MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
GARDEN AT TWILIGHT
In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins tries to distract himself from his fears by thinking of pleasant things. One phrase sticks in my mind, "The garden at twilight." Our pool fence is now covered and surrounded with various plants. From the pool, the moon and stars in the western sky silhouette the scarlet runner beans twining up the fence, the feathery dill, the new blooms of the climber Don Juan, the scarlet flowers of salvia, and the dominant sunflower forms.
The sky in Phoenix is almost always cloudless, so the evening display of stars and moon is always a stunning backdrop for the garden. In the future I plan to have a night-blooming aromatic garden around the pool. Night blooming plants are generally quite perfumed and feature white flowers that glow in the starlight. According to evolutionists, night blooming plants have figured out that bold colors will not do them any good in the evening, so they choose to have white flowers. A few seconds of thought by anyone with an IQ above room temperature will settle that issue. God has provided night blooming flowers for the creatures of the evening. Moonflowers and night blooming cereus are famous for their perfume.
One person wrote to say that two rose bushes followed her home from the garden center. She came for impatiens and went home with roses as well. A likely story. I remember a woman who came into my father's doughnut shop. She asked for Diet Coke. Then she asked for Diet Pepsi. Finally she asked if we had any kind of diet pop at all. I shook my head. She sighed and said, "I'll take six chocolate filled berliners, then." I suspect that the first lady was all set to buy any rose with two green leaves. The second lady may have wanted diet pop, but she definitely settled for the richest fried doughnut we sold.
I went to the bookstore and found a book on English roses stuck to my fingers. I am started to grow roses other than the typical hybrid tea roses, so I will write a little about that in this installment.
People often ask about rose care, and I am glad to offer some advice based on experience.
1. The key is the soil. Roses grow between soil particles. The quality of the soil will determine the beauty of the roses. The best combination is clay with a lot of organic matter, full of earthworms, although clay will not drain as well. Sandy soil will drain well, too well, and needs plenty of organic matter.
2. Roses do not like competition, so do not even try to plant roses near trees. Some claim that roses will tolerate trees growing up slowly near them, but it is folly to plant roses near a well-established tree, as shown by tree roots encountered in the hole.
3. If a group of roses will be planted, and time/energy allow, dig out the entire area, as far down as possible. The sod layer can be placed at the bottom of the hole, upside-down, with other soil amendments, depending on the location. Gypsum is used in Phoenix. Greensand, granite dust, and other amendments are possible. Bagged topsoil can then fill the hole. Many times this will produce better roses than typical garden soil.
4. Roses love manure, but we do not want manure touching the roots. The alternative is simple. Once the rose is planted, place manure around the rose, then mulch on top of the manure. Earthworms will quickly pull down the manure, digest it, and convert it to topsoil. The channels produced will help water the bush.
5. Planting a bare-root rose should be preceded by a nice bath. Soaking for 24 hours is possible, but not good in a dry hot area like Phoenix. The canes get raring to go, but the roots have to catch up. However, the bare root rose will enjoy a good soaking just before planting. Try to keep it wet before planting. The potted rose should have a huge drink of water before planting. This reduces shock. Whenever I plant potted plants, I immerse them in water for at least an hour.
6. The bare root rose is normally popped onto a cone of soil. The soil makes quite a difference. Wrestling with a mean bush and light soil can lead to great frustration. The roots tend to boing around and make the plant slip and slide. Sometimes I just pin the plant down with some sod and say, "Enough!" I do not always use a cone of soil, but I generally try. The cone is not the goal, but getting soil all around the roots. This can be accomplished with watering. Soil will settle around the roots.
7. If the roots are too big for the hole, the hole can be enlarged. Lacking the desire to do that, the gardener can prune the roots. I usually prune the roots.
8. Bare root roses must be pruned when planted. This wakes up the roots, to start building a feeder system. The tiny rootlets do most of the work, so pruning is necessary for bare root roses and good for potted roses.
9. Some people make a big deal about creating a bowl to retain more water from rain and sprinkling. I favor making a big deal about mulch.
10. Mulch first with manure. Composted cow manure from a bag is fine. Chicken manure would probably be too hot (high in nitrogen), causing too much green growth at the expense of blooms. Horse and rabbit manure are great for all plants. As I wrote to one gardener, that does not mean dumping a gallon of fresh rabbit manure on a rose bush, wondering why the bush wilts in the cloud of ammonia. A newspaper bib can be placed above the manure. Garlic or chives should be planted near the bush, such as in the opening of the newspaper bib. The bib will prevent the grassy weeds from encroaching upon the rose. Grassy weeds love mulch.
11. The pretty layer of mulch can be lawn grass, which dries to an attractive, white mat. Or decorative bark. Or smaller bark bits. Smaller bits tend to blow away in the wind, indicating what happens to bare topsoil. Whenever a tree is ground up, I preserve the remains, or is treemains, and use it for mulch.
12. Dead wood must be trimmed away at once. It is also good to prune away the canes going in the wrong direction. Pruning is essential for the bush and promotes root growth.
Once the rose is producing leaves, your planter's panic will subside. Water by giving the bushes a good, hard shower. This washes them off and dislodges resident insects. When I soaped our front lawn and the roses, they looked great afterwards. It was fun and easy to do with a hose and fertilizer spray bottle. So far I have not had an aphid problem. However, I do expect them to find my address in the future.
The key to healthy bushes is plenty of water and pruning. When a rose has all five sepals (green bud leaves covering the bud) open, you can cut the rose off just above a five leaf cluster. Do not let the bloom fade and dry up, if you like blooms on the bush. Once the bloom begins to fade, it must be cut for repeat blooms. Look for dead wood all summer and trim that off as well.
TYPES OF ROSES
My first radical departure from traditional hybrid teas was buying the rugosa rose, Hansa. One writer has pointed out that no rose has all the qualities we want in the plant. Many of my favorite hybrid tea roses have as much fragrance as a ream of paper. Rugosa roses do not have a bloom for flower arrangements, but they are extremely cold hardy, drought resistant, and loaded with perfume. I pulled one fading bloom and asked members to smell it after church. One bloom alone was very potent. Rugosa roses make a great hedge, able to stop a wild boar in time. They produce great colorful hips, and they have attractive foliage. Hansa is blooming now with an attractive purple bloom.
Many European roses are becoming more popular. I wanted to shade my car from the western sun this summer, so I shopped for a huge bush. That's all I cared about. I bought Madam Isaac Pereres, later learning it was one of the 100 best roses. MIP is famous for heavy perfume. When the first blooms opened, it was more like a perfume bomb went off, even thought the bush is small and close to the ground right now.
We think of old roses as heavily perfumed bushes blooming but once a year. Many, if not most European roses are repeat bloomers. One can buy Gallic roses, cabbage roses (which look just like cabbages before opening up), and many other types.
The new rage is English roses. I happened to plant one that came as a gift. Then another was sent to replace the MIP that did not grow. David Austin developed the entire group of roses over many decades. I am interested in seeing how the group performs in Phoenix. The argument for English roses is that they combine the beauty and perfume of old roses with the bloom production of modern roses.
Did you know? Each rose has come from just one seed. A company may grow 250,000 seedlings and pick only two to develop. Once a seed has produced a seedling, such as Peace, all future roses come from asexual reproduction. Canes are placed in water, causing them to root, then planted in soil, later grafted to wild rose stock. When you look at a Peace rose, or Tropicana, or another hybrid, you are looking at a clone.
Sports are fast growing canes that produce climbing roses. It just happens. One day a Queen E. sent out a fast growing cane. The cane was reproduced and became Climbing Queen Elizabeth.
BIRDS WE LOVE
One of my goals was to create a garden area filled with birds. The feeder and watering stations have helped, but I am convinced that our yard is packed with birds because of the convenient perches in the form of a pool fence and the block wall. Birds stay in their primary sanctuary when they are frightened. When they feel safer, they fly over to their secondary stations (the fences, which meet at a right angle near the feeder). After looking over the yard, they fly from the fences to the feeder or the ground.
When a small noise is heard, the birds fly to the fences, then check out the danger. Their system is simple. One bird is the primary watchman, but all birds have the right to sound the alarm. All birds will follow the lead of any other specie. If sufficient alarm is sounded, all the birds will fly to the primary sanctuary and wait until they feel safe again.
The birds in our yard feel so safe that they feed while we watch them from 8 feet away, sitting in the open patio. Arm movements and reasonable noises no longer alarm them. I watched a grackle walk past our sheltie, which was watching 6 feet away. I said, "What kind of a bird-dog are you? You are a disgrace!" Precious looked at me, walked over to where some birds were feeding on the ground, and caused them to move. They were no more afraid of the dog than I was.
I watched a flock of geese flying toward the East in a ragged V. Right over our house, they broke formation and headed toward the house. Then they resumed their V formation and headed East. At first I thought they were acknowledging the St. Francis of Phoenix, but then I realized they probably heard the waterfall noise and turned to observe where it was. They might have been tempted to stop, except for my presence.
We buy a lot of seed, in 40 pound bags, but everyone enjoys the results. My mother loves to sit with her puppy and watch the birds feed and fight over the feeder. Visitors are struck by the number and variety of birds. In time, when the butterfly plants are producing attractive flowers, we should have some butterflies fluttering around, too.
Why Is Your Corn Bigger?
I helped plant one garden, using seeds we bought in a group order. Later I planted mine, which is mostly corn. One member said, "Why is your corn bigger than mine? Didn't you plant yours later?"
We planted exactly the same kind of corn. I may water more, but I think the key difference is the age of the soil. A newly opened garden will not produce as well as soil used to plants. As I have written before, the best soil is cultivated soil. The process of planting seeds, producing root growth, letting plants die in the soil, adding animal and green manure--all contribute to the softening and worminess of soil. Previous owners of my home spent a lot of time in their yard.
Newly manured soil must digest the fresh material. That is why some used to joke that organic potatoes were 10 times smaller than ordinary potatoes. Someone who has just turned over soil for the first time will have to wait for God to complete the many complicated chemical changes that take place with rotting and renewal.
One example, which I used before, I think, is quite vivid. I was transplanting raspberries from my older garden to someone's new garden. The clumps of soil with my raspberry canes were dark, humusy, and loaded with earthworms. The soil we placed them in was light, absent of earthworms, and quite ordinary looking. The difference was an older garden where autumn leaves were piled and left to rot into the ground. A raspberry patch, once established and mulched with tree leaves, will be dark and loaded with earthworms.