Thursday, June 29, 2006

The subject is roses

It took me about three years after we moved in to ruin a perfectly good rose garden. The previous owners had established a small bed, surrounded by a fiendishly constructed fence made out of rebar run through layers of bricks, topped with wood. The roses were white Meidilands, a Double Delight, some nameless little pink thing, and a truly magnificent red climber whose dark, winy red clusters lasted forever.

I thought I was doing the right thing. I sprayed, I used systemics, I made manure tea, which I stored in the garage, and I fed the foliage with an even fouler-smelling seaweed potion. I fought the good fight against rose midge, an insect that looks like this

and does this

All to no avail. After a few tough winters and several seasons of well-meaning incompetence, the white roses dwindled to nothing, the red climber died back almost to the ground, and I tore out the DD and the mildew-ridden pink one in disgust.

Now, four years after the major casualties, I’ve made my peace with the rose garden. I’ve planted some different varieties, I’m nursing the climber back to health (a few more mild winters should do it), and I’ve retained one of the original whites. I’ve also mixed perennials throughout , including many lilies, Japanese anemone, clematis, and a few tall annuals like canna and verbena bonariensis. We’ll see if the evil rose midge returns this summer (no sign yet), but I’ve stopped spraying everything but the occasional insecticidal soap. I’m also not bothering with malodorous brews—just some semi-organic food now and then.

If I could figure out how to lower the stupid fence, the air ciculation and sun exposure would improve tremendously, but it was clearly built by a lunatic. Any attempt at partial deconstruction would lead to certain disaster.

The roses I enjoy the most are three big container plants that sit next to each other and can be interplanted with annuals. One is Blush Noisette, the other (above) is some nondescript pink one, and one is supposed to be Gloire de Dijon, but is not. They work though, because they intertwine with each other and the annuals frame them. (They are also out of reach of the dreaded midge.) I am hoping that I can get the roses and perennials in the bed to interact in a similar way. We’ll see.

(This was supposed to be posted from Italy, but I didn't get to it.)

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