Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rose Alphabet: A and B

It is a quiet time in the garden (still waiting for rain), and I have finally succumbed  to some rosarians' winter pastime of making an alphabetic list of my roses and adding a few notes on how these roses do for me.

Pat Austin
I garden in a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and dry summers. The prevalent foliar diseases of roses in this climate are powdery mildew and rust. Blackspot is rare in our low humidity. Although unsightly, mildew and rust are not nearly so detrimental to a rose's health as blackspot (even when sick, our roses keep most of their leaves and are thus able to maintain vigor). Many roses grow large because of a long growing season and lack of winter freeze damage.

 Our native soil is heavy alkaline clay rich in minerals but poor in organic matter. In my garden, planting beds are amended and mulched.

 Many of my roses grow in only half day sun. Because of high heat and light intensity, providing some shade for the blooms helps them last longer without diminishing their quantity.

It is important to keep all this in mind because roses do badly or well depending in large on the climate in which they are grown.

Amazone (tea, Ducher, 1872)

'Alexander Hill Gray' at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden
This is the name under which I received my rose from Chamblee's nursery a couple of years ago. I agree with those who think that it is very similar to, or the same as, the found rose sold as 'Alexander Hill Gray'.

Mine is growing vigorously and blooms well. It is one of the mildew-prone teas. Not much more to say because it is still quite young.

Angel Face (floribunda, Swim and Weeks, 1968)

It is a very well known rose, still widely grown more than 50 years after its introduction. It has mauve blooms with wavy petals and a wonderful fragrance. The petals often develop an uneven (and unwelcome) purple edge.

Its growth is not very vigorous, but it sets many blooms in regular flushes. It is one of the few roses that blackspot here losing a lot of leaves by midsummer.

However, in my garden Crepuscule and a lavender penstemon do a great job of hiding its mostly naked canes, so I don't mind the blackspot.

April in Paris (hybrid tea, Zary, 2007)

I bought this rose the year it came out, on impulse, sight unseen, because of its name. As if this wasn't foolish enough, I bought it as a tree (standard) rose, which is more than twice as expensive as buying a rose bush. Never again :) Its color is innocuously described as "pink blend", which in this case means pink blotches on a greyish background. It often makes me think of a skin disease.

However, the color is this rose's only drawback. It blooms almost continuously, it is completely healthy, very vigorous and wonderfully fragrant. It has a "lollipop on stick" growth habit typical of a hybrid tea. The blooms are always well-formed with high centers and it never blooms in clusters.

Sometimes, even the color is beautiful :)

Baron Giraud de l'Ain (hybrid perpetual, Reverchon, 1897)

In its day it was a novelty rose, and even now remains very unusual, with the ruffly look of its blooms enhanced by the white edging on the petals.

I remember this rose growing as a typical stiffly upright hybrid perpetual at the San Jose Heritage. In my garden, it grew long spindly canes, completely naked but for two or three leaves on a few short laterals (picture below).  Rebloom, as with many hybrid perpetuals, was far short of spectacular. The only truly perpetual thing was the mildew. It's gone.

Basye's Purple Rose (hybrid rugosa, Basye, 1968)

Dr. Basye was a mathematics professor at Texas A&M University who also bred roses for disease resistance and smooth canes. He was apparently very displeased when his breeding efforts produced this not-so-thornless rose:

Despite taking the prize for the most prickles of any rose in my garden, it has much to recommend it. It blooms a lot even though individual flowers do not last, petals drop cleanly, it is healthy and strongly fragrant. Its most striking feature is a deep velvety red wine color of the blooms.

New canes are also very dark plum. In fact, the rose is so deeply pigmented that dark spots sometimes appear on the leaves too (picture below).

My rose is own-root and suckers enthusiastically. It becomes moderately chlorotic in my alkaline soil, but does well with annual sulphur applications. The foliage colors nicely in the fall, as you can see.

Beauté de l'Europe (climbing tea, Gonod, 1881)

This is one of the roses Vintage Gardens imported from France two years ago and that I finally received this fall.  It is a thornless climber, which was its biggest attraction for me. There is some debate as to what this rose really is. I have nothing to contribute because mine is still a ten-inch twig. It did set buds three times in the three months I have had it, so I will take it as a good sign. It has been clean so far.

'Benny Lopez' (found rose, damask perpetual, discovered in 2005)

'Benny Lopez' arrived at my house in January 2011 as a small sucker from a gracious online friend.
Since then it turned into a beautiful rose blooming generously and growing with good vigor. The blooms are full and fragrant and changeable in color, from pink to bluish purple to crimson.

It has an upright growth habit, with prickly canes, healthy foliage and generous clusters of blooms. It suckers modestly.

Bishop's Castle (English rose, Austin, 2007)

This was one of the first Austins I planted because of its beautiful blooms and lovely fragrance. It was also one of the first I got rid of. Can you see why from the pictures below?

If the blooms are so gorgeous it is not obvious, here is a hint: they  all hang upside down. Apparently this rose grows well for quite a number of people, but not for me. I waited for years for canes to become thicker and stronger. All I got were octopus arms. The more I pruned the longer they grew. They finally reached 10 feet in length, at which point I realized that I lost the fight and dug it out. There are too many other pretty pink roses.

Break o'Day (hybrid tea, Brownell, 1939)

A lovely old fashioned rose with double apricot blooms and clean foliage on a small bush (own-root). It stands up to heat very well too.

Buff Beauty (hybrid musk, Bentall, 1939)

Many hybrid musks are grown to great effect as stand-alone shrubs: they have long thick canes that arch creating a beautiful fountain shape with blooms all along the canes. Not this one. It has a prostrate ground hugging growth habit and will not stand up without support.

Other than that it is a wonderful rose. The fragrant blooms are produced in large clusters. They are also some of the fullest among hybrid musks. Rebloom is good and foliage clean. Also very heat tolerant.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Some Perennial Companion Plants for Roses

I wrote a post on companion plants for roses just after I started this blog, and it turned out to be one of my most popular posts.

Hermann Lindecke and feverfew (chrysanthemum parthenium 'Aureum')

Gladiolus byzantinus with Rosette Delizy and cl. Cecile Brunner
I thought it might be time for an update. Below are a few notes on perennials, my favorite type of companion for roses. Even though I like them best, I do also grow many other flowering plants. Among bulbs,  freesia, Dutch irises, tazetta daffodils, lilies, smaller gladioli all work for me and are not too invasive.

Shrubs are good for contrasting foliage and to give the garden structure. I grow mostly flowering and evergreen shrubs.

My Purple Pavement is vigorous and coexists quite well with a common snowball (viburnum opulus 'Roseum'). They both sucker:)

 Loropetalums and spireas are particularly pretty to me and seem to generally get along with roses. Viburnums not so much.

'Old Korbel Gold' lost its battle with Summer Snowflake viburnum (v. plicatum tomentosum) and had to be dug out and potted up this summer. 

 However, including all these other plants would be like writing a small encyclopedia, and I do not feel up to the task :)

Zephirine Drouhin and spanish lavender (l. stoechas 'Otto Quast') with some Goodwin Creek Grey lavender surround my garden bench

Selecting plants is easy.

A California towhee examining some daisies (chrysanthemum frutescens)

 I choose those that like roughly the same cultural conditions as roses, especially in terms of tolerance of or preference for regular water and fertilizer applications.

A foxglove with Souvenir de Claudius Denoyel in the back

 Most full sun to part shade plants work for me. Many gardeners look for plants that offer some contrast to roses in terms of color and shape of blooms and foliage.

Magnificent Perfume next to linum lewisii, a reliably perennial flax with short lived flowers and a delicate airy growth habit. It does well on very little water

I particularly try to look for something that is not very attractive to snails and slugs :), but that does provide food and cover to bees, butterflies and birds.

Agastache hybrid 'Red Fortune'

One rule I have discovered is that there are no hard and fast rules.

Carding Mill and a tagless salvia

 Most of my garden came together from successive plantings of impulse purchases wherever I could find a patch of bare ground.

Scabiosa ochroleuca

Although I seem to have acquired some knowledge, my ignorance is vast.

Barcelona and geranium "Rozanne"

 I do not anticipate ever attaining that perfect state of boredom when I can simply sit down and predict with certainty how plants will grow in my garden.

'Hoag House Cream' with lavandula angustifolia 'Potpourri White' and scabiosa columbaria 'Harlequin Blue'

One of the first perennials I bought was verbena bonariensis.

I had an idea that its airy stems would grow through the roses using their canes for support. Not so. It grows away from the roses into the sun, reaches 6 feet high and, if it windy (it always is, here) flops over. By itself it is a coarse, ungainly plant, though easy to grow, not needing much water or fertilizer. 

Its fragrant flowers are an important source of nectar and attract many pollinators.

I grow many penstemons, species and hybrids. In my experience penstemons do not like hard pruning: they do not come back well, stay small and don't bloom as much. Nowadays I only cut them back by not more than 1/3.

A hybrid penstemon with Julia Child

On the other hand, they become huge, the stems flop to the ground and root through the mulch :) Despite their reputation for drought tolerance, all my penstemons, species included, do well with or actually prefer regular water.

Hybrid penstemon 'Midnight'

I love pelargoniums even though a lot of them seem to me to be too showy and clash with roses. Many die back in our winters with scented geraniums especially hard hit. I have twice lost most scented varieties I collected and intend to resist as hard as I can spending any more money on them in future.

A variegated scented leaf pelargonium (p. graveolens hybrid)

Over the years, I have accumulated many lavender plants of several types.

 Lavender is a ubiquitous plant in a Mediterranean climate, so I will only mention a few less well known hybrids. All my Madrid series lavenders (l. stoechas crosses) rebloom. Viridis lavenders bloom only once (and not too long at that).

L. viridis 'Tiara Blue'

 My lavender is regularly but sparingly watered (it's mostly drip irrigation).

Potted lavender dries out very quickly and needs to be watered frequently. In my experience, once lavender shows conspicuous signs of drying out it becomes difficult to restore its vigor.

Many other herbs grow well with roses in my climate. My favorite has become oregano.

Origanum sipyleum 'Showy Pink'
 I have over a dozen plants, culinary and ornamental, that do very well on drip.

Origanum laevigatum 'Hopley's Purple'

I bought several rehmannia plants a few years ago because I liked their shaggy foxglove look. I planted all of them, as instructed, in dappled shade. For the last plant, there was no room, and I regretfully put it into an almost full sun location along a west facing stone wall.

 Interestingly, it was the only one that survived :) It has been spreading steadily and is now about a 10 foot long planting that blooms all summer long meandering through roses and sending flower spikes where it wants. Beautiful and no trouble at all so far.

Over the years, many of my roses have grown much bigger than expected and started shading out the plants that grow with them.

Campanula primulifolia

The biggest challenge I am facing now is maintaining a balance: not to sacrifice too many blooms by pruning my roses too hard, yet making sure there is enough room for the companion plants.

Cl. Cecile Brunner hugging Azure Bush germander (teucrium fruticans 'Azureum')

 It is a tricky, but fun experiment.

Penelope with some penstemons and osteospermum daisies