"Roses are thirsty plants," I have been told. Of this location - which receives an average of 20 inches of precipitation in a year - I have been told "Roses do well here." And it seems a bit difficult to reconcile the first quotation with the second. Having cultivated roses here since 2012, I am learning that each saying has some truth in it. Some roses do very well. Others are just about impossible, at least without a strong supplemental watering program.
Somewhat more than a year ago, I was told by someone who had never seen my garden, that I was not watering my roses enough. I was skeptical. But I decided to see what would happen if I watered more. It wasn't a very strictly controlled experiment. So any conclusions I might draw from this are based on anecdotal evidence. Only very strong differences in performance across a number of cultivars from one year to the next could be considered as data that would strongly support the idea that more water would be favored by all the roses. With a good degree of certainty I know it is not true of all roses. But many roses had some positive response to this spring's warm weather and supplemental water starting as early as February.
I started watering more than once a week in mid March of 2017. I hand water, so I am pretty sure of where the water that I introduce into the garden ends up. And I have a good idea of how much water a rose gets - at least on a relative scale. In previous years, I would not water seriously until early May when it seemed like we were well past a time when frost would kill new foliage. Hybrid tea roses were the focus of the study because they were the group of roses that most conspicuously and consistently fell short of satisfactory performance.
When I started the experiment I had something like two hundred roses. My complete list of Hybrid Tea roses going into the season (list does not include ones that arrived in spring 2017) was: Leanne Rimes, Firefighter, Grande Dame, Double Delight, Melody Parfume, Charles De Gaulle, Moonstone, Gemini, Selfridges, Olympiad, Elina, Folklore, and Oklahoma. Olympiad had been in retrograde motion for a few years owing to pressure by nibbling animals. Oklahoma and Elina had not reached mid-shin height in two years. Double Delight suffered from having its roots nibbled and was nearly dead. Melody Parfume lived in the shadow of Crocus Rose and it is a great credit to the rose that it survived until I gave Crocus Rose a good pruning in spring of 2017. Selfridges grew vigorously everywhere it was planted, although it did prefer having its roots in the shade. And it did not do well when it got no supplemental water.
Leanne Rimes seemed to be complely unaffected by the extra water. Firefighter grew just a little more vigorously, though it produced no more flowers in the first year on the program. Grand Dame, Double Delight, and Charled DeGaulle died or were shovel pruned for TUPSBUBAR (taking up a planting space better used by another rose ) -- a condition that is worse than actually being dead and gone. Moonstone, Gemini, Folklore, and Selfridges did not behave very differently last year for the extra water. Had the experiment ended then, the conclusion definitely would have been that the extra water, if it did anything, killed tender HT roses. Not an auspicious start...
We had a strong monsoon last July and August with six inches of rain. Then from September 2017 through February 2018 we had essentially no moisture of any sort. By mid November the ground was dry and brick-hard and I did find myself watering the garden twice in November and once after Christmas. Until last year, the idea of doing that was unthinkable, absurd. But I think it saved some of my roses. I have in mind Mme Alfred Carriere. Most years the rose does not fully lose its leaves from the previous season when spring warmth has started it to set new leaves. But last fall, despite the weather being unseasonably warm, the rose lost all its leaves by Christmas. That caused me to fear the worst. This last week it has sprung to life. In all likelihood it would have done the same without water. But watering in early spring, I believe, will allow it to get off to a running start.
This spring I found myself watering roses through February and March because of the unusal warmth of the season. I had hybrid tea roses setting new foliage in January, February, and March. Not different HT roses, the same ones, setting new foliage over and over after light frosts. They would make new leaves, lose them to frost, and make more. Gemini was chief among these. Moonstone and Frohsinn (Joyfulness) behaved similarly. By the third or fourth round of defoliation from frost, I began to fear that the roses were goners. But within the last week, both have put out some very nice new growth. Moonstone's has been browsed by a furry animal (we're trying to make that determination...), but Gemini's is intact. Leanne Rimes' foliage has not been much affected by frost. But, so far this spring, the rose has been a little cagey about setting out a strong flush new growth. Browsing by some furry animal has broken a few pencil-thick canes. So the rose seems a little less happy right now than it has been for some time.
Olympiad, Folklore, and Oklahoma are making lots of new growth right now. It's with a kind of vigor I have not seen. My interpretation is that a little supplemental water in the spring has helped support spring root growth. That, in turn, is powering new foliage growth. But it is impossible to know whether the effect is due to water alone. Or if the unusually warm weather - the almost total lack of hard freezess since December - has either played a bigger role or worked synergistically with the extra water. Time will tell whether this level of improvement in spring foliage levels will correspond with improved performance through the season. It was, after all, the problem of late freezes killing roses that started us on the practice of witholding water - precisely to prevent premature foliage formation and the potenial for being killed from severe, late spring freezes. If we were to have a late, killing freeze we could yet lose several HT roses. And we'd have no clue whether they were made more vulnerable by the increase in early spring moisture levels. Conversely, if they do better we will not be sure that it was the water, alone, that did the trick. Or if it was more water combined with warmer and more consistent weather that did the trick.
What about other roses, the ones that are not hybrid teas? Crocus Rose just seems to be pretty much unfazed by anything. There was a moment during a particularly hot summer three years ago when failure of the monsoon rains affected it and one or two of its several dozen basal canes withered. Otherwise, it just keeps going. Extra water has made no perceptible difference so far. Something like this is true of Abraham Darby, Hermosa, Marchioness of Londonderry, Malvern Rose, Caramella Fairy Tale, Ascot, South Africa, Cherry Parfait, Lady of Shalott, Rainbow Sorbet, Baronne Prevost, Nouveau Monde, and Julia Child.
It seems to me that Europeana has been a materially happier with extra water. It's a rose that seems to survive on low rations, but produce roses in proportion to how much extra water it has: an ideal trait in a rose, IMO. I know that Claire Austin has been doing better for the water. Love has made a foot high new cane the diameter of shirt hanger wire. It's the first new cane in three years. By the standards of any reasonably vigorous rose this is a niggling improvement. By the standards I apply to this cultivar, it's a monumental achievement. The biggest difference seen so far has been obsered in the hybrid tea climbing roses. Looping, in one season, shot from a single five foot cane to three or four half again that length. America has been somewhat more subdued in its response, but it has put up new canes. . Antike 89 and Harlekin both fared better for the extra water as did Camelot. The King's Rubies set foliage much earlier this year, and there is hope that it will resume growingAnd Sexy Rexy made its first blossom ever. Some of the roses planted within the drip line of major trees were happy for the extra moisture. Nicole definitely needed it once or twice last season. Where a Folklore, a Generous Gardener, and a Pink Parfait are planted much to close to the trunk of a maple, it is supplemental water that keeps them from perishing, though their existence falls short of thriving.
As a control, last year I set out not to increase the water to Larissa -a Kordes shrub with a lot of noisette or multiflora influence. In fact, I tried to restrain myself from watering it at all. Larissa bloomed non-stop from May until frost. Was it covered with roses the whole time? No. But it always made a good show. I cannot recall any drooping, dead canes, or any hydration problem of any kind, not even at the cane tips. The only bad thing that happened was that it sent one or two vertical canes up above eight feet high. It was planted two years after Gemini. While Gemini remains a one cane wonder not yet four feet tall, Larissa is six feet in every direction and will require continuous, light pruning through this summer if it is to be kept in bounds. It will also need more severe pruning in winter. It will be the first rose I have ever pruned severly before reaching the five year mark in my garden.
So what can we make of this?
Hybrid tea roses certainly are thirsty plants. At least here in my garden, they seem to have somewhat more need of supplemental water than most other classes of roses. They also need weather that is steadily warm. When given adequate warmth and light, it seems to me, they do respond favorably to increased water rations. That said, it may be that one can extend the growing season here by about six weeks in the spring by starting a watering program early enough. And, perhaps, one can extend it a few more weeks in dry autumn weather by watering a little more in late September. This should have a material effect on the amount of growth a rose manages in a season. And that, in turn, seems to have a strong effect on a rose's ability to flower well the next season. If I am to cultivate hybrid tea roses here, I would need a few more seasons' data to be sure that the practice is working and that it does not increas the risk of loss to late spring freezes. It may be that if I find my hybrid tea roses to be producing lots of great flowers each season, the idea of providing a few extra inches of mulch in fall will become more appealing. While going to the effort, I could imagine I am encouraging a favorable result. That cannot be said now. Not with much conviction, anyway.
Floribundas seem a little less finicky about either moisture or chilliness. Most roses falling into the shrubby classes including David Austin roses, damasks, bourbons, albas, hybrid musks, and hybrid perpetuals seem even less affected by supplemental irrigation. It does seem to be useful to be sure that the soil is damp to a good depth when roses begin their spring growth spurt. For my zip code, that means that if it has not rained at least four inches between the winter solstace and the spring equinox, it's time to get out the garden hose and prep the rose beds for spring weather.
I may yet discover that springtime irrigation doesn't do much for the roses I intend to keep, but l can see that it has been doing a great deal for the iris. Introducing supplemental water to the spring garden starting as early as the month of February is going to be a practice of mine, so long as environmental pressures make it a viable choice.
How did the year 2017 look for the garden? What were the successes? What were the failures? What should we continue doing? What might we improve? These are a few of the questions I'd like to ask and answer. It's mostly notes to self, but anyone with a really deep curiosity about gardening in the mountains of Arizona might find something here of interest.
- Foxgloves and Delphiniums can be grown with some supplemental water here.
- Roses can be transplanted during summer, provided the ground is thorougly damp. Also, provided they are watered through any unusually dry fall weather.
- Starting a watering program early in the spring can benefit a tiny number of roses, most notably the hybrid tea roses America and Looping. Possibly it benefits other roses that are not fully dormant then.
- Daturas prove quite durable. In late spring they sprout and grow quickly, usually some time after they have been ruled dead. One feral plant has reached 10 feet across on our property.
- Dahlia Fantaste du Cape (we believe) grows huge and produces massive flowers. It seems to have overwintered from a 2016 or 2015 planting.
- Some limited success in using Liquid Fence and Gain dryer sheets in deterring deer. We got some growth out of the almond tree this year using both of these deterrants A hopeful sign.
- Iris planted in July establish pretty effectively.
- Artichokes grown from seed get knee high by frost. We'll see if they come back from their roots in spring.
- Pruning seems to have reinvigorated Abe Darby. Any beneficial effects of pruning on other roses has been mostly cosmetic, not restorative.
- Almost anything other than rocky mountain penstemon in the driveway bed seems doomed, though perhaps spring will revitalize the iris, daylilies, yarrow, aremesia, and other plants there.
- Euphorbias are trickier than assumed, but will grow in soil with some clay and supplemental water if not nibbled to death by javelina or ground squirrels.
- Hybrid tea roses, other than some Kordes varieties continue to fail owing, in part, to their disinclination to grow when the weather is coolish. HTs on their own roots are especially tricky.
- The new level of the ground outside the fence has created a platform for deer to jump the fence into the garden.
- Most of the oriental lilies planted last season never came up. Casa Blanca is one exception.
- March pruning evidently killed Grande Dame. Leanne Rimes has not fully recovered.
- Pretty much every dahlia planted this spring failed except for a few Bishop of Llandaff. A number were in places that do not receive supplemental water.
- Possibly every plant in the driveway bed other than narcissus and rocky mountain penstemon has disappeared. Drought? Javelina? Summer 2018 will tell.
- Iris planted in September may not really be worth the discount. In any case, it is imperative to keep the plants watered in fall. Water every other week when there is not rain...
The Driveway Bed
This bed stretches out along the half of the 250 ft driveway nearest the street. In spring we had a few sweeps of narcissus that were very pretty, Thalia and Golden Dawn. The yarrow did well enough when there was moisture. And some gaillardia seemed to work for a while. Red Velvet yarrow (Annies) may not have established before drought. There is a blue flowering ceanothus (Annies) planted at some distance from the almond tree, and despite considerable neglect it is still alive. Plant more.
Narcissus Thalia and Golden Dawn in Mid Spring
New plants tried this year included a one gallon wisteria from White Flower Farm that died promptly from drought. Two of three gallon lonicera Major Wheeler survived through September, but the one in the thin soil and full sun appears to have expired. The yarrow, daylilies, salvia, gaillardia, maximilian sunflower and even the artemisia have disappeared. Even the variegated yucca has collapsed. Except for the artemesia, the disappearance could be explained by frost - at least it could have in a year when it got really really cold - which it did not this year. In the spring, we shall see. Two Desiree Parmentier roses were moved there in the summer during the monsoons, and there was some hope for a while that they would survive. But the winter drought might have finished them off. By contrast, the Madame Alfred Carriere moved there last winter - that's right, the one that is in a nearly constant stasis - seems to be hanging on. Two of the three Pink Pet roses transplanted in summer are stone cold dead, but the one that has long canes and looks like it has a tendency to climb is still alive. Comice de Tarn et Garonne has lost about 75% of its foliage from browsing since it moved here last summer, but it still appears to be alive.
From late September until now it has been bone dry. And the driveway bed is seen by a number of animals as a rich source of food. Those animals would include rabbits, deer, javelina, and squirrels, ground squirrels, and desert rats. So even the iris have suffered from browsing. Going into January, only a small number of plants are in evidence. There are two or three native grasses, the scrub oaks and Arizona cypress, of course, and the rocky mountain penstemon, where it has established is still definitely alive, even if it is hard to distinguish from the vast expanses of mulch. We expect the nepeta to come back. So too, the day lilies and iris. And, of course, the peonies we planted there in the fall. The roses mentioned above survive. And Rene Andree which seems to sail through anything. Winchester Cathedral has suffered from drought, but it seems to be alive.
In the nibbled-to-the-ground department there are two surprises. One is a datura which is clearly nibbled off above knee height. Could it be that deer do not know it is poisonous? Or is it actually not for them? Just as surprising is that the rugosa rose planted out there has been nibbled to the ground along with the foxgloves in the same bed. What animal feasts on poisonous and prickly plants in the same meal? Obviously an animal that must be of some concern....
We've installed quite a number of iris in the beds in this area. Among this years additions are Tom Johnson (dark blue) Again and Again (pale yellow) and Penny Lane (orange) in the almond bed. Picasso Moon and some Tom Johnson transplanted from the fenced bed were installed in the sandy stretch by the stream where almost nothing grows. We opened a new bed behind some tall grasses, so it can only be seen at an angle. It's mostly planted with Harvest of Memories, though this seems to be one yellow that is rather severely nibble by voles or ground squirrels. Badlands (we think) keeps company with these. Near the stream bed we added something like eight Victoria Falls. Italic Light, Jazzed Up, and Poesie were squeezed into the bed by the street to keep company with a few other violet shaded iris. Kathy Chilton, which reminds us much of Supreme Sultan in its yellow/maroon coloration was planted in the same almond tree bed. We also added a number of peonies from Gilbert Wild. Three Bowl of Beauty are planted in front of the Arizona Cedars. A Karen Gray and three Adolphe Rousseau are planted near the end of the driveway in the shade of the scrub oak.
What are we to plant in this bed in the spring? We have decided already that the knoll near the street would look good if it were graced with a very foliferous rose, and we've decided to try next Sally Holmes. Our assumption when we ordered was that proximity to the datura would, for some time, provide a measure of protection by association. But three or four roses have died quite promptly in that spot, so we must assume that the next prickly plant we try there will actually be a prickly pear cactus. Even they get browsed; but they do sometimes survive the weather.
The 'dead tree hole' has been a perpetual source of disappointment. Its light soil evidently requires some measure of amendment to retain moisture. Clay and mulch. Absolutely nothing survives there. And for this reason (ironically) we have two or three roses on order to plant there. Brothers Grimm FT is slated to be the next rose to die in this spot, but Home Run is on deck after that. Both were selected for being quite vigorous, and if tended meticulously for a year or two there is a vanishingly small hope that either might actually establish. Two or three times I have written instructions to myself in very large font faces never to plant roses in the driveway bed again. And yet, I keep on doing it. Mostly because my rose orders exceed the space I am willing to vacate in the fenced beds. I do not get smarter quite so fast as I get older, it would seem.
The Fenced Bed
Early blooms in the garden included narcissus Ice Follies along with some Fortissimo daffodils that clutter one rose bed. There were just a handful of tulips. Evidently if they are planted in little groups far apart from each other they remain undetected by nibbling creatures. There were just a tiny number of the blue hyacinths from plantings five years back, and there were a few that came up in pots where they were planted to be protected from squirrels. In a technical sense this was a succes, from an asethetic standpoint, not so much.
Ice Follies narcissus on 20 March 2017
It was not until we moved the "mulch" pile that the deer decided it was safe to jump over the fence. It was mostly trimmings from the garden and a little mud that was removed to allow a seasonal stream to move through the property more expeditiously - more as a stream and less as a marsh. In moving, the thing was spread out over a 300 square foot area and raised the level of the ground just outside the west end of the fenced garden by something like a foot, making a fence that had been a little marginal, an easy jump for a deer. Suddenly all the roses in the garden were fair game. It used to be that the deer would jump over the fence only to eat rose buds. Then they would do it to eat new foliage of roses. Suddenly they were doing it to eat the canes of young roses, too. Belle Epoch, Beloved, Don Juan, and Charisma are three roses that suffered this fate. Whether they survive is a question that could take more than a season or two to determine. In the absence of collateral damage by browsing deer, moving the mulch pile made the walk through the garden a great deal more pleasant; but it did make the roses more vulnerable to browsing and this might prove to be a very difficult problem to manage until we have a taller fence.
We tried foxgloves and delphiniums for the first time this year. It was with mixed success. Of the eight from Gilbert Wild, one thrives, perhaps three survive. All of the apricot dalmation foxgloves from WFF died instantly, or they might as well have. By contrast, two of six Candy Mountain foxgloves from WFF survive. They look like they will actually amount to something in year two. This is not what we would call a major victory; but it does suggest that with modest care foxgloves might be amenable to this location. We had similar luck with the delphiniums from WFF. Two lingered for maybe eight weeks without growing. Two grew to four feet and bore blue flowers. The two that did get this far along were planted where they got some dappled shade in the afternoon and in soil with a pH almost a full point lower. They were trained in red tomato cages, which seems a nice touch. The performance is something like as good as Anchusa Alkanet from Annies Annuals. In fact, if they come back next year (not betting on it...) they will arguably be better. For blue flowers we also tried batchelors buttons. These grew quickly, blossomed nicely, and died before mid August. It's a somewhat mixed performance. While they were alive they were of easy care and they delighted. But it was a remarkably short tenure in the garden.
The foxgloves and delphiniums were planted along with datura, castor bean Carmencita, and euphorbia to discourage burrowing animals from nibbling at roots of other plants. It is impossible to declare the experiment a complete success since in the fall we have observed new burrows in the lower east beds. We also oberved that the euphorbia planted along the east fence were nibbled to death by voles or ground squirrels within two days of being planted there. To the extent that these plants have survived long enough to please us, we can declare success. Two of six or eight euphorbia grow in the Artemisia bed just outboard of rose Kardinal. They grow vigorously enough that we expect them to survive. One more grows near a new apple tree.
The fenced bed is housing ever more iris. Cultivars that have pleased us much are Matt McNames, Vapor, and Hollywood Nights. Clarence is rather less striking but it is intensely fragrant. With the bright orange California Poppies we found the bright purple iris Swingtown to look good. Hopefully, Good Vibrations (White/Orange) will look good in the same bed, assuing they actually grow. To the artemesia beds we added Chinook Winds and Heartstring Strummer (both pale blue) as well as Absolute Treasure and (possibly) Victoria Falls. Near the rose Kardinal at the steps are three new Color Strokes. Somewhere in the mix are five new Splatter Art. The iris Slovak Prince lives in the Maple Bed and we've planted Suspicion and Padded Shoulders there, too. Team Spirit and Bellini are here, too. Possibly Jurassic Park. Nearest the acquilegia caerulea we planted Absolute Treasure which we hope will be a matching blue. To the bed by Cherry Parfait we added the white and blue iris Revere.
Iris Chasing Rainbows (perhaps)
New Moon (3, yellow) is planted near rose Selfridges at the Pink Lady Apple Tree and Snowed In is nearby. In the very dry raised bed we placed three Noctambule (White/Blue) and Strictly Jazz. We squeezed three Blenheim Royal into the stream bed with Julia Child, hoping for some simultaneous flowering here. Honeycomb is planted on the east side of Pink Lady apple.
The apple tree in question is a Mutsu (Crispin) from Starks, planted this spring. It's a dry location and there is still much question about whether the tree will survive; the soil is shallow and lean here. That goes double for the Granny Smith apple planted this spring by recliner rock to replace one presumed dead. A Grand Gala and a Golden Delicious were in the same order. One of these was planted just north of South Africa, the rose between Mme Alfred Carriere at the square and Malvern Hills. The other, not sure. Also in the order was a plumcot, It was planted in a pot and transplanted between two mahogonies in the lower east bed in mid summer near the monsoons. It had some ups and downs; but there is still much hope that it will survive. So in this order we retain high hopes for two of about six trees. Meanwhile, earlier apples get by. Pink Lady seems vigorous and almost immune to browsing. Arkansas Black gets browsed, but builds up very slowly and surely. Gold Rush is a full 12 feet high and bearing apples. Golden Delicious was nibbled by coati, who would remove the apples, go somewhere else, eat them, mostly and leave the half eaten apples behind. Once the apples were gone they lightly pruned the tree, too.
Peony Scarlet O'Hara proved such a hit this year that we decided to add more peonies to the garden. Never mind that the other twenty some peonies always seem to disappoint in some other way. From Gilbert Wild we got Gardenia which will replace two failing DA roses at the square, Diana Parks, a bright red, and Pink Luau, each of which will be planted near Gardenia. From Cricket Hill we purchased two tree peonies Magical Red Haired Woman, a white with red spots which was planted in front of Hermosa rose in the juniper ped, and First Arrival and intersectional peony with lavender/watermelon pink flowers which was planted in the Maple Bed.
Scarlet O'Hara glows for a day or two
As always, tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. Tomatoes with tiny fruits generally fared the best, Sweet Million for example. We did focus this year on tomatoes with a short time to maturity which did help. And we observed that there are spots in the garden where the soil grows tomatoes far better than pots do, even when the soil in pots is pretty nicely ammeded. One slicer, perhaps Celebrity, was on the cusp of doing well when it was cut to the ground during the mulching process in early fall. Nor does buying big tomato plants and putting them out too early help. This puts them in defensive mode and they stop growing. Smaller tomatoes, once it does get warm catch up and overtake them. Those arriving two weeks late, though are toast. So there is exactly one day in the season appropriate for putting out tomatoes at exactly one stage of growth. One goes screaming into the night.
The potatoes grown in pots were mostly a disappointment the number of edible tubers proved way too small. Grown in the ground plants and tubers, alike, are eaten. Pot grown potatoes, once dug up,were eaten by the coatis if left outside. Kale was a disappointment. The voles ate the beetlike roots and the deer ate the foliage. Sweet potatoes were a disappointment. We doubled the number of viable plants in an order of 25 from about six to twelve by soaking them for two days in water before planting out. Six or eight grew into plants more than eighteen inches across. We never bothered to dig them up. Shallot plants, at peak, began to disappear underground at the rate of about one per day. The voles know when to eat them, even if we do not. The figs, I think, died of fall drought as did the lovely trachelospermum jasminoides in pots. And all the indoor plants, too, starting with the banana. We turn our attentions for future edible crops toward arugula, corn, zucchini, amaranth, and sunflowers, all of which have had some measured success here in other years.
It is usual for the very first roses of the season to be ruined by thrips, here. And aphids are a perennial problem. This year we noticed both of these problems more. Photos from previous years indicate that thrips are not a new problem. In fact, in its eight year tenure in my garden Baronne Prevost has grown to more than seven feet in each directions and it has never had a spring flush of flowers actually open. One of the several reasons is thrips. They suck the life out of the thin-petalled blossoms and they end up desiccated before they have a chance to open. I find a plant covered with dried out rose buds. Abe Darby is another rose that is hit particularly hard by this problem. So, too, Blush Noisette. Each of these roses produces rather fragrant blossoms, the kind thrips love. The thrips are fond of iris, too. Almost every photo of iris flowers in my garden this year is marred by tiny dots the size of thrips.
This year I tried some sticky paper to attract thrips and immobilize them. I remain unconvinced that it made a difference. The sticky paper, to its credit did reduce the amount of airborne material of all sorts that happened to collide with its surface, and it remained sticky for a very long time. But it was ugly. And I could not detect thrips on its surface. Perhaps I need to hang the sticky paper earlier in the season, early April rather than mid May. If I could catch the thrips before they are feasting on iris blossoms there might be a hope of reducing their numbers by the time roses open.
My approach with aphids was even a little more lassez-faire. On rare occasions I would spray them off the tips of roses when I saw them. Mostly I left them in place. It was not until July that I realized that even though this approach might strike any sane person as being completely mad, it might possibly be the best approach of all. For a full six weeks in the middle of summer, whenever I was kneeling close enough to a rose plant for the plant to actually touch me, I would get up and find a praying mantis (should they not be called preying mantis, I wonder?) on my elbow or on my shoulder. Evidently I am very easily mistaken for thrips or aphids. So I did a tiny amount of research about the mantis. The advice is: if you want to attract them to your garden you must plant roses. Who knew? Well, I have roses in spades. And I credit them with cleaning out the thrips and aphids over the last half of the season. The last time I saw a mantis in the garden this season it was buried head-first up to its waist in the cupped flower of Ambridge Rose, one of the last fragrant blossoms in the garden this year. That would have been in late September, I believe. I would like to believe, too, that with a population of mantis this large in the garden, the thrips-free season will begin a few weeks earlier next year. And I wonder whether deploying those sticky strips might actually be a bad idea.
I will confess that I do not know what critters are burrowing beneath my roses beds. I saw a gopher a few months back. It was standing around nibbling on its lunch which it held between its two hands. And I felt a rather deep flash of kinship and admiration for the little beastie. Now I know why one uses gopher cages. The subterranean critters I have trapped in my garden are definitely not these critters. They look a great deal more like rats with big claws and disturbingly long incisor teeth. Not moles. Possibly voles. I will confess, too, that after losing a mature aspen and half an adolescent apricot tree I got out the big guns and did some serious extermination work. And there was quiet in the garden for a few months.
In November an animal moved into the lower east bed. It's an animal that moves more earth than the voles. And there is some evidence that it comes out at night to nibble on the canes of smallish roses. Voles, by contrast, eat the roots of roses to a nub. So now I have to figure out how to rid the garden of this new invader. And, I think, there is now some light re-infestation by the old one, too. Where is Rikki Tikki Tave when you need him?
In moments when they are absent, the deer seem completely manageable. A couple Gain dryer sheets here, a dash of Liquid Fence there, and your garden is good to go. On those days when you stare out the window and watch the deer herds jump over your fence en masse, brush aside one of those dryer sheets, and nibble on fresh rose foliage, though, one's heart sinks. It really does not take very many such events to kill a rose bush. Sometimes light browsing will do it. But I suppose it can be more serious when they nibble the new canes to the ground. When I moved here nine years ago, there was no evidence of deer except in the months of June, July, and August. This year they left in December. And if last year is any guide, we will see them by mid March. We observe them eating tiny bits of different plants known to be toxic, as if they understand that they can train their own bodies to eat any plant under the sun. This activity allows them to persist and multiply until they can overrun the defenses around Stephen's Garden and nibble all the roses completely out of existence. Or so it would seem.
Rabbits nibble continuously on small plants in the garden; but once a plant exceeds about ten inches in height, it escapes the notice of a rabbit. They do a lot of damage to small plants, but tend to leave established ones alone. So one can manage them. Javelina are more difficult. Like deer, they will eat almost any plant that shows green. Rugosa roses (canes and all),Euphorbias, foxgloves, and daturas, alike, have been nibbled away by them in the unfenced garden. Once, they pulled up a red flowered yucca, to gnaw away its roots. There are some agastache that they will not eat. And some native grasses and penstemons. How is one to grow anything at all if javelina are going to show up two dozen at a time, excavate all the plants, and consume them tip to root like a wood chipper? (For those who would shoot the things, know that they are protected here in AZ to the sum of $500 per animal. So if one were to try to eliminate them the old fashioned way, one could face hefty fines.) They are wary animals with poorish eyesight, so it might be possible to spook the animals. But I don't have many good ideas for how to do this, yet.
The New Roses
We had one major rose order and several minor ones. The roses in the Edmunds order were uniformly the largest. But the care that they had received since being dug up was very uneven. Most were rather severly desiccated on arrival and a good 25% died quickly despite daily watering. Fully half of the rest were dead down to the bud unions and grew from there rather than from the dead canes. The roses from that order that will likely survive: Stephen's Big Purple(1 of 2), Autumn Sunset, White Licorice, and Neil Diamond. Dead are America, Arizona, Secret (2), Sexy Rexy, Easy to Please, Fragrant Plum (1 of 2), Papa Meilland (1 of 2) and Vavoom. Kardinal, Ingrid Bergman, Fragrant Plum, Papa Meilland (1 of 2) and Polynesian Punch are still undetermined. Only one of these, Papa Meilland, was very seriously set back by nibbling animals before it died. The canes of most of the rest were too tall for the native rabbit to reach, although Polynesian Punch, like a number of roses with some multiflora heritage dies seem to resist browsing to some extent. On a hundred point scale I would have to rate this order about a 58%.
The four roses from Jackson and Perkins were materially better hydrated on arrival. The two on their own roots, Beloved and Lady Banks Yellow survive, although Beloved has been nibbled to a nub and is not expected to survive. Mardi Gras was nibbled to death in a week. Brigadoon simply never sprouted. It's worthwhile considering this source again, if one covets HT roses grown on Dr. Huey roots.
All the roses from David Austin Roses failed this year. The Poet's Wife seemed to die of iron deficiency (chlorosis,) as did an established Charlotte twelve feet away. This is not the first example of chlorosis among DA roses that we have observed. I have to wonder whether the yellow DA roses are especially prone to the problem. The Lady Gardener was the wrong color and was shovel pruned. Sadly, the other roses were planted in shade so deep they never got started. Not that they were especially great specimens on arrival. I am inclined to try again with the two yellows, but I will buy DA roses from distributors who have higher standards, not directly from DA roses. Not unless I am up to threatening them with a registered letter to the founder regarding the poor quality of their stock. IME, it would seem that only such a threat will produce large grade #1 plants from a direct order.
I received a number of roses from Rogue Valley Roses. With these I've had varied amounts of success. For roses shipped as bands they had fat canes, and tall. Some, however, seemed to lack some element of vigor. Cornelia, Blairii II, Comice de Tarn et Garonne, Konigen von Danemarck, Excellence von Schubert, and Brown Velvet grew very well and may survive. Some portion of (Paul Shirville, Silver Jubilee, Quietness, Felicia, Capistrano, Lady Hillingdon, Lemon Spice, Remember Me, and Marie Curie) might survive. Not sure which ones. Duet and Buff Beauty were put in large pots and died on the patio during the late fall drought. To their credit most of these did pretty well while they had adequate water.
Several orders from Heirloom Roses arrived, but in each order it seems something unique went wrong. As we mentioned, Belle Epoch was nibbled to a nub in fall. Peace never grew a whit. We had some nice blossoms from Rose Rhapsody, whose gimungous reddish pink flowers look almost tropical. Eureka boiled to death in a pot that had an insufficient number of holes. Two Kordes Joyfulness survive and have bloomed, but the blooms have a strange bleached-out mottling that makes them look a little worse than nothing. And there are six miniature roses including Cutie Pie, Herbie (not sure ... )
We received four roses from Northland Rosarium and they looked really healthy on receipt. Easy Going survives, just. It seems to have an acceptable level of vigor, so there is hope. Sheila's Perfume has grown little, but it survives. Gypsy got stepped on three days into its tenure and the stem broke off at the ground. There was much hope for John Davis for some time. Even though planted in the driveway garden where it was not protected by a fence, it did not get browsed by rabbits or deer. But between the javelina invasion of late fall and the late fall drought it died. Sometimes a rose dies very convincingly and one knows it's just not a good fit for the garden. This one, though, shows some promise.
We received four roses from High Country roses. Before being chomped by deer, Charisma bloomed a few times even though it only gets about four hours of direct, unfiltered light. Very promising, if we can protect it. One instance of Lady Banks Yellow came from here, although we cannot remember which one. It started in a pot, and was transferred to the margin by the east end fence where ground squirrels (we presume) eat the foliage off every plant except gaillardia, lavender, and daylilies. It was two or three weeks before they figured out how to pull the lithe young canes to the ground to chew off the leaves. It's not dead, yet. Rose of Hope (Kordes) was in the order and was planted near the grapes. Despite getting water a little less frequently than it should have, it has hung on. And there is still hope for it. Mr Nash, presumed to be Doubloons, was also recieved and potted up. It developed some threadlike leaves round about the time we were trying to learn something about RRD and has been isolated pending more info.
In fall, A Reverence for Roses had a sale, and I bought Napoleon, Cramoisi Superiuer, Carefree Beauty, and Penelope. All four roses had four foot long canes on them - really big for bands. The only hope for their survival was to get them to grow big root systems through the winter and water them like a maniac in the spring. The first two are in pots. Penelope is in a space near where Grande Dame was removed, where it will get some light shade and plenty of attention. Carefree Beauty is sort of just dug in. We'll see what happens. None seems dead yet. Napoleon is setting leaves after having been nibbled a bit by deer. The roses were very pleasingly priced... so whatever happens will be good.
For about three weeks in spring Malvern Hills was covered in small floers and if it was the star of the garden, it nearly qualified as a small galaxy. During its first five years we were not sure we could keep it alive. Now we are not sure we can keep it at all: it seems too willing and able to crowd out everything else. We certainly have to learn how to prune the thing effectively. It does have a tendency to shade out a well established South Africa and two red floribundas whose names I forget, perhaps Showbiz.
As ever, Europeana put on a good show. It is clear that the rose responds to watering since the one nearest the path is much larger and more vigorous than the two further away. As we write in early January it is covering itself with very dark burgundy foliage, a spring flush very well suited to late April. Sombreuil, behind Europeana shot up and is now a big V-shaped thing. I find it difficult to resist the temptation to divide it in half. I do need one just like it not far away. Al the roses I have bought from ARE since I bought this one in about 2012 have died. That, I believe, is when they began stripping the roses of leaves before shipment. Next door is a rose whose flowers could be mistaken for Sombreuil's but it grows with a more delicate tree-like habit. It was sold as White Cockaide, but pictures I've seen of that rose at HMF depict a true high-centered HT style rose. This is definitely not it. There is also a temptation to move one of these two white roses. Both, however, interact nicely with Europeana. Next in line, on a pillar, is a four foot high Baltimore Belle. The thing enters its third year in the garden this year. It has definitely been a slow starter, but I have quite a number of roses that took a full six or seven seasons to hit their stride. And this may well be another.
Set among artemesia and iris, Europeana blooms with Sombreuil
Kardinal was just about DOA when planted, but at this point in early January it seems to be setting new foliage along with a few other HT roses (Leanne Rimes, America, Fire Fighter, Neil Diamond) and Pink Noisette. Ingrid Bergman is a little more coy. Or maybe IB has been having more trouble getting moisture. Meanwhile Big Purple has just recently lost all its leaves, and seems to be settling in for the winter. Mme Alfred Carriere has lost its foliage this winter - probably because of fall drought: this did not happen last winter. Darlow's Enigma, Ilse Krohn, and Jeanne d'Arc lost their leaves owing to the rather extreme drought and the frost combined. Most of the DA roses have foliage at this point, especially those in the gulch, where the ground has a little more moisture. Crocus Rose, though not at all near the gulch is among the DA roses with the most foiliage. As does Larissa, it evidently has an extraordinary facility for regulating the release of water from its leaves. And it uses its leaves to more energetically move water from its roots. That's my working hypothesis, anyway.
Abe Darby and Golden Celebration are among the most barren of the DA roses. Most, like Graham Thomas and Jubilee Celebration, fall in between. Ghislaine de Feligonde retains most of its leaves, but nearby Dixieland Linda is bare. Most of the old foliage is gone from Julia Child but JC shows some signs of incipient growth. Morning has Broken ( or is it Good Ole Summertime?) is still covered with old foliage and seems happy enough. Unlike the DA roses, the fairy tale roses are bare. Pomponella and Caramella FT are both without leaves.
We moved the rose once known as Psyche in late fall and though it was materially pruned, it suffered mightily for it. We wondered for some time if it was surely dead, but we watered it weekly. Its four foot frame, though completely leafless remains convincingly green. Now that there is moisture in the gulch we hope it will be revived. It might prove to be the first of several "Barrier Roses" outside the fence, if it survives and resists browsing deer.
Looking at photos from the year we can say that Rainbow Sorbet, the two that survive the pruning of two years back, seemed to be in bloom all summer. It's a bizarre rose. It's habit is so open that the plant can easily look ugly. But it is almost always in bloom. And the blossoms are always interesting. At any point in time it is arguably both the ugliest rose plant and the garden and the most photographically interesting. Somewhat less ugly and not quite so frequently interesting is the rose Colorific. I somethimes think I should plant more. But the answer really depends on whether I am successful in controlling fungal disease which ravaged it during the monsoons. Teasing Georgia proved to produce more roses than expected. Here is a rose that seems to be pretty close to being bullet proof in my own garden and almost terminally beautiful in bloom. Definitely a keeper. In the same paragraph one must praise Lady of Shalott for precisely the same qualities. The latter might be just a little more vigorous or generous in bloom. Tess of the d'Ubervilles is a little less generous in bloom and not so pretty of habit; but it continues to be a serviceable rose blooming alongside Lady of Megginch. I think it was Princess Anne growing in the gulch that suffered the most from fungal disease this year, but the rose seems to just keep growing. And I was wowed by Susan Williams-Ellis as the rose bloomed in the shade of the juniper.
Other roses in the gulch include Magenta, which, at head height, we hope will prove big enough to flower. It should look good with Erinnerung an Brod which continues to get bigger without making flowers. We were disappointed by the flowers on the rose presumed to be Bishop Darlington, a cultivar we have never ordered. But the hips on this rose are large and tasty, perhaps the best in the garden. Who'd have known? Conrad Heinrich Soth, a multiflora somewhat less dainty than Ballerina but with the same sort of flowers, stretches out across the gulch and is tempting us to bring out the shovel and remove it along with the failing Queen of Sweden and Peter Frankenfield. An unknown dark pink multiflora not eight inches high grows near the front as does White Out. Old Red Moss, squeezed between a pink DA rose and Soth is making headway and might, in its third season, make some rose blossoms. If one is very observant, one might think the plant looks out of place because its foliage is a little bit more of a pale green and it posesses far less gloss than pretty much all of the nearby DA roses. But we have to hope that when everything is in flower, we will be focusing on the blossoms, and when nothing is in flower we will not be paying enough attention to notice.
Julia Child had a generous spring bloom cycle, but did not bloom much later. Caramella Fairy Tale is not the rose we expected; it spreads out widely, making fat canes and doling out flowers of rather complex muddy coral and tan colored roses. But it does seem vigorous, and immune to every insult. Portlandia, which has been moved twice in two years grows slowly but surely, and it produced some very pretty copper hued roses. This rose is definitely a keeper. It looks surprisingly good next to Caramella. Graham Thomas had one or two lovely flushes this year, but proved better at making foliage than flowers. Ditto Ascot. On the other hand, the South Africa rose planted with these two roses covered itself in flowers. So did Day Breaker.
Caramella FT, a nascent blossom.
Westerland was a disappointment this year. So much so that at one point I decided to remove it. Instead, I removed about half of the oldest canes, acidified the soil with sulfur, made plans to fertilize it well, and began watering it more vigorously. Next door, Lady Pamela Carol, a rose especially attractive to marauding deer, has continued to build up slowly and is now nearly waist height. This rose has a delicate beauty which is impossible to describe or even to photograph; and a level of persistence which is admirable. It's a rose that could make just about any garden just a little bit better. Olympiad, also a deer target, has been wasting away for three years. Originally, when I ordered a new plant I was targeting another part of the garden, but there is some chance that I will simply replace the one that is there.
Every year the white hybrid perpetual Gloire Lyonnaise (I think) gets black spot. So I moved it next to Westerland, a less conspicuous location. The pink rose that remains next to Aromatnaya quince I presume to be Jacques Cartier. It has a constitution not far removed from that of Nouveau Monde and (my instance of) White Cockaide: persistent, disease resistant, branching beautifully with dignity and grace, drought tolerant, and frost tolerant. It's a good combination. Its pink button-eyed blossoms are about two inches across and fragrant. It never bothers to produce many at once, but there is some repeat. Were we ever to get it to produce a great show of bloom, it would be a world-beater. Excellenz von Schubert (a newly planted rose) lives nearby and Sheila's Perfume is a few feet closer to the gulch, also moved there this fall.
All of the rugosas this year proved a bit of a disappointment. The rugosas bore hips, but I never did detect their flowers. The newer ones Hansa, I think, are still to young to bear. New Dawn sport Awakening is only just now beginning to settle into its space in the gulch. We have hopes that it will get better. Red Eden has proven to be a disappointment on several fronts. One is height. It's just not growing to five feet high in most places. And the blossoms do not open. Except for the fact that it doesn't bloom and you could not see it if it did, I cannot complain much. On the other hand, Prosperity is doing very well in the gulch with lots of repeat blossoms. It's fully six feet high, maybe seven. It produces very full flushes of flower at least twice each season. And it seems bullet proof.
In the maple bed things range from one sort of disaster to another. Nicole is a wonderful shrub which I only hope to keep alive owing to its ... shrubbiness and its loveliness in flower. I also hope that as the root system establishes it will grow a little more drought tolerant. Maiden's Blush keeps going, just, but never flowers. Great Western bloomed for the first time in spring 2016 and was only just less disappointing than it was in the previous years when it did not. It was brief, sparse, and the blooms desiccated quickly. The orange Las Vegas has grown big and healthy. It holds its orange HT blossoms high above the plants in front of it. Sadly, though it does not quite go with the local color scheme. Hermosa lost one of three branches this year due to drought, but it seems to be doing well in the winter. There is reason to hope that with the right care it will be better than ever in 2018. Silver Jubilee, Peace, Folklore, and Rose Rhapsody were planted in the bed replacing Desiree Parmentier and two Pink Pet roses. Together with the Folklore at the south side of the bed and the recently planted one in the Julia Child bed, this brings us to 3 Folklore, which we hope will finally be enough. But we can't be sure.
Zephyrine Drouhin (two plants) finally reached the top of the arch and bloomed nicely this year. Both plants will probably be happier if they get some pruning and fertilizing this year. And better protection from powdery mildew. Thor and Gruss an Zabern are both taller than head height, and if they receive the right care there is some hope that in the next year or two they will be glorious. Of course, we had such a hope for Baronne Prevost. The thing has grown huge, and nothing, it seems, can induce it to make flowers that open nicely in the spring. This definitely is a candidate for more severe sping pruning. And for more thorough spring watering. Chevy Chase, nearby, is doing great.
Finally there are the roses at the south-facing wall: Rosanna and Ascot. These things have become monsters. The former should probably be pruned to remove about half of the canes. The latter should be pruned to reduce the length of existing canes by half or more. And we need to get a low wall built here so that water is retained.. It may be the first of the microterracing projects.
There are several minis of note, although most of them I get confused with others. I think it is Magic Dragon that grows north of the square. It has turned into a pretty good plant, four feet across and nicely branched. At a foot shorter is Water Lily, a little wonder that produces the very best sprays of perfect whitish roses I have ever seen. The plant wants pruning. Moved this year were two Rise 'n' Shine. At moments they look better than they did before they were moved. But not always. Winsome was moved late in the fall, and we will have to find out in the spring whether it survives. Hurdy Gurdy was in a recent order and only after we had crammed it into a corner did we learn the thing reaches six feet in height. Time to do something. But what? Our mind does not fully comprehend the term "six foot miniature." Perhaps it would go well with the other giant miniatures like Gourmet Popcorn. Or interwoven with Orfeo. This is why we write these blogs. Without doing this I'd never have conceived of this. And it now seems like a good idea.
Experiments with Pots
For each cultivar one considers growing in the garden there is the question "Will it do better in a pot? Or not?" The reasons for growing plants in pots are many. One is portability. If one has plants that are not cold hardy, one can move them indoors for the winter. Another is isolation from nibbling animals. Rabbits, ground squirrels, voles, and pocket gophers have some difficulty eating plants in pots. So plants that need isolation can do better here. This issue can sometimes be more important for smallish plants than for larger ones. So one might sometimes grow a rose in a pot to a certain size, then plant it in the ground. The size in question is determined by the animals that might nibble it. We have been doing a kind of ongoing experiment here on growing plants in pots. And the results are very mixed. We'll try to summarize what we have come to know.
Roses - Roses short enough to be browsed by rabbits are generally best grown in pots until that same thing is no longer true. As soon as they can survive outside pots they generally do better there. Since each cultivar is preferred by a different animal the answer quickly gets complicated, though. Don Juan, for example, is a deer favorite. So unless one is potting it into a very large pot or storing the pot far from where deer have access, potting makes little difference. Most roses are browsed in early spring by rabbits. In this case, being in a pot can make a huge and critical difference. And as with other plants, roses in pots remain more tweeky to care for. They do need to be watered regularly regardless of the season.
Hyacinth - Squirrels will dig up hyacinth bulbs and eat them. But they are not quite capable of finding all of them. Hyacinth do grow nicely in pots, but the effect is not always pretty.
Dianthus - Pinks can do very well in the ground here. But on occasion they are browsed by furry creatures. We believe it might be the javelina that are most fond of them, since they disappear in waves with the presence of these animals. Still, we are pretty sure there are other animals that will chomp on them. They do look pretty good in pots, and it seems just a bit easier to keep them watered this way.
Tomatoes - It seems that in the coolish part of the late spring the roots of a tomato grow well in a pot. But there is a point in early summer here, where I think they generally overheat. So being in the ground is better. Tomatoes grow like lightening under perfect conditions. Otherwise, they really just sulk. One thing for sure: if you put tomatoes in pots you need to rebuild the soil by adding tons of the right things: NPK, micronutrients, mycorhyzzae, and so on. You need to use light colored pots. You need to water daily. And so on.
Potatoes - The idea of growing potatoes in pots seems absurd. But the number of subterranean animals here is huge. And they love to eat potatoes. So growing potatoes in pots is the only viable option. All the things we said about tomatoes apply. My own guess is that potatoes like the air and ground temperature somewhat cooler. So if one has bright sun and a tree that is not too big or to dense, one might grow tomatoes on the south and west sides of the tree. And potatoes on the eastern and northeastern sides.
Figs - The figs in my garden are in pots. Or rather, the plants that were figs this summer grew for three years in pots. I must assume that they perished in the fall drought with my other potted plants.
Hyacinthoides - Dead in the ground. At least the ones planted in Fall 2015 never did come up. They are assumed to have been eaten, but they might have taken a year off. Who knows?
After considering all of this, what have I learned? That my relationship with my garden is both richer and more complex than I had imagined. That gardening does really bring me in a closer relationship with nature, that this brings a lot of satisfaction and some measure of frustration. That one can extend the bounds of where a plant grows by a little bit on one or two directions, but that overreaching too far can bring more problems than benefits. And that, as with any pursuit, you reap what you sow.
Good Luck in the garden through 2018!
How many roses do you have? How many roses are in your garden? It seems like a simple enough question. I have two. Or fifteen. Or three hundred seventy eight. It's a number arrived at by counting. And who cannot do that?
I cannot. I will admit that part of my reason for not knowing the exact number is that I do not care. I care about individual roses. I care about how to cultivate each one well. I care about individual spots in the garden. I care about what the garden looks like and how to make the best of it. But I just do not care about exactly how many roses live in it.
The problem is a lot trickier than it might seem at first. Suppose a gardener has a brand new garden with no roses. Suppose that in 2012 he plants a single rose plant. By 2015 it is clear that the rose is a keeper; it makes blooms that please him and it grows satisfactorily without what he would consider an annoying amount of effort. He has no other roses growing in the garden and the idea of getting more has not yet occurred to him. At this point one might very reasonably assert that his garden contains one rose. Now in September 2016, suppose that a nursery that offers roses in pots pre-sells some of its inventory for the next year at a 50% discount. In September he ordes one more rose for delivery the third day in May the next year, 2016. Now, suppose that the rose will need to be grown on in a pot at least through September of 2017 before being planted in the garden. Suppose further that it will be impossible to know whether the rose is established in the garden until September 2017. At what point is the number of roses exactly 2? Is it when our gardener orders the second rose? That seems too early. He might own two roses, but the second one is not really in his garden. It is a rose of his in his garden in only in some theoretical sense. He has dibs on a rose and the actual plant may not be known to anyone, even if the cultivar is. So does the rose count it when it is taken out of the shipping box May 2016? Well, maybe. But the rose is not yet in the garden. What about after it is potted up and living in the garden? Well, in some technical sense it is a rose in the garden; but it is not established. It is not what realtors would call a fixture. So still, maybe not. What about when it is in the ground?
This brings up the question about how we count roses that are in the ground in the garden. Suppose we plant a rose on its own roots and it grows well but then disappears. We see nothing of it for two, three, or six years. Is it in the garden? Well, if it comes up sometime after this the answer would have to be, yes. it was still in the garden, even if it was invisible. Many rose gardeners who plant lots of roses on their own roots will have the experience of discovering that they once thought was dead is, years later, actually living the garden and blooming. Sometimes it will happen with the same rose every year. There is one rose at the edge of a path - it was put in before the path was there - that grows to six inches high and makes one very pretty bloom in my garden every year. Each fall I imagine it is dead. It has come back six years straight. Do I count it in the spring when I know it is alive? Do I fail to count it in the winter when it is hiding beneath the paving stones?
At any given point in time there are probably something like a dozen roses in my garden that face some very real existential threat. In some cases it's winter freezing or spring drought. In others its my inclination to move the rose. Maybe the rose is dying anyway. Maybe it doesn't bloom very well. Maybe it's a blackspot machine infecting dozens of roses around it. I go into the garden, see the rose, and know it is virtually doomed. I know I will move it. And I know that the chance of survival after being moved is close to zero. (I have a few roses that have undergone major relocation and lived to bloom again. In one case I started with one rose and ended up with two after the transplant was complete.) So there is a sense in which even though there is an actual plant there, soon there will not be one. The rose counts only in some technical definitional sense. Or as a placeholder. Not as a source of blooms of that type going forward into the future for five or twenty five years. If I were selling my house and it were the only rose in the garden, a prospective buyer might ask if the garden has roses. If I answered "no" it would be technically incorrect, but functionally true. If I answered "yes" it would be technically true but functionally deceiving. There simply is not a meaningful way to describe the rose's status without saying something like "Yes, but it is nothing but sharp thorns and blackspot and will be landfill in six weeks' time."
So it turns out that there are two problems in counting roses. The first is the physical act of counting actual plants in the garden. How does one count the ones that only exist as subterranean roots, for example? Or how does one know that a small rose is hiding beneath a bigger one? Or if two roses that are different cultivars are planted too close together what is to say that a novice will be able to distinguish them? And if a rose growing on its own roots is big enough to divide into several other plants ... in one sense it is one plant. But if one is in the business of dividing large plants and selling them, it is very close to being more than one. The second problem is one of definition. One might find it easy to answer the question about how many candles one might light on a menorah, but when it comes to answering the question about how many entities there are in the Holy Trinity, it's a little hard to say. One? Three? Both? Neither? The problem hinges on definitions. There were a few years during the dark ages when - it might seem - more sheep skins (parchment) were given to answering this question than to helping poor Europeans keep warm in winter. It's not an easy question to answer because the definitions are so tricky. In many senses counting roses an easier problem; but it's still one fraught with many definitional difficulties.
One of the most important definitions is the distinction between physical plants and cultivars. This is a relatively easy one because it is possible to agree on clear definitions; but it, too, might trip one up. When the membership director of the local gardening club was interviewing my wife about my garden she asked my wife "How many roses are there in Steve's garden?" And my wife, who knows as much about gardening as a two year old girl knows about flying fighter jets asked "Are you referring to plants or cultivars." At which point the membership coordinator's head exploded and she is now heading a different committee. Mostly, my garden contains just one of any cultivar. But there are five Mme Alfred Carrieres, six Pink Pets, three or four Europeanas, three Gourmet Popcorns, two or three South Africas, six Julia Childs and so on. I'm pretty sure the number of rose plants lodged in or near the garden exceeds 250. So if I have 256 plants, perhaps I have have 229 cultivars. Of which 14 plants and 11 cultivars exist in pots. More. Or Less.
Who can say? By this time next year the number will be a little different since some plants are on order. But unless I can learn more about keeping roses from being eaten by deer or rabbits outside the fenced part of the garden, the number probably will not get much bigger. Not that there is much reason to care. Fortunately, no sheep skins were consumed in the writing of this. Stay warm this winter. And have pleasant dreams of roses.
When I chose the location as a possible one for growing roses, I knew that the challenges were many. Roses are thirsty plants; but they do not like wet feet. Roses like damp roots but they cannot stand damp air. And there was the question about whether they could possibly retain soil so well as the native grasses that were already growing there. After all, after two inches of rain you could hear the water rushing through the gulch from 200 feet away. It could probably sweep away a small car. It was with some trepidation that I proceded.
Among the first roses to be planted in the gulch were Graham Thomas, Day Breaker, Liebeszauber, Sunsprite, Mardi Gras, and South Africa in one very sunny location just in front of the chain link fence. That would have been around the year 2012. These roses literally took off. So it seemed a promising plan. Next year two Mme Plantier roses were planted in other locations. At the same time, four Prosperity roses and three Red Eden roses were spaced out in regular intervals along the fence. The challenge for these roses was that they were in the shade of an alligator juniper tree. So shade was a potential problem. The Prosperity roses have never minded the shade. It's hard to tell about the Red Eden roses. They have not yet reached six feet tall, which seems a little short to me for a climbing rose in its sixth season. By comparison, Gruss an Zabern in a much drier and shadier location, planted as a band two years later is two feet taller.
Still, the success with Prosperity prompted me to continue planting, and the place is home to a fairly large collection of roses, mostly David Austin roses. Over the eastern half of the planting one would find William Shakespeare 2000, Princess Anne, Young Lycidas, LD Braithwaite, and Lady of Shallott hovering around the well established Prosperity and Conrad Heinrich Soth. Over the western half one would find Susan Williams - Ellis, Darcy Bussell, Lady of Shallott, Ascot, Colorific, Jubilee Celebration, and Colorific all in a jumble near Prosperity and Ghislaine de Feligonde. Somewhere in the middle of the jumble is Erinnerung an Brod. No rose in the gulch looks better out of bloom, and none grows better; but after three years we are still waiting for its best performance. It took five years for Ghislaine de Feligonde to hit its stride, so there is still hope. Near the east end of the planting are two rugosa roses Moje Hammarberg, and near the west end of the planting are two rugosa alba roses. These were selected for flower fragrance and edible hips. Also because there is a lot of sand in the soil and rugosas are said to do well on sand. Near the center of the planting is a Boscobel, and an Auguste Renoir. Queen of Sweden. Moore's Striped Rugsa, and Mary Rose died. White Out has struggled. Awakening, a sport of New Dawn, has moped a bit since being transplanted two years ago. Rosy Cushion grows and blooms almost as vigorously as Darlow's Enigma.
What makes this place unique? Below is a shot of the western end of the gulch planting in which one might be able to find Boscobel, Prosperity, Darcy Bussel, Ascot, Colorific, Jubilee Celebration, and Lady of Shallott. And, of course a lot of eight inch river rock laid over landscape fabric. There are some daylilies and two Louisiana iris in the photo, all in their first season in the garden. To the left one can just make out the chain link fence that encloses the garden, marking where the rose bed ends and the arroyo grasses start. The fence is on the south edge of the bed. On the north edge of the bed is an elevated path built atop a 20 inch wall of 85 lb concrete landscape blocks. We did this to keep the roaring stream from eroding the raised beds to the north and to keep the flagstone walk from sinking into the muddy stream.
This area is a gulch or arroyo. In the Northeastern United States and in Northern Europe there is no term for this geographical phenomenon; it does not exist. Here in the mountain west of the US, though, it's common enough. It's a place where water runs for part of the year. Over other parts of the year it can be bone dry. As arroyos go, this one is somewhat modest in its moisture swings. It receives underground seeps for much of the dry season, Feb-May. And it drains quite quickly during the rainy season; there is very little standing water. In May the relative humidity of the air can be 12%. When we have a really good monsoon season as we did this year, the gulch runs with water continuously for maybe four weeks, and the relative humidity can approach 100% for several weeks at a time. The air in this spot passes through freezing maybe as often as 100 times in a calendar year, though it is possible for the soil in this location not to freeze or to freeze only two or three inches deep in the depths of winter in late January. In the brightest moments of the year - most of the month of June - the UV index is 10. A person with fair skin can get a painful burn in less than 15 minutes.
Madame Plantier at the western extreme of the garden, about two weeks prior to peak bloom, with Hollywood Nights at her feet. The grasses native to the arroyo, shown in the background, are quite tenacious
So the potential problems for roses in this location include: wet feet, drought, dry air, high humidity, bright sun, excess shade, and late killing frosts, and competition from grasses that are very well adapted to the location. I have paid some attention to how suitable a rose is for shade in my plantings. I have also tried to plant blackspot resistant varieties - although my level of success here is far from perfect. Ghislaine de Feligonde, for instance, bears most of the brunt of the alligator juniper's shade. It is almost directly north of the tree. At high summer it is far enough away that it gets only the lightest shade near noon. At other hours the sun is high enough in the sky that it gets sun. Near either equinox, though, it may not get four hours of sun. Also near the tree are two of the four Prosperity and one Erinnerung an Brod. G de F bloomed for a full six weeks straight this year. Prosperity is showing just a touch of mildew this August, but none of these cultivars has been touched by blackspot.
Ghislaine de Feligonde
Prosperity, William Shakespeare 2000, and Conrad Heinrich Soth
I have been worried about losing soil and about controlling weeds, so a year ago I had sixteen tons of 6-8 inch river rock installed over landscape fabric in this area. This has had a profound effect on erosion and on weeds. I find that I can almost control the weeds over the entire area by informally pulling up the occasional bit of grass or nutsedge as I walk through the area taking photgraphs. Acknowledging the arroyo for what it is has improved its performance as a rose bed and it has maintained its function as a repository for good soil.
But what about wet feet and fungal disease?
I have certainly lost roses to these factors. Queen of Sweden and Mary Rose, are among the roses that have died. But they died over the winter. Or during a dry season, or before getting established. Peter Frankenfield lost all its leaves during a spring flood, then regained them; but it has not looked good since. I've lost track of which rose appears below, but I suspect it is Jolie Veranda. It is planted in one of the lower spots in the gulch and its roots would have been submerged for most of six weeks starting in the beginning of July.
One can, of course, see a little blackspot moving in, but this is an opportunistic infestation: the rose leaves had already yellowed by the time the BS hit. One of three Darcy Bussell has experienced similar yellowing. These are the only two roses in the planting that are at serious risk of dying as a direct result of having their roots submerged for six weeks this summer. By now the water is receding. There is no running or standing water in the arroyo right now and there has not been for a week. So there is some chance that both of these roses will survive.
Fungal disease in the garden has been interesting this year. I moved two roses that were hit hard by it last year. And I have been using Actinovate, though not so carefully as I should have been. These factors seem to have made for a later onset; but where it hit this year it hit quickly. In the gulch, Colorific was the first rose to suffer. Not long afterwords, neighboring Teasing Georgia was hit. At about the same time at the other end of the garden, the older leaves of Sunsprite suffered from it. Then the old leaves of South Africa did. Next, it was newer foliage on Liebeszauber and Day Breaker. The whole process took maybe two weeks.
Colorific, with water flowing over its roots and leaves starting to get black spot.
A week after this photo was taken, virtually every leaf on Colorific shows infection. Old leaves on many roses throughout the garden show signs of disease. I have never before seen blackpsot on Hermosa, for example; but all the old leaves on this plant are covered with it. New growth leaves, fortunately, remain untouched. The distinction is essential because a rose that can retain its new growth leaves despite infection can continue to function. A rose that loses its new growth leaves quickly to the infection has ceased thriving and has started on a downward slope toward death. It will suffer until it can sustain new growth leaves for some weeks without BS infection.
It is a matter of some frustration to me that just two or three weeks after the conditions for Colorific and Liebeszauber became satisfactory for them to grow vigorously they contracted black spot on new growth leaves. No other roses in the garden this year have been quite so perverse. In the case of Colorific, I think the plant is vigorous enough to overcome the problem. I'm a little less certain of Liebeszauber. This is the first year I have noticed BS on Liebeszauber; but this is also the first year in about five that it has attempted making new canes. I am disappointed with South Africa and Day Breaker; but I know the disease started on neighboring Sunsprite. I wonder whether the three instances of this rose will have to be moved this winter. The more I consider it, the better the idea seems to me.
The jury is out about what will happen next. The rains have let up a bit. The air is a little cooler and drier. From here on out we expect new blackspot infestation to be slower than it was two weeks ago. But we also near the end of the useful new foliage period. Foliage that forms after mid September here does not always provide so much nutrition to the plant as the energy used to form it, especially if we get early frosts in October.
Blackspot has been a problem, but it has hit a smallish number of roses fairly late in the season. And only two roses have any measurable amount of BS on foliage formed after the start of August. So it seems unlikely that the disease will endanger the lives of any of the roses in the garden this year. Overall, it has been a pretty successful experiment. Let's look at some of the successes.
Ascot blooms with Jubilee Celebration
Pomponella Fairy Tale rose grows on a slightly elevated bank of the gulch
Double Red Knockout in its first season photographed near the start of the deluge. Its leaves have yellowed a bit since
Darcy Bussell in late June. At its best the flowers are drop-dead gorgeous in their deep wine red color. Though quite generous in bloom, it can be a little uneven.
The once-blooming James Mason is very well adapted to this environment, growing vigorously and never complaining about shade, drought, high humidity, frost, or pretty much anything.
Peter Frankenfield (presumed to be) in July before the monsoons started
Colorific in mid June before the monsoons started.
Teasing Georgia in mid June before the monsoons started.
Graham Thomas blooming in front of the chain link fence with some Day Breaker roses in front.
One Graham Thomas blossom
South Africa blooming through the black spot
After about five years of experience of growing roses in this particular arroyo, what do we know? Prosperity and Ghislaine de Feligonde are well suited to the gulch. Conrad Heinrich Soth is so vigorous that the question is more about whether I will dig it up to keep it from overrunning the garden than it is about whether it could survive there. Pomponella Fairy Tale and Rosy Cushion are definitely happy. I'm pretty sure that Jubilee Celebration and Lady of Shallott are keepers in this location. Most of the other David Austin roses, I think, are keepers; although I feel a little embarrassed to have lost track of the identies of most. I cannot, with any certainty, distinguish among Wm Shakespeare 2000, LD Braithewaite, and Young Lycidas. The rugosas seem to be doing well, though they are not yet very foliferous. I have no reservations about Graham Thomas. I'm pretty sure I will do what it takes to keep Day Breaker and South Africa alive in this location, even if it means removing Sunsprite. Colorific has put on such a show this year in its second season that I intend to tend it carefully over the next growing seasons to keep it from being too seriously damaged by blackspot. Experience with Cressida and Winchester Cathedral suggest to me that some DA roses can be quite materially affected by blackspot while still thriving; so I am quite hopeful about Teasing Georgia. It is still in better shape than Golden Celebration was at this point last year. It has taken Golden Celebration most of this season to recover; but TG strikes me as a more vigorous rose.
I am ready to declare the experiment a success. I cannot say with any certainty which roses will be growing in the gulch ten or fifty years from now; but I am very pleased with what I see there now. I pass many pleasant hours in the garden and the experience just would not be the same were the gulch not chock full of roses.
Winter and early spring rainfall was generous in comparison to the drought of the last five years or so. This has not meant that we've had any rain to speak of in the last three months, but it has meant full lakes which have encouraged some of us to water a bit more. The damp winter and early spring followed by normal two to three months of drought has meant a great crop of dry grass and summer wildfires such as the nearby Goodwin fire which cut off one route out of Prescott for two or three days. It has also meant more flowers in the garden. We watered the roses more generously this year, although it's hard to specify exactly how much more. And the neighboring iris and daylilies have been responding to this bounty. Some of these daylilies have graced the garden for three or four years without blooming. So this is a watershed moment for the garden.
As ever, we are mostly clueless about which daylily is which, although we do expect that Hyperion (Soft Yellow), Mary Todd (Yellow), Rocket City(Orange) and Alabama Jubilee (Vermilion), Marquee Moon (Nearly White) might appear above. We are pleased with the batchelor buttons acquired at Annies Annuals. They really complement the yellow and orange daylilies nicely.
Even as we approach peak daylily season there are still a few roses in bloom. Larissa is the most notable, but in the gulch Jubilee Celebration blooms very generously along with Ascot.
And just beyond the fence, a visitor waits for Stephen to vacate the garden so she might resume feasting on rose blossoms...