Dreaming Roses

When we think of Roses it immediately conjures up lots of romantic thoughts— our grandmothers may have had fabulous beds of roses, weddings are festooned with roses — they are luscious, fragrant and abundant in our contemplated garden.

When thinking about designing a new garden everyone wants to weave in some of these fanciful beauties as they epitomize the idealized garden.

But they can also be known to be persnickety and overly fussy —they get black spot, a vast array of bugs descends seemingly out of nowhere to devour the leaves and precious flowers. Japanese beetles seem to be visiting our gardens earlier and earlier each summer to do their dreaded damage.

But take heart, there is a lot you can do to prevent these diseases and critters from destroying your dream rose garden. Initial good preparation of the soil is vital, along with selecting the right varieties that are disease-resistant and long-blooming.

Select a site that gets about 6-9 hours of sun a day, and good drainage is imperative as roses do not like having “wet feet.” When planting a rose, dig a very generous hole about twice the size of the rose. Be sure to give the rose a generous area to grow in as good air circulation is essential to healthy roses.

Plan on planting new roses either early in the morning or on an overcast day — avoid planting on sunny hot days or late in the day.

Remove heavy or clay like soil and discard replace with either home grown compost or lobster compost which is abundant in beneficial trace minerals. Fill the new hole with approximately 1/3 compost, add a slow release organic fertilizer which will gradually feed the rose throughout the growing season. Carefully, remove rose from the nursery pot and place gently in the new hole. Continue adding compost allowing the roots to settle in and fill the hole. At this point, it is time to water the rose before filling the hole completely.

Fill a large watering can with about 3 gallons of water, add about 4-5 tablespoons of liquid sea weed and fish emulsion fertilizer. Water the hole well, allowing the water to seep in very gradually. Wait several minutes and water the rose again — repeat this process a third time before backfilling the hole with more compost–tamping gently with your foot to fill in any air pockets. Aim to position the rose at the same depth it was growing in the nursery pot.

Allow the rose to settle in for a few days and repeat with a very diluted solution of sea weed and fish emulsion. Aim to allow the rose to receive about 1” of water per week to get it well established.

To prevent black spot and other diseases, spray regularly with diluted Neem oil, 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a small dash of liquid dish detergent. Consistent use of this combination will prevent and eliminate the typical dreaded rose diseases. I aim to spray my roses every 7-10 days. Spray early in the morning or on cool overcast days. Do not spray rose on hot sunny days. Excessive periods of rain may increase mildew and black spot. To revive them, you can cut them back about 50% — remove and discard any diseased leaves and flowers especially from the ground surrounding your beds.

Tips for getting your garden in great shape this year

I find early April to be the busiest month for getting your garden in shape for the coming season. As gardeners, we are so eager to get out and work in the garden on the first warm days. In truth, it is better to be patient, let the sun warm the soil and let it dry out somewhat before doing any major cleanup. Stepping on sodden soil can really cause compaction and overall damage to soil structure. Be patient-allow for a sunny stretch of weather to dry out your garden beds before attempting any major garden work.

Take the time to organize your garden tools early this year — being able to quickly locate the right tool makes garden work so much easier.

Top dress around the crowns of your perennials and shrubs with about 2″ of garden compost. Your plants will explode with vigor & vitality this year.

Once your perennials have been cut back and fertilized, mulch with a top dressing of Sweet Peet mulch. Your gardens will thrive under a blanket of this manure-based mulch. Some studies have found that it hinders weed growth while retaining moisture all season.

Be Inspired – Make It Tulips

Tulip eau de parfum – fresh, clean, & soothing

Tulips are truly a breath of fresh air-like taking in the fragrance of sheets off the clothesline. For early spring color and sheer garden abundance, nothing beats a bed of willowy tulips in full bloom. A sea of tulips will certainly lift your spirits after any lingering grey of winter.

Generally, tulip varieties are divided into 15 different groups which categorizes them by bloom time and overall shape and form. Very early blooming and low growing, the greigii and kaufmanniana varieties are a great addition to your early spring garden. Species or wild tulips are smaller and more delicate in form-often the colors are quite vivid in hues of red or yellow. they tend to be easier to establish in the garden as they are somewhat less resistant to rodent damage.

Once established in well-drained soil, they multiply and rebloom each spring. Some reliable varieties to try are: sylvestris, clusiana, humilis, saxatilis and dasystemon. These are perfect for planting near doorways and rock gardens as they are the first to bloom in early spring.

Take a Fresh Look at Your Landscape

Winter is the perfect time to think about creating a fresh and vibrant garden design that can be implemented this spring. Taking the time now allows you to explore what may be missing in your home landscape. Perhaps, you might consider a new walkway that leads out to the backyard for a more intimate connection between house and garden. Privacy screening in the form of large evergreens will block some unsightly views that have been bothersome in the past. The dream of a stone patio with a fire pit surrounded by billowy flowering perennials might fit perfectly into a large swath of unused lawn.

This is true for new homeowners who may have a totally blank slate as well as those who have an existing garden that may look congested and overgrown. A fresh perspective now may be the incentive to really dig in this spring to create a fresh and exciting new look to your landscape.

The view out of a main doorway or larger window of your home is the perfect starting point for creating a new garden this Winter. This is the perfect opportunity to frame a view that links the inside to the outside.

From the warmth of your interior — inspiration for a grander garden scheme becomes more apparent.

The simplicity of a lovely view offers a wonderful relaxing moment — a true break from a busy day

An arbor is helpful to frame the view and increase the drama to entering a garden.

A long axial walkway leads the visitor into a pergola covered dining area – trees flanking the walk represent the “walls” of the garden room.

A nicely proportioned home entrance is enhanced by an overhanging tree and well positioned planting beds.

A garden bench allows for a quiet meditative moment in a May blooming garden.

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Planting Spring Bulbs

 

Early bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from quick freezes and thaws that often occur in late winter.

A generous mix of bulbs are being incorporated into any existing garden.

As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures gradually rise, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the first flush of flowers magically appears making the early spring garden abundant in a sea of blooms–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping takes center stage quickly filling in any vacancies in the garden.

 

After flowering, it is important to give them a feeding of organic fertilizer and allow the foliage to die back gradually. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs. By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom.

In late April and early May, tulips the grand-dames of the garden lend flirt and fancy in an abundant array of colors and shapes. Species tulips are tiny in size often blooming along with daffodils which makes them less likely to be eaten by deer. To deter rodents from eating the bulbs, use a rodent repellant or add cayenne pepper or garlic flakes to the planting hole.

Spring bulbs in a sculpture garden.

Another trick is to spray bulbs (especially tulips) with a diluted solution of old fashioned liquid lysol and let the bulbs dry completely in the sun prior to planting, The offending critters are hindered by the smell and taste of this strong smelling cleaner. Another tip from a bulb importer is to plant them in the same hole as the allium. The strong onion odor of the allium helps to keep critters away as well.

The dynamic and vertical lines of flowering onions or Alliums continue the show into June- globe-like flower of the allium may be allowed to dry in the garden, which adds texture and interest to your perennial borders. There is a multitude of allium varieties in the market–from very low growing to impressive 4‘ varieties. Alliums add an elegance and dramatic verticality to the late May and early June garden Fragrant and dramatic lilies, “the wings of the garden” take flight in late June and July. You can find a multitude of different hybrids in dazzling colors and shapes in all of these species of bulbs.

An enchanting collection of peony-flowering tulips and late daffodils in a seaside garden.

To encourage your bulb garden to flourish, select a site that has well-drained soil. If the soil needs work, start by enriching the proposed area with good top soil or compost to a depth of about 6”. Bulbs do not like to be planted in area that is usually wet–so good drainage is essential when preparing your site for a bulb garden. Plant bulbs with the pointed side up adding a tablespoon or so of an organic fertilizer that contains rock phosphate, which will ensure proper root development.

It is especially important to plant the bulb to the proper depth which is about 3-4 times the bulb’s length. For example, a tulip which is about 2” long needs to be planted about 6-8” deep. The earlier bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from lifting when quick freezes and thaws occur in late winter. As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures get warmer, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping starts to take center stage and fills in any vacancies in the garden. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the flowers in full bloom appear as luscious masses of color–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks.

After flowering, it is important to give your bulbs a feeding of organic fertilizer because this is the time they are storing food for next year’s blooms.

Always allow the foliage to gradually die back naturally. By late June most of the foliage has completely withered and can then be safely cut down. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs.

By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom. At present, bulb supplies are still plentiful and you can safely plant your bulb garden right up to Thanksgiving. A warm sunny afternoon in late October or early November is the perfect time to plant your spring garden–so don’t hesitate to get out there soon!

 

You’re never too young to learn how to plant bulbs for the family garden!

The Serendipity of Spring Bulbs

 

I never feel a perennial garden is complete without the addition of spring bulbs. The wonderful serendipitous quality of bulbs make the early spring garden truly come alive — a vivid reminder that we can bid adieu to the long cold and grey of winter.

Whether you are just a beginner or a more seasoned gardener nothing will feed your soul more than a fabulous display of spring bulbs. Planted en masse, the luscious colors, subtle fragrances and long blooming flowers creates a wonderful prelude for the unfolding spring season. A carefully selected collection of spring bulbs will provide a symphony of successive blooms that will enliven your garden with many months of amazing color and fragrance.

By incorporating a mix of early, middle and late blooming bulbs, you are ensured of a display that will span several months. The early bloomers of March and April are snowdrops, crocus, Iris reticulata, Scilla, Chionodoxa followed by daffodils and hyacinths. With careful planning now, the entire month of April can be a spectacular display of flowering bulbs in a multitude of forms and a rainbow of colors.

Autumn Considerations

Divide and Conquer

September and early October are the best times to divide most perennials — these are clumps of overgrown Japanese iris that have declined in their flowering. Watch what happens…

 

Start by digging out the bulky clump.

 

A tarp is helpful to use as you are working.

 

Divide each clump into halves and then divide those halves into fourths – keep dividing until you have smaller divisions that are about 3-4″ wide.

 

This original overgrown clump created 16 new iris plants that will produce a much healthier plant and beautiful flowers next June.

 

When planting any new perennial, dig a hole about twice the size of the plant — add organic fertilizers to the bottom of the planting hole.

 

Replant each division into a larger hole that has been amended with fertilizer and topped off with generous amounts of good garden compost.

 

Top dress the entire area around the planting hole with compost and then water well.

 

Water each new division well–Japanese iris demand  rich, moist acid soil — remember to divide you perennials every 3-4 years to get them healthy and thriving and they will reward you with wonderful flowers throughout the growing season.

The Autumn Garden

The Autumn garden offers a wonderful pathway into a richer landscape with vivid colors that remain for several weeks — it is a season to celebrate and enjoy the transformative qualities of New England gardens.