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2-Chute.-Tulip-Time-at-Keuk

Keukenhof

Holland and Belgium were high on our Master Bucket List, so Angelina and I combined a trip to both countries in April to coincide with “tulip time” in Holland. Since the tulip season only lasts for eight weeks, from mid-March through mid-May, we figured that the last two weeks of April would be ideal to see the best of the annual Tulipmania and we were right.

1-Chute.-Bed-of-tulipsThe absolute best way to experience Holland’s premiere flower species is a visit to Keukenhof, “kitchen garden” in Dutch, well known for its annual public tulip extravaganza. While we are not crazy about bus rides, we booked a half-day bus tour from Amsterdam that included skip-the-line admission and let someone else drive. The weather was sunny and the hour’s drive through the Dutch countryside past tulip fields in bloom was the perfect start to the visit. At 32 hectares (79 acres), Keukenhof is a huge garden featuring over 7 million early, regular and late blooming flowering bulbs — 800 varieties of tulips plus crocus and daffodils. In addition to this flower power, Keukenhof has 6 pavilions featuring elegant arrangements, changing displays of cut flowers as well as events, lectures and other activities.

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Keukenhof Pavilion Bridal Display

We picked a perfect day with perfect weather to visit this tulip paradise at peak bloom. It was spectacular! The only drawback was the crowd. The annual attendance easily tops 1 million and it felt like most of them were there that day. But we expected this and it did not diminish our enjoyment of this magnificent display of Dutch floriculture. We arrived shortly after noon and roamed on-our-own through the garden. We meandered along winding paths with bed after bed of gorgeous tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. We stopped in several pavilions, each featuring impressive displays and arrangements. We finished in the gift shop, of course, for a souvenir to remind us of this great garden.

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While it’s not possible to absorb the entire Keukenhof experience in one day, our tour gave us three hours in the garden and that was enough. The return ride to Amsterdam was pleasant and we made it back in time for dinner. It was a very good day and a stress-free way to visit Kueukenhof.

To see more of Holland, we spent 3 days in Haarlem, a smaller city only a short distance from Amsterdam where we planned to take trains to Delft and The Hague. It was in Haarlem on a Sunday afternoon while out for a walk that we noticed a commotion a few blocks away from our hotel. When we got closer we discovered the Bloemencorso, Dutch for “flower parade,” parked in Haarlem city center.

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Dragon Float

The parade, an annual event and a very big deal in Holland, had started the day before near Keukenhof and went for 26 miles through other Dutch cities ending in Haarlem where the floats and decorated vehicles remained on display but only for one day — the day we were there. How’s that for serendipity!

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Rembrandt Float

These floats were constructed with bulb flowers only — tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and croci. Some floats even featured bulbs only in the design. These floats were amazing! The quality and imagination, not to mention the hours of tedious handwork, were a testament to the pride that the Dutch have for their famous flowers.

Bulb Float

All Bulbs

Equally amazing were the train rides we took to Delft on one day and The Hague on another. We enjoy train travel in Europe because they’re clean, fast, reliable and an inexpensive way to take side trips. The routes to both cities took us past tulip fields in bloom, row after row of  tulips — rainbows stretching to the horizon. Another unplanned bonus to our trip.

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Tulip Fields

Holland and Belgium were everything we had expected them to be and combining them into one trip was fairly simple. We chose to travel within the two countries by auto and that allowed us the flexibility to wander at will, always a good thing for us. More about this to come.

Time stands still for us when we’re away and this trip was no exception. We are already reviewing the Master Bucket List, eager to start planning our next adventure in 2019.

Tulipmania only lasts for 8 weeks. If you want to experience Tulip Time next year, Keukenhof is scheduled to open on March 21 and close on May 19 in 2019.

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1-Lead

Angelina and I presented a lecture at the Maine Flower Show in Portland last week. We had been invited to speak last fall and were looking forward to the drive to Portland, one of our favorite New England cities. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and did not snow as it had on and off all month — good for the show, better for us.

Even though our program slot was for 10:30 on Saturday morning right after the show opened, the lecture room was full with mostly Mainers but also visitors “from away” as they say in Maine — New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and a few Canadians from New Brunswick. We thought that our “Roses for New England” program with an emphasis on cold-climate rose gardening would hit the spot and it did. The show provided a generous two-hour time slot for each program which allowed for plenty of Q and A after the PowerPoint presentation was complete. This is often the best part of  lecture and where we connect with our audience.

The flower show was staged at Thompson’s Point along the Portland waterfront. Unlike the slick convention facilities at other big New England cities, Thompson’s Point was a large older wooden structure that was transformed for four days into an oasis of spring amidst an otherwise wintry month of March in Maine. A big, heated tent connecting to the main building accommodated the overflow of vendors. The venue was rustic and absolutely perfect. Very Maine.

After our program, we walked the show and chatted with vendors and exhibitors.

2-Pick-upOne exhibitor took an old pick-up truck — a real beater, all rusty and dusty — and packed the bed with annuals that spilled out into the rest of the garden display. A wild explosion of color.

5-Water-FeatureAnother was a realistic water feature — a pond surrounded by native Maine plants and trees.

3-Stone-CourtyardMy favorite was an impressive fieldstone courtyard complete with niches, stone shelves and raised stone beds of flowers, herbs and lettuce plants. A dramatic display of Maine masonry.

Attendance was high with lots of foot traffic streaming throughout the garden area as well as among the vendors. The crowd was festive and, judging by the armfuls of merchandise, free spending — the life blood of every flower show.

Since we had a long drive home, we left early but first stopped to have lunch at Becky’s Restaurant on the waterfront — a popular Portland landmark with really good food at reasonable prices.

The state of Maine is huge, as large as the rest of New England combined, and Angelina and I have been driving up at least once a year for decades. We enjoy road trips along Downeast Maine’s jagged Atlantic coast up to Acadia National Park and beyond as well as long, long drives in rural Maine north and west into the mountains and on into Quebec.

The Maine Flower Show gave us another opportunity to visit this unique northern New England region, to enjoy a taste of spring in the middle of winter.

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Super Hero

A few weeks ago we kicked off our 2018 Lecture Series with two programs at the Connecticut Flower Show. We introduced one of our two new programs for 2018, “Fool Proof Roses,” which describes fool proof, easy-to-grow roses and provides examples of specific varieties. While creating the program, we identified varieties that met our basic requirements of above-average disease resistance and winter hardiness to at least Zone 5.

For those of you who are looking for “fool proof,”  roses to plant this spring, here are a few that we included in our program.

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My Girl

  • My Girl: My Girl is part of the Easy Elegance series of roses introduced by Ping Lim in 2008. We have My Girl growing next to Knock Out in our sustainable, no-spray garden and find it as resistance to black spot as Knock Out. My Girl has a more complex flower form than Knock Out, with deep pink, ruffled blooms of over 30 petals. It has medium green foliage and a nice shrub-like habit that grows, in our very sunny garden, to 5 feet tall.
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White Knock Out

  • White Knock Out: Anyone can grow this small, compact shrub rose which is definitely “fool proof.” Introduced by Bill Radler in 2009 as White Out, it has been recently renamed White Knock Out and is my favorite of the Knock Out series. It has small, single (5 petals), bright white flowers that grow in floriferous sprays against dark green, disease resistant foliage. Its small 3 feet x 3 feet growth habit makes this rose perfect for the home gardener who has a small garden or who is looking for a rose to plant in front of a border.
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Party Hardy aka Nouvelle France

  • Party Hardy: This rose loves to grow and can do so with very little help. This disease resistant variety was bred in Canada by Christian Bedard and is winter hardy to Zone 3, needing no winter protection in our southern New England It has large deep pink blooms with a lighter pink reverse. The pink, florescent flowers contain over 40 petals and they bloom in large clusters on a tall, spreading bush. Party Hardy is also known as Nouvelle France.
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Super Hero

  • Super Hero: This was one of the first Easy Elegance roses that Mike and I planted in our sustainable garden 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. We liked it so much, we’ve added another Super Hero to the garden. It produces small red buds that open into small 2” clear-red flowers with hybrid tea form that flatten out as they mature. The blooms have over 30 petals and the bush grows to 3-4’ tall. Super Hero is winter hardy to Zone 4 in addition to its high level of disease resistance.

We’ll be presenting “Fool Proof Roses” at the Boston Flower Show on Friday March 16 at 1:30 PM and providing a fact sheet that lists additional fool proof roses. If you can’t make it to Boston to hear our lecture and would like a copy of our fact sheet, email me: Angie at RoseSolutions and I’ll send you one.

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Mille Miglia – Siena Italy

Sometimes the most memorable moments of traveling are those that are unexpected and spontaneous. Even though Mike and I enjoy planning our trips and organizing our travel itinerary, we find it’s often the unanticipated and unplanned events that are most rewarding.

1.-Pizzeria-Trattoria-on-ViOne was an impulsive decision that took us into a trattoria on Via Cavour in Florence. When walking back to our hotel, we saw a small sign that said Pizzaria Trattoria on a very plain looking storefront. We decided to go in. The place was small and charming with covered tablecloths. As we stepped inside, we were greeted warmly by the owner who spoke only a little English. We spoke even less Italian but communicated enough to convey that yes, we’d have his gluten-free pizza and a carafe of wine. We watched as he poured the dark red Chianti from a wooden keg on top of the bar. We lingered over the delicious wine as we enjoyed a very tasty gluten-free pizza. We still reminisce about this Trattoria on Via Cavour especially when drinking a glass of Chianti.

When we visit different cities, we are always on the lookout for rose gardens to visit. Even if the gardens won’t be in full bloom, we go any way and manage to find some aspect of the garden to enjoy.

We set aside an entire day to visit Le Parc de Bagatelle located in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement. With no easy access by metro or bus, we took a taxi. Our goal was the Roserie de Bagatelle – a very famous rose garden we had heard so much about; but it was late September so we knew that most of the roses had “gone by.”

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Sole e Luna at Bagatelle

While we were wandering around the garden, we came across a rose bush that had clusters of fresh, bright yellow roses surrounded by red buds. It was a variety we had never heard of – Sole e Luna. The hybridizer was an Italian rose breeder named Barni and the variety, not available in the United States, is one I would never have seen had I not gone to Bagatelle. What a treasure it turned out to be. Even though this rose is not for sale here in the US, my photograph of Sole e Luna is hung where it brings back memories of our trip to Paris and Bagatelle.

Roses aren’t the only unexpected treasures we experienced while traveling. While driving from Rome to Florence through Tuscany, our driver Marco stopped in Siena. After lunch, we took a leisurely walk through this ancient Tuscan hill town and wandered into the Piazza del Campo, the historic Siena square, looking for some gelato. As we enjoyed our Italian ice cream, a parade of magnificent vintage sports cars roared into the Piazza. We were luckily in the right place at the right time to see part of the famous Mille Miglia Classic Car Race, a 1000 mile race that goes through cities in northern Italy like Siena and Florence. (See photo above.)

5.-Thatched-Cottage-Adare-IOne thing we hadn’t planned on seeing when in Ireland were the famous thatched cottages which  are rapidly disappearing. But while driving to Limerick where we were to meet up with Mike’s cousin, we made an unplanned stop for lunch in the town of Adare. As we walked about the town after a quick lunch, we spotted a few of the remaining cottages with picture-perfect thatched roofs. Definitely a bonus to our Irish adventures.

While we’ll always remember the iconic attractions we’ve seen like the Louvre, the Colisseum, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Vatican, it’s the unplanned and unstructured components of our trips that are the most vivid and memorable.

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Our 2017 Garden

Just as one season gradually fades away after Thanksgiving, the next season quietly presents itself after the din of the holiday season has come and gone. While our gardens are hunkered down under their winter cover plus a foot of snow — a good thing considering our current sub-zero, early winter temps — paper and online plant catalogs arrive and gardeners’ mojo starts to rise.

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Campfire – A Fool Proof Rose

While our roses are snoozing, Angelina and I are not. We have accepted a number of invitations to present lectures and workshops for the upcoming year. Our entertaining PowerPoint lectures, workshops and seminars are designed to educate and make rose gardening appealing to even the most reluctant gardener. We annually review, revise, and refresh our program list as well as add new ones. New this year is “Fool Proof Roses” plus an update of our popular “Roses for New England” with a new twist! (See the complete list of 2018 programs, dates, and times on the 2018 Lecture Series page.) For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program page at http://www.rosesolutions.net

In addition to rose gardening , we developed a novel new travel series last year called “Armchair Travel.” The first program titled “Paris! The City of Light,” debuted last September with very positive reviews and we’ve added it to our Lecture Series offerings.

2018 Flower Show CoverWe open the season on Saturday, February 24 when Angelina and I hit the road to Hartford and the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show to present two PowerPoint programs. We introduce our new “Fool Proof Roses” followed by “Twelve Super Roses Anyone Can Grow.” A double-header plus catching up with our Connecticut friends will make for a busy day.

On Friday, March 16, we head north and return to the Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center and present “Fool Proof Roses.” It’s always a treat to present rose programs to the large Beantown audiences.Boston Flower Show

And on Saturday, March 24, we head even further north to Portland, Maine to speak at the new Maine Flower Show. This young flower and garden show opened last year to rave reviews and we are looking forward to presenting an updated “Roses for New England” program specially adapted for cold-climate Rose Gardening.Maine Flower Show logo

(We will have our two books, Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening as well as Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners, available at all our lectures and workshops.)

On Saturday, April 14 at 10 am, Angelina and I will be in the Victorian Rose Garden in Roger Williams Park in Providence with a hands-on pruning demonstration as part of the RI Rose Society’s “Rose Day.” Here’s an opportunity to learn spring rose care, including the best way to prune roses. This event is free and open to the public; bring pruners and gloves.

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Mike’s Pruning Demo at RI Rose Society “Rose Day”

On Wednesday May 2 at 7pm, we continue our long time collaboration with the Barrington Community School with “David Austin’s English Roses for New England Gardens.”  This updated for 2018 PowerPoint program includes the 120 page 2018 David Austin Handbook of Roses for each guest. (Open to the public, fee required, see barrcommschool.com)

Saturday June 16, at 1 PM is the Rhode Island Rose Society’s 20th annual rose show at the Wickford Community Center in Wickford, RI. Join Angelina and me at New England’s premier display of  roses of every type and color. Free and open to the public.

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RI Rose Society Rose Show

In between all these events, our lecture series includes programs to garden clubs and presentations to various horticultural organizations. All this, plus time out for a trip to The Netherlands, Belgium and France, makes early 2018 another busy season for Angelina and I.

We are available to speak at garden club meetings, symposiums and conventions and will travel to just about anywhere. We can customize programs and even produce one-of-a-kind presentations. We continue to add bookings throughout the year so keep checking in. As always, if your organization needs a program at the last minute maybe we can help. Contact me at mike@rosesolutions.

Thus as we wave farewell to 2017 — which was a very good year in our garden — we welcome 2018 with high hopes and great expectations. And, as I am fond of saying, there is no one more optimistic than a gardener in January.

Happy New Year

Mike and Angelina

The Nightlight

1-Nightlight

Several years ago, Angelina was rummaging through a box of things that had belonged to her mother and discovered an old fashioned nightlight. What made this nightlight interesting was the image on the glass light diffuser, a 3”x 4” replica of a painting, a painting of friends sailing into the surf on a catboat. The artist captured the differing values of ocean blues and teals, the rolling Atlantic swells, a solitary buoy leaning towards the boat, and the young sailors peering intently into the horizon seemingly pre-occupied with some unknown thing. Both Angelina and I thought this was a compelling marine scene, something you would expect to see somewhere in coastal New England, maybe on Cape Cod.

What was this painting in the nightlight? Did it have a title? Who was the artist? Where was it painted? Since the glass image had no identification of any kind, where did it come from?  The plot thickened.

We enjoy viewing this wonderful picture every day; it’s the last thing we see when we turn on the nightlight in the bathroom before turning in.

Anyway, fast forward to last May when we packed up for a two-week road trip to  Philadelphia then on to Washington, DC. In DC we stayed near the Mall making it convenient to visit all the monuments and memorials, the Air and Space Museum, the United States Botanic Garden, and the National Gallery of Art.

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National Gallery of Art

It was while we randomly roamed through the National Gallery of Art that we serendipitously discovered, totally by accident, the original art that inspired our glass nightlight — Edward Hopper’s “Ground Swell” — hanging in a gallery of American art. Eureka!

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Ground Swell by Edward Hopper

2-Ground-Swell-ID“Ground Swell” was, indeed, painted by Hopper on Cape Cod in 1939. We have since learned of Hopper’s recurrent themes of isolation and alienation and mystery. Much analysis has been made of “Ground Swell’ — just what did Hopper mean? Art critics claim it was a dark omen, a harbinger of World War Two. Really?

Angelina and I don’t know what he meant — maybe he didn’t mean anything — we just know that we like it. We bought a print in the gift shop and now that hangs in our home. Now we have two “Ground Swells” but we like the one in the small nightlight with its still unknown origin the most.

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Imogen (Photo by David Austin Roses)

We recently received the annual news release from David Austin Roses announcing their new introductions for 2018. These three varieties will  be available to U.S. and Canadian gardeners in the spring of 2018 through the David Austin web site.  Since Austin roses are so popular with our blog followers, we thought we would share the news about these beautiful roses.

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Roald Dahl (Photo by David Austin Roses)

The first rose is called ‘Roald Dahl’, a shrub rose named after the writer of James and the Giant Peach. According to Michael Marriott, the technical director and senior rosarian of David Austin Roses, the color of this rose is “marvelously, perfectly peach.” The buds open to reveal cupped peach rosettes that grow on a rounded, bushy shrub. An added bonus to this rose is its tea fragrance.  ‘Roald Dahl’ blooms throughout the season and is described as highly disease-resistant.

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Imogen (Photo by David Austin Roses)

‘Imogen’ is the second variety for 2018 and has soft lemon-colored blooms that fade to a pale cream. If you look closely at the photograph, you can see the petals surround a classic button eye reminiscent of Gallica and Damask roses. The delicate cream color outer petals that surround the softer yellow inner petals create beautiful clusters of roses on an upright shrub.

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Bathsheba (Photo by David Austin Roses)

The third introduction is a climbing rose called ‘Bathsheba’ that has a myrrh fragrance. and large apricot blooms.  ‘Bathsheba’ is described as short climber which may make it perfect for a smaller garden. The rosette shaped blooms are a blend of various colors from pale yellow to yellow to apricot with numerous petals that create an overall charming display.

Presently these 3 varieties are only available at www.davidaustin.com  and are sold on a first-come basis. Order early, so you won’t be disappointed. These roses will not be available in U.S. garden centers until the Spring of 2019.

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