Rose Week–Easy Care Roses

I’ll be lecturing to the Southbury [CT] Garden Club later this week on Easy Care roses (yes there are such things!) so I thought I might as well make this Rose Week on Gardendaze as well.

To my mind, the first of the so-called easy care roses began with a series of trademarked roses called Flower Carpet.  They’re still sold in many places and they are sold in pink pots if that brings back any memories for any of you.

These were originally sold to be groundcover roses but there are two problems with this–for one thing, roses don’t make great ground covers–their foliage is just not dense enough, and this series of roses in particular case not “easy care” enough–or perhaps it wasn’t disease resistant enough.  It was still susceptible to the usual black spot and rust and fungal diseases which traditional roses get. Therefore, it can and will get defoliated, meaning it’s really not going to be a good groundcover rose!

In fact, up until 2000, with the introduction of Knockout™ the world didn’t really have what we’d call a true “easy care” rose.  There were some “old” roses that were fairly easy to care for depending on your climate, and some of the floribundas and grandifloras, if sited properly, were also fairly insect and pest resistant, but no one had ever seen anything like Knockout.  It just doesn’t get  blackspot.  And those nasty little rose sawfly larva–they don’t bother with them either.  It’s a delightful rose.  I’ll profile it and its progeny on Thursday.

Since then, other growers have tried to compete with Knockout’s success by introducing either trademarked series of roses or programs of roses that need  no supplemental irrigation and no pesticides.  I’ll talk about those as well.


Sadly, most of these newer “bullet-proof” roses have no scent.  For scent, I still like to rely on my tried and true David Austin™ roses.  They too have proven to be relatively “bullet-proof.”  Yes, they do tend to get blackspot now and again but the fault at least it partly mine because I have crowded them into too small a space, therefore not allowing adequate ventilation space between them.

David Austin rose ‘Heritage’

They also do tend to get that nasty little rose pest, the larva of the sawfly, but I just spray it off with the hose if it gets too severe.  I am willing to tolerate imperfect leaves.

David Austin rose ‘Abraham Darby’

And they do have that beautiful old-fashioned cottage rose look that I adore.  You can’t get that from any of the newer roses.  So for that, I will put up with a few inconveniences.

Garden Blogger’s Muse Day

A SEPAL, petal, and a thorn

Upon a common summer’s morn,

A flash of dew, a bee or two,

A breeze

A caper in the trees,—

And I’m a rose!

Emily Dickenson

I’ve downloaded Sustainable Rose Garden : A Reader in Rose Culture to my Kindle and while I am not all that impressed with the content of the book, I was delighted to find a few of Emily Dickenson’s poems about roses there.  This was the only one that I felt was light-hearted enough to be included for this month.  As the poems progress, the become increasingly centered on death.  Perhaps those will be more suitable for an October or November post.  But with so much of summer left, I wanted a rose poem with a lighter feel.


Shanley, Pat (2011). Sustainable Rose Garden: A Reader in Rose Culture (Kindle Locations 801-804). Casemate Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A Great Landscape Rose

That mass of delicate hot pink flowers you see ringing the garden belong to that new Proven Winners landscape rose I mentioned last week, Oso Happy™ Candy Oh!  Technically, its full name is  Rosa ‘ ZieMartinCipar’ Oso Happy™ Candy Oh! but let’s not get too technical here–after all, plants can’t read, and they sure can’t speak the complicated language of plant patents!

You might notice, in front of Candy Oh! as I’ll call it for short, that bunch of white perlite?  that’s where the 2 new plants of Oso Easy™ Honey Bun are planted–the two new plants I talked about last week (again, technically Rosa ‘Scrivjean’ Oso Easy™ Honey Bun).  They had a few lovely creamy gold flowers on them when they arrived–and I have no doubt they’ll be blooming again shortly.

Candy Oh! on the other hand, has just started to bloom and is covered with sprays of buds.  I have no doubt that it will be in bloom for the majority of the summer–you’ve got to love a plant like that!

The flowers are small–about the size of a quarter–and single as you can see by the photo.  As you may have noticed from my other rose garden, I am a fan of the David Austin™ roses–huge, overblown, fully double roses that have a hundred petals or more.

But I also have the original Knockout™ rose in my garden and I just put Home Run™ in this year because easy care roses that flower forever with bright color can’t be beat.  Both those roses are single, 5-petalled flowers–so I’m not a snob about having only english-style roses in my garden.

Let’s face it–don’t we all want what works in the garden?

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Tansy (tanacetum partheneum–if they haven’t changed it again!  The fern leaf variety.  I also grow aurea, the golden leafed variety, which is a little less likely to self-sow).  Notice the lovely little bee enjoying all those flowers!

I once saw a garden blogger describe this plant as “Endless Disappointment.” Perhaps she’s in the wrong climate for it.  In my climate it begins blooming in June and doesn’t finish until October.  What’s not to like?  This is a one year old plant.

And this is a six year old plant.  And while the trademark name is Endless Summer, it’s correct name is hydrangea macrophylla‘bailmer.’ If you care.

Hard to decide if this should be in today’s or tomorrow’ post.  But the pretty yellow flowers won out.  This is an interesting plant–it started out a full 15′ away from where it would up!  I guess it preferred the growing conditions on the other side of the garden!  I’ve had it maybe 10 years and that’s how long its migration took.  I’m not aware of st. johns wort really being known for that sort of thing–but there you have it!

You’ll read more about this rose on Friday–but this fabulous little rose just blooms its heart out all summer long for me!

I do some variation on  this theme every year in this “cup” planter that I found in Wal-Mart many years ago. I try to get the colors to match the planter but not too exactly.  The plants are a non-stop begonia, a torenia, a calibrachoa and a red dracena.

This year I also did a “hummingbird” planter.  I like to draw hummingbirds with plants rather than with sugar water because plants–at least for me–are easier to maintain than a hummingbird feeder.

Because this planter only gets about 2 hours of sun in the late afternoon, I couldn’t use the traditional hummingbird sun plants.  So only the fuchsia will actually have nectar for the little birds.  But that’s okay–I have lots of nectar plant in my yard, some very nearby.  I just wanted them to notice the planter–and I wanted some color for a very drab spot!

Ways of Seeing

For my 400th post, building on what I was thinking yesterday, I was thinking about the garden.  This time of year, the garden seems so perfect.  So much is in bloom, and this garden, because it is right by the road, attracts a lot of attention, comment and compliments.  As the gardener, you’d think I’d be pleased, wouldn’t you?  But no!

Instead, this is what I see: chives that need deadheading.

Irises with more dead than alive.

What I should look at instead are all these hydrangea buds–promise of all the flowers yet to come!

The same with these echinacea buds–food for wildlife and color for the garden!

And finally, perhaps one of the nicest things of all–Black Lace elderberry (sambucus nigra) without a hint of the borer, after I gave it a hard pruning as was suggested by those nice folks at Proven Winners.  It’s got buds and flowers on it too–quite a lovely gift to both me and the wildlife!

What’s Wrong With My Rose Leaves?

Got some rose leaves that look like this?  Then you have the larva of the rose sawfly munching on them.  In fact, if you look closely in this picture, you can see two little larvae munching on the surface of this leaf–a larger one on the leaf segment that is closest to the piece of leaf where it was attached to the stem and the smaller one on the next piece above it.  They look like translucent green caterpillars.

What is important to know is that they are not caterpillars, however so do not try to treat them with neem oil–it will be completely ineffective.  Something nice and benign like insecticidal soap will work fine–just remember to spray early in the morning before the heat of the day or later in the evening.

What is also important to know is that it is rare to find these little guys on the surface of the leaf–they are usually on the undersides where that lovely translucent green color makes them almost invisible (and keeps them safe from birds and other predators). So if you are using a spray, you’ll want to be sure to get at the undersides of the leave where they usually hide.

Finally, the way I usually manage my infestations (even in these dreadfully wet years) is to use a good spray from the garden hose.  It knocks them all off without using any pesticides, organic or otherwise.  But especially in these wet years, I try to spray in the morning on an (ideally) sunny day so the foliage has time to dry to minimize disease.

The rose sawfly actually looks like a smallish bee and is otherwise benign–but the mess its larva can make of your rose leaves is pretty intense.  So you may want to keep this pest in check before it does its damage!

A Gardener’s Thanksgiving

Last week, the National Gardening Bureau sent a list of its Top 10 reasons to be thankful this year.  I was touched that they included garden writers and bloggers.

That led me to think about doing my own “Top 10” reasons to be thankful at the close of this gardening season.

10. I’m thankful that I live in a place where there are seasons so I have some down time to rest, dream and plan for the next year.

9. I’m thankful for a season unlike last year, which was too wet, cold and dreary to grow much of anything!

8. I’m thankful for the wildlife that graces my yard year-round so there’s always something to keep me interested and engaged.

7. I’m thankful for the gifts of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, which are much more vibrant in the colder months.

6. I too am thankful for the garden writers, bloggers and photographers who provide so much inspiration–and do it so creatively!

5. I’m thankful that the publishing industry continues to publish quality magazines and books to give those writers and photographers a place to be heard.

4. I’m thankful that there still are some independent retail garden centers to provide unusual plant offerings and niche materials that the larger retailers cannot.

3. I’m thankful that the larger retailers can provide quality plant materials to the public at reasonable prices.

2. I’m thankful that the plant breeders and growers keep making more and better choices available to these retailers–and to me–every year.

1. And finally, most of all, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to garden for another year, and pray that I will be able to do so for many years to come!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!



Sustainable Garden Clean-up

On Tuesday I posted about the traditional garden clean-up–done mostly by the “mow and blow” guys and by homeowners who are still gardening the old fashioned way, not realizing there is an easier way.

Over the last few years the gardening community has come to realize that fall clean-up is largely a waste, and partly destructive as well.  It destroys habitat for overwintering insects, butterfly larva and otherwise beneficial insects, it creates more work than it needs to in moving and destroying tons of leaves with fossil fuels when those leaves could be put to good use enriching our gardens, and it is largely duplicative–the same clean-up at least in part needs to be done in the spring as well.

Savvy and eco-friendly gardeners also leave many of their non-diseased perennials standing for the winter.  They realize that this creates winter interest for the garden, in some cases it provides seed heads for the birds, and it also in some cases protects the crowns of more delicate perennials so that they do not freeze as easily.

A few years ago, Henry Homeyer, writing in the now defunct People, Places and Plants, went so far as to suggest that annuals should not be removed from the soil each fall; rather they should be severed at the soil line with a blade.  I’ve been trying this approach over the past few years and it seems to be a good one.  I find that when I uproot the annuals it loosens my soil and in so doing, creates fluffy soil that blows right to the curb when “the Spoiler” goes after the leaves with our 10 hp leaf blower (I know–do as I say, not as I do.  We do compost an amazing number of leaves but we cannot compost everything).

Composting leaves–or better yet, mowing over them with a mower and putting the shredded leaves in your garden beds–is about the best thing you can do for the garden.  Whether you compost them and use the compost or whether you use the leaf mould (that’s the “technical term” for the mown up leaves) enriches the soil without resorting to imported mulch.  It saves you time, money and the problems that imported mulch can cause: insects and fungus among them (and we won’t go into the other less environmentally friendly issues like where it was transported from and how much fossil fuel was used, whether it was made from environmentally friendly sources or something un-sustainable like cypress, whether it was carrying the eggs of invasive species or artillary fungus–mulch can be a hotbed of problems!)

Just like in traditional garden clean-up, you will still remove weed seeds and diseased leaves–but that’s about all there is to it.  This is a much easier approach for both the garden and the gardener!