going back to my rose basics

I was out in the garden again this afternoon.

Remember what I said about patience in the garden this morning? I have lost patience with a David Austin rose I planted a few years ago. But it has been plagued by black spot and borers and I think it’s time for it to go.

I got to thinking about the old forms of roses I used to grow years ago. Many of them are very hardy and disease resistant. They are just hard to find.

I decided I want rugosas. People think of them as beach roses. You can see them all over, especially New England. They are salt resistant and wind resistant and winter hardy.

Now they are among the thorniest of roses and I might well curse them vigorously as they grow BUT hey, they are also naturally vigorously disease resistant (less chemicals yay!)

The prickliness of rugosa roses makes them deer resistant yet friendly to birds and small wildlife.

Rugosa roses are also known for their magnificent rose hips. And people make jam from them.

Rugosas also have smaller, more wrinkled and almost leather-like leaves. Native to the coasts of Japan and Korea, I have decided they would fit with some of my other Asian lineage plants in this garden.

I decided to go to Heirloom Roses for rugosas. They are located in Oregon. I ordered from them years ago. I don’t think the company is owned by the same people any longer, so I will hope for the best. I also like Antique Rose Emporium.

Heirloom Roses is a favorite of Fine Gardening Magazine based upon this article. They sell own root roses, which is what I prefer now having run into problems with grafted roses. I have rambling rootstock that still pops up.

I have bought a white rugosa I owned years ago, Blanc Double de Coubert. The second one is Bayse’s Purple Rose.

Hopefully these roses won’t test my patience. And just as life often comes full circle, so apparently do plants in my gardens.

to garden, you need patience and to just try, not a crystal ball

I run a large gardening group. I founded it, I created it, I nurture it. But it means there are a lot of people and a lot of different personalities.

As someone who is often short on patience when it comes to human beings, that can be difficult for me. Sometimes when you are trying to articulate a point, because it is social media, people think I and others are being short when what we are doing is answering the question. Sometimes, people don’t like the answer to the questions they ask.

Gardening is a long game. It’s not a short game. There are no magic pills, potions, answers. It’s nature and patience.

You don’t need a crystal ball, you aren’t going to get a gardening crystal ball. You need patience. And knowledge.

Gardeners by nature are helpful people who like to share their knowledge. But the knowledge of a true gardener is gained because they have done the work. They have done the heavy lifting. Reading, learning, trial and error in our own gardens.

Patience is something I have had to learn while gardening. I am not patient all of the time. I am not even patient all the time in my own garden. I have grown impatient with things and ripped plants out and moved them and changed things up. At the end of the day, sometimes that’s all you can do. But for the most part, the majority of the time, I have learned to see the long game of having a garden. Even when it drives me absolutely crazy and I want another result immediately.

Some years are better than others. Last year was incredibly wet, and as a result, entering this gardening season I have plants I lost. I have new tree work that has to be done. I am still not sure what survived in the perennial department, versus what is toast. It’s part and parcel of having a garden. And I don’t say that lightly, because two of the things I lost between the wet of 2018 and the spring of 2019 were favorite roses- two David Austin Abraham Darbys.

But sometimes what I find is trying to explain to people gardening is a long game, they don’t want to really play the long game. They want the instant gratification game. I’m sure you can achieve that, if you have other people to do your gardening for you. If that is how you view gardening, that’s fine, but that is not my view.

People always ask how you get rid of thing sometimes like weeds. There is no magic bullet. I am still trying to eradicate the bishops weed from our property, for example. Every year it’s pulling and digging. There is no other way. Well, you can drop a nuclear bomb of herbicides on your garden but don’t expect other things to live.

And by herbicides, I also count in the homemade remedies that include vinegar which are harmful to humans, nature, domestic pets and so on. Those remedies aren’t organic, they’re caustic. In the garden where I am impatient, it includes these homemade remedies for everything under the sun.

Occasionally there are things, that are old wives tales that are actually helpful – like keeping aphids down by throwing your gray water (dishwater from the sink) out into the garden. Of course that works because gray water has the dish soap in it that is diluted enough that it doesn’t hurt your plants. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t take water out of my dishwasher before it drained after washing my dishes because dishwasher soap is more caustic.

Or critters. People get frustrated by them. Like deer. It is possible to manage deer in your garden and have a garden. There are several organic-based products out there that you can spray and sprinkle in your garden that won’t harm pets, children, other wildlife, or the deer. You can plant plants they don’t like, but every gardener knows if they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. I have a couple products I like to use and I alternate them. And I use them on a schedule. (Plantskydd and Deer Out.)

I find some of the other critters harder to deal with but I just try. I will fill holes in tunnels with gravel. I do not use things that will poison other wildlife or domestic animals or humans. And when you put out poisonous baits you have to think about where that bait can travel. If someone in your neighborhood puts out mouse or pest poison, the critter might not expire on their property. What if it travels to your property and your cat or dog plays with it? They can get poisoned from that and die before you even know what is wrong.

So again, patience comes into play. And also don’t remove those garter snakes from your garden. Don’t start feeding foxes people food and pet food. Both of those creatures are natural critter control. Work with nature. Sometimes it takes longer, but I think it’s a better way to be.

Other times people need to come up with a plan before they remove things from their garden. They might not like a certain plant, for example, but perhaps it is performing a service in the garden, like keeping the soil stable. That is why I always encourage people to do a little research on their own. More experienced gardeners can always provide information, and we’re glad to do it, but part of learning to garden is the learning component.

And with gardening you learn by doing. Part of the doing includes your own research. Books, magazines, Pinterest, walking around other people’s gardens to see how they’re doing it. It’s not just crowdsourcing. If you don’t try to do some of the learning you will never learn. I am not being mean by saying that. Gardening is tactile. It is a form of Kinesthetic learning. Hands on experience, literally.

And that is the other thing about gardening. It can bring you the greatest of pleasure. It is so rewarding to be able to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. It’s good for your head, literally. When you garden, you do things like reduce your stress, anxiety, counteract depression. There is this tremendous satisfaction of something you have done yourself. It’s literally therapeutic. Gardening is positive.

Gardening is one of the best things I think you can do for yourself. And that’s hard to articulate to people at times. But the benefits of gardening are in the doing. Gardening groups can offer you all sorts of advice and plant ideas, but at the end of the day best thing you can do is get out there and try. So go dig in the dirt a little today before it rains. You’ll be glad you did.

sunday morning in the garden

This morning I planted out my Hatch green and red chiles into trays. They are showing some real leaves, so it was time. They are still inside under a grow light. Hopefully just after Mother’s Day I will be able to set them out.

Mother’s Day seems to be the magic expiration date of frosty overnights here in Chester County. I am itching to plant, but I know I pretty much have to wait.

I also found the pink swamp milkweed seeds my friend Meredith gave me. I am starting those in trays under grow lights. I will eventually plant out as many plants of those as I can get. Pollinators and butterflies love them.

I gave my David Austin Generous Gardener climbing rose a good prune recently. I took out diseased, dying, and dead canes. I also took out crossing ones to open up the rose and it has rewarded me by sending out loads of leaf buds. The clematis which grows in this climbing rose also got cleaned up and is sending out new growth as well.

Both of my tree peonies are also showing wonderful new growth. They were presents from my friend Dr. Foo who grows the most amazing array of tree peonies in his gardens. Some of my other peonies are starting to stick their heads out as well. I planted a lot of peonies in the fall bare root. I am anxiously awaiting their emergence from the ground. I do not expect them to necessarily bloom because I have learned that peonies planted bare root need a couple of years to mature before they really start to bloom.

I have had casualties in the garden, however. RIP to one of my David Austin Abraham Darby roses. I had two but the wet summer last year bought borers and other things to my roses, making it a very difficult rose season last year.

I was going to throw both Abraham Darby’s away but one in spite of the borer damage sent out a couple of new shoots so I cut it back and moved it. I have this one little corner of the garden that is like a rose infirmary. There are no positions of prominence, so I just plunked it in the ground and perhaps it’s a little Darwin survival of the fittest, but it will either live or die. Much like my John F. Kennedy hybrid tea. Borers are a problem in this garden, and I will be more dedicated with insecticide drenches this year. As a cancer survivor I don’t like to use chemicals but sometimes I just have to. I have a lot of time, money, and sweat equity invested.

I will be planting two new bare root roses soon when they arrive, so I will just try again. I haven’t quite decided where they will go, but I will by the time they arrive.

Soon my other plant orders will be arriving. I am adding more native species. I am also adding a couple of more witch hazels. Red ones!

I also am happy to note that my camellia made it thorough the winter and the flower buds are growing nicely. The one I have was started at Morris Arboretum and is called “Balustrade“. It was grown to be winter hardy and so far so good!

Other things blooming now include hellebores. I never planted them much before this garden, but my friends at Applied Climatoloy (they sell at the West Chester Growers Market) convinced me to go outside of my comfort zone and plant a bunch and well…they were right! The last photo in this post is one that is such a deep purple it is almost black.

Yesterday I went and looked at a friend’s garden to help her kick around ideas of how she can plant it and make her ideal garden come to life. She has a bunch of terrific foundation plantings already and basically, it’s softening the edges one bed at a time to give her what she desires.

Sometimes it is hard to envision HOW to get to where you want to be. That is why I think things like Pinterest are a great resource. Pinterest is loaded with photos of gardens and even ideas. I have a great collection of gardening books, but not everyone does, so Pinterest should not be overlooked.

The other thing is simple- when you bring plants home, place them out in your beds before planting and don’t be afraid to move the pots around. I don’t like even numbers, I arrange and plant things in groupings of odd numbers. I use my imagination to see how I want things to look eventually. But because gardens evolve and grow, I move plenty of stuff around when I realize I have a better spot for whatever it is.

I will close with a great source for garden inspiration is Monty Don’s Gardener’s World on BBC. If you stream BritBox on Amazon Prime you will find the current season.

It’s a beautiful day today. Put on some sunscreen and putter around in the garden!

r.i.p. geoff partridge

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Geoff Partridge in 2017 with his beloved fiancée Jill Turanski. Family photo.

Rest in peace, Geoff Partridge.  May your memory always be a blessing.  You are at peace.

This is the post I hoped I would not have to write. It’s a story that is so hard to write. Last night came the news that a fisherman had found a male body in the Schuylkill River. I think if I am honest with myself, I had a sinking suspicion officials would say it was him because of where he was found compared to the proximity of where he disappeared.

When I first learned of Geoff Partridge being missing in December I did not at first realize that I knew his mother, Holly Morrison.  She and I share some very dear friends.  When you meet people as adults at a certain stage of your life you often do not realize who the kids are because they are grown-up and on their own.  Our mutual friends include those wonderful men who tirelessly searched the river by boat for Geoff.

I have been sitting with this news for a few hours at this point.  When Holly’s and my mutual friend Karen and I spoke I was speechless on the phone.  Then when I got off the phone I cried. Again, I did not know him personally but I cried. For his family, for his friends, for his life light burnt out too soon.  And for some reason bits of the Coldplay song Fix You wouldn’t leave my head.  I don’t know why that song.  I do not even know what kind of music Geoff liked.

One of the last lines of the song… Lights will guide you home.   I guess it was time for Geoff to come home for his loved ones to have closure.

Vinny Vella from the Philadelphia Inquirer was the kind reporter who wrote an article in December when Geoff was first missing.  We turned to him then because it was hard to get coverage of Geoff going missing when it happened, and he was amenable to telling Geoff’s story.  So we turned to him today again as soon as Holly and our friends knew for certain the man found in the river was indeed her son.  Here is what he wrote a little while ago:

Villanova man, missing since December, found dead in Schuylkill, police say
by Vinny Vella Philadelphia Inquirer

Vinny Vella | @Vellastrations | vvella@phillynews.com

Geoffrey Partridge, 36, was found dead in the Schuylkill late Thursday, almost exactly four months after his SUV was found, abandoned, on one of the river’s banks.

A fisherman discovered Partridge’s body about 6:30 p.m. in the water along River Road near Hollow Road in Gladwyne…Partridge’s cause of death was ruled to be drowning, and its manner was ruled to be a suicide, according to a spokesperson for the coroner’s office.

Holly Morrison, Partridge’s mother, said in a brief interview Friday that her “heart is broken” and she and her family were struggling to process the news.

We’re not supposed to bury our children.  My heart is so heavy for her, Geoff’s fiancée Jill, and their family and friends.  Geoff and Jill shared 15 years together. When Holly and I swapped text messages a little while ago she told me she is at such a loss for words and is devastated.

I see that Jill has posted on the Geoff Partridge page on Facebook.  I will share her words:

gp

 

In January of this year, Jill also said:

gp2

I totally teared up the first time I read what she wrote in January, and again today.  There are people who are brilliant and too brief lights in our lives.  Geoff Partridge meant so much to so many.

I am not going to speculate on what happened that fateful evening he disappeared.  As it has been reported, Geoff had bipolar depression and Lyme disease.  Ok that right there is a toxic and exhausting scenario.  And people do not take seriously enough the neurological impacts of Lyme as well as the more obvious symptoms, including pain.

And if you have ever had friends who suffered from any form of depression, it’s a complicated thing to live with.  And I think it’s harder on men because in our society the traditional roles of men being stoic and strong and not expressing how they feel as readily as women makes it harder. It’s the whole boys don’t cry.

My friends tell me how lovely a person Geoff Partridge was. He loved and was loved in return.  I don’t know what else to write.  I am at a loss here as I feel the sadness of this news today quite profoundly. Part of this is just me as a cancer survivor – death hits me differently now. Also as a parent, this hits me hard.

Ar dheas Dé go raibh a anam. (May his soul be on God’s right hand.)

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family photo

 

 

bloombox: garden plants hand delivered straight from the source to you.

I love my plants. I love to garden. So now is the time when I start accumulating what I am going to plant.

Recently I became acquainted with two gentlemen from Lancaster, PA. David and Chase have this business called BloomBox.

This is an independent small business and the model is simple: great plants, reasonably priced delivered to your door. And by delivered, I mean hand-delivered. Not packed in the shipping box and sent FedEx or USPS or UPS. Delivered as in the grower comes to you.

This morning I decided to place a small order. I need to get my herbs, perennials and some of my bedding plants sorted. Herbs especially are something I buy a great deal of because my garden is in part a cottage garden. So I mix a lot of herbs in with my perennials and shrubs and trees and bulbs.

Much to my delight, after placing my order around eight something this morning, there was a knock at my door. And there was David co-owner of BloomBox with my plants!

My plants were in beautiful condition and exactly what I ordered and exactly what I expected. They also gave me a beautiful little Primrose to plant as a gift. They do that with all their customers.

David and I spoke for a brief time and I will be ordering from him again. To me this is an extension of shop local. And right now orders over $45 are delivered for free. Their delivery area is fairly wide but you still have to check your ZIP Code to make sure they serve you before you place an order.

They are not certified organic, but they are clean growers so in my opinion they don’t have to be certified organic. I know how they’re growing and what they’re doing.

Give BloomBox a try! I will also note that I am not a compensated blogger, and I have not been compensated for my opinion here in anyway. I am a new customer of the business and I am impressed so I am sharing this with all of you.

BloomBox checks all of the boxes: quality, value, customer service.

I will note that I am not going to directly put all of these into the ground just yet because it is still a little early. I will be bringing my plants into the garage and covering them outside with landscape fabric until it is warm enough.

Spring is here, so go dig in the dirt!