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Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Besides roses, we have beds of other flowers including annuals that give color all season and where we also slip in a couple of rows of string beans, some basil and one tomato plant. Just one. No matter what variety of tomato we plant, they all ripen in August and that one plant yields a tsunami of fruit quickly. A sprig of basil and a slice of mozzarella cheese added to a thick slice of fresh tomato and a glass of chilled white wine creates a summertime treat.

This season, after a hiatus of a few years, we added sunflowers to this eclectic side garden. We planted seeds in early June only to discover the following day that each seed was neatly excavated and eaten. We replanted and the same thing happened only this time I observed the seed lifting. The perp was a crafty chipmunk sneaking around early in the morning.

We replanted once again only this time in small pots on a garden bench where the chipmunk was unlikely to find them. They soon germinated and when 10 inches high we transplanted them into the garden where they grew amazingly fast in mid-summer heat.

Our sunflowers topped out at 10’2”,  producing a flamboyant display for a few weeks in early September. Each plant featured a single platter-sized corona chock full of seeds.

We chose a popular variety that we had grown before called Mammoth, a behemoth of a plant that rockets to 10 feet and beyond and produces one humongous corona 12 inches across – all from one little seed.

But once the peak goes by, the heavy coronas sag and get raided by squirrels who have discovered the rich seed source. The bright yellow florets quickly turn brown and the once-elegant foliage now looks shabby. It’s time to remove these deteriorating giants with a football-sized root ball and harvest the seeds.

First, we had to cut the coronas off before we lost everything to hungry squirrels and hung them to dry for two weeks and then shucked the seeds into a colander. We will put a handful aside to plant next year and use the rest in our bird feeders this winter.

Sunflowers are easy to grow, requiring little care, are available in every size and can fit in any garden. There are no flowers more cheerful, flashy and optimistic than these spectacular golden coronas in full bloom in late summer. An image especially welcome this year.

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Chute’s Garden

For weeks we have been living under the shadow of the corona virus and following the “Stay at Home” orders imposed by our various governors. Days blend into a sameness and each morning when I wake up I have to remind myself what day it is. One day is much the same as the last with scarce entries in my Day Planner that once was filled with appointments, meetings, flower show appearances and lectures — all cancelled or postponed.

So it’s no wonder that Mother’s Day — May 10 — was off my radar until I began receiving reminders from numerous stores that Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Which reminded me that our books — Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening and Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners make perfect gifts for Mother’s Day.

1-Roses-for-NERoses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening ($21.95) is the first “how-to” book published by New England rose gardeners for New England rose gardeners. It explains everything you need to know to grow wonderful roses whether you’re a novice or a seasoned rose gardener. It includes six easy steps to growing roses in New England and how to select the right varieties for your garden. There is also a section covering planting and pruning, both bare root and potted roses, in great detail which is helpful this time of year. In addition, Roses for New England  lists over 150 sustainable rose varieties and includes many color photographs.

 

2-Rose-JournalRose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners (19.95) is a journal that’s more than a notebook to jot down what’s happening in your gardens. Besides pages to record monthly events, there’s a seasonal “To Do” list that tells you when to do what gardening tasks. There are lists of shade tolerant, fragrant roses, companion plants and our 25 favorite roses, mail order sources for roses and garden supplies. Tips for growing roses are scattered throughout the journal as well. Your Mom doesn’t have to be a rose gardener to enjoy this journal since it can be used by anyone who wants to keep track of interesting and/or unusual events. Every Christmas I give a copy of this  Journal to my brother-in-law who does not grow roses but likes to keep a record of yearly outdoor tasks.

We offer Free Shipping within the continental United States when books are ordered on our web site RoseSolutions. Payments are made through PayPal or your credit card. We can even include a “Happy Mother’s Day” transcription of your choice and ship directly to your gift recipient. Just include this information when you order.

During this time when we can’t dine out or shop in our favorite retail stores and social distancing is the norm, you can still make Mother’s Day special by remembering Mom by sending her our books as a special gift.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Pruning Clair Matin

April is a fickle month in New England, often starting off as winter and ending as spring. But other than these typical weather variations, springtime in New England is predictable.

The daffodils and forsythia have bloomed right on schedule and the garden roses are waking up, stretching and yawning after a five-month snooze, right on schedule.

But spring this year is dramatically different from any previous spring. The corona virus has fundamentally altered how we live including, among many other things, providing us with a bounty of unwelcome free time. Since the objective for all of us to stay healthy is to stay at home, Angelina and I are making the best use of this unexpected windfall of time.

I began with my usual early spring garden cleanups in late March, a special time when the air is crisp and sharp and the garden is flooded with sunshine before the surrounding trees have leafed out. The annual heavy pruning ritual follows and that normally takes a week. I started with the climbers — spending an entire afternoon on each of the big guys — cutting and lopping, sawing and snipping, then re-pegging them on their trellises after they were blown about all winter. This year, by design, it’s taking longer — a lot longer.  No problem, I’ve got time.

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Pruning off canker

Then comes the bush roses. Angelina and I check out each occupant, deciding who stays, who gets moved, and who gets the boot. I spend a day on each bed. No problem, I’ve got time. Planting comes next. We have a few new varieties in mind but wonder if our usual rose sources will be open.

Meanwhile, despite a concentrated effort to keep deer out of the gardens even with all our fencing, they manage to find a way in. I discovered hoof prints in the soft garden soil a few weeks ago. I channeled my best Daniel Boone and tracked the critters who had hopped over a neighbor’s fence, walked all the way around the fenced perimeter, along the street, up our driveway and through the one remaining open space into the garden area. On a recent midnight raid, they browsed on emerging daylilies, chives, irises, and tulips. So construction of a six-foot gate gets added to the To-Do list. No problem, I’ve got time.

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Begonias in bags

Along with roses, we grow an assortment of other plants to dress up our summer patio. We will soon buy a flat of begonias and fill a couple of plastic bags to hang in front of the patio. They quickly fill-out, leaving a mass of color that lasts all summer, hiding the bags they grow in.

5-Patio-ColeusAnother patio plant we like are coleus. We get the flashiest, most flamboyant varieties we can find and make topiaries out of them. Once potted up, we pinch out lower stems as they grow. Keeping them neat and symmetrical requires constant primping. No problem, we’ve got time.

4-Coleus-TopiaryWe’ve divided our daylilies — it’s amazing how hefty the clumps have grown — and will re-plant them along with other non-rose species among our roses as we start a cottage garden. This will takes some doing. No problem, we’ve got time.

And so it goes, on and on. After all, right now we’ve got nothing but time (and a little red wine).

We would like to hear how you are doing in other parts of the US. In Great Britain. In France. In The Netherlands. In Ireland. In Finland.

How are you spending your free time?

 

Happy Easter.

Mike & Angelina

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Mike & Angelina’s Rose Garden in June

It’s January, the coldest time of the year. The rose gardens are dormant, the landscape is still and winter’s long post-holiday chill is just beginning. While this is the quiet time, Angelina and I are actively making plans for the upcoming year and preparing our 2020 Lecture Series.

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 “Rose Gardening Simplified” where we explain in simple, easy-to-understand language how to grow attractive, sustainable roses at home. (See the complete list of 2020 programs, dates, and times on the 2020 Lecture Series page.) For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program Page at RoseSolutions.

HomeGarden_Vert_2_23We open the season on Saturday and Sunday, February 22 and 23 at the 2020 Southeastern Connecticut Home & Garden Show at the Earth Tower Expo & Convention Center at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. We will present our popular “Roses for New England” program at 1pm on Saturday and 11am on Sunday. This home and flower show continues to expand its garden-related programming and we are delighted to be involved. We are looking forward to this mid-winter double header at this fabulous casino venue.

 

6 Boston Flower Show logoOn Friday, March 13, we return to the Boston Flower & Garden Showat the Seaport World Trade Center and debut our new “Rose Gardening Simplified” program. Gardeners throughout the region flock here every March looking for an early taste of spring. This flower show is very special to us and we always enjoy our annual visit and the large, enthusiastic Beantown audiences.

 

Maine FS logoAnd on Saturday, March 28, we pack-up for an overnighter to Portland, Maine to speak at the Maine Flower Show, our third year at the this show located at Thompson’s Point along the Portland waterfront. This year’s presentation is an updated “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” program with time for plenty of Q and A. The audience here is an eclectic mix from all over northern New England as well as Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes.

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Garden at the 2019 Maine Flower Show

(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, May 2 at 10 am, we will be at Wildwood Nursery in East Greenwich, RI giving a lecture on basic rose gardening. This is part of the Rhode Island Rose Society’s annual “Rosefest”, a four-hour workshop on rose horticulture for home gardeners. Here’s an opportunity to learn rose care, including the best way to plant and prune roses from local rosarians. This event is free and open to the public.

 

3-Six-Simple-Steps-Title-SlOn Saturday, May 9 at 10am, join Angelina and me at Lincoln-Sudbury Adult Education in Sudbury, MA where we will present an expanded two-hour seminar of our “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” program. We cover 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 at home this spring. (Visit their web site: www.lsrhs.net/community/adult_ed or call 978-443-9961, x3326 for more information or to register).

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 Santa Fe and the American Southwest, makes early 2020 another busy season for us.

Mike and Angelina Chute

Mike & Angelina

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 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, contact mike@rosesolutions– maybe we can help.

So, even as the snow flies and the thermometer plummets, there is no one more optimistic than a gardener in January.

Happy New Year.

Mike and Angelina

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Mike Gathering Seaweed

Seaweed, fresh from the ocean, is a great amendment for garden soil as well as an addition to compost. Here in Rhode Island, known as the “Ocean State” with over 400 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, seaweed is easily found along the shoreline.

Once or twice a year, Mike and I pack the SUV with muck buckets and a rake and drive to our favorite seaweed gathering site – First Beach in Newport, RI (also known as Easton’s Beach). Growing up in Newport, I spent many days here with friends, lounging on the sand. We seldom swam because chances were that the water would be thick with seaweed, a daily plague of this particular beach.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we drove to the beach a few weeks ago and saw nothing but pristine sand. Not a slimy piece of seaweed to be found anywhere. It’s an hour’s drive from where we now live and we didn’t want to go home with empty buckets. I thought of the many areas we might find seaweed and remembered a place that might have enough seaweed to fill our buckets.

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View of Newport Bridge from King’s Park

So we headed down to Newport’s 5th Ward, where I grew up, and drove to King’s Park which indeed had the seaweed we were looking for. The beach at King’s Park looks out over Newport Harbor and has a great view of the Newport Bridge as well as the shoreline along lower Thames Street. However, it’s not the kind of beach that attracts tourists. If you didn’t know it was there, right on Wellington Ave. next to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, you would drive right by it on your way to the Ocean Drive which meanders around the coast and up to Bellevue Avenue and its many mansions.

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Ida Lewis Yacht Club

We had the small strip of beach completely to ourselves and as Mike gathered the seaweed that had washed ashore, I admired the yachts moored in the harbor. I also had a view of Goat Island that once was home to the Navy Torpedo Station before it was transformed into a tourist destination with a hotel and condominiums.  Pointing out to the harbor stood the statue of General Rochambeau who, in 1780, landed in Newport with his troops after the British had withdrawn.

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View of Goat Island in the Distance

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Statue of General Rochambeau

Being at King’s Park brought back childhood memories when I used to walk to the Park from home on hot summer days. I realized that I hadn’t been back since I was 9 or 10 years old, but what a perfect place, I thought, to gather seaweed and recall times past. If you travel to Newport, you might want to discover this out-of-the-way spot with its great scenic views and free parking.

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Seaweed Ready for the Compost Bin

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Mike and Angelina Chute’s Garden

After the holiday hubbub is over and tranquility returns, the new year presents itself and the gardening season begins again, as it always does, with great expectations. While the roses in our gardens are quietly resting under their winter cover, Angelina and I have been unusually busy planning for the 2019 season. We have accepted a number of invitations to present lectures and workshops, including a new home and garden show in Connecticut plus programs in area garden centers. 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.

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Cloud Ten (Radler, white climbing rose)

New this year is “Radler Roses, Beyond Knock Out Roses.” This PowerPoint presentation highlights a number of attractive, disease resistant varieties that have been hybridized by Will Radler, breeder of the famous Knock Out family of sustainable roses. We describe these roses as being “beyond Knock Outs.” as they do not have “Knock Out” as part of their name. Will Radler has served as a consultant to this program and it will debut at the Boston Flower & Garden Show on March 19. (See the complete list of 2019 programs, dates, and times on the 2019 Lecture Series page.) For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program page at RoseSolutions.net.

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Our season opens at the Southeastern Connecticut Home & Garden Show on Sunday, February 24 at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Our event starts at 12:15 with a Meet & Greet book signing followed at 1:00 pm by our “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” our most popular program. This is Rose Gardening 101 where we explain how to grow great roses in home gardens in six simple steps. There will be plenty of time for Q and A during and after the program.

6 Boston Flower Show logoOn Saturday, March 16, we return to the Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center to present our new program for 2019, “Beyond Knock Out Roses; Discovering Other Sustainable Roses from Knock Out Hybridizer Will Radler.” We enjoy the high energy of the Boston show and especially the interaction with the big lively Boston audiences. (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 are looking forward to our visit to Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, MA on Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 pm when we present the Six Simple Steps program. This event will include refreshments and door prizes. To register or for more information, go to www.russellsgardencenter.com or call 508-358-2283 x394.

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Display at 2018 Maine Flower Show

We pack up and head north to Portland, Maine on Saturday, March 30, to speak at the Maine Flower Show. We presented a program there last year on cold-climate rose gardening that attracted an audience from across northern New England as well as Quebec and the Canadian eastern provinces. This year we’ve created another customized cold-climate program titled “Fifteen Remarkable Roses for Northern New England Gardens,” which focuses on successful rose gardening in USDA zones 3 through 5.

Home Garden Flower Show (4)We present the “Radler Roses, Beyond Knock Out Roses” program at the Rhode Island Home Flower & Garden Show on Saturday, April 6 at 1pm.  We had presented programs at the old RI Flower & Garden Show from 1998 until it closed a few years ago. Now it’s back again at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence and we’re glad. Go to www.ribahomeshow.com for more details.

Join us at the RI Rose Society’s “Rose Fest” on Saturday, May 4 at Chaves Garden Center, in Middletown, RI. We again present our Six Simple Steps program but in a garden setting using real plants as props instead of a digital PowerPoint program — a fun and unique way to demonstrate rose gardening.

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Mike Chute at 2018 RI Rose Society Rose Show

Saturday, June 15 at 1 PM is the Rhode Island Rose Society’s 21st 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. At 1:30, we will use real roses grown in local gardens by home gardeners as props to demonstrate how simple it is successfully grow roses at home. Free and open to the public.

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 Great Britain, makes early 2019 another active season for Angelina and me.

We are available to speak at flower shows, garden centers, 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.at.rosesolutions.

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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

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2-deserted-beach-and-mikeNo matter where you are in Rhode Island, you cannot be more than 45 minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean. One of the many advantages of being a gardener in the Ocean State is easy access to seaweed whenever the need or mood arises.

5-seaweed-and-shellsLate every fall after Thanksgiving, Mike starts his winter compost pile. In addition to loads of shredded leaves, he adds potato, apple and banana peels and other raw vegetative waste plus coffee grinds and tea bags. Then he mixes in a special  ingredient — seaweed. We call seaweed “seafood” for roses — or any other plant — because it contains a wealth of nutrients plants need, including all the major and minor nutrients but no weeds, weed seeds, insects or diseases.

The Rhode Island state constitution guarantees each citizen the right to gather seaweed below the high water mark from any beach. So, on a bright and sunny day in December we traveled the 45 minutes to Newport where I grew up, planning to arrive at the time when the tidal tables, published daily in the newspaper, indicated low tide.  One of our favorite seaweed stashes is at Easton’s Beach also known as 1st Beach to locals.  Low tide was at 11 AM and when we arrived at noon, we saw the parking lot full of occupied cars with people eating lunch and enjoying the view. The beach itself, though, was deserted.

6-mike-gathering-seaweedAfter unloading his muck buckets and grabbing his rake, Mike and I walked down to the beach, and while dressed for a December day in New England, we were pleasantly surprised that the day was warm and the raw wind that blows in off the Atlantic in late fall was non-existent.

Usually we harvest seaweed after an ocean storm churns up and washes in the crème de crème of seaweed. But no storms were predicted for the imminent future, so we hoped that enough seaweed had washed ashore with the incoming tide.

3-gathering-seaweedWe indeed found clumps of seaweed covered with fine beach sand deposited along the high water mark which made it easy for Mike to spear with his special short-handled beach rake, shaking off the excess sand and tossing it into the bucket.

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Meanwhile, I watched as the beach filled up with people walking their dogs, children running along the water’s edge and stopping to stare out into the vastness of the Atlantic and a lone surfer measuring the waves.

1-children-on-beachMike filled several buckets with seaweed, along with some quahog and scallop shells, all the while chatting with folks walking by and explaining to them, when asked,  why he was “cleaning the beach.” After an hour, we packed up, a little reluctant to leave, realizing that we had chosen the perfect day to go “seaweeding.”

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2017 Rhode Island Rose Society Calendar

Wondering what to buy for the gardeners on your Christmas list? Here are some suggestions of gifts that have pleased many of the rose gardeners, and even some non-gardeners, I buy gifts for.

2-prunersARS 310 Curved Pruner: This small curved-blade pruner is ideal for cutting roses as well as vegetables and bonsai. The one-inch blades are made from Japanese high carbon tool steel for clean and accurate cuts and the rounded tips fit easily into your pocket without poking through.The overall length of these pruners is only 6.5 inches.

1-prunersWe still use the original pair we bought over 20 years ago for cutting roses, roots, wire, and anything else in the garden that needs pruning. They are also good to use when making flower arrangements.

We have dropped them in mud holes; lost them in the garden and found them a week later; and have never sharpened them. Dollar for dollar, this is the best gardening tool we own.

3-cobraCobraHead Weeder and Cultivator: The CobraHead is a “steel fingernail” that shaves off weeds at or below ground level. It can be used for planting, transplanting, cultivating, making seed furrows, digging bulb holes and scrapping mud off other garden tools. The soft handle is made from recycled plastic and flax and feels comfortable in either or both hands. This is a very versatile tool.

Rose Calendars: Everyone needs to know what day it is and what can be more pleasant than seeing photographs of different roses every month, especially in the middle of winter? We buy our calendars from the RI Rose Society. Each year, RIRS has a member-only calendar photo contest and members vote for 12 photos that will be featured for each month. Other societies may have similar calendars, or you can buy a calendar from the American Rose Society on their web site. (See Cover of the2017 RIRS Calendar above.)

Rose Books: Winter is the perfect time to plan for the upcoming gardening season. We wrote our book, Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening, because there were no books about rose gardening in New England so it makes the perfect gift for our friends. Many of the rose books sold nationally were written by people from California or Florida where roses are grown differently because of the warmer USDA Zones. So if you buy a book on how to grow roses, be sure that it’s zone appropriate.

One of my favorite books that I find helpful to any gardener is Jackson & Perkins Rose Companions, a book by Stephen Scanniello. It discusses roses as well as companion plants that grow well with roses. This book provides me with many choices to make as far as what plants I want to plant with my roses. One of the companion plants I tried this past year was larkspur which added a nice rich purple/blue to our sustainable rose garden.

Gardening Journals: I had looked for years for a gardening journal that worked for me. Part of my problem is that I don’t like being restricted by space — either too much or too little. So the journals that provide 5 or 6 lines may be too little space and the ones that gave me a page — especially in months like January, February and December — gave me too much space. So I decided to design my own journal which is how we came to write Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners.

Gardening journals come in many styles. When I choose one for a gift, I like to make sure it includes photographs of roses and gardens, interesting sayings, and is versatile enough for the person I’m buying it for.

4-note-cardsRose Note Cards: There are many people, me included, who still write notes, whether it’s a thank you note, a note of condolences, or a quick hello to someone you haven’t seen in a while. There’s no shortage of beautiful note card with pictures of roses and other flowers available. Sometimes, if I have time, I like to make my own note cards, using some of my rose photos. (Card on the top left is Sexy Rexy rose; bottom is Julia Child rose.)

Membership in a Local Rose Society: If you have someone on your list who is interested in roses, a membership gift to a local rose society is a great idea. There are rose societies in most states in the United States as well many other countries. Being a member of a local rose society is a great way to find out what rose varieties grow well where you live. If you’re not one for attending meetings, you can still learn a lot through the local society’s newsletter. Also, some nurseries may offer discount to rose society members. We are active in the RI Rose Society (www.rirs.org) that holds monthly meetings and provides rose programs that help members learn more about roses and activities where we can share our love of roses.

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A Rhode Island Rose Society Meeting at Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. Program was a Ask a Consulting Rosarian Panel

Membership in the American Rose Society: A gift membership to the ARS will give the recipient access to many resources as well as the American Rose Magazine which is published 6 times a year. Listed on their web site (www.rose.org)  are local rose societies organized by state.

These are just a few of the possibilities for gift giving. If you have some I haven’t mentioned, please share your ideas and leave a comment.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Natural materials gathered locally make great garden hardscape. We embellish our gardens with an eclectic mix of local stone, quahog shells, an old concrete bird bath, stepping stones, and a large piece of driftwood.

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Driftwood Serpent

We even include seaweed mulch that adds visual interest as well as a soil amendment. These coastal items make sense because, after all, Rhode Island is the Ocean State surrounded on three sides by Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

2a--Birdbath

The use of stone dates back to the beginning of time. From the famous Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Irish Burren to simple cairns, man-made stacked stones are used as landmarks, trail pointers and indications of ancient burial sites.

5a-Poulmabrone-Dolman

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Last year when Angelina and I were in British Columbia, we discovered another unique use of stone called Inuksuks, stones assembled in the shape of a human being, widely used in arctic regions.

6-Stone-Man-2We employ all these natural elements as creative, easy-to-make garden hardscape that adds interest and welcomes visitors into our garden room of roses.

The Inuksuks, or stone men as I call them, are the latest addition to our garden. Any stone will do as long as it can somehow be stacked one upon the other without toppling over as soon as I turn away. As I am no mason, I quickly discovered that flat stones become important. I’ve now divided my stone cache into leg stones, arm stones, neck stones, and head stones.

7-StonemenI even stacked small stones to make a gang of stone boys hanging out under Graham Thomas. I use no adhesives, just gravity and a few well placed shims to keep the stone people upright. I keep the size of the stone men in scale with the roses, adding a sense of strength that does not distract from the horticulture.

4a-Stone-Boys

The Stone Boys

I like my stoic stone men; each one is different; each one is my new garden buddy. It’s mid summer now but looking ahead to the end of the season when the garden is completely dormant and roses are dozing, I expect these sturdy, snow covered stone people will serve as steady sentinels in the silent stillness of the winter garden.

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