roses thrive on a routine 2.0

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In the 1990s I submitted two articles to the American Rose Society.   But when they changed their website from  ars.org to  rose.org, my articles got lost.  I still have the old link to one of the articles, but it goes nowhere. So I decided that twenty plus years later it was time to update one of my articles for the way I garden today.

Call it Roses Thrive on Routine 2.0 .

I am now a zone 6A rose enthusiast. Sometimes on some websites, I pop up as a 6B. I used live in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the “Main Line”. Now I live in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

I planted my first rose bush with my father and paternal grandfather when I was fairly little. The rose bush was a Hybrid Tea called John F. Kennedy (my late father’s favorite rose and still one of the most majestic white hybrid tea roses when you can find it), and I have been in love with roses ever since.

My roses used to be my ultimate garden obsession as well as my favorite garden element.  They still are a favorite, but as I have grown as a gardener and as my gardens have changed over the years, they have become part of the garden, but not the center of the garden as they used to be.  Some years are better than others growing them. That is just the way it is, as it is for other plants in my garden.

When I wrote the article my garden was my parents’ garden.  I planted and maintained that garden based upon what my mother preferred, which generally speaking was white and pale flowers, à la Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville-West’s garden in the UK.  (Who was Vita Sackville-West? She was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer who lived between 1892 and 1962.)

In my opinion, routines work as well in the garden as they do in the house. I have
a few basics that would be my pleasure to share.  I have updated this for my current best practices.

Once you have established a routine in the garden for your roses, you will not be able to imagine how you could live without a rose or two. When I first wrote this article my then garden has 51 rose bushes.  Today I have around ten, depending on what made it through the winter.

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Rose Basics:

I believe in good mulch for my roses. Back then I used to only use licorice root and cocoa hulls (please note that cocoa hulls can grow a fuzzy layer of mold when it is damp, which is unsightly, but has never harmed my plants), or buckwheat hulls mulch. If I couldn’t get licorice root, I looked for a good triple-shredded mulch.  I lived on the Main Line and I not have a garden half in the woods so today I used two things predominantly: wood chips my arborists chip down from my own hardwood trees and shredded and not shredded leaf mulch.  Thanks to listening to Jenny Rose Carey at a lecture last spring I discovered the fun of having a leaf shredder. The one I purchased is by Worx and is rated number 1 in reviews and is very reasonable in price.

Worx 6.8 in. 13 Amp 2 HP Leaf Mulcher

Worx brand leaf shredder

I still mulch twice a year: in the spring for the growing season, and in late fall to provide a winter blanket. In the spring, I USED to remove as much as possible of the old mulch from the winter and previous summer, and apply approximately one-and-one-half to two inches of mulch everywhere.  As what I am using now (hardwood chips and shredded leaf mulch) enriches my soil and breaks down beautifully, I no longer have to remove my old mulch.

And if you buy triple shredded mulch from someone , for God’s sake do NOT use COLORED mulch. That dyed stuff is awful.  It doesn’t break down properly and the dye will get on your hands and feet and clothes as you garden and on your pet’s paws, babies’ feet and so on. I also no longer use the cocoa mulch ever because dogs eat it and as that is what chocolate comes from and chocolate is poisonous to dogs, I have erred on the side of caution.  Besides the fuzzy mold that would grow got to be a bit gross.

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I want my roses to breathe, so there is an approximately five-inch magic circle from the base of my rose that only has a peat moss “jacket” (a jacket to me is peat moss only), but no mulch. In the late fall when I apply my second mulch dressing, it merely goes over the old mulch and covers the crowns of my roses.  This is where I especially like the shredded leaf mulch now. It is light and fluffy on my flower beds. Every plant benefits, not just my roses.

13240517_1203573766322239_9023336492118724406_nAs far as my soil goes, I used to follow the same routine every year.  Now, I work any of the following ingredients into my rose and perennial beds depending on what I think is needed: peat moss, dehydrated cow manure, cottonseed meal, green sand, dried blood, bone meal, and some iron sulfate.  I also like the lobster compost, chicken manure and mushroom soil.

Lobster compost is a newer obsession. It is made with chitin and calcium-rich lobster shells, compost and peat humus. The result is a dark-brown, complex soil that drains well and is ideal for conditioning beds and borders, vegetable gardens, herbs and annuals! The stuff I buy is usually made by Coast of Maine. Coast of Maine sells great products and if you look (or ask them) they can tell you locally where to find their products or on Amazon.

Minus the peat moss, you will find most of these ingredients in their chemical form in a granular rose food. Most of these granular foods and separate ingredients can be easily located at your local garden center or hardware store. For those who feel most comfortable with a pre-mixed granular, I would still strongly recommend also including soil amendment as needed. It is always important to keep your soil happy. Happy soil equals happy rose bushes!

13263843_1204787259534223_3358881411307516787_nAfter the soil is amended when needed, I apply a weak epsom salt tea to encourage new basal growth. I am always careful to use epsom salt judiciously because it is not a good thing to build up too much of a magnesium residue over time. When magnesium is built up past the essential mineral level, it can stunt growth instead of helping boost new growth. This is why that throughout the growing season, I will give my roses and perennials and annuals a boost with Irish Organics Humic.  It is one of my favorites – it is a kelp (seaweed) and peat mixture from the bogs of Ireland. This is my friend’s product and I was a test garden early on when they were first bringing it into the US.  It is incidentally, certified organic in the US. (OMRI)

Once my roses have shown me at least one and one-half inches of new growth each spring, I dig in my granular feed. I will tell you I use a systemic granular feed that has insecticides and fungicides. I usually do this around Mother’s Day because where I live that is when the danger of frost is mostly over.

Then , I apply a little more peat moss and then my mulch. Also, whenever I have banana peels, I use them into my rose beds. Banana peels are the true junk food of roses!!! They love the boost a banana provides from potassium and other elements contained within the banana and its peel. I learned about Banana Peels from Old Wives Lore for Gardeners by Maureen and Bridget Boland.  You can still find these books on Amazon and Ebay and from other used book dealers.  They also recomeend beer for hollyhocks. It’s a fun book.

I have learned to make my old banana peels into a rose smoothie, so to speak.

I used to dig the peels in around the base of each bush, but given the critter population living with woods and farmers’ fields I have developed a rose smoothie which I dig in around the base with a small spade I use to transplant seedlings.

20140619-141544-51344382.jpgThe formula for the smoothie is I collect a bag of banana peels and keep them sealed in a plastic bag in my freezer until I use them.  Then I rough chop the peels and toss into the blender with whatever spent coffee grounds I have on hand and a couple of cups or so of very warm tap water. (I never drink flavored coffee and I would never recommend using artificially flavored coffee grounds. I don’t know how the artificial flavor chemicals would affect the plants.)

The consistency of this smoothie for rose bushes should be on the thick side , but pourable. I don’t take my blender outside I pour the goop into a plastic pitcher. I then go around to each bush and dig a few ounces in around the base of each bush. I have a standard sized blender and only a few rose bushes right now, so one batch of rose smoothie is all I need every time I do this.

I will feed my roses this concoction every two weeks until Labor Day.  Sometimes I am not so religious about this as I have a large garden, but I try my best.

As far as pruning, I have these thoughts: everyone should own a good pair

Ratchet-action pruners

of  pruners used only for their roses and own a good, basic, descriptive rose book.  I am partial to ratchet-action pruning anything these days, in addition to the bypass pruning shears.  And pruning shears are not indestructable. I have some old-school by-pass pruners I

Bypass pruners

can still get sharpened if I can find someone to do it, but the others? Like vacuum cleaners they have to be replaced every few years.

Pruning is such a visual thing to learn, and that is honestly how I learned: descriptions, photos and diagrams.  I purne from around Halloween into November, and again lightly in mid to late March when I can see what the winter damage was. And keep those pruning shears clean!

With my  roses I have also learned a lot from Monty Don, who is has several English television gardening shows including Gardeners’ World (in the US we can get this on streaming services a little bit but not all of the season), writer and speaker on horticulture.  My other main go-to source is Fine Gardening. Fine Gardening is the best U.S. based gardening magazine and buying a subscription also gets you unfettered online access to their articles and tips and so on and so forth.

I will use an old toothbrush just for the purpose of cleaning my hand held pruning shears . I mix a weak solution of bleach and very warm water in a metal bowl.  I use the toothbrush to thoroughly clean them . Then I rinse the pruners well under running water and wash them again with a little mild dish soap, rinse them again
and dry them carefully.

These gauntlet gloves are by Fir Tree. I own a pair of this brand.

Also, do not forget to invest in good gardening gloves.  When dealing with roses, average hand covering only gardening gloves won’t do.  You need gauntlet gloves. I will also note I go through a LOT of regular gardening gloves in a season. But the gauntlet gloves I bought are now into their fourth year and still in great shape.  I bought the Fir Tree brand on Amazon.  It was just dumb luck that I discovered them because until I bought their gloves, I was destrying gauntlet gloves at a rapid rate too. I should also note that the things I recomeend I buy from the companies.  I am not a compensated blog.

Now how about planting? Let me also state that I do not grow those knock out roses.  They are not roses to me.  They do not even really have a scent. I have mostly David Austin roses today plus a hybrid tea (John F. Kennedy my first rose) and a Queen Elizabeth, which is a grandiflora.

I used to plant a lot of different kinds of roses (modern and antique)  but in this garden, my favorite shapes and smells are the David Austins because they combine old roses with the new and as my space is limited on sun in this garden, I want roses I know will perform well. And an added bonus for me is that with David Austin roses I can buy own-root roses.  They are not grafted and I find that a bonus because I did have an instance where a rose died and I thought I had gotten all of the root stock out but I hadn’t and I am still getting rambling rose rootstock popping up every couple of years that I do not want and do not have room for. Own root roses are the same plant above and below the soil line.  I find it makes a better rose bush. New canes (rose branches so to speak) can be grown from the rootstock without fear of the grafted rootstock taking over.

When planting a new bush, I always dig my hole at least eighteen to twenty inches wide, and at least as deep. If the soil has a large proportion of clay, then I add
sand (or green sand), gypsum  or Chicken grit (which is insoluble stone – often granite or flint) or ground up Oyster shells, lobster compost/dehydrated manure/mushroom soil (just depends what I have on hand at the time) and peat to break it up thoroughly.

The soil around my current house had a very high clay content when I first started to plant my garden, but I know it is improving with soil amendments, judging by my toadstool barometer. Toadstools and edible mushrooms only like to grow in good, rich soil!

When planting a potted rose, as well as a bare root rose, I have what I call my
parfait theory. I visualize what a parfait looks like: layers. The bottom of my
hole has sand, peat, soil, and a couple of chopped up banana peels (Iknow that sounds confusing but I will start a rose with banana peels because I am digging a pretty big hole and they are at the very bottom, not just dug in a couple of inches around the top of the soil.)  That is the first layer. Then I alternate layers of soil and peat until I reach the halfway point and I place my potted or bare root rose in my new hole.

If planting a potted rose, I like my rose to be at the same level as it was in the pot, and if
bare root, I like my crown (looks like a knob to me) to be at soil level. If
planting a bare root rose, I am careful to make sure that the roots are supported
from underneath with enough dirt, as well as being careful not to break, stress,
or crowd the roots rather than enlarge my hole if necessary.

(Please note that if you are planting bare root, it is important to soak the roots 12 to 24 hours in a bucket of water out of the sun. I like to mix in a little liquid seaweed or whatever liquid humus I have around to that bucket of water to give a little more of a boost. )

After I have reached my “halfway parfait” point, I water the rose and the hole a
bit. I water in approximately one half of a gallon of water with seaweed extract or my Irish Organics Humic. I do this to help cut down on potential transplant
shock. The water should soak in quickly, and I finish off my parfait layers,
alternating between soil and peat moss.

My top layer is always peat moss. After the parfait is complete, I dig in about a quarter to one half a cup of a granular (or liquid) rose food in a circle around the bush, depending on the size of the bush and the directions on the package. Then I water in about another half-gallon of water. I will note that if you are against granular rose food with insecticide and fungicides in it, David Austin Roses makes a very good granular rose food.

Finally, I mulch well, leaving my five-inch magic circle from the base of the
plant. The magic circle is only peat at the top so my rose breathes properly.
Roses should ideally get a good solid one inch of water once a week.  If I have
just planted a bare root rose with no growth, I sometimes mist the canes with water
once a day, preferably in the morning before the sun is high.  (I say sometimes, because sometimes I forget!)

Except for new plantings, roses should be fed once a month as they are heavy
feeders. The new plants are not fed again for five to six weeks after initial
planting and feeding. Then they go on the regular schedule.

As the season progresses, I do keep my rose beds clean, discarding dead and fallen
leaves, etc. I am a believer in preventive, albeit judicious, spraying. If you are a sprayer only spray early in the morning (before 7 a.m.) to avoid causing my leaves to burn in
the sun.  I  have learned if a rose is purported to dislike spraying (some Old Garden Roses and Rugosas come to mind, for example), PAY ATTENTION! I have exfoliated a bush or two in my past spraying career! (Another “live and learn,” I suppose, but well-learned.)

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I also do NOT ever reccomend homemade remedies of soap and baking soda and Listerine and whatever other fakakta sprays people think are so much better.  They aren’t. They are kind of like the whole spraying vinegar and whatnot to get rid of weeds.  People do not seem to get how bad that is for other plants, the soil, your pets, humans, and wildlife.  Plus you can fry your plants in the heat of summer by spraying

For diseases like rust, blackspot and powdery mildew I used to spray when needed.  But then I discovered drenches which are much easier on the rose.  I use Cease Microbial Fungicide and Bactericide,  which is OMRI Listed, by BioWorks.  You can buy it from Amazon and other places.  It is expensive but worth it.  One of my other horticultural mentors taught me about using a biofungicide. It also is marvelous when I have to deal with daylily rust.

Cease is a aqueous suspension biofungicide with proven effectiveness in controlling a wide array of both fungal and bacterial pathogens, while providing outstanding plant and environmental safety. Based on a naturally occurring, patented strain of Bacillus subtilis (strain QST 713).

Cease Microbial Fungicide and Bactericide can be used as a foliar spray and soil drench on ornamentals, trees, shrubs, flowering plants and greenhouse crops and vegetables grown under cover. It is a broad spectrum biofungicide targeting common fungal and bacterial diseases such as Botrytis, Pseudomonas, Xanthomonas, Erwinia, Powdery Mildew, Leaf Spot and Speck, Anthracnose and Rust. There are other biologic fungicides out there, but Cease is what I use.

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For the pest problems like aphids and their ilk, I use  a horticultural oil spray like Neem or something with Pyrethrins.  Sprays with Pyrethrins are the best things to control outbreaks of white fly. When the weather gets too muggy, hot and humid I do not spray. I used to use a rose dust, but a few years ago I decided that skeeved me out and settled on another drench.  The one I discovered by accident and use VPG/fertilome’s Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench.

This insecticide drench controls most bugs I can think of that will bother my roses, perennials, and shrubs. As a drench, it is watered in (I have a special watering can I use ONLY for drenches). The product is mixed with water,  dissolves in water, moves down through the soil, and is absorbed by the roots.  You drench the plant at the base, the root level.  It is NOT like a spray so you don’t hit the above ground plat at all. Once absorbed, it moves up through the tree or shrub, providing year-long protection even into new growth. It contains Imidacloprid and provides 12-month Systemic Protection. Again, I discovered this completley on my own.  My most pervasive rose pest seems to be borers and it has helped with them.

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Look, I am a cancer survivor. I do not like using chemicals.  But sometimes you just have to in a controlled manner.  I have a lot of time, money and sweat equity involved in my garden.  I will treat it right.  A website which helps find biologic alternatives is Forestry Distributing.  I discovered them by accident when trying to learn in terminology I could understand what biologics did and how they worked.

I have also discovered that other old wives’ tales have some truth to them: planting pungent herbs are natural pest repellants. Plants in the edible Allium family
are repugnant to aphids. Planting chives and garlic in and around my roses along
with lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme has dramatically cut down my personal
aphid population. I also plant purple sweet onions around and near my roses and other plants aphids like.  I buy the starts in the spring.

Old wives tales also say that parsley planted near the feet of roses makes your roses smell sweeter. I don’t know it THAT is true, but hey! why ruin a good thing?  I do it anyway! I can also tell you that it is very true that strawberries and roses get on well together.

I experiment every year with at least one new companion plant for my
roses. If they crowd my roses or I don’t like the effect, I simply move that
companion plant to a new location! I don’t like to ever waste a good perennial,
bulb, shrub, or herb.  My garden is definitely a layered one and is reminsicent of an English or Irish cottage garden.

Well, there you have the thumbnail version of my rose routine. It works extremely
well for me, and I hope I have helped. All of the photos of roses were taken by me and are my actual roses from my garden.  Happy rose gardening!

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a gardener in winter

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Part of my winter reading selections.

One of my neighbors was laughing at me yesterday.  He drove down the street saw me outside with my hands on my hips staring at my giant pile of frozen woodchips. (Yes I know, like I was mentally willing them to thaw and lay themselves down.)

Sigh.

I was also staring with a scowl on my face because when you are piling woodchips, you can aim when they are being dumped, but they also just slide. This year they swallowed up my Kerria Japonica. Sadly, while a super tough shrub, I do not know if it will survive.  I think I have to source another.

129763a6c730afaeded0240129bc29abI have also been going over the Go Native Tree price list again.  I am a believer in reforesting the woods and I want to plant hickories and American Chestnut too.  I found out they won’t have American Chestnuts ready until at least the fall of 2019. But I am going to go ahead and buy 2 Shagbark Hickory seedlings and 2 Black Haw Viburnum.

RareFind Nursery will help with with my quest for Kerria Japonica. And I am also getting a Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’, Rhododendron ‘Mountain Marriage’ , (Witch hazel) Hamamelis  ‘Beholden’ and (Witch hazel) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rochester’.  All of these I think are for the back.  Edge of woods or thereabouts.  Jenny Rose Carey  got me interested again in witch hazel and Catherine Renzi of Yellow Springs Farm is the first person who introduced me to them years ago. And Catherine will laugh at me, but I had forgotten I had planted some other witch hazels until I rediscovered them this summer on the edge of the woods. (Yes that happens when you have a plant habit!)

Read about witch hazels on FineGardening’s website and Sir Monty Don has written about it  too.

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One of my witch hazels starting to bloom.   It is an orange one.     I believe I purchased this one from RareFind Nursery.

Now the Audrey Hepburn quote.  She was a gardener.  Years ago I had these VHS tapes called Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn. They got lost in a move.  I wish I could find online or in a new DVD set.   Only used sets are out there and they are outrageous in price for a used DVD set that may or may not work.

Anyway, I continue to wander around outside check on things.  It’s what gardeners do in the winter.  I also stop and listen to my birds.  Some days they are very chatty.  I noticed recently a mockingbird and today I saw the little bluebirds. And above, hawks circled calling to one and other.  The cycle of life in the woods.

Out front I am mentally rearranging some plants.  Like the shorter version of Joe Pye weed. Eupatorium dubium does not keep itself to 2-3 feet tall and in a front bed it is taking up too much real estate.  So come spring I will dig it up, move it, and plant a new bare root David Austin rose.

Some of my roses have struggled because the damp wet summer bought borers.  I lost one in the fall.  I have two bare root David Austins coming – Benjamin Britten and England’s Rose.

How else do I get through the winter as a gardener? Reading.  I subscribe to Gardeners World and Fine Gardening. I also have a gardening book problem. Like cookbooks, I love them.  A lot of what I love is kind of out of print.

I have written many times of my appreciation of the late Suzy Bales, whom I wrote about a few times and most recently in 2016.  There were a couple of her books I wanted but did not have.  One of which was titled Gifts from Your Garden published in 1992,  and before I get to that, there is a lovely archive of other articles she wrote on the Huffington Post website.

So Gifts from Your Garden arrived the other day.  In her acknowledgements for this particular book she thanks Ken Druse. I never knew that connection and he is an author, gardener, podcast master whom I like and follow.  As a matter of fact, his book The New Shade Garden is also on my winter reading list.  She introduced this book in the following manner:

“For a time, I was a closet gardener.  Friends would call to invite me to play tennis, swim, or come for lunch.  In the beginning, I tried to tell the truth. ” I’d love to, but I have some things I planned to do in my garden.” They felt gardening was a chore, and it was all but impossible to make them understand that I really loved gardening.”

I totally, completely, 100% understand that sentiment.  I know many people out there who think I am completely bonkers.

Now my husband thinks I am bonkers when it comes to my little bits of garden art. Or my concrete zoo as he likes to call it.  Oh the face when I purchased Chubby Checker from Brandywine View Antiques.  Ok first of all, the squirrel was quite reasonably priced, and second of all WE HAVE LOTS OF SQUIRRELS some of which are quite rotund so this made me giggle.

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Chubby Checker the chubby squirrel purchased from Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford, PA

So yes, that is what I do. I wander around the garden mentally placing new plants where I think they will go and rearranging in my head where existing plants should be moved to. And I will twitch about it until spring arrives and my shovels can hit the dirt once again.  And I find garden accents…well let’s be honest, I do that all year round but I am picky.  I do not add just anything.

I am also mentally planning out my pots and I am thinking of switching more to of the resin variety which are not as unattractive as they used to be if you buy the ones that are supposed to look like stone.  I am getting tired of hauling pots in and out every year.

I also have to start my seeds.  I start them in a highly scientific manner. No not really, just on my dining room table.  Tomatoes and hatch chilies.  That’s it.  I am not a truck farmer and don’t have much veggie room so they grow in pots and grow bags and move around following the light.  Well I have to, we are half in the woods, after all.

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Photo taken October, 2018

Gardening books are so much fun especially in winter.  Locally, places like Baldwin’s Book Barn have a marvelous selection.  Balwin’s could use our support right now as they were recently burglarized which offends me on so many levels. How do you steal from people who are so nice? How do you steal from a place that is an institution locally?

Gardening I think is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  That connection to the earth, and the creative process of creating your garden. As in YOU create it, not a landscaping service.  Put the time and work into a garden, and it will reward you every day of the year.

I look at my garden and wonder if in the future if someone will appreciate my handiwork.  Will they love my garden as I do now? Will they care about what I planted? Will they keep up with what I have done? I hope so. My garden gives me so much joy.

The last word is my pussywillows are starting to bloom already.

Thanks for stopping by.

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bad gardener?

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David Austin English Rose in the rain today

Recently Fine Gardening has featured my Chester County garden in their online Garden of the Day section.  That has been such a thrill and honor for me because…well…I have been sending them garden photos for years. They have been a gardening resource forever, and I subscribe to their print magazine.

Fine Gardening is a go to resource for information, new cultivar suggestions, and all around inspiration.

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I can tell you I purchased this from Applied Climatology at The West Chester Growers Market a couple of years ago.  The tag has long since disappeared.

Well Fine Gardening most recently featured some of my daylilies and hydrangeas together.  Naturally it provoked a conversation with the editor I was working with over cultivars.  I can tell people the names of a few of them like Cherokee Star because I planted some particularly well loved cultivars in clumps of several plants. (Well exception to the clump rule were the $5 pots of mystery daylilies from Home Depot end of summer sale a few years ago! I still don’t know who they are!)

When asked about my daylily cultivars, this is what I told them:

OK, you know where I am a really bad gardener? I see things and I think to myself, “They are perfect,” and then I forget what the cultivars are. I can tell you who I purchased all the daylilies from plant by plant, but as far as cultivars, I am so bad. I am going to have to start writing things down.

I try to plant everything with the tags, but as time progresses and I add more shredded leaves or wood chips for mulch, they disappear.

The thing about daylilies is that I buy them for the color. They don’t get purchased because they are rare or anything like that per se; it’s based on the color. I love white daylilies, but my obsession the past few years has been the reds. I also like the pink and the ruffly daylilies depending on the color because they look so ladylike. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Every once in a while I will pick up daylilies on clearance from a big box store to plug a hole, but for the most part I spend the money to shop from nurseries I know because then I’ll avoid things like daylily rust.

Confession time: I do this with well….the majority of plants. I buy plants for how they hit me when I see them.  And that is in person or in a magazine or in a plant grower’s inventory photos.

To me, right or wrong it’s the visual. Color. Texture. Shape. Size. How does the plant strike me? My poor hostas are also victims of garden anonymity.  They live happily in plant witness protection services with many of my other shrubs and perennials.

I always have good intentions.  I plant new thing with their tags.  But then I either get tired of a forest of plastic tags, or I decide I will always remember their cultivar and yank them out, or they get buried by seasonal layers of mulch and applications of fallen leaves. And then there are the plastic tags that chipmunks and squirrels dig up and relocate (oh yes they DO do that!)

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Hydrangea “Little Lime”

This is where I am a bad gardener to some. But you know what? I have been through plenty of gardens, including European ones and  I see tags for rare specimen trees and some shrubs, but not tags for much of anything else. And for the most part, I do not like looking at plastic nursery tags and I do not have the time or inclination for pretty write on copper ones.

It is what it is. I created my garden because it brings me joy.

I look at what I plant much in the way an artist looks at something for subject matter.  It is also very visceral. I look at something and can visualize it in a spot in the garden and then I plant it.  Truthfully it is almost a kissing cousin of the techniques people who are practitioners of Shamanic Gardening. And I didn’t intend it to be.  It’s just what happened.

Shamanic Gardening? What’s that you ask?

Shamanic Gardening integrates sustainable ancient and traditional gardening methods with shamanic principles and modern permaculture. The practices, history, myths, recipes, and philosophies inside this book will enhance your relationship with nature, sustain the earth, delight your senses, and nourish your soul.

Shamanic Gardening [book] includes a cultural history of sustainable gardening, including gardening techniques used by Cleopatra, the Japanese, the Pueblo Indians, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and many others.

I learned about the theories of Shamanic Gardening from Melinda Joy Miller’s book Shamanic Gardening. You can find the book on Amazon and other places.

As a theory, it sounds new-agey.  To an extent it is. It also fits in with the principles of Feng Shui. (See Shambhalla Institute and NO I am not one of their clients or practitioners. I just went ‘web wandering as I was reading the book out of curiosity. But heck even the esteemed British Royal Horticultural Society has been interested in this or they would not have sold the book.)

The reason I delved into the book were funny little things like they say to essentially ask the plant where it want so go.  Any rabid gardener will tell you we all talk to our plants…and weeds.  It’s just a thing. But because it also reminds me of using the principles of feng shui in gardens. Yes really. (Read more here.)

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Echinacea “White Double Delight”

Anyway back to bad gardener of it all. Since my garden has been in Fine Gardening there has been interest in my garden for local tours. That never happened before.  My garden is a layered garden with four season interest and of my own design, not formal with fussy parterres and fountains.

Today some really nice ladies toured my garden.  For consideration in a 2019 event.  But when they asked me if I knew all of the names of a few of my hostas I answered truthfully  that no I did not.  I explained to them how I chose my plants for color, shape, texture, etc and how I thought they would fit.  I also said some were gifted out of other gardens where they had lived for many years without anyone remembering their names. Right or wrong, I felt in the moment like a very bad gardener who had flunked a horticulture class.

IMG_9059Really, I am sorry for my plant amnesia.  I should write down cultivars more diligently. I just don’t.  I see, I feel, I plant, I enjoy.

My garden is something I enjoy very much.  It’s not a formal arboretum — its a four sided, rambling, four seasons kind of a country garden.  To my English and Irish friends it is I am told very similar to their native cottage gardens. But to old school garden club folks, that is not necessarily acceptable here in the U.S.

Cottage gardens and layered gardens are actually a lot more work than a lot of other gardens.  It’s a sensory thing with jumbles of flowers and plants and paths and nooks and seating areas. And other elements to add whimsy. But you have to keep everything trimmed properly or all of a sudden it is just too much garden.

IMG_9058But a cottage garden is the perfect rule breakers garden. Plant what you love. Appeal to your own taste and style.  Make it romantic. And lush.

A true cottage garden says come in and wander and stay a while.  So if people think that about my garden, that is the nicest thing for me.  After all, gardens should be shared…just forgive the garden amnesia.  I can tell you who I bought each plant from, just not it’s particular cultivar name necessarily.  And I never took Latin, so what you get in Latin from me is a gift, usually mispronounced.

I must also note that  just because someone’s garden is welcoming, it doesn’t mean you should just come wander.  Ask the gardener first. Otherwise, it’s sadly trespassing and at a minimum a little disconcerting to the homeowner who wasn’t expecting guests.

Thanks for stopping by.

Here are the Fine Gardening posts:

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the fall into winter garden

I start this morning with a picture of one of my November roses. I have a handful of rose bushes still blooming, and yesterday I was able to cut a small bouquet.

Another oddity given the weather, is this morning I picked fresh raspberries from my raspberry bush. Yes, really!

I have not only planted a “layered” garden, I have done my best to make this garden four seasons. The beauty is different in the fall and in the dead of winter, but if you open your eyes and look around you see it.

I planted a lot of the red twig dogwood shrubs throughout my garden. Some have a variegated leaf some a solid green leaf. Once they start to shed their leaves, the other part of their attractiveness shines through. These shrubs get brilliant red stems that give you the most glorious color from late fall through the winter. There are few things as pretty as seeing a red twig dogwood against freshly fallen snow!

And my hydrangeas – they also provide their own four season attraction. The hydrangeas keep their flowers through most of the winter until winds and what not start to knock them off. (I finish dead heading them in the spring which is NOT the same as pruning. ) It becomes more like a dried flower still life versus the crazy vibrant colors of the growing season.

A lot of my herbs overwinter nicely in this garden as they have enough protection in the beds. I will never get things like basil to overwinter outside, but I have even had tarragon over winter here, which I hadn’t had before. My two big pots on the front walk are filled with lavender and thyme. I will not cut them back I will leave those herbs exactly as is. I finally figured out the trick to lavender was NOT cutting it back if you found a spot where it can overwinter.

I have a much more laissez faire attitude to my garden in the fall then a lot of people. First of all I have a lot of garden and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. So much to the surprise of many, I kind of let my fall garden do what it wants to do. I do not dead head everything. Among other things if you leave the seedpods and whatnot on your shrubs and perennials, it’s food for birds.

But I have discovered if I let my fall garden do what it wants I have this whole other display. It’s almost like looking at a whole other garden. Instead of nothing, I have interest.

We do rake and blow the leaves, and our forest and woods are mostly oak trees, so we put the leaves on the flower beds.

A garden in fall and winter doesn’t have the lush beauty of spring and summer and the riot of color. It’s more subdued and it’s also more structural. You are, after all, looking at the plants without their spring and summer finery.

I do spray everything for deer around now, and I will have to do so again even in the dead of winter. That is the trade-off for having a garden in deer country.

I planted the last of my fall perennials that I picked up on sale and one more shrub. After this weekend I just have some bulbs to plant. But I hadn’t felt like planting them because honestly it was too warm.

I plant mostly daffodils and Narcissus. I gave up on tulips years ago as they are just squirrel food. I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for mail order bulbs. Most local nurseries do not get the variety I like, and they are simply more expensive. I have also used a company out of Connecticut called Color Blends.

Today I bought the ceramic vintages birdbaths in and put them in their winter homes in the basement. I bought in one concrete birdbath top, leaving the largest one for my sweet man to flip over and cover for me. It’s just too heavy for me to move.

The kitchen herbs that I have in pots that I do not overwinter inside I will take out of the ceramic and clay pots and put into the flowerbeds. As a result I have a healthy bed of thyme (makes an awesome ground cover), and returning sage and other things like oregano and even some rosemary. I just dig them in and they get covered with leaves and what survives is meant to be and that’s the way it is.

My house looks sort of like a jungle because the Boston ferns have come in from their hooks in the backyard and once a week they get a good water and misting every other day.

During the winter months I will keep myself busy with my ivy topiaries, clivia, and my ferns. I used to do a lot of amaryllis bulbs but I really don’t have the room anymore and the last few years of bulbs I have purchased I have been disappointed in.

Anyway, the time has come for the gardens to sleep. We will be getting a hard freeze over the next couple of days. I will get in the balance of my bulbs, and look to my gardening magazines and catalogs for inspiration for next year. But I will also enjoy my garden in fall and winter. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by.