradise” is the show theme and our PowerPoint program fits right in. We have been accepting more and more invitations to Connecticut venues in recent years and we look forward to catching up with old friends at the 2014 Connecticut flower show.

Angelina and I return to the Boston Flower & Garden Show on the Ides of March with the David Austin program which segues nicely into their 2014 show theme, “Romance in the Garden.” Americans love everything British, from literature to movies to TV to gardening, and our program introduces sturdy, old fashioned, fragrant English roses to New England gardeners. You will be gobsmacked by this presentation.

Our annual bud grafting workshop is scheduled for Saturday, August 2 in our garden. Bud grafting roses is a method of propagation that hasn’t changed in ages.  We provide the rootstock and demonstrate the simple technique of grafting then you graft your own varieties and take them home. This hands-on workshop is free but we charge a materials fee for the potted rootstock.

Mike & Angelina

Mike & Angelina

In between all this, our schedule is full of garden club bookings along with presentations to various horticultural organizations.  Occasionally, we customize programs and in the past have developed special one-of-a-kind seminars. One of our favorites is conducting the Six Simple Steps program in an outdoor garden setting in June using fresh roses from the garden instead of PowerPoint slides.

My grandfather, who could grow anything, would be amazed if he could see how horticulture has changed in 100 years. I think he would approve of the great improvements in flowers and vegetables especially the dramatic increases in winter hardiness and disease resistance in ornamentals. I know he would absolutely love the flower shows as much as we do.

Keep checking the Lecture Series page as we add bookings throughout the season and if you need a program at the last minute for any reason, maybe we can help. Contact us at mike@rosesolutions.net.

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