Monday, February 28, 2011

Stanford Memorial Church

We live about 40 minutes away from Stanford University and go there once in a while to see the extensive and beautiful grounds, the delightful art museum, and a garden full of Auguste Rodin's sculptures.

Our latest trip was occasioned by my oldest son's losing a lego figurine of Luke Skywalker, light saber and all, which, if you are not around boys and legos much, is a disaster of major proportions. He thought he'd left it at my sister-in-law's house, which is close to Stanford. He didn't find it there and we thought we'd stop by at the campus for awhile to cheer him up a little.

For me, the biggest attraction of this part of the campus is Rodin's sculpture group, The Burgers of Calais. 

The sculpture commemorates 6 wealthy citizens of Calais, who offered their lives and keys to the city's gates to King Edward III during The Hundred Years' War in exchange for sparing the lives of the rest of the town's population.

The statues are on the ground rather than on a pedestal, which makes the figures more human. You can easily see how isolated each of them is in his grief and despair. 

The interior of the turn of the century church, though not rivaling the famous European cathedrals in beauty and splendor, is interesting and elegant...

with intricate mosaics

sandstone carvings

and stained glass
The dome is supported by four archangels set in mosaic. All of them were damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and subsequently restored.

One can easily spend a whole day here admiring the plentiful architectural details and thinking about the university's more than century-long history.

P.S. As for Luke Skywalker, he was found the next day, clean and unharmed, in a load of laundry. Mysterious are the ways of Jedi Knights.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Of Roses and Stripes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that most roses are pink (or red, or white, or any other color except blue). It seems that the best roses come in solid colors, and that's also how most people like them.

Double Delight
However,  every once in a while one comes upon a rose that's bicolored...

'HRG Mottled Gallica', maybe Belle de Crecy
...or mottled (with irregular  blotches of another color)...


...or picoteed (edges in a contrasting color)...

The Imposter
...or spotted...

Variegata di Bologna
...or striped.

People seem to react strongly to these unusual blooms, either loving or hating such bold contrasts of color. I confess that in my heart I find it difficult to love them because they seem a bit busy, but I appreciate them as a collector, and have found room for a few.

Camille Pisarro

A lot of striped roses originate as genetic mutations (called "sports") of a solid color rose. When such mutations are stable (i.e. consistently producing striped flowers and not reverting to the original rose), they may be named and distributed to the rose-growing public.

Rockin' Robin

Since these mutations are spontaneous and cannot easily be obtained through breeding, and sometimes even with vegetative propagation, roses with color quirks are a much rarer sight than solid color ones.

What interests me in striped roses is that, unlike solid color roses,  no two striped blooms are exactly alike.

Camille Pisarro
 Very often, one bloom will show much more of one color while the bloom right next to it will be mostly the other color.

George Burns
The pattern of stripes never looks the same either.

Most striped blooms I have seen age gracefully, fading gently to a nice soft color, as in the picture below, although striping is sometimes lost in an old bloom.

Camille Pisarro

Careless Love

Of all the thousands of rose images I have taken there are only two (at right and below) that illustrate a rare process of a striped rose reverting to its solid color parent right in the middle of one bloom.
Careless Love

Both of these are of a Hybrid Tea called Careless Love, a striped sport of Red Radiance, which itself is a sport of Radiance, a solid pink Hybrid Tea (sheesh, this is complicated). In these pictures Careless Love is gradually reverting to its pink grandmother, Radiance, which is probably the most genetically stable of the three cultivars.

Careless Love

Above, whole canes of Careless Love (the striped rose) are producing sold pink blooms of Radiance. If these canes are not cut out entirely, with time the whole bush will revert, and little or no striping will occur. Interesting to see Nature at work.

Candy Cane

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

I am always on the lookout for companions to roses. Generally I choose plants that meet the same cultural requirements as roses, come in complimentary colors, and present a noticeable contrast with roses in terms of the shape and size of bloom. I prefer perennials because, on the whole, they are less work than annuals (and generally not as brightly colored), and try to choose those that flower for at least a month or longer.

This little ground cover is called erodium "Sweetheart" and is a relative of Cranesbill. 

The flowers look very cheerful and interesting with their rosy pink veins and conspicuous pinky-brown spots.

I liked the dense habit and the profusion of blooms.

The little hairs at the base of the flowers and on the leaves reflect the light creating the effect of tiny shimmering drops of water. The tag promises a long season of bloom on a tough and easy-care plant. I am looking forward to watching it grow in my garden.

My other two acquisitions are ivy geraniums (pelargonium peltatum). All sorts of pelargoniums are grown in my gardening zone as perennials and they do extremely well here. 

I like the warm and cool pink together and will grow these two side by side. Another rosarian recently told me that ivy geraniums will climb about 8' up through a rose (with help), and that's how I plan to grow mine. I am excited to have an alternative to clematis (a classic vining companion to roses) with a longer season of bloom and less maintenance.

I am off to plant now!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Forgotten Charm: Classic Hybrid Teas

I have neglected my beloved roses long enough.  Here is a post on some very rare and interesting varieties, very few of which are now in commerce.

Lady Mary Fitzwilliam (Bennett, before 1880)

Classic, or early, Hybrid Teas appeared in the latter half of the 19th century.

Mme Caroline Testout (Pernet-Ducher, 1890)

The first Hybrid Teas were crosses between Teas and Hybrid Perpetuals, but gradually their genealogy became very complex.

Mme Wagram, Comtesse de Turenne (Bernaix, 1894)
Lady Alice Stanley (McGredy II, 1909)

The hybridizers' goal in creating these crosses was to combine the beautiful high-centered bud of a Tea with a long stem and upright bloom of a Hybrid Perpetual, to make the roses more suitable for cutting.
Mrs George Shawyer (Lowe&Shawyer, 1911)

The blooms were a bit smaller than those of later more extensively hybridized roses, the colors generally softer, and the form of the bloom not so stiffly formal.

September Morn (Dietrich&Turner, 1913)
Miss Rowena Thom (Howard&Smith, 1927)
Autumn (L.B. Coddington, 1928)
In those early roses, fragrance had not yet fallen victim to the rose exhibitor's demands: in most roses, fragrance resides in the petals making them soft. Such blooms do not last as long as those with stiff thick petals and are less suitable for rose shows.

Unlike older hybrids, which were open-pollinated chance crosses, hybrid teas were the first rose class obtained by deliberate efforts to introduce new varieties, and record parentage.

Edith Krause (Krause, 1930)
Being on the whole less showy and less vigorous, turn-of-the-century roses were quickly forgotten after the introduction in 1945 of Peace, one of the first modern-looking Hybrid Teas. Peace became extremely popular quickly eclipsing the older hybrids in the gardens, on the exhibitors' tables and in hybridizers' greenhouses.

Mme Jean Gaujard (Gaujard, 1937)

It is interesting to look at these roses chronologically, as they are arranged on the page. The form of the bloom gradually changed to assume the formal high centered shape, typical of modern Hybrid Teas. Yellow and orange colors did not appear until fairly late, after Joseph Pernet-Ducher, a French breeder, started experimenting with R. foetida and R. Lutea, and created vividly colored Hybrid Teas called Pernetianas in his honor.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thank you!

A big and heartfelt thank you to

Hanni at SweetBeanGardening

Beth at PlantPostings

and Elly at Elly's Tuin

for thinking my blog is good enough to receive the

I appreciate it very much. You made my day!

Now I am a little hazy about the rules but I think I am supposed to:

I. link back to the gracious and wonderful people who have given me the award (see above).

II. tell you 7 things about myself.

Do you really want to know that much about me??

1. I used to be gainfully employed in my younger days but now I am a stay-at-home mother of two rambunctious boys. I feel much happier this way.

2. I just celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. I met my American husband in Russia 13 years ago, and moved here when it came time for him to leave. He used to compare my move to the abduction of Persephone by Hades, until we discovered the gardening paradise that is California.

3. I have been interested in roses since my childhood in Russia when I used to collect postcards with rose pictures. Since then I have progressed to about 120 live roses, countless perennial companions, fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, and so on. High-maintenance but beautiful!

4. I have become interested in photography recently and have been groping my way around f-stops, shutter speeds, ISO values, and so on. Scary, but I am determined.

5. My life outside of the roses is spent at an ice rink: I am a freestyle figure skater, still actively training. Going fast across the ice and then jumping high is the closest I have ever come to flying. I won't stop until I fall apart.

6. I love to travel, even though recently I have been traveling mostly vicariously. Before kids, mortgage and car payments, my husband and I explored much of the world, especially Europe and the Mediterranean.

7. There aren't any recipes on my blog, but I love to cook. I like simple meals involving a good roast and a glass of an old-world red wine, especially a Chateauneuf, a Pauillac or a Rioja.

III. award from 5 to 15 other new bloggers. This is a bit tricky because I like a lot of blogs (but not all of them are new) and I really really don't want to leave anybody out. I will just mention some of the wonderful people I have recently met and hope they won't mind being listed here. If you have a chance, please visit their blogs, they deserve it!

Shannon's The Garden State

Jess's Children of the Corn

HolleyGarden's Roses and Other Gardening Joys

Gabriel's Jardins Cosmopolites

Christina's Organic Garden Dreams

Sherry's If Only Sweat Were Irrigation

Thank you so much again!

Friday, February 18, 2011

An Early Spring Walk Through the Neighborhood

We had a spell of warm dry weather for a couple of weeks, and all of a sudden blooms started popping up everywhere. It was heart-warming to see so much beauty so early in the year. Please join me on a little walk through the neighborhood  and look at what is happening in the gardens around me.

This is an old neighborhood with tiny lots that have mostly escaped the horrors of "low-maintenance landscaping". Nearly every garden looks different, and a gardener's taste comes through clearly in the choice of colors and blooms.

This area is located at the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains which provide a dreamy evergreen backdrop  to the well-tended gardens.

Like much of California, the climate here is Mediterranean with dry hot summers and mild rainy winters.

In fact, at the turn of the century, after a prestigious British medical journal recommended this area as having "the most equitable climate in the world", doctors sent tuberculosis patients here in the hopes of prolonging their lives.

I am glad that some of the "old age" look is still present. Mature plantings (even if a bit overgrown) are a lovely sight, and not too common: it seems that whenever houses change hands, a new owner starts out by removing the plants chosen by someone else before him. 

The pressure to conform is ever present, so it is a welcome surprise to come upon a garden that looks so different from everybody else's: indeed, why have a lawn when you can grow weeds? And so beautiful too, like this garden full of bermuda buttercups (buttercup oxalis),...

...which go so well with flowering quince.

As the area's primary business gradually changed from farming and orchard-growing to high tech, the interest in maintaining a garden dwindled. Neighborhoods with creative and carefully-tended landscaping are by no means ubiquitous. And so when I find myself in such a place, I always try to spend some time walking around, and catching a glimpse of scenes like this one, of a serendipitous and fleeting harmony of color created by an ornamental pear against a neighbor's blue house...

...or a welcoming staircase nicely shaded by a mix of pink and red camellias...

...or an old, overplanted and a bit untidy garden with a huge red camellia and a rambling hardenbergia vine getting over into the neighbor's yard.

I hope this neighborhood will stay unchanged for a long time and maintain its sense of history and tradition, in gardening as much as in everything else.