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1-Longwood-GardenLast spring, Angelina and I chose to skip the hassle of TSA and the rigors of a long plane flight and instead decided on a long-awaited road trip. We packed up the car and headed south on a two-week journey, first to the Brandywine area outside of Philadelphia then on to Washington, DC followed by a meandering ride back home with a stop in Gettysburg. The first leg began with a visit to Longwood Gardens located in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, 30 miles west of Philly.

12-Longwood-Garden-EntranceLongwood had its beginnings in 1906 when Pierre S. DuPont purchased a neglected farm in order to save its arboretum from lumbering and began converting it into what would become one of America’s leading horticultural display gardens.

We arrived early on a sunny Tuesday morning in mid May, got our tickets and headed for the rose garden first. This garden was one of the smaller gardens in Longwood but was well maintained with a dozen beds of bush roses, each bed featuring a single variety. Most were in bud stage with peak bloom still two weeks away. One exception was a dazzling bed of Sparkle & Shine, a bright yellow floribunda.

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City of York – Back of Stone Wall

Just behind Sparkle & Shine was a feature that I especially liked, the unique way the Longwood rose gardeners displayed a row of climbing roses named City of York. These climbers were planted along the back side of a six-foot stone wall and then trained to grow up and over the wall and cascade down the front side. Since both sides of the wall received enough sunlight, they grew beautifully with thousands of tight buds tumbling down the front of this handsome stone wall waiting to open. The bloom must have been stunning.

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Topiary

As a backdrop to the rose garden was a Topiary Garden that contained over 50 specimens of yews in various shapes such as spirals, cones and animals.

We took a break here for a few minutes to enjoy the bright sunny morning then strolled over to the Conservatory, an enormous greenhouse with four acres under glass — twenty rooms of plants from around the world. The day we were there, gardeners were removing the displays of spring flowers soon to be replaced with summer annuals which in turn would be followed by fall plantings. Even though the conservatory was in seasonal transition, room after room featured showy floral displays. Very Impressive.

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

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Mummy Pack

The conservatory even had a Rose Room – one that had several rows of rose bushes. What interested us was the IPM measures employed to control insects. No pesticides were applied but small packets of “mummies” were  scattered among the roses. Tiny wasps emerged from the mummies, looking for aphids on which to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch and the new wasplings eat the aphids which keeps them in check. While not a perfect solution, it seemed to work well enough and avoided chemical pesticides.

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Rose Room

After lunch we wandered over to a section of flower beds that were also in transition from spring to summer. One team of gardeners were digging up clumps of spring bulbs, piling them up into carts then hauling them off to the Longwood compost site. All vegetative matter was converted into compost and nothing was discarded.

Another nearby bed had already been cleared and a gardener was raking it out for planting the next day. According to the gardener, no soil amendments were added at this point but each bed would be amended with compost in the fall when spring bulbs were planted. She went on to say that each section of gardens had dedicated teams that maintained those same beds season after season.

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Wisteria

Nearby was the Wisteria Garden in full bloom. What a display of Japanese wisteria in lavender, purple and white. It was a major attraction and provided visitors with a unique photo op.

By now the weather was getting very warm and we were growing weary so we started back to the car, which was when we noticed the Rose Arbor. This circular arbor surrounded an area which is often used for concerts. We were too early to see the arbors in bloom which would have been a spectacular sight of American Pillar roses chosen by Pierre du Pont himself.

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Rose Arbor

Like other great gardens we have visited throughout the United States and Europe,  Longwood Gardens had clean, modern facilities and the gardens and structures were neat and well maintained with plenty of staff. We had expected a very high degree of horticultural excellence — the ultimate hallmark of every great garden — and were not disappointed. Longwood Gardens should be on every gardeners bucket list.

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June-Bloom - Chute's GardenA few weeks ago I wrote about our “First Blooms” while waiting with anticipation for this season’s June Bloom. Despite all worries concerning our unusually cold and wet spring, our roses bloomed “on time” (on or about June 17) and provided us with a spectacular display of color as well as plenty of possible entries for our RI Rose Society Rose Show.

Gathering roses for the show was not without some drama, though, with torrential downpours arriving in the afternoon and continuing throughout the evening before the Rose Show.  Luckily, we had plenty of roses to exhibit, having cut stems on the morning before the rain began.

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Grooming Roses at Rose Show

Participating in a Rose Show is another way to share our love of roses with other gardeners and is our primary outreach to the public. Here are some photos of our roses that made it to the Head Table.

 

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Graham Thomas – Best of Class Shrub English Box

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Passionate Kisses – Best Floribunda Spray

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Earth Song – Best Grandiflora Spray

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Dublin – Court of Honor

After the rose show was over, I spent the next two weeks wandering through our rose gardens and taking photos, not only as the garden peaked, but also as the June bloom slowly went by. This is when I get the best new photos to use in our PowerPoint lectures as well as here in our blog and our quarterly e-newsletter, The Northeast Rose Gardener.

 

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Champagne Wishes

We add and subtract varieties each season to keep the gardens fresh and interesting. One new rose we planted this year is the Easy Elegance rose, Champagne Wishes.

It looked even better in person than in the catalogue photos and is a lovely, creamy white rose with double blooms that stand out sharply against dark green foliage.

 

 

 

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Rhode Island Red

Our 21-year-old Rhode Island Red climber — which makes up part of one “wall” of our garden room — had an excellent recovery after very hard spring pruning and produced a bush full of heavy clusters of dark red roses. As I write this, RI Red is shooting out long heavy new canes justifying the dramatic haircut that Mike administered in April.

Clair-Matin

Clair Matin

On our other “wall” climbs Clair Matin, who blooms a week earlier than the rest of the garden and also finishes earlier. Clair produced an amazing display this season and, like RI Red, is reloading now for another bloom cycle in August.

Graham-Thomas

Graham Thomas

Standing alone in the center of our garden is the Grand Duke of the garden, Graham Thomas, which has fully recovered from 2016 winter damage, and is back to producing almost unlimited clusters of long, arching, buttery yellow sprays with fresh blooms opening over night.

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Playboy

Somewhat hidden by the size of Graham Thomas is our Playboy rose, a fickle floribunda with a radioactive combination of scarlet and gold flowers.  I was able to catch a photo of one of its sprays at its peak. Note the glossy, dark green foliage.

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American Beauty

We had a few roses that really went crazy this season, dazzling us with their floriferousness. One is American Beauty, a hybrid perpetual that traditionally is a bit stingy with its roses. As you can see in the photo, though, this year it gave us spray after spray of fragrant blooms. For a rose that is supposedly a bit tender for our New England climate, I’ve concluded that this old garden rose is more than happy in its spot in the garden where it is nestled in between two modern, hardy roses.

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The McCartney Rose

Another rose that outperformed itself this year is The McCartney Rose. Even more fragrant than American Beauty, The McCartney Rose threw out long sprays of delicate pink roses. The blooms don’t have the greatest form for a hybrid tea, but its saturated color and intense old rose fragrance more than make up for its casual form.

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Passionate Kisses

Passionate Kisses, besides being a prolific bloomer and good exhibition rose, creates a very nice display of floating blooms. Here is a photo of blooms 5 days old.

Chute GardenIt’s hard to capture the beauty of a rose garden through pictures, but since the June Bloom comes around only once a year, photographs will have to do — until next year.

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Clair Matin

Every season I wait to see which one of our roses will bloom first. Traditionally, it’s usually our big climber, Clair Matin. Despite the cold, rainy, dank, dreary, dismal, sunless weather we’ve experienced over the past few weeks (just a few days ago the temperature topped out at 49º), Clair Matin began its June Bloom right on schedule at the end of May, with its first bloom.

3-Clair-Matin-bush-6.4.17Clair Matin on June 4 above. Clair Matin on June 9 below. What a difference a few days make!

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Not so with our other roses that opened almost a week later than last year. While our Yellow Brick Road rose bush was full of buds ready to burst for days, the  first bloom finally opened on June 5. But it was worth waiting for because, atypical of its normal deep yellow, this first bloom had a more intense yellow more commonly found in autumn roses.

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Yellow Brick Road

The Earth Song Mike propagated and has growing in a pot bloomed the beginning of this week. As you can see in the photograph, Clair Matin, in the background, is full of blooms while the rest of our garden is still in the bud stage.

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Earth Song

A few other roses were “early” bloomers.  I found one Macy’s Pride while I walked through the garden with my camera.

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Macy’s Pride

Just yesterday Mike took a photo of Playboy.

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Playboy

The garden is finally starting to show more color and I am hoping that with a few warmer, sunny days, the rest of the garden will bloom in time for the RI Rose Society Rose Show on June 17.

You’re all invited to attend the Rose Show which is open to the public from 1:00 to 3:30 PM. Admission is free and there’s plenty of parking at the North Kingstown Community Center, 30 Beach St. Wickford, RI.

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1-Web-Lead-Photo-Clair-MatiWhile it’s been over a month since spring has officially begun, here in Southern New England it has finally warmed up enough to actually feel like spring. The daffodils and azaleas are blooming as well as the forsythia which means we can get out into our gardens and prune our roses.

Blooming forsythia in April is a sure signal that dormancy is over and the chance of any additional hard frosts unlikely. After the annual spring clean-ups are finished, it’s time for spring pruning. Mike looks forward each season to this early spring ritual, especially the yearly pruning of the climbing roses.

Generally, climbers possess amazing longevity often outliving those who planted them. All of our climbers are big, mature bushes that have been in the garden for 19 years or longer and, while bush roses come and go, the climbers are treated as part of the family, each with its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Pruning them is something Mike really enjoys and he will spend an entire afternoon on just one.

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Clair Matin Before Pruning

He started with Clair Matin. He prunes in stages, starting with the removal of dead or damaged wood followed by re-tying the canes along the trellis, then making minor adjustments as the rose starts to send out new growth. Our Clair Matin, at 10 feet by 10 feet, has already leafed out nicely and Mike will decide if more pruning is necessary.

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Clair Matin Leafed Out After Pruning

This year our Brownell climbers, especially Rhode Island Red, a very robust everbloomimg pillar, which we have had for 22 years, needed major surgery.

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Rhode Island Red Before Pruning

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Mike had to saw out most of the long, thick, older canes which had grown gnarly and had lost their vigor. This extreme removal, while seemingly radical, will stimulate new growth at the base of the plant that otherwise would remain dormant.

 

I took some “before pruning” and “after pruning” photos of Rhode Island Red and you can see where the canes were pruned out. Pruning sometimes seems harsh but it is the only way to encourage fresh new growth, particularly with climbers.

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Rhode Island Red After Pruning

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Swollen Rose Buds

What’s with the heat wave in February? Temperatures went well over 60F for four days last week and actually hit 70F for a few hours the other day and it’s still winter. This is not Miami Beach. We are in New England and it’s supposed to be cold!

3-stone-men-2-27-17I strolled through our rose gardens yesterday, as the snow has melted, and found swollen buds on all bushes, some ready to pop — five weeks too soon.  Even the Stone Men object and want their snow back. This very early retreat from dormancy, reminiscent of last winter, does not bode well for the upcoming growing season. Last year’s week of warm winter weather, followed by a period of plummeting nighttime temperatures, created wide-spread winter kill, requiring severe spring pruning and a whole season for some varieties to recover. The garden roses were not used to such uncertainty and were flummoxed and confused. With a repeat of last year, I fear we may have to bring in a rose therapist to provide counseling.

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Hilled Up Roses for Winter

While we have long since replaced tender roses with winter hardy varieties, with a few exceptions, we winterized them all last fall anyway as added protection. But some years that’s not enough. With temperatures scheduled to return to seasonal normalcy, even drop below 20F this week, I see a repeat of last year’s carnage.

Nature has become increasingly fickle and there’s nothing we can do about it.

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                 Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses

The 2017 David Austin Handbook of Roses has arrived! This beautiful and descriptive rose catalog features this seasons two new David Austin introductions now available in the United States and Canada —  ‘Desdemona’ and ‘The Ancient Mariner’.

Desdemona’s lush white flowers with hints of pink can be seen in the photograph featured on the cover of the 2017 David Austin Handbook. It is described as an upright rounded bush that produces sprays of roses with approximately 52 petals. Starting out as “peachy pink buds,” Desdemona has chalice-shaped blooms that, with time, open wider to reveal its stamens. According to Michael Marriott, technical director and senior rosarian for David Austin Roses in Albrighton, England, “Desdemona is Austin’s best white English Rose to date.” It is reported to have done well in both hot/humid and hot/dry conditions, so Mike and I think it will be able to cope with the hot and humid summers we experience here in southern New England, especially in late July.

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            Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses

Desdemona, named after the tragic heroine of Othello by William Shakespeare, is described as having a strong and complex fragrance — a mixture of “old rose and almond blossom with hints of lemon zest and cucumber.” It is hardy in Zones 5-10 and grows 4’ x 3’.

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       Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses

The Ancient Mariner, the second 2017 introduction,  is named after the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Ancient Mariner is larger than Desdemona, growing 5’ x 3’ with blooms of 160 petals — more than 3 times the petals of Desdemona. These blooms are very large and face upward as opposed to the nodding characteristics of other David Austin roses. The Ancient Mariner yields cupped, rich pink flowers that are paler pink at the outer edge which results in a halo effect. As expected with David Austin Roses, The Ancient Mariner is very fragrant with the scent of myrrh. Since this rose is a larger than average shrub, it is ideal for the middle or back or the border or as a specimen bush, planted on its own. It is hardy in Zones 5-9.

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    Photo Courtesy of David Austin Roses

Both roses are said to be healthy and bloom all season, from late spring to late fall. They are also described as being disease resistance and having charm — one of the hybridizing objectives that is essential for David Austin Roses. For rose lovers like us, all these characteristics, especially the “charm” of David Austin Roses, make them irresistible.

For more information and to order these roses and/or the free 2017 David Austin Handbook of  Roses, visit www.DavidAustinRoses.com

If you enjoy David Austin Roses, you may want to consider our program David Austin’s English Roses for American Gardens for your organization. It covers the history of English roses as well as the unique David Austin breeding program that focuses on hybridizing healthy, fragrant roses with superior flower form. For more information about this program, visit the Program Page on our web site: www.rosesolutions.net

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The holiday season is over and planting passions are rising like sap in a maple tree as gardeners have been waiting impatiently for the holiday hullabaloo to fizzle out. Paper and online plant catalogs are arriving daily, fuelling this annual horticultural mojo. There is no one more enthused, more filled with anticipation and more optimistic than a gardener in January.

2-creating-an-easy-care-rosThis also signals the beginning of our 2017 Lecture Series and we can’t wait. Our entertaining lectures, seminars and workshops are designed to illustrate to every gardener the enjoyment of growing roses. We annually review, revise, and refresh our program list as well as add new ones. We are currently developing a new and different program based on our travel and garden experiences. We are excited about this and will have it ready later in the year.

Our 2017 season starts with some sad news as well as some good news. The sad news is the demise of the long-running Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show where we presented annual lectures and rose care demonstrations since the late 1990s. We will miss the floral flash of color and the pungent tang of fresh mulch each February.

Boston Flower ShowThe good news is we return once again to the Boston Flower and Garden Show on March 25 at 2:30 with a unique PowerPoint program and lecture titled “Twelve Super Roses Anyone Can Grow” which follows this year’s show theme “Superheroes of the Garden.”  (See the complete list of programs, dates and times on the 2017 Lecture Series page.)

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Mike speaking at 2016 Boston Flower Show

On April 8 at 10 am, we 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,” when we open the Victorian Rose Garden. Come learn spring rose care, including the best way to prune roses, then practice on bushes in the garden — bring pruners and gloves. This event is free and open to the public

Saturday June 17, at 1 PM is the Rhode Island Rose Society’s 19th annual rose show in Wickford, RI. Join Angelina and me at New England’s premier display of  roses of every type and color.

On Saturday, November 11, we will be back in the Victorian Rose Garden with the RI Rose Society, providing tips on fall rose care along with a demonstration on winterizing a rose garden.

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In between these events our schedule includes visits to garden clubs and other horticultural organizations throughout New England plus time out for a springtime motor trip along the Atlantic coast through Philadelphia, Washington, DC and down into the Carolinas with lots of stops along the way.

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Angelina and I have been on the lecture circuit presenting lectures, conducting seminars and leading workshops for over two decades and it never gets old. We are available to speak at 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.net.

Happy New Year

Mike and Angelina

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