Roses forum→If you couldn't grow roses...?

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Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 8, 2020 2:21 AM CST
I have been growing roses for only three years now and for that whole time I have been battling Tasmanian brushtail possums that can destroy everything in just one night. I have put out traps. I have stayed up all night waiting to see where they are getting in. I have put up ugly electric fences which I have to mentally block out whenever I look at the garden. It has all been for nought. It is the middle of spring and I have no leaves and no new growth at all. I'm sure many of my roses are already dead and that others will soon go the same way. I think I'm done.

I used to wander around my garden of an evening with a glass of wine in one hand and my secateurs in the other, just meandering here and there admiring the blooms and snipping off any that displeased me. I derived so much pleasure from my roses that I didn't mind the tall electric fences, the possum traps, and the fact my garden looked like a gulag. Now when I wander around the place my wine glass shakes in my hand as I survey the destruction and wipe away tears. I don't think I can keep distressing myself trying to grow roses when the possums will always win.

If you couldn't grow roses what would you grow in their stead? Would you find another plant that critters find less desirable, like dahlias, and grow that? Would you grow a different type of garden altogether, like a cottage garden full of bulbs and perennials? Would you abandon your efforts and just not bother with gardening?

I am going to grow a couple of dahlias this year but I refuse to dig them up at the end of the season and will treat them as annuals so that of they come up next year it will be a bonus, but that leaves me with the whole of spring and half of summer without much happening. I would really love to hear what other people would do if they just couldn't grow roses, fruit, and other plants that critters love. I'm sure that plants considered to be deer resistant would also be overlooked somewhat by possums so if you can recommend anything I would greatly appreciate it.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Oct 8, 2020 7:26 AM CST
How sad! I'm sorry you are plagued beyond toleration. Your roses were so lovely. I have no idea what your critters would not find delicious. My roses had a very bad couple of years too. I have also thought of changing. I hope you find a solution.
Porkpal
Maryland (Zone 7a)
Region: Canadian Region: Maryland Roses Cat Lover Butterflies Bookworm
Dahlias Peonies
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Hiyamakki
Oct 8, 2020 8:04 AM CST
That's heart breaking Lola. I struggled with deer last year. They would eat every bud. Finally we got a sonic deterrent that actually seems to work. Also, all my neighbours are growing veggies during the lockdown and I guess they are more tempting.

Even during the worst of the deer ravages my peonies and chrysanthemums were spared. I had only hardy mums last year but have added exhibition mums this year. They are actually quite exciting to grow since there is such a long wait. The grower I purchased them from recommended I try different techniques for pinching to discover what look I like best.

There are some truly lovely fragrant peonies and there are some late bloomers that take you into midsummer.

The deer were uninterested in my bulbs but the squirrels kept digging them up, for sport it seemed! They certainly weren't eating them.
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
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Mike
Oct 8, 2020 9:06 AM CST
Lola, believe me when I say I have wondered the same question as you, all because of a nearly invisible insect called Rose Midge. It is considered a significant threat to the rose industry in North America, not to mention individual gardens. The midge is a tiny fly that bores a hole just beneath each newly emerging rose bud where it lays its eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larva (which are smaller than the head of a pin) chew into the emerging rose bud, which kills or severely deforms it, never to bloom. Once fed, the larva drop to the ground where they wrap themselves into a tiny cocoon. Shortly thereafter they re-emerge, fly straight up into the same rose bush, mate, and repeat the cycle, over and over again, all season long - exponentially increasing their population. When roses are planted close together, they move from one bush to another like wild fire.

Imagine my previous garden (before moving) with 100 densely planted roses that all had healthy tall canes and arching branches loaded with lush foliage - and not a single rose bloom to be seen. I learned that the tiny midge was the culprit by using a microscope and reading up on this awful pest. It is virtually indestructible for reasons I won't go into (you can Google it) unless you are willing to drench the soil with imidacloprid, only to see all the critters that live just below the mulch, like helpful earthworms, come wriggling out and twist themselves up as they die. Of course, the rose plants take up the insecticide, so you know that the residue inside any flowers that may appear six weeks later could harm helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies. And this treatment has to be done three times during the growing season, season after season, just to keep the midge from repeating its spectacularly successful habit of multiplying.

It was more than I could take, both aesthetically and ethically. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me, to the point of real depression, since I had spent years designing, expanding, and planting the rose gardens - it had become a way of life that came to an abrupt halt. The perennials that surrounded the roses continued to perform and bloom just fine, but it just wasn't the same without the rose blooms. One of the reasons I love roses is that they bloom from May through October, whereas many perennials only bloom for a portion of that time.

As fate would have it, I moved several blocks away to a new home seven years ago, where I designed and planted the gardens where I live now. The buyer of my former home encouraged me to take as many plants as I could when we moved, because he was going to dig it all up and replace it with grass. However, this was just as winter was setting in (a few weeks before a major snow storm), so while I was still able to dig up 100 roses and 100 perennials and shrubs, I had to overwinter them in whatever pots I could find and purchase from nurseries that had mostly closed for the season. Digging up a few hundred plants and haphazardly repotting them in freezing temperatures while also packing up my house while my husband had a torn rotator cuff was almost more than I could deal with. But I managed - and I got a second moving van just for all the plants.

Disrupting the soil around the roses when digging them up seemed to kill off most of the cocooned midges that were hibernating in the soil. As (mis)fortune would have it, that winter was the coldest seen by the Hudson Valley in over a century. As a result, I lost half of the roses I potted up and placed in the cold greenhouse, but it may have also helped to kill off the midge.

When spring finally came I replanted the surviving roses, but refused to buy any new ones until I could determine whether it was pointless to do so, not knowing whether the midge would reappear. Also, I vowed to plant my roses further apart, so as to help limit the spread of any midge that might survive. As it turned out, the midge did reappear, and continues to do so, but it has been limited to a few roses. So I purchased large sheets of brown plastic tarp and cut it up into circles about a meter in diameter. Wherever the midge appears, I place one of these circular tarps beneath that rose to catch the midge larva when they fell from the rose bud, to prevent them from reaching the soil for the cocoon stage. This has been very effective in breaking the life cycle, and I've learned to live with the occasional tarps here and there. They aren't very pretty, but at least they match the color of the garden mulch I use. To my surprise, I haven't had a single rose midge infestation this year, and it has been a wonderful respite. For the first time in 7 years, I added a few roses to the garden this season.

But let's return to your original question of what I would choose to grow, if not roses. When I planned the gardens at the home where we live now, I made a very conscious choice to diversify the plants far more than I did at my previous home, because of the midge. This means that I spent a lot of time reading up on perennials and bulbs. I already planted lots of perennials at my former home, but when we moved I decided to delve deeper into my knowledge of a much larger variety of perennials than found in most local nurseries. I was particularly interested in creating a "continuously blooming" garden without having to invest time and money into planting annuals every season.

I found a few books to be very useful resources, which you might want to look into. They are:

"Continuous Bloom" by Pam Duthie, subtitled "A Month-by-Month Guide to Nonstop Color in the Perennial Garden" - published in 2000. (Amazon carries it: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1883052238/) As you might expect, it's written according to a northern hemisphere calendar, citing North American perennials. But if you can convert the calendar to the southern hemisphere and find the same or similar cultivars Down Under, then you might find this book useful. The same goes for the next book:

"Gardening with Perennials Month by Month" by Joseph Hudak, second edition printed 2004. At Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0881926345/)

"The Well-Tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy DiSabto-Aust, now in its third edition printed in 2017. This is a magnificent and invaluable book - it was a real game-changer for me. By that I mean the knowledge it imparts about each perennial's behavior and culture. Unlike the above two books, it's not about month-to-month blooms, as much as it is an encyclopedic review of individual plants in very practical terms. It includes a very valuable section on pruning and pinching, which was an eye-opener for me. Highly touted by the New York Botanical Garden. At Amazon: (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1604697075/)

So rather than suggest individual plants for you, I'll leave you with the above information, hoping that it might help you deal with your frustrations, and envision something new and (almost) as satisfying as roses.
[Last edited by Mike - Oct 8, 2020 6:59 PM (+)]
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Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 8, 2020 3:12 PM CST
Thank you for all that information, Mike. It's heartening to know that you have experienced a similar sense of depression and sadness at the probable loss of a cherished garden but that you found solutions that worked for you. I will be investing in those books so I can begin researching and planning for next year. There are few nurseries near me but I can always spend this covid summer travelling my island home picking up new plants as I go. There are a couple of mail order places here so I will get on some mailing lists as well.

Rose midges sound way worse than possums because of the sheer numbers. At least when I get rid of possums I don't destroy any other critters at the same time. I could never use poison so traps have been my only saviour. Last year I trapped 28 possums.

Before Christmas I will be getting a new neighbour and we will be clearing the couple of acres of bushland between our properties so the possums will have fewer places to nest in. My new neighbour is a market gardener and his place will be tastier than mine so the possums may naturally prefer vegetables to roses and leave me alone.
Name: Lynnez
N. California (Zone 9b)
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Lynnez
Oct 8, 2020 3:34 PM CST
I am so sorry , Lola! I wish I could help Sighing!
Maryland (Zone 7a)
Region: Canadian Region: Maryland Roses Cat Lover Butterflies Bookworm
Dahlias Peonies
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Hiyamakki
Oct 8, 2020 4:03 PM CST
I am also attempting to overwinter my dahlia tubers (under a mound of manure). I shall let you know how successful my efforts are! My hopes are not especially high which has to do more with my poorly draining clay soil than the severity of winter here. Dahlias do love to get soggy and rot.
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 8, 2020 4:18 PM CST
Hiyamakki - I am also on clay that gets terribly soggy in winter but I plan on building up mounds before I plant the dahlias in early November. I will be very interested in how you go with yours so please keep me posted.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Oct 8, 2020 4:30 PM CST
Lola I hope you keep the surviving roses, unsightly as they may be, until the clearing is done to see whether the critters give you garden a miss. Also do you have a dog or more running loose on your property? Mine seem to discourage most freeloaders even though they are pretty useless generally - they don't catch gophers!
Porkpal
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 8, 2020 4:59 PM CST
Porkpal - I don't have a dog and the only shelter dogs that are ever available down here are mastiff crosses, hunting hounds, and unworkable working dogs. None of these are suitable in farming communities. I have thought about getting another dog for several years now but no dog would ever compare to my old Ellie who liked to sit in the sun or on the couch and never ventured into the fields alone. Small lapdogs are ok on farms around here but they are rare as hen's teeth to get hold of. Next time I am on the mainland I will look in their shelters for a likely candidate, but at the moment I have no plans to ever venture that far from home.
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
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Mike
Oct 8, 2020 5:04 PM CST
We were fortunate to adopt a second dog back in March, just before a lot of shelters began to close due to COVID. This is Maverick, a six year old, pure Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. He is now my constant companion, never leaving my side, indoors or out, unless our other dog Sprite (a Siberian Husky) makes him move over so she can get a back rub from me.

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Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias Irises Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
hampartsum
Oct 8, 2020 6:48 PM CST
Lola, I've been giving quite a lot of thought over your possums now derived into nuissance possums instead of cuties Grumbling Thumbs down ..... there's something beyond the reasonable of tolerating large scale destruction by wildlife on a rural property. Certain ammounts of wildlife can coexist reasonably well. From the numbers you stated you seem to have an outgrown population that will have to be culled. Your incoming neighbor with market garden targets to meet, will have far less consideration about the possums than you can imagine. He will have to take care of them and dispose them as allowed on your island. As a result you'll be able to continue gardening as before and perhaps thank that you now have a neighbor that does the dirty task... Sighing!
From my background in conservation and national parks, I know that wildlife management becomes a necessity however unpleasant the idea may sound. The problem arises because wildlife starts to rely on non naturally available food sources and populations grow artificially. The delicate balance is altered and the other native wildlife starts to pay the price of too many of the outnumbering kind.
I also live very close to wild areas. We could unexpected visits from cougars=puma=mountain lions. 4 large sized german shepherd dogs make sure that no cougar will dare to get close... Crossing Fingers! Other much less dangerous critters have passed my fence (that has wire mesh):skunks and they can destroy our laying hen coup in just one night. Again the dogs make sure that they don't get inside.
Arturo
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 8, 2020 8:09 PM CST
I would love to get a dog but at the moment it is not possible. Maybe my new neighbour will have a dog that would visit me so at least the doggy scent may deter some critters? The 28 possums that I trapped last year didn't get released back into the wild because they are territorial and letting them go in enemy territory is against wildlife protection advice. All native animals here are protected and you can't cull them without a licence so I can't say what happened to them without implicating myself. Whistling

I will have to wait and see what the new neighbour plans to do. I think you are correct, Arturo, that he will be wanting to control the possums just as much as me so perhaps he will take over the greater burden of possum patrol.
Tuscany, Italy
bart2018
Oct 10, 2020 3:13 AM CST
Animal pests are indeed awful; I feel for you, Lola. Don't feel too guilty about those trapped possums fate -as far as I know (and I did do an extensive Internet study on the matter),trapping and releasing wildlife doesn't work-the animals usually die anyway once released. The shock and trauma they experience on being trapped alone weakens them a great deal, then, in the new environment into which they are released, they don't know where to look for water or food. Plus, the native population of that area do NOT welcome them ,since they represent competition for resources, so the released animals tend to be attacked. In other words, by "humanely" trapping and releasing a wild animal, in most cases you're just condemning the poor thing to a long, slow death. It would be more humane just to shoot it.I think Arturo is absolutely right about wildlife control-the delicate balance is SO important.
I had Crossing Fingers! an awful problem with badgers a couple of years ago ; this was when I did the research on trapping. I put up mesh fencing all around the base of my garden's fence; it took a long time, a lot of work, and was expensive. I now never use any fish or meat/ bone based fertilizers either. So, far, so good Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! ...
Things do change, Lola. Things just may get better with this new neighbour. I'm not sure from you post if you ever tried a physical fence;you could consider putting up a physical fence around a small section of your garden and grow roses in that fenced-off area. Getting dogs would be great, I bet! Integrated Pest Management is the way to go...best wishes
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 10, 2020 4:26 PM CST
Possums live in tree hollows at least 16m from the ground and they can climb anything. I have 1m tall fences around the main garden with two strands of electric fence wire around most of it and a single strand on the rest.
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There are at least 16 roses in this garden but you can't see them because they are just sticks now. The white strands are electric fence. The electrical insulators on the fence posts are at the moment just decorative but I can string another wire on top quickly if I need to. The stakes in the centre garden are for the dahlias I planted today. The house is actually barn red but the morning sun has skewed the colour.

Thumb of 2020-10-10/LolaTasmania/d8fb26
The rose border has a much lower fence with just one strand of electric. I can step over this one but it is tall enough to keep the wallabies out. Our wallabies are only knee-high and they don't jump high like other kangaroos do so shorter fences are fine for them.
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The small front garden has a very short fence that keeps wallabies out. They nibble everything that grows through the wire so they keep it tidy. The bowls are for the duck.
[Last edited by LolaTasmania - Oct 10, 2020 5:02 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2363496 (15)
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
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Mike
Oct 10, 2020 4:40 PM CST
What beautiful countryside and scenery!
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 10, 2020 5:00 PM CST
I wish I didn't have to spoil the view with a gulag-style compound. I am hoping the plants will soften the current harshness of the fencing so that it almost disappears into the greenery. From the house I won't see the fence but coming down the driveway is a different matter.

I have heard great things about my new neighbour. He will be in before the end of October and is keen on keeping the wallabies and possums away from the area. The acre of gorse and other weeds between our properties is home to at least 50 wallabies that come to my place every night so when that land is clear there will be far fewer to leave their calling cards all over the place.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
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seilMI
Oct 10, 2020 5:50 PM CST
The fencing doesn't look all that bad to me. The scenery was so gorgeous I barely noticed it until I really looked at it. I have rabbits here that love to chew on everything green and growing. I have to put chicken wire around anything I want to keep them out of or they destroy it. Winter is the worst because they are hunting for food. Any rose cane above the snow line is fair game! It is frustrating but at some point I just learned to accept it.

If I couldn't grow roses or garden, which it is coming to with my health, I will probably do a lot of puzzles. And maybe still be able to take pictures of other peoples gardens!
[Last edited by seilMI - Oct 10, 2020 5:52 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2363536 (18)
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Keeps Sheep Roses Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Birds Farmer
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LolaTasmania
Oct 10, 2020 6:58 PM CST
I have rabbits here too but they rarely get into the gardens. When they start breeding near the house I end up hanging out the upstairs window Annie Oakley style and popping them off. I don't eat them anymore because they were nearly all the meat we used to eat when I was a kid so they taste of poverty to me. I will sometimes skin and gut them and give them to neighbours but I usually put them on a particular tree stump for the crows. The crows know I am putting them out for them specially because they bring me little gifts of feathers and flowers in exchange and leave them at the front door.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Oct 10, 2020 7:03 PM CST
The fences look pretty secure to me; you have some very clever critters there!
Porkpal

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