David Austin English Roses

Darby Bussell

Normally, I would not include any of the David Austin English Roses in the category of “Easy Care” roses. In fact, a lovely photo of leaves scarred by the sawfly larva coming up next week for “Wordless Wednesday” and it is in my existing bed of David Austin Roses. It’s a problem I’ve had with them for some time. It doesn’t keep me from growing them–it just keeps me from enjoying them to the fullest at their peak bloom, so I consider that a major drawback.

I was visiting a local garden center recently and came across two new varieties, the one I show above, Darcey Bussell, and Lady Emma Hamilton. Now since David Austin comes out with new roses every year, I gave them a passing glance and went on to get what I needed.

A few days later, I came across this post on Gardenrant about some David Austin roses that Elizabeth Licata had tried last year. For her they had proved to be disease resistant and continuous bloomers–just the thing I look for in an “easy care” rose. To my surprise, they were the same roses my garden center was offering. I ran back for the Darcey Bussell (who was a British ballerina–I looked her up) because it fit the color scheme of the other “easy care” roses I was testing this year.

From the moment I put the rose in the car (even before, really, because I’ve always adored the David Austin roses) I was in love. All the way home, I could smell this rose–that’s right this rose actually has a scent! Right there, that makes it different from every other rose I’ll discuss this month.

In addition, its blooms are larger and more “rose-like” in structure. In fact, they almost look like the old-fashioned cabbage roses.

They’re still not suitable as cut flowers because they are rarely borne on single stems–like most shrub roses, they are borne in clusters. But for me, that’s okay–more roses to love.

If this rose is half as good as promised, it will be fabulous. Now if I can just keep those pesky sawflies from finding it….

Wordless Wednesday–What’s Wrong With This Rose?

'Heritage' Rose with an issue

This was the first bloom on my ‘Redoute’ David Austin English rose and I have to say it kind of freaked me out a little because in the 14 years I’ve had them, none of them have ever bloomed quite like this.

A little research reassured me, however. This is perfectly normal. This is a condition called rose proliferation. It generally happens during a cool period, and generally to the first rose or roses on the bush to bloom.

Certain roses are more susceptible to it than others. No one is quite sure why.

But once normal temperatures return, the condition disappears–and sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Just though you’d like to know.

Drift Groundcover Roses

Red Drift rose

Conard-Pyle, the same company that brought Knock Out to market introduced Drift® groundcover roses. These are shortest roses, overall, of all the rose series; in fact they are sold as groundcover roses. This has to do partly with their parentage, which is part groundcover rose and part miniature rose.

This is my first year trying a Drift® rose. Like Knockout®, they too come in 7 colors but their colors are softer colors of pink, apricot and rose. There is also a white, sold as Popcorn Drift.® The full range of colors can be seen on the marketer’s web site, here.

Because this is my first year, I can’t tell you ultimately how this rose will behave for me (This is Drift Red–I tried to choose roses in complimentary colors and the Spoiler likes red, so this was an easy one). Thus far it has been pest and disease resistant for 2 months in a pot–that’s really saying something considering that it is relatively crowded (both in the pot and close to the other roses).

Ultimately, I don’t know whether it will prove to fend off the rose sawfly larva and Japanese beetles as well as Knock Out does. Knock Out’s leaves are thicker than any of the other roses I’ll talk about over this month-long discussion. I don’t know if that’s what makes it so resiliant–but I’m sure it can’t hurt!

So far what I can tell you is that I’m not fond of the way the dying roses look in combination with those just opening. I’ve been clipping them out–and that doesn’t really make them “easy care,” now does it?

drift ground cover rose<

And I promised a bit about the "trademarking" of roses. This really has to do with the trademarking or patenting of all plants, generally. If you think back to my post of June 3, you might have paid no attention to the fact that each rose was in a distinctive pot: Knock Out was in a lime green pot with its name and Star Roses on the side; Drift was in a white pot that said Drift groundcover roses and the David Austin rose was in a tall, dark green pot with gold lettering and its name on it–very elegant. I've linked to that post here so you can go back to check if you care to.

Rose growers are not the only ones trademarking their plants. Probably the most recognized trademark out there is Proven Winners–I know you all have seen the white pots in various sizes with the big PW on the side. Annuals, perennials and shrubs all bear the PW logo.

Great, but what does it mean? Pretty simply, it means that these are all patented plants and reproduction is prohibited–in plain english, that means you can’t take a cutting or root a part of these plants and share them with fellow gardeners or sell them at your neighborhood or garden club plant sale.

I talk about this a lot because as gardeners, we are some of the most generous people on the planet. If someone comes to the garden and admires a plant and we have more than enough to share, we do it! And right now, there are no “plant police” prohibiting this practice.

But do take care with these patented plants–because legally you are not supposed to be sharing them at all, even with fellow gardeners.

And since more and more plants are coming to market as patented trademarked plants, it’s gardener beware!

Knock Out Roses

KnockOut Rose
Sunny Knockout

Probably the best selling series of roses to ever hit the market is also one of the best “easy care” roses on the market. Even if you know nothing about roses and have never wanted to plant one, you’ve seen this rose because it is planted in all sorts of public spaces–gas stations, strip mall parking lots, highway medians–it’s almost inescapable. Its popularity doesn’t prevent it from being a great rose, however. I am talking about the series of roses sold under the trademark name Knock out®. This rose, with its deep green foliage and repeat bloom–often the shrub is in bloom all summer long–is everything it was promised to be.

The original Knock out® was developed by a man named Bill Radler. He sold the development rights to the Conard-Pyle company and 6 more roses with the Knock Out® name have been developed. Most are either in the red or pink/hot pink range and are variations on that theme (single and double blooms) but there is also a yellow available, sold as Sunny Knock Out®. (The second photo above is of Sunny Knock Out) The full color range can be viewed on the Conard Pyle web site, here.

I have grown every rose in the Knock Out® line. While some of my other shrub roses can be plagued by black spot and a pest of roses known as the rose sawfly larva (a little caterpillar-like creature too complicated to talk about here–but see this post) my Knock Out® roses are never troubled by anything. Even when an occasional Japanese beetle lands on them, the beetles soon move on!

The two most frequent critiques that I hear about these roses is that they have no fragrance (true) and that they don’t have that true rose form (mostly true–they look like an old fashioned single rose, if anything, but surely not like a hybrid tea).

They also would not be suitable for cutting, generally, because like all shrub roses, they bear their flowers in clusters and on short stems.

Interestingly enough, the grower says it will be a 3-4′ rose. Obviously they anticipate you pruning it. Without pruning, it has gotten much taller for me–and shows no signs of stopping.

But for a rose that’s hardy to zone 5 that I don’t have to give any extra attention to, that doesn’t get pests and diseases, that I don’t have to deadhead–I’ll definitely put up with a few minor drawbacks!

Easy Care Roses

Easy Care Roses

In early May I lectured to the Town & Country Garden Club of Newtown about roses. It was quite a kick to hear myself introduced as a rose expert. I’m sure the folks at Elizabeth Park would beg to differ–but I digress.

My topic was Easy Care Roses–because I often speak of myself as the laziest gardener on the planet. That’s not quite true, but I am one of the most time-pressed gardeners that I know.

I also don’t believe in coddling plants. And of course I don’t believe in any chemical pesticides or fungicides.

But I love roses–and for awhile I thought that I wouldn’t be able to grow any. Then I found the shrub roses that at least resisted the need to be winter protected. My earliest ones weren’t exactly “easy care” in the sense that they didn’t get insects or disease that disfigured them–but they came roaring right back after infestation, grew less than 2′ from the road (in that same bed with the lilac I posted about last week–they too withstood snowplow damage!) and can withstand they heavy wet snow that the snowplows throw at them all winter along. What more could I want?

A lot actually. There are some trademarked roses that do even more. You see one of my favorites, above, along with a couple of new ones that I’m testing under some extreme conditions this summer. I’ll talk about each individually over the next month (as well as the practice of “trademarking” roses and what that means for gardeners, generally).

I’ll be lecturing again in August, again on Easy Care Roses, down in North Stonington. I’ll be bringing these same roses (I hope). That will be the ultimate test. If a rose can survive in a container and look good all summer, that means it really is “easy care.” We’ll see.

What Kind of Gardener Are You? (Part 1)

A recent trip to visit my Mom in Southern New Jersey has provoked these two posts (today’s and Monday’s).  Mom will readily admit she’s not much of a gardener.

And her conditions are not the best either.  She gardens on sand on the edge of the pine barrens.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like plants and flowers.  What she doesn’t like is anything to do with them.  She just likes to look at the from inside the windows of her home.

So short of planting the “indestructible” (i.e. plastic) plants that some folks have resorted to, my sister and I have tried to come up with some fool-proof solutions for her.  Some have worked better than others.

Despite the climate and location, hydrangeas are a no-go.  This is not Cape Cod. I’ve seen more hydrangeas die than I care to think of, even the so-called indestructible ones like Endless Summer.  It’s painful.

And it’s not for lack of good coaching about compost, soaker hoses and mulch.  She does have an unfortunate addiction to that dyed mulch but I doubt that alone is killing there.  There’d be a lot more dead hydrangeas out there if that were the case.

One spectacular success has been heuchera.  Quite frankly, I wish my heuchera grew this beautifully. She even had an invasion of cicadas that feasted on one this summer and it still came roaring back.

Her geranium always puts anything I try to do to shame–far more sun and heat (which they adore) than I can give mine.

And she can grow crape myrtle.  I have zone envy over that.  But of course she envies my hydrangeas.  So I guess it’s all even.

What I’m getting at here is that it really helps to know, before you go spending time, money and effort plunking plants willy nilly into the ground every year, what sort of gardener you are and what your conditions are.

Are you like my Mom? Really hands off, so much so that the extent of your involvement with the landscape might be turning on a soaker hose or watering a container?  Notice the “lawn?”  It’s stones.

Are you like me with my 100+ houseplants because I can’t bear to be separated from the garden during the non-growing season.

Ideally you’re somewhere in between and you know–even roughly–where you fall.  It will save you time, money and heartbreak just knowing that one fact.

Putting the Garden To Bed

Last week I mentioned “Putting the Garden to Bed.”   As with so many things in gardening, this too has changed considerably, even over the years that I’ve been doing it and speaking about it.

Unfortunately, in many neighborhoods, this information hasn’t filtered down to folks–or to the lawn care companies.  But our neighbors to the west in New York state have taken on a new initiative with respect to leaves called “Love “Em & Leave “Em” or “Leave Leaves Alone” that keeps leaves out of landfills and municipal yards and saves towns tens of thousands in manpower because the leaves are not picked up curbside.  Even better, because the leaves are “mulched in place” on the homeowner’s property, fossil fuel (the $4.00+ gallon gasoline or diesel) is saved by not driving those trucks to get the leaves.  It’s already the law in Scarsdale and Irvington NY and it’s suggested practice in all of Westchester County, NY,  Ohio, and the Bay area of California.

It’s certainly not a carbon neutral program: the homeowner or landscape company still will most likely be using gasoline to mulch the leaves.  But it’s a far better program for the Earth and the individual yard because mulching the leaves on the lawn–or mulching them in the bagging part of the lawnmower and spreading them in the garden beds–will help improve soil fertility without any extra work on the homeowner’s part (other than running the mower, which one would most likely do this time of year anyway).

If one were not running a mower, one would be running a leaf blower (as far too many of my neighbors already are in the quest for perfection).

Other sustainable practices include

  • not cutting back ornamental grasses until springtime (but cutting off the tips, or seedheads so that they do not self-sow, if that has been a problem for you) so that they provide cover and shelter for the birds–and so that you can enjoy their beauty in winter
  • leaving stems of sturdy perennials standing throughout winter to provide structure and interest in the garden (but do not leave any diseased stems to over-winter)
  • leaving stems of perennials with seedheads like echinacea and rudbeckia standing to provide interest and to feed the birds
  • leave stems of wildflowers like woodland asters in place if you want them to self-sow
  • do not worry about winter protection for any hardy (shrub or floribunda) roses in zones 6 or higher.  Hybrid teas and grandifloras will still need winter protection and the base–but mulch with about a foot of new mulch only.  That way, it will be available to you for spring mulching
  • don’t cut back rose canes–it’s not necessary, and with our uneven winters, it may only promote new growth
  • prune in the spring, not in the fall for the same reason.  Prune early spring bloomers right after flowering.

Many of these practices are the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing for years–but with the crazy weather and 70 degree January days, this is the way to get the garden safely through the winter and to another spring to enjoy!

Why Are Gardeners So Skeptical?

A reply I made last week to a commenter on one of my posts has prompted this post.  At the time I was responding to a comment she made about Proven Winners and Proven Selections.  We both find them to be, for the most part, exactly what they advertise.

I went on the say that a certain segment of the garden writing and speaking crowd that I’ve encountered scoffs at this particular grower/vendor.  Perhaps it’s the name they don’t like.  Perhaps it’s the whole concept of patented plants.  But I do know that as I travel around I have heard more than my fair share of derision directed at this one company.

I’m not sure that’s a fair criticism.  As I said in my comment, not everything I’ve grown by this company has been an absolute winner–but then again, I think about how many dud plants I’ve grown in my lifetime that had no one’s name on the side of a pot.  It’s sure a heck of a lot more than the few duds I’ve had from Proven Winners.

So perhaps they’re just an easy target with that catchy name.  And perhaps it’s just easy to scoff at someone in large commercial production–although if you know anything about the company, you’ll know that they are not a large company in and of themselves.

In fairness, I will disclose that I do receive shrubs to test from Proven Winners–but I must tell you, I also receive an awful lot of things to test that you never hear a word about on this blog because I don’t think they’re worthy of it.  I don’t make my living trashing people’s products.

If someone is kind enough to send me something to test and I find it doesn’t work for me, I’m not going to write a scathing critique of it here.  Because for all I know, it might work just fine for other folks.  I have a really difficult site and difficult conditions and I’m sure not going to be responsible for saying that because it didn’t work for me, it won’t work for everyone.

So if you do hear an offhand dismissal of that company called Proven Winners, maybe you shouldn’t necessarily take it to heart unless that has been your personal experience–because I can assure you, in my experience, the vast majority of their annuals, perennials, shrubs and roses are indeed “winners!”

Wordless Wednesday–Pretty in Pink

For those of you who think that “Proven Winners” don’t always live up to expectations, it’s time to change your thinking.

This is hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit™ (hydrangea arborescens ‘NCHA1’) paired with  Oso Happy  Candy Oh! (Rosa ‘ZieMartinCipar’).

I received both of these shrubs courtesy of Proven Winners™ and I confess Invincibelle Spirit™ was a bit of a slow starter.  But it has come along beautifully, and simply by happy accident (no pun intended) I happened to pair it with this landscape rose.

All 3 of the landscape rose on the OsoEasy™/Oso Happy™ line that I have received have so far exceeded my expectation that I cannot recommend them highly enough.  They are disease and pest free, they flourish in part sun and they have established themselves with very little supplemental water.  I would not be surprised to see them become part of the Earth Kind series of roses in the future (because as regular readers know, I give my plants very tough love and no supplemental fertilizers, particularly of the chemical kind!)

I have seen this line in garden centers.  I highly recommend it.

Wordless Wednesday–Midsummer Splendor

The “wildlife garden” as I call it is in full bloom.  Down in front, black-eyed susans and aesclepias (milkweed) species, to the right, a Knockout™ rose with veronicastrum, to the left, coneflowers and hydrangea.

A close-up of some of the plants.  To the back is Black Lace elderberry.

What’s new in this photo are the phlox, the butterfly bush and the tiny little native aster (not blooming yet) coming up in front of the hydrangea.  It’s all stems and leaves right now.  It’s symphotrichon ericoides, or the heath aster.

Look closely! This is not a bee, but a pollinator that resembles one.  It’s a fly masquerading as a bee, but a pollinator nonetheless.  This is one of the syrphid flies, eristalis arbustorum.