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Peak Bloom

Peak Bloom in Our Garden

Each spring we wonder when peak bloom will occur in our garden. We consider the current spring’s weather and the harshness of the previous winter and then venture a guess. Ideally, peak bloom happens a few days prior to the Rhode Island Rose Society’s annual rose show which this year was held on June 20. While our garden actually peaked on June 15 (this is purely a subjective judgment on Mike’s part), many of our shrub roses had gone-by. Regardless, the garden was still full of other roses that we could take to the rose show.

RI Rose Society Rose Show Awards Table

RI Rose Society Rose Show Awards Table

Rose Shows serve several purposes; the first is to display the genus rosa in all its glory to the public – the show is free and open to all in the afternoon. There is a class in the show for every type of rose and the gardening public can see them all under one roof. The second is to satisfy the competitive nature of local rose gardeners who vie for ribbons and bragging rights.

Unlike last year when we cut roses in the rain the night before the show, this year the weather was perfect – sunny and dry. Mike and I went from rose bush to rose bush, cutting and labeling roses. One of our favorite ways to exhibit our roses is in English Boxes which means we need 6 fresh blooms each the same size and stage of bloom so they all match. So we keep an eye peeled, looking for these possibilities as well as other sprays and single blooms. After selecting the best stems, we place them in vases of cold water and store in a dark, air-conditioned room overnight so we’re ready to go first thing in the morning.

Queen of Show

Queen of Show

The morning of the show we arrived at 7 am and started prepping our roses. The first rose we prepared was Smokin’ Hot, a new hybrid tea introduced in 2014 by Weeks Roses. Since we don’t have many hybrid tea roses in our garden any more, this variety was an exception. We got Smokin’ Hot in early May and it was still in its container because we evaluate each new variety for one season before giving it a place in the garden. Well, Smokin’ Hot lived up to its name and gave us a fiery orange-red bloom with perfect hybrid tea form which won Queen of the show. Needless to say, Mike awarded it a coveted spot in our garden a few days later.

Cherry Parfait

Cherry Parfait English Box

Another rose we like is Cherry Parfait, a grandiflora rose that we planted in 2005. It’s aptly named because of its color – white petals with lipstick red edges that swirl around the bloom. In an English Box, each rose looks like a bowl of cherry ice cream with ripples of whipped cream. We brought 2 large sprays to the rose show and entered it in 2 different classes: English box and Grandiflora spray. Both won blue ribbons and Best of Class.

Cherry Parfait Spray

Cherry Parfait Spray

Day Breaker, a peachy-apricot floribunda that produces sprays of 5-7 blooms and glossy immaculate foliage had bloomed perfectly for the show. Like Cherry Parfait, we entered Day Breaker in 2 classes: Floribunda spray and English Box for Floribundas where it won Best of Class in both classes. The Day Breaker English Box also was voted Best English Box in show.

Day Breaker Spray

Day Breaker Spray

The June bloom is over and it was one of our best ever. Mike thinks it was due, in part, to all the snow we had last winter that was beneficial to the garden, a new meal plan he developed for the garden, plus a little help from Mother Nature.

Day Breaker: Best English Box

Day Breaker: Best English Box

One thing I’ve learned over time is it’s pointless to worry about whether we have roses for our rose show; that’s out of our hands. If we do, that’s great, if not, we still have them to enjoy all season. But we can’t complain this season, our roses arrived on schedule and we were able to enjoy exhibiting them as well displaying to the public the beauty of America’s National Flower.

The Butchart Gardens

Angelina and I had arrived in Victoria, British Columbia on the second leg of our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. We had crossed the border into Canada the day before and drove to the ferry landing at Tsawwassen, just south of Vancouver, for the 90-minute boat ride to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island followed by a short drive to Victoria. The BC Ferry was huge and we were amazed at how quickly they unloaded and reloaded hundreds of cars and trucks in less than 45 minutes. The weather was perfect and the island scenery was stunning, an unanticipated benefit to the trip. Since we only had a few days to spend here, our primary goal was to visit The Butchart Gardens.
The Butchart Gardens are located 14 miles north of the town of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula. Here is where Robert and Jennie Butchart settled in the late 19th century. They built a home and constructed a factory utilizing nearby limestone deposits to manufacture Portland cement. It was the quarry left from mining this limestone that would become the fabulous Sunken Garden, the premiere garden at Butchart.
Hanging-BasketAs we entered the parking area on the morning we arrived, we noted that the parking lot was paved with thousands and thousands of pavers, not asphalt or concrete, the first indication of the standard of quality we would see throughout the gardens. Once inside, we saw hanging baskets, flower boxes and large beds of annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs everywhere; even the trash containers had pots of blooming flowers on top – the garden was a tsunami of color. Planter
We headed to the rose garden first, hoping there would be at least some bloom – this was mid-May and still early for roses in BC. Arches of ramblers provided a dramatic entrance but unfortunately were still in bud stage. This was the case with most of the roses with only some varieties of shrub roses in bloom – peak bloom was still two weeks away. I noticed that a handful of alfalfa pellets were spread about the base of each rose and a gardener said this was to add organic content to the soil around each bush. The pellets quickly break down when wet and add some nutrients as well. I may try this in our gardens next season. (But I wonder if this might attract unwelcome rabbits.) Rose Arches

Another interesting feature here was the “tree roses” established throughout the rose garden. These standards were supported by wire frames that looked like big inverted “baskets” atop the four-foot interstems where the grafts were made. This allowed City of York, a white climber, to be trained by wrapping its long canes around and around the baskets creating an unusual pyramid shape when the laterals bloomed. We did enjoy the purple, blue and white delphiniums in full bloom planted among the roses that added early color to this garden.

Rose Standard

Rose Standard

The path from the rose garden led to the shady cloaked entrance to the Sunken Garden, the signature garden at Butchart. This amazing garden was created in the limestone quarry between the residence and the cement plant. Serpentine paths wind around bed after bed after bed ablaze with seasonal color that almost defies description. Each bed was freshly edged and surrounded by immaculate lawn. (One bed featured jet-black petunias. I had never seen this color before. I inquired about them at the information booth but no one could ID the variety.) The tall grey quarry walls have long-since been covered in ivy. This garden alone was worth the trip.

Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden

Black Petunias

Black Petunias

We wandered over to the Italian Garden, a former tennis court, transformed into a formal garden of symmetrical beds in a paved courtyard. These beds changed seasonally with an outstanding tulip display in springtime. Next to the Italian garden was a perfect lawn, a salute to turf, a meticulously mowed green sward that looked like Fenway Park.

Italian Garden

Italian Garden

Afternoon-TeaNow it was time for lunch or should I say Afternoon Tea at the Dining Room Restaurant in the Gardens. This was our first experience with a formal Tea and we had reserved the meals weeks in advance. The best part was they had a gluten-free version of Afternoon Tea which meant I could have some too. In fact, my Tea was much the same as Angelina’s as the kitchen staff had developed excellent gluten-free substitutions for the bread and pastries. We enjoyed both the food and the experience in an elegant setting surrounded by beds of flowering shrubs and annuals.

After tea we roamed through the Japanese Garden and then stopped by a life-size chess set where Angelina played a game. The large gift shop was our last stop on the way out to buy something to bring home. Chess
The Butchart Garden was on top of our bucket list of must-sees for the trip. Based on our research we had high expectations and we were not disappointed. The gardens were fresh and immaculate. A small army of gardeners patrolled the property – each with a rake, pruners and a wheelbarrow – weeding, raking deadheading, and chatting with visitors. The structures and hardscape were well maintained and we were especially impressed with the lofty standards of cleanliness reminiscent of the pristine environment found in Disney properties.

Climbing Roses

Climbing Roses

The Butchart Gardens in its own unique and special way was the equal of the best gardens we’ve seen both in Europe and the United States. We hit the road back to Victoria by mid-afternoon well satisfied with our visit.

The McCartney Rose

The McCartney Rose

A few days ago we returned from our trip to Seattle and Vancouver where we visited some fantastic gardens (posts about them to come later). The climate in the Pacific Northwest is milder than ours here in southern New England and those gardens, while not at peak, displayed more color than we had when we left home in late May. At that time, nothing was in bloom in our gardens except a few irises and we were curious about what we’d find when we returned home. We weren’t disappointed. The gardens were in fantastic shape thanks to the cool, rainy weather and the care of our brother-in-law Ray who watered while we were away.

Garlic

Garlic

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

The garlic had grown by inches and put out its curly scapes and our sky blue delphinium had flowered. Most importantly, our roses were on the cusp of blooming with swollen buds that were cracking color and ready to burst – some of which we hoped would wait for our Rose Show in two weeks.

Clair Matin

Clair Matin

It was no surprise to find that big Clair Matin was in full bloom since it’s always the first to bloom. We also expected to see Super Hero in bloom, although I was surprised to see so many flowers.

Super Hero

Super Hero

We were pleased to see that The McCartney Rose (see lead photo), which Mike had pruned quite hard due to significant winter kill, had come back as good as ever with strong new canes and lots of buds.

While I won’t know which rose was the absolute first to bloom this year, I took photos of the garden so I’ll have a record of which roses bloomed while we were away.

As we approach mid-June, our gardens are blooming right on schedule despite last winter’s never-ending bitter cold, snowy, weather. Just as they always do.

Campfire Roses

Campfire Roses

Mike and I are always on the look-out for hardy, disease-resistant roses we can recommend. While these sustainable roses are not hard to find, we like varieties that are more than landscape roses and offer interesting color.

Photo Credit: Cornhill Nursery

Campfire Rose Photo Credit: Cornhill Nursery

Enter Campfire, one of the Canadian Artists series from Agriculture Canada’s rose-breeding program. What sparked our interest in Campfire, aside from it being winter hardy to USDA Zone 3 and its disease resistance, is its color. Each bloom begins with yellow and red buds that open to yellow with deep pink edges. What’s unique about this rose is that the flowers that bloom early in the season will be yellow with pink edges, but later in the season, the pink edges becomes more pronounced. The bush has been described as harlequin-like with a display of yellow, red and pink flowers against a backdrop of glossy green foliage. Another plus for Campfire is its compact growth habit that doesn’t overwhelm the home garden. It also blooms all season up until the first hard frost.

Photo Credit: First Editions Plants

Campfire Rose  Photo Credit: First Editions Plants

Unfortunately, Campfire is not available locally. We searched on-line to see where we could find this rose and while it is advertised on Bailey Nurseries’ web site, it wasn’t available. Mike called a rose wholesaler in St. Catharines, Ontario who listed it in their catalog, to find out where in New England we could find Campfire. They knew of only one garden center in New England who carried it – Lake Street Nursery in Salem, New Hampshire. We called Lake Street twice. The first time Mike was told they hadn’t received their shipment from Canada yet. The second time he found out the order had arrived the day before and they had 10 Campfires in stock. We drove up to New Hampshire that afternoon and brought home two Campfires.

The research we did on Campfire yielded some interesting facts. One is that it is a hybrid of My Hero and Frontenac. My Hero, an Easy Elegance rose no longer available, was the predecessor of Super Hero, one of our favorite Easy Elegance roses that is extremely disease resistant.

Artist Tom Thomson & Campfire Rose Photo from canadianartistsroses.com

Artist Tom Thomson & Campfire Rose
Photo from canadianartistsroses.com

The other interesting back story to this rose is that it was named to honor renowned Canadian artist Tom Thomson’s painting called “Campfire” which shows a camp fire burning in front of a tent. (See photo below). Ironically, this masterpiece hangs in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, a museum Mike and I visited a few years ago. Unfortunately, we were unfamiliar with Tom Thomson’s work at the time and didn’t get the chance to see this painting.

Campfire by Tom Thomson

Due to some horticultural sleuthing, good luck and timing, we now have the rose named after his painting and we’re looking forward to seeing the kaleidoscope of yellow, red and deep pink blooms all season long. We’ll let you know if Campfire lives up to its reputation.

Crocus

After months of bitter cold and snowy weather, winter finally let go and Spring has arrived. As Mike and I waited for the weather to warm up, we kept watching for signs of typical early spring growth in our garden. Finally, in late March it came. Our crocuses bloomed, the garlic we planted last fall broke ground and the buds on our roses have started to swell with the promise of new growth. I had been hoping that our clematis and delphinium made it through this difficult winter and, at last, saw tender shoots pushing their way up this past weekend.

Garlic

Garlic

I keep adding to my Spring To Do List in my “Journal” but know I’ll have to wait a bit longer before I can get outside and start gardening. The soil is still too cold to plant the seeds we bought last month and there’s still a strong chance of frost. While we patiently wait for forsythia to bloom, a reliable signal to start spring pruning, we have begun garden clean-ups and removal of any heavily damaged rose canes. While the snow cover from this winter provided good insulation from the cold, it also resulted in quite a few broken canes.

Damaged rose canes

Damaged rose canes

Another spring task is the annual “potting-up” that takes a week, depending on the weather. Mike first pots up the ‘maidens’ from last year’s budding – he bud grafts approximately 70 roses each year, concentrating mainly on Brownell roses and other favorite varieties that are out of patent and hard to find. Then he pots up the rootstock which just arrived a few days ago from Canada. Lastly, he prunes and re-pots all the roses wintered over in the crib. He enjoys working in chilly early spring weather, sunlight shining brightly before nearby trees cast shade over the garden. This annual ritual is his first activity in the garden since before Christmas. Which reminds me that I haven’t entered potting up on our To-Do List yet.

Rootstock

Rootstock

One of our projects we will begin this month is redesigning our mature rose garden. We plan to do it in stages and Mike has been anxious to start by rebuilding the rose bed where Clair Matin has been growing splendidly for 18 years.

Clair Matin, Climbing Rose

Clair Matin, Climbing Rose

All the rose beds in this garden are currently raised but we have decided in the redesign to replace them with flat beds except for the two end beds of climbing roses that anchor our “garden room” on each side. Since shade from the tall maple trees we once had is no longer a factor, some of the beds will be reconfigured, totally rebuilt and hardscape added. I’d love to have a moon gate as an entrance to our newly designed garden – like the one I saw at the Boston Flower Show this year – but I will settle for an arbor instead.5.-Moon-Gate

Happy Spring!

Polar Roses

Polar Roses

As a native New Englander, I enjoy the four distinct seasons we have and take pleasure in each one. But, I have become very, very weary of this winter. Weary of the snow canyon that my driveway has become and weary of the unusually bitter, subzero cold. And I’m weary of staring at the heavy snow still piled high in the gardens even though I realize that snow provides ideal insulation for roses from the frigid cold and wintery winds we had throughout February.

Snowbound Rose

Snowbound Rose

Meanwhile, I continue my winter morning routine, which includes the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper, marking time until the snow melts enough for me to get started with spring clean-ups. (What is a five letter word for rock debris?) Then comes my favorite early spring activity – spring pruning!

Campfire

Campfire

So, as my gardening mojo rises and as I patiently wait for winter to break, I consider the ambitious plans that Angelina and I have made for the 2015 gardening season. We have settled on several new rose varieties to put in and evaluate: Campfire is a tough little red and yellow blend floribunda from the Morden Experimental Farm in Manitoba Canada. New to the US market, this latest introduction to the Canadian Artists Series is hardy to USDA zone 3. Another is an attractive apricot climber called Della Balfour that we saw last summer in the garden of our friends, Dacia and Clive. I’ll grow Della as bush as we have no room for another climber. The last variety on this season’s wish-list is David Austin’s The Lady Gardener, a fragrant, pure apricot shrub rose new in 2015. (See photo in previous post.)

Della Balfour

Della Balfour

Because of our success last year with sunflowers, garlic, and assorted vegetables, Angelina and I have selected more seeds to plant this spring with an eye towards the creation of a cottage garden. Along with three varieties of sunflowers, each a different height, we’ll add larkspur and aubretia. We had seen great clusters of purple/blue aubretia growing in Ireland last May both as cultivated plants as well as feral flowers sprouting from nooks, cracks, and crannies everywhere. Larkspur is an annual form of delphinium and our plan is to sprinkle seeds in the middle of the bed and see how that works out as companions to roses. Add a small veggie bed with two tomato plants, two eggplants and two rows of string beans planted along side a small bed of hard neck garlic planted last October. Eclectic gardening for sure.

Aubretia in Adare, Ireland

Aubretia in Adare, Ireland

More plans include a full garden restoration in 2015 – a major project – as well as a trip to Seattle and Vancouver this spring. We’re even are thinking ahead to 2016 and a journey by car throughout France into Belgium and The Netherlands.
It’s a good thing we have the perfect journal, Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners, to keep track of everything we have planned.
(A five letter word for rock debris? Why Scree, of course.)

Front-Cover-Roses Gardening Season by SeasonHot off the presses! Our second book, Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners, (Forbes River Publishing, 2015) is now available for sale on our web site: www.rosesolutions.net

This Journal, customized for gardeners, provides pages where you can record the season by season performance of your garden. On each Journal page you’ll find rose gardening tips, anecdotes and advice. Plus each season has a To-Do List so you’ll know the right time to plant, prune and feed roses. We’ve also included pages where you can keep track of all the important information about each rose in your garden – type, color, growth habit, date planted and date of first bloom.March-Page

There are pages to keep track of the seasonal highlights – all those things that you may not remember from one season to the next. There are pages to evaluate the performance of your roses and companion plants plus pages to keep notes on which varieties and companion plants to keep, to replace and to buy.

Want to know what roses are fragrant? We provide a list of fragrant varieties that not only identifies the rose, but includes its type, color and hardiness zone. We do the same with a list for shade tolerant roses. And there are more lists that include companion plants, sources for mail order roses and supplies as well as a list of our personal favorite varieties.

Winter--To-Do-List-Page

Since we love taking photographs of our roses, we feature over 30 full-color rose photos – from the stylish Sexy Rexy on the cover to the beautiful pink Earth Song (a favorite) in the introduction as well as a display of Brownell roses in the Roses in My Garden page.

Introduction-PageIf you like to “journal” and love to garden, check-out Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners. You can chronicle an entire season of rose gardening in one practical, informative and attractive journal that will serve as a unique account of your garden as well as a blueprint for the following year.

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