Tag Archives: roses

Fragrant Plants for the Garden

Stargazer_lilyRecently I received a bouquet of Stargazer lilies. The spectacular flowers on each stem open in succession and the display will last for nearly two weeks if I take care of them changing the water regularly and re-cutting the stems.

Wish the lilies in my own garden would hurry up and open. Mine are always a little behind those in warmer spots.  When they do open later in the month they will scent the garden with an unforgettable fragrance. Some flowers are memorable for their beautiful color, some for the hummingbirds they attract and some have it all-vibrant hues, nectar and fragrance. I love them all. Perhaps you want to add a few new ones to your own garden. Try one of these.

Lilies are one of the easiest of bulbs to grow. Stargazers are the most stunning and perhaps the most celebrated of lily varieties. Curious about their origin I discovered a little intrigue among horticultural historians. Seems they don't like seeing history revised. The bottom line is this lily was not first bred in 1974 by Mr. Leslie Woodruff of California but rather by Robert Griesbach of Washington and named in his friends honor. When you have an established clump of Stargazer lilies it doesn't matter who first bred them.

The stems of the Stargazer can reach 3- 6 ft tall and have in excess of 40 flowers each when planted in full sun in loamy or sandy soil and the blooms will last for a month or so. You can still grow beautiful lilies in as little as 6 hours of sun per day so don't be discouraged if you don't have a spot that receives full sun all day long. The sunlight can even be accrued over the course of the day so if your garden get some morning sun then again later in the day it all adds up.

If you are looking for a fragrant vine other than pink jasmine I have two suggestions. The first is Evergreen clematis_armandii3Clematis ( clematis armandii ) Earlier this spring you couldn't miss their fragrance if you were anywhere near a blooming one. Covered with an abundance of highly-scented, star-like flowers in brilliant white clusters, this showy evergreen vine grows fast in partial sun. This vine is perfect as a patio, trellis or arbor cover and makes a great privacy screen. Give this vine support as it grows to 25 feet long and can become quite heavy. If you live among deer, it's a great choice for a fragrant vine.

Fragrant climbing roses trained on an arbor or fence are classic landscape design choices. One of my favorites for gardens I design is Climbing Iceberg because they are disease resistant and have few thorns. It's hard to find a better behaved rose that gives so much in return with no Iceberg_roseeffort on your part. They start blooming early with a lovely sweet rose fragrance and continue until frost. Two climbers planted on each side of a window make a stunning display. It's one of my favorite white roses of all time and grows in sun or partial shade.

If you think violas are only for the winter garden, think again. Viola Etain is a reliable perennial that blooms heavily spring through fall . Soft primrose yellow petals edged in lavender are sweetly scented and bloom easily in sun or bright shade and in containers. If you cut the plants back to 3" tall once in awhile to rejuvenate and top dress with compost they will reward you with 9 months of fragrance and become one of your favorite violas, too.

There are so many fragrant flowers that make great additions to the garden. Freesia, hyacinth and narcissus bulbs are good bets for early fragrance. Then come the nemesia in every color imaginable. Phlox, lilacs, tuberose, star jasmine, stock, citrus blossoms, gardenia, lily-of-the-valley, daphne, carnations– the possibilities are endless. If you have a particular spot you'd like a suggestion for a fragrant plant, email me and I'd be happy to help.

Fragrance in the garden is nature's way of smiling.

Gardening with Children

The other day a young girl asked me, "Are you the lady that writes the flower column in the paper"? I was thrilled to know that my readership includes middle schoolers.  Our conversation soon turned to vegetables. Which are good to plant at this time of year and how late can they be started. Gardening can be a wonderful learning opportunity for all of us but especially for children.

In a garden, children can breathe fresh air, discover bugs and watch things grow. And, of course, a garden offers kids and everyone else fresh, tasty homegrown food. What better place for kids to play than in a place where they can use their hands and connect with the earth? Where else can they make a plan for a plot of land and learn the lessons of hope and wonder, suspense and patience and even success and failure? In a garden you can have conversations about life and even death in a way that doesn't seem so sad.

With the school year just starting, now would be the perfect time to encourage your child to grow something, keeping track of the progress by pictures and notes. Their daily actions really can make a difference for a sustainable future. Maybe what they learn could even be used for a school project. Here are some ideas.

September is the perfect time to start cool season vegetables. Carrots are fun to start from seed as they can be harvested even when small. For flavor it's difficult to beat a Nantes.   Nantes Coreless or Little Finger are two popular varieties.  They're not a carrot you'll find in the grocery store because they're difficult to harvest commercially and don't store well.  Both are juicy and sweet.  Nantes coreless grows to 6-7 " long, is blunt-tipped and fine grained.  Little Finger is unmatched for snacks, pickling or steaming.  It grows to just 3-4" long and is ideal for container gardening. too.

Red Cored Chantenay has broad shoulders and strong tapered tips.  This wedge-shaped carrot is also rarely grown by commercial growers.  For the home garden it produces 6" long carrots that keep well when left in the soil, store well after digging and are sweet and crunchy.  They perform well in heavy soil, too.

Danvers Half Long are another variety that are tasty raw, cooked, or juiced. They are one of the best carrots for storage as they stay crisp.  Carrots found at the super market are usually Imperators just so you know.

You can still start peas, beets, spinach, arugula, mustard and radish now from seed but it's better to start other veggies like lettuce, chard, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, onions, leeks and brussels sprouts from starts. If your veggies haven't gotten a good start before the soil cools, they'll just sit there until spring. Remember to rotate your crop locations so insects  and diseases don't cause problems. Also be sure to amend your soil with compost to replenish the nutrients that have been used by your summer veggies and flowers.  

Flowers in winter are always welcome so I like to plant early blooming types of sweet peas at this time of year. These varieties flower in the shorter days of late winter. Winter Elegance and Early Multiflora are common early flowering types. Also plant some of the more fragrant spring flowering heirlooms and Spencer's at the same time to extend your harvest time. My very favorite sweet pea with long stems for cutting and an intense fragrance is called April in Paris. Large ruffled blossoms are a soft primrose cream, tinted at the edges in dark lilac that deepens and increases with age. You can't go wrong no matter what color or style sweet pea you choose. They are all beautiful.

If you grow roses fertilize now to encourage another round of blooms.  A well-fed rose not only rewards you with beauty and fragrance but can stay healthy and resist attack from insects and diseases.   Roses grown in sandy soil or containers need more frequent feeding than those grown in loam or heavier soil.  Make sure the soils is moist before fertilizing and water well afterward.

Whatever you grow, include the kids in the garden. It's a free and fun activity.

Lessons from Butchart Gardens and the Pacific Northwest

I can see snow-covered Mt. Rainier from my sister's deck. Last night a rainbow bridged the Puget Sound which flows around Fox Island at the southern end of the sound. The landscape here is lush and green. Dogwoods, foxgloves and rhododendrons are still in full bloom. This temperate rain forest receives more rain than ours but I see many of the same woodland plants that we grow. I study each garden for new ideas.

The next day we head for Vancouver Island. As the clouds clear the Victoria Clipper pulls into the harbor. The Empress Hotel's landscaping is picture perfect. Purple rhododendron, hosta, and hellebore grow under the white Kousa dogwood trees. Late afternoon sun backlights each leaf. Gingko trees and weeping birch frame the Parliament building. The lights come on and outline each gable and tower. Still exploring the city later I look at my watch. It's after 10pm and still light. I forget we are closer to the land of the midnight sun at this latitude.

Visiting gardens is always the highlight of all my trips.  Butchart Gardens, a National Historic site of Canada, is a prime example of quarry restoration. Huge 100 year old poplar trees with gnarled trunks frame the famous sunken garden. Throughout the perfectly manicured lawns perennial beds grow oriental poppy, Japanese iris, Asian lily, hosta, black mondo grass, black-eyed susan, and lady's mantle. This kind of perfection comes with a price. We saw several gardeners raking and deadheading while several others cleaned around the stone border with pastry brushes.

Victoria is famous for its hanging baskets. At Butchart Gardens several hundred hand from every arbor, trellis, pergola and shepherd's hook. Mixed baskets of long blooming annuals and perennials are started early in the greenhouse then brought out in full bloom. One of my favorites featured peach-toned tuberous begonias, trailing sapphire lobelia, bacopa and coral calibrachoa. I was drawn to the dozens of hanging fuchsias and a rainbow of begonias planted with columbine, ferns and gold acorus grasses.

It must be fun to plant up the large pots that decorate the grounds. Even the wooden recycling receptacles have mixed planting on the top. Several noteworthy pots were planted with orange flowering maples paired with blue Mexican poppies and a variegated geranium. Another we liked contained a striking Electric Pink cordyline, coral petunia, calibroachoa and Bonfire begonia.

Fragrant flowers entice the senses and are planted everywhere. Strolling through the garden, vanilla scented heliotrope greet you. Spice-scented stock is planted nose high atop rock walls. Mrs. Butchart started this tradition and the garden strives to have something fragrant blooming every season of the year.

The roses were just starting to open. Many of them originated in England and Australia. The Queen's Pink peony Golden Jubilee was honored with decorative flags hung from the light posts. Flanked my tall gorgeous blue delphiniums it was quite a sight.

If it was early for the roses, the peony did not disappoint. I have never seen so many in one place. This climate is perfect for their culture. I had a hard time deciding which was my favorite. Double deep burgundy flowers grew alongside soft peach and bright pink ones. A cool white one paired well with Bridal Veil spirea. A soft peach variety looked great with the darker orange oriental poppies.

Always on the lookout for planting ideas, the endless vignettes were inspiring. The many different garden rooms in this garden allowed for countless combinations. One that caught my eye paired a purple smoke bush with coral verbascum and the variegated iris pallida. The blue flowers of the iris contrasted perfectly with the coral flowers and burgundy foliage of the other two plants.

I saw this garden in a new light on this visit. It was spectacular. Next week I'll recount my visit to Abkhazi Garden outside Victoria.

Fragrant Roses & How to Prune Them

I'm daydreaming about the flowers of spring and summer and what could be more impressive than a big, fragrant, jewel-toned rose? There are some great new ones out this year that I have my eye on. Maybe you have room for one more.

Fragrance is a requirement for me when it comes to roses. First thing when we admire a beautiful rose is to bend over and smell it. Sure vase life and petal count are important but who can resist a fragrant rose? With that in mind, several of the new varieties out this year fit my bill. Consider one of these for your garden.

Orchid Romance is a small, medium pink to lavender floribunda rose. It has a strong citrus aroma on warm days. Grown on its own root it has good disease resistance and holds up well in a bouquet. Medium large, very full flower clusters bloom in flushes throughout the season.

Sugar Moon is an elegant pure white rose with huge, full, classically formed buds. Saturated with an intensely sweet citrus and rose fragrance the scent is said to nearly bowl you over. Long cutting stems makes this a perfect addition for the cutting garden. Superior disease resistance is another plus for this new rose.

Cold weather earlier this month has kept roses in the garden dormant but now is the time to prune them before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. I want them to produce lots of roses on a compact shrub not just a few exhibition size so I prune shrubs moderately.  Heirlooms, however, require less pruning because their open look is part of their charm.  Remember your goal is to keep the center of the plant open for good air circulation.  Aim for a vase-shaped bush with an open center by cutting out crossing canes, spindly, weak, broken or diseased stems as well as dead wood. Cut back the remaining stems by about one-third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward facing bud.

Don't worry whether you're pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. I once helped prune the rose garden at historic Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto. To revitalize the old shrubs we sawed out most of the beefy canes. I didn't think they could recover in time for the big May bloom but they did and were spectacular. Roses are like redwoods -you can't kill one- they're the energizer bunnies of the plant world.

Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

Remove any leaves that may still be clinging to the bush. Rake up debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It's a good idea to spray the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually only have problems with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.

And that's all there is to it. Email me if you have any questions.

Roses for the Santa Cruz Mountains

The weather this year has agreed with my roses. It may seem like we’re living in England lately, but the roses have appreciated the cool, moist spring- all the better to set lots of buds without a sudden heat wave to ruin the show. Every rose lover I’ve talked to is raving about the quality, quantity and extended bloom time for their roses.

Roses are available in so many shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances that almost every garden has a place for at least one. They provide structure and proportion to the landscape and are among the most showy and hardworking of all garden plants. The rose was selected as our National flower in 1986. England may have a few years on us in this department as it’s been their national emblem since the Wars of the Roses in 1455.

Who grew the first rose? Fossilized plants over 30 million years old can be linked to modern rose species. The Chinese were probably the first to cultivate roses, however. Five hundred years BC, Confucius wrote of roses in the Imperial Gardens. Roses have been under cultivation in China before they were introduced to the European market in the late 18th century. The ancient Greeks cultivated roses extensively. The Romans imported roses from Egypt. They also established a thriving rose-growing industry south of Rome forcing them into bloom during the winter in greenhouses and irrigating with warm water.

In the genus Rosa there are over 150 species or styles of roses that have specific characteristics. These species roses are plants that grow in the wild and from which all other roses are descended. Hybridization happens in nature by bees and other insects but man has taken the process to an intricate art and hybrid roses now account for over 1000 different kinds. From old garden roses like Damask and Bourbon to modern roses like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora to tree roses, climbing roses, miniatures, the choices are endless.

Which types grow well here? From my own experience and that of other designers and rose aficionados, my
all-time favorite is the popular Sally Holmes. It’s disease resistant, everblooming, handles our summer heat and winter cold with ease and has few thorns. Large, long lasting clusters of single peachy-white blooms cover this 10 ft spreading shrub that acts more like a climber. Because the flower is simple in form and doesn’t contain many petals it can handle foggy, cool conditions and resist fungal diseases.

English roses, like Golden Celebration, need warmth to perform well. With 5" blooms of 50+ petals, they are reliable if you get lots of heat. Same goes for the rich, golden-yellow Graham Thomas rose. Both are fragrant.

Roses that I have found to bloom in shady conditions are Ballerina, a wonderfully fragrant, small, pink hybrid musk rose. Dense, hardy and vigorous it’s easy to grow. I also grow the magenta climber, Zepherine Drouhin, in the shade. It grows to 8-12 ft tall and has a strong raspberry scent. Iceberg performs well in part shade, too, with large, double, pure white blooms that scent the air with a rich, honey perfume. I like that it’s thornless, too. I’ve been told that the miniature, Gourmet Popcorn, also tolerates shade.

Deer love to eat roses. Even roses with terrible thorns have susceptible new growth before the thorns have had time to harden.  The new growth also has an increased amount of nutrients. I’ve heard that Rugosa roses are fairly deer resistant and well as The Fairy. Hope springs eternal.

This column is not long enough to go into the best way to plant and grow roses. But if you have a choice, it’s best to plant them where they receive at least morning sun as this allows the foliage to dry before fungus spores take hold.

Every garden or patio has a place for at least one wonderfully fragrant rose.

Time to Prune Roses, Fruit trees and Flowering Shrubs

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to bundle yourself up to go out and work in the garden on a cold winter day. Bright sunshine sure helps but still it’s not t-shirt weather yet. It helps to think how good that fresh air will feel, not to mention that working in the garden relieves stress. And think about all that great exercise you get without getting on the boring treadmill.

Depending on your weight and how vigorous you work, one hour of gardening can burn up about 272 calories. Transplant a shrub, and the number of calories burned could jump to an incredible 340 calories per hour. Just think of that extra helping of potatoes-au-gratin you had over the holidays.

There’s plenty to do this time of year. Neaten things up by removing rotting perennials and sweep the leaves and debris off the driveway and your roof. 

It’s time to prune fruit trees and smother overwintering eggs and insects by spraying with horticultural oil. Combine your spray with lime-sulfur ( except on apricot trees ) to kill fungal disease spores like the ones that cause peach-leaf curl.  has also been shown to supress fungal diseases.You’ll want to do this again when the buds swell but before they open ( about Valentine’s Day )

Control large vines like overgrown honeysuckle, pink jasmine,  morning glory, passion vine, potato vine and trumpet creeper by radically thinning or even cutting back low to the ground if they are a big, tangled mess. Wait until after flowering to heavily prune spring-blooming vines such as wisteria.

Pruning Roses
When buds along rose canes begin to swell, prune repeat flowering roses by removing spindly or diseased shoots and dead wood. Do this before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. Cut back the remaining stems by about a third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle just above an outward facing bud. Don’t worry whether your pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. You want to produce lots of roses not just a few of exhibition size. Aim for a vase-shaped  bush with an open center.

Prune old garden roses that bloom once in the spring after flowering.
Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to about the place where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

If any old leaves still cling to the plant, remove them. Rake up any debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It’s a good idea to spray both the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually have a problem only with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.  Thoroughly coat the trunk, branches and twigs.

Other tasks to do in the garden in January:

Cut back hydrangeas if you haven’t already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers.

Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don’t prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering or you can cut some during flowering to bring in cuttings for bouquets.