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When visiting Saratoga Springs, NY this summer, one of the stops on our itinerary was the Yaddo Rose Garden. Hidden down a long winding road, the rose garden is located on part of the 400 acre working artists’ retreat. The only part of the estate open to the public are the gardens which include the rose garden and the rock garden.

On the day we visited the garden, during the second week of June, we were fortunate to meet several of the volunteers who maintain the garden. Due to Covid, the garden had been shut down in 2020 and only limited access was allowed in 2021. To say the least, there was a lot of work to be done when they returned. The volunteers had overgrown beds to weed and replacement roses to plant. They also have a continuous deer problem to deal with.

Newly Planted Rose Bed

We learned some of the history of the garden from the volunteers we met and it is quite a story. The gardens at Yaddo, a gift by Spencer Trask to his wife Katherine in 1899, were designed by the couple with some input from landscape architects. The designs were also influenced from the gardens the Trasks had visited on their trips abroad.

Fountain Surrounded by Rose Beds

The rose garden dates back to 1905. Unfortunately, after the deaths of their four children, the Trasks were left with no heirs and formed what became The Corporation of Yaddo which they endowed to manage the property as an artist’s retreat. With the death of Katrina in 1922, the corporation established a residency program for artists from all backgrounds and various countries. It has attracted well known artists over its many years such as Saul Bellow, James Baldwin, Katherine Anne Porter and Leonard Bernstein.

Pergola with Climbing Roses

The rose garden’s original design remains. It has four beds that surround a fountain with a long pergola that overlooks the garden from a terrace. Roses reflect the original color scheme of red, pink, white and yellow hybrid teas and floribundas. While our visit was about 10 days too early for their June bloom, which comes in the later part of June in Saratoga Springs, we were, however, able to enjoy the display of the prolific climbing roses. They were in full bloom and scrambling up and over a huge pergola. West of the pergola is the woodland Rock Garden.

One of the Marble “Four Season” Statues Enclosed

On one side of the rose garden stand Italian marble statues representing the four seasons. These statues are protected in the off-season by elaborate structures that had not yet been removed when we were there. However, as you can see from the photograph, the enclosures were made with a plexiglass-like material which allows visitors to still admire the sculptures.

Although Mrs. Trask’s intention was to share the gardens with the public, like many public gardens, they fell into disrepair. Luckily, it was rescued by Saratoga Springs resident Jane Wait in 1991 who gathered 17 volunteers and raised money to replace roses, install water lines and reconstruct the pergola. Today there are over 50 volunteers making up the Yaddo Garden Association and they not only plant, prune, and select roses, but are in charge of all aspects of maintaining and preserving the rose garden, its marble statues and the additional rock garden as well.

Thanks to the enormous effort by these volunteers, the Gardens at Yaddo are restored, well-maintained, and still able to be enjoyed by the public.

Rose Fest

Rose Fest

A Great Way to Learn about Growing Roses

Saturday April 30, 2022

Graham Thomas Rose

If you would like to learn more about how to plant, prune and care for roses, the RI Society’s Rose Fest, hosted by Wildwood Nurseries, is the perfect event. In addition to a schedule of talks and demonstrations by American Rose Society Consulting Rosarians, Mike and I will be presenting “Six Steps for Successful Rose Gardening at 11:15 AM.

This program explains everything you need to know in six easy-to-follow steps that take the mystery out of rose gardening. It also includes suggestions on sustainable rose varieties that are winter hardy, disease resistant and will thrive without the use of pesticides. We will have our books, Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening and Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners available to sell and sign.

If you live nearby, this is a good opportunity to come to Rose Fest on Saturday, April 30 at Wildwood Nurseries, 659 Frenchtown Road, East Greenwich, RI. The schedule of events is posted below. You can also become a RI Rose Society member and receive a 10% discount at Wildwood.

Hope to see you there.

Silas Marner (Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses)

Each year we wait to receive a press release to learn what new roses David Austin Roses will introduce into the United States. For 2022, there are 2 new introductions: Silas Marner and The Country Parson.

Silas Marner (Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses)

Silas Marner is a lovely, medium pink rose with cuplike blooms and a button eye with glossy dark green foliage. The underside of the petals, as well as the outer petals, are a paler pink, creating a halo effect. It has a medium strong, old rose fragrance, a mature growth habit 3½’ high x 4½’ wide and is winter hardy to zone 4. If the name sounds familiar, it is: Silas Marner is named for the main character in George Eliot’s novel of the same name.

The Country Parson (Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses)

The Country Parson, named after James Woodforde’s “The Diary of a Country Parson,” is a medium yellow rose. It has flowers that form medium-large rosettes with paler yellow outer petals that are described as translucent. This new introduction has a fruity fragrance, grayish green foliage and grows 3½’ high x 3½’ wide. Like Silas Marner, it is winter hardy to zone 4.

I recently checked David Austin’s web site (davidaustinroses.com) and both The Country Parson and Silas Marner are still available. You can also request their 2022 Handbook on their web site.

One of Our À La Carte Travel Programs

It’s early January, cold and quiet but not as cold as it used to be. As a kid I played hockey on safe pond ice at Christmastime but those ponds hardly freeze at all by late December. Anyway, Angelina and I are getting ready to post our 2022 Lecture Series. While this season had promised a return to in-person programs, it is starting out just like last year with virtual Zoom presentations due to the persistent pandemic. Zooms are not as satisfying as in-person visits but they had an unexpected bonus by allowing us to present programs in Manhattan, New Jersey, Toronto, and Houston without leaving home.

Our 2022 Lecture Series includes some re-bookings that were cancelled last year as well as new ones. Our entertaining PowerPoint lectures, workshops and seminars are designed to educate and make rose gardening appealing to even the most reluctant gardener. For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program Page at RoseSolutions.

Some highlights for 2022:

Brownell Climbers
  • We are currently developing a new program on Brownell Roses utilizing an extensive trove of source material gathered over two decades. Walter Brownell was an early pioneer, hybridizing winter hardy varieties in Little Compton, RI that were later sold throughout the United States. We plan on rolling out this PowerPoint presentation this spring.
  • Interest in our À La Carte Travel programs continues to grow. Last year gardeners stuck at home enjoyed our International Virtual Garden Tour, visiting five of our favorite overseas rose gardens. We escorted several groups to our favorite city outside of the United States with Paris! The City of Lights and more are scheduled this year.
  • While there are fewer New England area flower and garden shows than just a few years ago, the Southeastern Connecticut Home and Garden Show is scheduled for February 18 to 20 at the Earth Tower Expo & Convention Center at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. We’re scheduled to present our popular “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening.”  This program covers all the rose gardening basics plus lots of Q and A  – – everything necessary to grow beautiful roses in home gardens this spring.
  • On Saturday morning, April 16, Angelina and I will demonstrate the best way to prune roses in the rose garden at Blithewold in Bristol, RI.
  • A week later, on April 30, we will present our lecture “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” at the Rhode Island Rose Society’s 2022 Rosefest at Wildwood Nursery in East Greenwich, RI. This is free and open to the public.
  • In-between these events, we have scheduled lectures with garden clubs and other horticultural organizations.

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.

Step 1 of Our “Six Simple Steps” PowerPoint Program

We  have been on the lecture circuit presenting lectures, conducting seminars and leading workshops for more than twenty-five years. We are always  available to speak at flower shows, symposiums, conventions, and garden club meetings and with Zoom we can travel anywhere on the planet. 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 speaker at the last minute, even if you meet in some far-away place, contact Mike at Rosesolutions – maybe we can help.

Meanwhile, we are working on the February issue of our quarterly e-newsletter, The Northeast Rose Gardener, which is available to anyone who wants to learn more about rose gardening in the northeastern United States. It’s written for New England gardeners by New England gardeners with each issue drilling down into some aspect of rose horticulture specific to the northeastern climate. To sign up for the e-newsletter, send us an email. The Northeast Rose Gardener is free and we do not share email addresses with anyone.

Finally, there is no greater optimist than a gardener in January. Nothing ignites the passions in the soul of a rose gardener more than the promise of next year’s garden. 

Celestial Eyes

Mike and I received our first Rose Catalogue in the mail last week which has us thinking about what roses we will add to our garden this spring. While word of mouth is the best way to find out about rose varieties that are sustainable and winter hardy for our climate, another way is to pay attention to what awards a rose variety receives.

Luckily, there are organizations that test varieties and designates them as winners if they meet certain criteria. The American Garden Rose Selections (AGRS), an organization that replaces the All American Rose Selection, is one such organization that tests and evaluates roses. Varieties that are entered into the program are planted and evaluated in 12 test gardens located throughout the United States for 2 years. They are evaluated for disease-resistance and ease of care as well as other criteria such as bloom form, fragrance, hardiness and plant habit. Varieties are awarded the AGRS designation based on regions. The closest test garden for us here in New England is the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, NY. Out of the 4 AGRS winners for 2022, two are Regional Choice Award Winners in the Northeast.

Pink Freedom (2018, Christian Bedard) – introduced by Weeks Roses/Spring Hill Nursery is winter hardy to zone 4. This pink shrub rose grows 4’-6’ high and 3’ wide, has 3½” blooms and is a good landscape rose. In addition to winning in the Northeast, it is also chosen for its performance in the Northwest, South Central and Southeast areas of the US.

Pink Freedom

Pretty Polly™ Pink (2019, David Zlesak) – introduced by Star Roses and Plants, is a Regional Choice Award Winner for the Northeast, Northwest, South Central and Southeast. This pink polyantha has cuplike blooms with a compact 2-1/2’ x 3’ wide habit. It is hardy to Zone 4 and attracts pollinators.

Pretty Polly Pink

The other two 2022 AGRS Winners are:

Celestial Night (2019, Christine Bedard) – introduced by Weeks Roses won in 3 regions: South Central, Southeast and Southwest. This deep purple floribunda has cupped and quartered old fashioned blooms, was also a Fragrance Award Winner and is hardy to zone 5. (Pictured as lead photo.)

Easy on the Eyes™ (2018, Tom Carruth) – introduced by Weeks Roses, is part of their Easy to Love series. This mauve shrub displays a large magenta/purple eye on blooms that have 15-20 petals and produces large clusters. It has dark green, glossy foliage, is hardy to zone 5 and won in 5 regions: North Central, Northwest, South Central, Southeast, and Southwest. It is also a Fragrance Award Winner.

Easy on the Eyes

All of these AGRS winners demonstrated disease resistance after going through a 2-year trial and may be roses to consider when looking for sustainable varieties to plant in your garden. For more information about AGRS and previous winners, visit their web site at www.americangarenroseselections.com

All photos are courtesy of the AGRS web site

Atlantic Seaweed

In November each year, I start my special seaweed compost using fallen maple and oak leaves and fresh Atlantic seaweed. I follow the most common formula for backyard composting by mixing three parts leaves  ̶  the carbon or brown material  ̶   to one part seaweed  ̶  the nitrogen or green material. I add water to keep the pile moist and aeration to provide oxygen for the microorganisms to do their work (Google for more specific composting details and explanations).  

While I add raw vegetative kitchen waste, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds and the occasional pumpkin or two, seaweed is the dominate nitrogen source. However, no grass cuttings, straw, weeds, or  manure of any kind are included as they are sources of weed seeds that will survive the composting process. I also toss in small chunks of wood and whole quahog shells that provide additional aeration. They don’t break down and will be screened out later and re-used.

Autumn is not the best time to do this but the only time there is enough leaves to fill my one-cubic-yard bin made from hardware cloth. (The one-yard size is arbitrary but it gives me enough finished compost to justify the effort that goes into the process.)

I start by collecting all my leaves and those of my neighbors and shredding them with the lawnmower  ̶  the smaller the particle size, the faster it will break down. Next, Angelina and I go on our annual seaweed crawl, hitting our secret stashes along Rhode Island’s 400 miles of Atlantic coastline, returning home with buckets and baskets full of fresh seaweed.

Why seaweed? Although the analysis is small, seaweed has all the major as well as minor nutrients, has no weeds or weed seeds and no insects or insect eggs  ̶  a perfect organic for making premium compost.

Bucket of Seaweed

Building the pile is simple. I toss in a foot or so of leaves followed by two large scoops of chopped seaweed, stir with a long-handled clam rake, add water from the hose. Repeat. Easy peasy.

Adding Seaweed
Building the Pile
Mixing in Seaweed

I don’t complete the pile right away but keep adding to it while it settles until the bin is chock full, usually by Christmas. Not much actual composting happens during the cold winter season while the important microorganisms are sluggish. It starts to cook in early spring then I turn the pile every few weeks. The more often I turn, the faster the pile decomposes and by early fall, the pile has lost 40% of its volume. The original brown and green materials have completely broken down, leaving dark, crumbly, weed-free humus that looks and smells earthy. Gardeners gold!

Finished Compost

I screen the compost in September and store it in 25 gallon re-purposed plastic nursery containers. I could use it now but prefer to let it continue curing until the following spring. Then it’s ready to use.

All this may seem like a lot of work but I enjoy it and when stretched over several months and two seasons it’s manageable and the results are worth the effort.

Seaweed compost is seafood for plants and Rhode Island  ̶  The Ocean State  ̶   has an over-abundance of this rich marine resource.

Purple Tiger

Striped roses, vivid streaks of two colors on the same bloom, add a colorful accent to a rose garden. Last spring, we planted two striped varieties in formal urns in front of one of our rose beds as focal points. Since we wanted something bright and striking, we selected two contrasting striped varieties, Purple Tiger and Scentimental. Importantly, these dazzling floribundas also have a compact mature growth habit well-suited to container growth.

Purple Tiger, a mauve blend (Christensen, 1991), is not a new introduction, but I love its purple and white blooms that produced dramatic stripe-like configurations on each petal. While “striped” is not an official color class  ̶   two-toned roses such as striped are referred to as blends  ̶  Purple Tiger has the appearance of stripes along its petals, especially from a distance. On closer inspection, you can see that each petal may display splashes of purple interlaced with white or splashes of white interspersed with purple. Either way, the striations and coloring of Purple Tiger is eye-catching.

Purple Tiger in Container

One thing to note, though, is that mauve roses cannot tolerate extreme heat. During our heat waves this summer, our Purple Tiger blooms shattered as soon as they opened. It may have done better planted within our garden that gets afternoon shade instead of in a container that was in sunlight most of the day. Water was another consideration. Both Purple Tiger and Scentimental had to be watered more often, daily in hot weather, since the soil in the container dried out more quickly than the roses planted in the ground.

Scentimental

Scentimental, however, fared better under hot conditions. This floribunda (Carruth, 1999) produces vibrant sprays of red and white blooms. The saturated red on each individual petal is nicely contrasted by the intermingling of white. While Scentimental appears mostly red, each petal is streaked with white, resulting in a striped or dappled appearance. An added bonus is its strong damask fragrance, all the more noticeable because of the large flowers that grow in clusters.

Striped roses attract attention by providing lively color and creating an impressive dimension to every garden. We chose Purple Tiger and Scentimental because we liked their colors but we could have picked any number of other striped varieties since there are so many to choose from.

Sitting Pretty Rose (Photo Courtesy of Will Radler)

Selecting rose varieties to add to our garden is often a difficult decision. There’s only so much room and too many luscious roses to choose from. But this year, we decided to go with a few of the low maintenance roses bred by Will Radler, the breeder of Knock Out roses.

Will has produced over 40 low maintenance roses over the years in addition to his well- known Knock Out varieties. This year we will be adding 3 of his roses to our garden, including his 2021 introduction ‘Sitting Pretty’.

Sitting Pretty (Photo Courtesy of Will Radler)

Sitting Pretty, a grandiflora, is new this year and I wanted to know about its disease resistance, so I asked Will for information about this rose. He said that Sitting Pretty performed well in the West Coast trials where the “plants were clean and the blooms were large.” While some diseases, like blackspot and mildew were evident on other varieties in the trials, there were none on Sitting Pretty. There were no problems in the Philadelphia trials either. That sounds just like the kind of rose we are looking for.

Winter hardy to zone 4, Sitting Pretty has ruffled pink large flowers with 25 petals that bloom in clusters on a rounded 3-4’ high x 3-4’ wide bush. Plus, it has a medium damask fragrance and a name that seems well-suited for a rose. Will told me the name was chosen from over 50 suggested by his staff and, he says, “speaks of its personality.” He describes it as the “kind of rose that can grow on you if you give it a chance.”

The other Radler roses we will be adding to our garden this year are ‘Orchid Romance’ and ‘Highwire Flyer’.

Orchid Romance (Photo: Star Roses)

Orchid Romance is a mauve floribunda that was introduced in 2012 and I have had my eye on this rose for quite a while. With its 75 plus petals and strong citrus fragrance, it reminds me of those old garden roses in my mother’s garden – but much more sustainable.  Orchid Romance grows on an upright bush with a mature growth habit of 4-1/2’ tall by 3’ wide and is winter hardy to zone 5. As you can see from the photo, the color is luscious.

Highwire Flyer (Photo Courtesy of Will Radler)

Highwire Flyer is a climbing rose with a short habit for a climber, growing only up to 6 feet tall – just the small climber we were looking for. However, it can also be grown as a shrub. A few years ago, Will described ‘Highwire Flyer’ as a “new climber which will surprise rose enthusiasts with its hardiness and production.” Introduced in 2018, it has deep pink blooms and semi-glossy, dark green foliage and is winter hardy to zone 4. It also performed well in various trials, receiving an American Rose Trials award for sustainability and winning the 2018 Biltmore Rose Trial Awards for climbing roses and best growth habit. ‘Highwire Flyer’ will fit into our garden nicely, adding a vertical element at the end of a bed of shrub roses.

We’re looking forward to adding these low maintenance varieties to our garden this year and are confident that, based on their pedigree, they will feel right at home in our sustainable rose garden.

‘Eustacia Vye’ (Photo by David Austin Roses)

This year, David Austin Roses celebrates English novelist Thomas Hardy with two new English roses for American and Canadian Gardeners –  ‘Eustacia Vye’, and ‘Gabriel Oak’. These fragrant, vigorous and disease resistant varieties are available in 2021 only by mail order from davidaustinroses. They will be carried in garden centers starting in Spring 2022.

Eustacia Vye:

‘Eustacia Vye’ is a medium shrub that grows 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. It produces rosette-shaped mid-pink to apricot flowers with a strong, fruity fragrance that contain approximately 90 petals. An added bonus is the red-tinged stems which support each delicately ruffled bloom whose color gradually become paler as it matures. Winter hardy in USDA Zones 4-11, this beauty will flower from early summer through fall and maintains a bushy, upright growth habit. ‘Eustacia Vye’ is named after the beautiful and restive heroine of  Thomas’s The Return of the Native.

‘Gabriel Oak’ (Photo by David Austin Roses)

Gabriel Oak:

The striking deep pink blooms of ‘Gabriel Oak’ caught my eye and is now on my list of “must have” roses. This vigorous rose grows 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide, a perfect size for a home garden. In addition, it has an intense fruity fragrance, heavily-packed rosette-shaped blooms with 125 petals and lush dark green foliage. Named after the beloved character in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd,’ Gabriel Oak’ repeats throughout the season and is winter hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 11.

These two 2021 introductions are the latest additions of David Austin varieties that continue the late Mr. Austin’s passion for English literature. ‘Eustacia Vye’ and ‘Gabriel Oak’ join past introductions from Thomas Hardy novels  – ‘Bathsheba’ (named for the heroine in Far from the Madding Crowd) and ‘Wildeve’ (a character in The Return of the Native).

Even though it will be several months before we can plant roses here in southern New England, Mike and I can enjoy looking at the David Austin Handbook of Roses that arrived in the mail a few days ago. If you haven’t received a copy, go to davidaustinroses to request one.

June Bloom in Chute’s Garden

It’s early February and the coldest time of the year, the landscape is still and winter’s long post-holiday shadow has drifted in. Despite the pall cast by the corona pandemic, Angelina and I are optimistically planning for the upcoming year that includes our 2021 Lecture Series, additional writing, and catching up on delayed projects.

Since in-person lectures are not currently possible, we have converted all of our programs to virtual formats like Zoom. We have been presenting Zoom programs for the past several months and will continue to do so for, at least, the early part of 2021.  The unanticipated benefit of Zoom, however, is the ability to present programs to groups in far away places that otherwise would not have been possible. For example, we spoke  to a group in New Jersey last fall from the comfort of our Zoom Room and avoided an 8-hour drive.

Last year as contributing editors, we wrote a column titled “Every Day Roses,” for the American Rose Magazine, the official magazine of the American Rose Society. The column included a series of five articles where we delved into sustainability, winter hardiness, hardy shrub roses, rose selection, and described our visit to Italian rose gardens, all topics of interest for everyday gardeners. The response was very positive and we have agreed to contribute additional articles in 2021.

Page reprinted from the March/April 2020 Issue of the American Rose Magazine

Our quarterly e-newsletter, The Northeast Rose Gardener, is available to anyone who wants to learn more about rose gardening in the northeastern United States. It’s written for New England gardeners by New England gardeners with each issue drilling down into some topic of rose horticulture specific to the northeastern climate. To sign up for the e-newsletter contact angie@rosesolutions. The Northeast Rose Gardener is free and we do not share email addresses with anyone. The next issue will be published in February.

Our 2021 Lecture Series includes some re-bookings that were cancelled last year as well as new ones. Our entertaining PowerPoint lectures, workshops and seminars are designed to educate and make rose gardening appealing to even the most reluctant gardener. (See the complete list of 2021 programs on the 2021 Lecture Series page.) For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program Page at RoseSolutions.

Most of the New England area flower and garden shows have been cancelled for 2021 with the exception of the Southeastern Connecticut Home and Garden Show scheduled for May 14 to 16 at the Earth Tower Expo & Convention Center at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. We have accepted an invitation to present our popular “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening.”  This program covers all the rose gardening basics including the right way to plant and prune roses plus lots of Q and A– everything necessary to grow beautiful roses in home gardens this spring.

(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.)

We  have been on the lecture circuit presenting lectures, conducting seminars and leading workshops for more than two decades and it never gets old. We are always  available to speak at flower shows, symposiums, conventions, and garden club meetings and with Zoom we can travel anywhere on the planet. 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, even if you live in Timbuktu, contact mike@rosesolutions – we can help.

So as we slug our way through these uncertain times during this winter of our discontent, rest assure that better times will return.

As we like to say, there is no one more optimistic than a gardener in January.

Happy New Year.

Stay Safe

Mike and Angelina

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