Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dahlias: Summer's Last Fireworks

I feel I have to apologize for disappearing again: we have family staying with us for a few weeks, and spending much time at the computer has not been possible.

However, I still hope to come up with blog posts every now and then.

Yesterday we went to San Francisco and stopped to look at the dahlia garden at Golden Gate Park.

I was glad to take some pictures again, I find I really miss flower photography, and here is the result.

I confess that not a single dahlia graces my garden.

They compete for sunny spots with roses (and roses in my case win every time)...,

...they require staking (too much work), and they are not fragrant.

What I dislike most, however, is an absolute faultless perfection of dahlia blooms...

... often I have trouble believing they are actually real.

The most attractive feature of dahlia blooms to me is an incredible variation of color within a single bloom.

Like roses, dahlias come in every color except blue, but the brightness of colors far surpasses that of roses.

In fact, off-hand I can think of no other flower that shares such exuberance and range of color within a single bloom.

Maybe orchids come close.

The variety of bloom forms is also amazing.

In fact, some of the highly structured bloom forms gave  my pictures an almost abstract quality.

 I feel there is lots of room for creative photography in dahlias.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In Praise of Rose Stamens

As with most other things, people either love or hate roses that show their stamens. Such roses are usually single or semi-double and they are either appreciated for their simple elegance or dismissed as not really roses in favor of heavy blooms full of petals.

Mateo's Silk Butterflies, china

I confess that as a rose gardener singles and semi-doubles are not my first choice. I tend to think that such blooms have a better staying power in a cooler climate where their few petals are not burned to a crisp hours after they open.

Dairy Maid, Floribunda

These roses do tend to bloom more but deadheading them is not fun.

Candy Rose, Shrub

It also seems to me that with few exceptions (Secret Garden Musk Climber comes to mind) they are less fragrant than their fuller-petalled alternatives.

R. Clinophylla, Species

However, as a photographer, I delight in roses that show their stamens. Stamens provide an interesting architectural contrast to the petals.

Sweet Viven, Floribunda

They cast beautiful shadows.

Secret Garden Musk Climber, Hybrid Musk Climber

And they don't have to be yellow. In fact, red is my favorite color.

Ellen Willmott, Hybrid Tea

Single and semi-double roses often come with wavy or curlicued petals, which are very elegant.

Souvenir de St. Anne's, Bourbon

I love to watch the soft light filtering through the stamens.

Pink Magic, Hybrid Musk

And often stamens are the only thing left to remind you of a bloom that has been.

R. Clinophylla, Species

All pictures are of roses blooming now at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Rare Roses Report

I would like to offer a few observations on some of my rare roses. I feel that now is the time to write this post because  Vintage Gardens, the nursery with the largest rose collection in the US, has recently announced that it will be winding up its business and stay open only for the next two years. I know some of you may be looking through their inventory for a last chance to get a rare rose, so I hope this will be helpful.

Dame Edith Helen is a hybrid tea bred by Alexander Dickson II in England at the turn of the century.

 I didn't expect much vigor from a classic own-root hybrid tea, so I put it in a pot and made sure it got lots of water and fertilizer. It is now in its second year. You can see it is the stiffly upright growth habit which is a fault of many roses in this class.

The blooms however are a joy, very full petalled and extremely fragrant. Even though Vintage says it is "shy of bloom", my cosseted plant has been blooming regularly and well. In my opinion, this rose should be a prime cutting-garden candidate.

Taischa is a hybrid tea bred at Vintage Gardens from RĂªve d'Or and Lavender Pinocchio. I received it this past winter. The rose had a bout of rose spring dwarf but since has recovered nicely.

It has been growing vigorously with regular flushes on bloom.

Second flush of bloom showing little color. The blooms still had trouble opening.

The blooms have a lot of petals and the little plant has had trouble producing high quality blooms so far although I can see color improving considerably from the second to the third flush (the first flush wouldn't even open).

Current flush. Much better color, and the blooms have all been opening. Lots of thrip damage on blooms so far.

I am looking forward to seeing how it does in its second year. The rose is recommended for hot climates because of its high petal count.

Etoile de Feu is a turn-of-the-century Pernetiana from the French breeder Joseph Pernet-Ducher.

Etoile de Feu at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden

It is a very small rose with unusually colored softly orange blooms. I love the blowsy petals and the strong fruity-tea fragrance. The rose is very short, but well branched and has very healthy glossy foliage. I can find no faults with it so far.

Hermann Lindecke, yet another turn-of-the-century hybrid tea (I am beginning to see a pattern to my rose obsession). This was a pure impulse purchase - I bought it simply because at the time I knew of no one else who grew this rose :).

I can't say a lot about its growth because I recently discovered that it hasn't been getting enough water most of the year and it is only now coming out of dormancy forced on it by my inadvertent lack of care. The blooms are large, and I like the contrast of silvery pink petals with bright pink reverses. The blooms have a strong tea fragrance.

Cynthia Brooke is a Sam McGredy rose bred 1943. I bought it for its lovely cabbage-like blooms in a warm orangey yellow.

It has a strong fragrance and blooms a lot for such a tiny plant (I got it this past winter). It does get heat-stressed in my yard, so partial shade in the afternoon would probably be best for it in my climate. The blooms have a strong tea fragrance, and the plant itself is bushy and compact so far, with no foliage diseases.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Late Summer Garden Shot for GGW

I have decided to submit an entry to a  GGW Picture This Photo contest whose theme this month is "Late Summer Garden". This is a time when my garden is still full of color, yet most summer-blooming perennials and shrubs are already past their prime. This morning, when I came out and saw these beautiful wine-colored petals of Basye's Purple Rose scattered on the retaining wall under the last flowers of my California native penstemon, the shot was decided for me. Summer is almost a memory already.

Below is another late summer shot, a close-up of blooms on a hydrangea paniculata. I love them for their fragrance and for their gentle colors which slowly change from a mid-summer's pure white, to a rusty green of fall, to a dry brown of winter.  I hope you like them.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rosette Delizy

Thank you so very much for all the encouraging comments on my previous post. You can't imagine how much they helped me. I feel happy to have met such wonderful and gracious people through blogging. I feel a little better now and today I finally managed to take some pictures without falling over as I press the shutter release :). My Rosette Delizy, a tea rose, is in full bloom, so I thought I would write about how this rose has performed in my yard.

The best features of this rose are quick rebloom, perfect health and relatively few prickles. The blooms are not big but they are bright without being gaudy, and cover the bush from top to bottom making it a great landscape shrub.

The blooms have a good tea fragrance and last a fairly long time on the bush. My rose is about 5 years old and is much narrower than other teas. This rose is on the header of my blog, and I like it very much.

Still, it does have some drawbacks. Compared to spring, the quality of blooms is markedly worse the rest of the year: they are smaller, have a lower petal count and discolor quickly.

Smaller blooms in the fall are all upright compared to pictures above from this spring showing lots of pendant blooms.

The rose sets hips very willingly and old spent blooms with brown petals persist on the bush much longer than they should. I therefore deadhead it promptly, which is a lot of work given its fast rebloom and the fact that it is now taller than I am....

Picture from this spring

Still, I am willing to overlook these minor blemishes for cheerful displays of color almost year-round. If you live in a mild climate, I hope you can give it a try.