Saturday, February 18, 2012

Roses Awakening

Almost all of my roses are putting out new growth, and some potted ones are already developing buds. It has been such a joy to walk around the garden and look at all the subtle shades of color on new rose leaves, as yet untarnished by mildew, rust, spider mites and salt damage. Everything looks new, clean, hopeful and full of promise. I can't wait for spring blooms.

Mme. Berkeley's leaves shining in the sun

Dramatic colors of Comtesse de Provence

Marechal Niel has very little new growth as yet, but the condition of last year's leaves is amazing. Not a speck of disease. The plant did not defoliate at all over the winter.

Subtle pink of Gloire des Rosomanes
Chocolate and plum of 'Benny Lopez'

Droopy new leaves on Condesa de Sastago

An old plant of Double Delight is pushing new growth. The graft union has long been buried. I found that pruning old canes results in dieback, so I cut them off entirely, and the rose is very willing to produce new canes which I leave mostly unpruned. The plant is now over 6' tall.


Very graceful and delicate, Isabella Sprunt

 Elie Beauvilain does not repeat well. On the other hand it is very willing to bloom in complete shade on a north facing fence, even if only in spring.
Tina Marie's leaves look almost hand-painted. It is setting buds already.

New lateral growth on Zephirine Drouhin casting shadows on the fence.
'Old Korbel Gold's beautifully edged leaves.

Rosette Delizy

A white seedling of Purple Pavement. I am glad I took the picture because I noticed chlorosis just beginning to develop on the newest leaves. Time for a sulphur application.

Just Joey

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle Of Cecile

Last summer, hot and exhausted from deadheading spent blooms, cleaning up fallen petals, weeding, watering, and fertilizing, I often thought of winter. The rains would come, and I would sit down, relax, read other people's blogs and write thoughtful posts full of gardener's wisdom on mine. It was not to be.

Cecile Brunner, a climbing polyantha

 The winter has been mild and sunny, and it turned out I couldn't stay away from the garden for long. This past Friday, however, after two months of pruning, mulching and spraying, I sat down, looked around and thought with satisfaction that I was done for the season. Then, I took a closer look at Cecile. Cecile Brunner, a large once-blooming climbing polyantha rose, was planted in my back yard many years ago. It has become a large healthy plant with long weeping branches that give me garlands of lovely blush pink blooms in spring.

In all its glory last year

However, I was becoming unhappy with it for two reasons. First, my neighbor in the back grows morning glory on our shared fence. The morning glory gets on top of the rose, and either breaks the branches by pulling them toward my neighbor's yard, or chokes them so they die back. It got more and more rampant each year, so I was becoming worried about it overtaking the rose completely. But because my Cecile was about 15' wide and about 10' deep I didn't see what I could do about it. How would I get to it?

Unpruned, overgrown, and burdened with dead but tenacious morning glory
The other problem was mostly my fault for letting it grow completely unchecked. It would grow new branches, bloom, then grow new branches on top of the old, and so on every year. It was expanding farther and farther, and the interior was full of spindly dying twigs.

Lots of unproductive twigs inside need to be cut off
I never have a desire to go at my roses with shrub shears (which would remove most of the desirable new growth and keep most of the old), but I also didn't believe that a more meaningful pruning was possible with a rose this size. But this year I thought I could at least attempt to clear away some of the twiggy interior, hoping also to "shrink" the rose a bit, so it would fit better into its allotted space. I started cutting off the thin interior twigs on the left side fully intending to keep the long new weeping branches above and outside the interior of the rose.

It is beginning to look a little better

The work was not so daunting as it first seemed, and soon I was able to stand up in the middle of the rose. After clearing up the interior branches I discovered I could reach the morning glory! The wild hope that I could actually untangle my beautiful rose from its ugly tentacles gave me courage to keep going. I brought out my Gardena cordless grass shears which have a telescopic handle, and my husband joined me in shearing the morning glory off the rose.

These branches bloomed and then were shaded by new ones that grew over them. The blooming laterals are dying off
Then, an unexpected thing happened. Instead of remaining upright and shrinking in size a little, the rose, freed from the shackles of morning glory, started leaning away from the fence (scary!), and the beautiful weeping branches ended up completely out of the bed and in the lawn. Oops. I didn't realize how flexible the canes were, even the thick woody ones that looked completely immobile. I could prop them back up against the fence of course, but then I would have the morning glory problem right back. So I decided to cut back the rose even more until the canes could stand up unsupported.

Pruned rather more than I was intending but still retained some of its beautiful fountain shape
I thought it would give me room to get close to the fence every once in a while and cut off any stray grabbing morning glory tentacles (quite possibly a utopian dream).

Osteospermum daisies underneath enjoying the sunshine

Probably only temporarily :)

I am amazed at how much of the rose has gone. It feels as if a long time friend has left me. Still, I hope that cutting away dead twigs and the morning glory will do the rose good, even if I don't see this spring the bounty of blooms with which I have been spoiled in previous years.

Cecile Brunner and Rosette Delizy last spring