Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Review: "The English Roses - Classic Favorites & New Selections" by David Austin

Everyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows how much I love roses. I simply can't help it they are my favorite flowers and always will be.

So when I was approached by Firefly Books offering me the opportunity to review "The English Roses, Classic Favorites & New Selections", Third Edition, by David Austin, the legendary English rose breeder, I was really excited.

I adore almost all roses, with a few exceptions, but I do have a special appreciation for roses bred by David Austin. Many of his rose creations have that extra special something that makes a rose stand out from others. I currently grow nine different varieties bred by him and have three more on order, which for my small garden is quite a high number.

The first thing that caught my eye in this book is the amazing quality of the photos of individual roses, but also pictures showing roses in garden settings. I say it right away this book is a feast for the eyes and that is exactly what I am expecting from a book written about roses. It should capture the natural beauty and grace of roses and this book delivers.

But it doesn't stop there. The content is equally fascinating and informative. The book is divided into three main parts. The first is dedicated to explaining the origins and nature of the English Roses, the second describes many older and newer varieties of English Roses in detail and provides a photo of each, and the third part addresses the future of the English Roses and gives tips about their cultivation.

I found it very interesting and educational to read in David Austin's own words how he has developed his beautiful roses to date, what his breeding goals were, and what his criteria are for a good rose that is worth releasing into commerce. For David Austin it is not only a beautiful flower that counts, but also the fragrance of the rose, the whole overall appearance of a rose bush, the disease resistance and the vigor, and the ability to re-bloom freely.

Especially the chapter about rose fragrance was fascinating to me. In modern rose breeding many breeders have not paid that much attention to fragrance and as a consequence, many modern roses have lost their fragrance at all. I really find that a pity, since smelling a rose to me is as pleasurable as seeing its beautiful blooms. Obviously, fragrance is a top priority for David Austin in his breeding program and most of the English Roses are highly fragrant, which in my eyes is a big plus.

I like that this book is very informative and you can read it from A-Z, but you can also use it as a coffee table book and simply flip through it over and over again and enjoy the beautiful photos. Since many varieties that David Austin has bred are introduced in detail it is also a good reference book and gives you the opportunity to use it as a guide if you want to choose a David Austin rose for your own garden. All in all, I have a feeling that you will love this wonderful book as much as I do! It woud also make a lovely gift. Just go and check it out for yourself!

David Austin
The English Roses
Classic Favorites & New Selections
Third Edition
ISBN-13: 978-1-77085-326-3
ISBN-10: 1-77085-326-X

Disclaimer: The book was provided to me by Firefly Books for review, but all opinions are entirely my own. This post contains affiliate links.

I have put up an Amazon affiliate link on my sidebar. When you order this book or other products from Amazon through my blog I will receive a small commission with no additional costs for you, which I will use towards caring for my own garden and running this blog. I would be very pleased if you would consider supporting me, my garden, and my blog in this way. Thank you very much!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Calla Lily Arrangement

As I went through the garden doing my Sunday morning stroll today I noticed that my calla lilies (zantedeschia aethiopica) are finally blooming and I knew immediately that they would be the ideal blooms to use for a little flower arrangement.

At the end of the process I was pleased with the arrangement above, but getting there was quite a struggle. First I thought I would be able to cut five blooms, but it turned out that one of them was already over and another one had too many blemishes to be used as a cut flower.

Having only three blooms to work with presented quite a challenge because they looked lost in a bigger vase. Like in my last bouquet (see the post here) the solution was to cut the long stems of the flowers down quite a bit and use plenty of greenery (five calla lily leaves) as a foundation for the blooms.

I realized that my final arrangement resembles the way a calla lily naturally grows. Mother nature always knows best!

The strong architectural presence of a calla lily bloom always fascinates me.

And the leaves are not less captivating with their beautiful veining.

Usually, I like more romantic bouquets, but I find that calla lilies call for simplicity and restrained to not disturb the beauty of their clear lines and understated elegance. So a simple modern glass vase seemed to be a good fit.

To me, the arrangement has a bit of a Zen-character which inspired me to accompany it with a sound bowl with a simple wood striker. When I bought the bowl I had been told that it is very old and from Nepal. That might be true or not, but it definitvely has a wonderful sound.

I love in this shot how the light shines through the leave of the calla lily and illuminates the white flower.

Pure elegance.

I can get lost looking at these beautiul leaves.

The flower seen from a different perspective, revealing the yellow spadix.

Calla lilies are truly pieces of art.

After a long time I like to participate in Cathy's very popular "In a Vase on Monday" meme, where she encourages us to pick something from our gardens and bring it indoors to be enjoyed up close. Please go over to her blog and see what she and other people have filled their vases with this week.

Wishing everyone a good start into the new week!

See you in the garden!

Warm regards,


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Being in Love With Stock And More...

Last year almost accidentally I stumbled over a few little containers of old fashioned matthiola, better known under the common name stock, at a big box store and brought them home with me. Somehow these plants weren't on my radar before, but that really changed once they were planted in the garden. I fell in love not only with all the available colors and bloom forms (there are single ones and filled varieties available) but in addition to that with their fragrance which is absolutely divine.

This year I couldn't wait for the stock to come back into the nurseries and as soon as they were available I secured my share. Contrary to last year this time I potted all my stock up in containers to be able to move them around in the garden and just plop a container down wherever I needed a little bit of spring color.

I placed one container close to our front door and sometimes when the conditions are right (means there is enough humidity in the air) and I pass by I get a wonderful whiff of the delicious perfume of these plants.

In general, I love pastel muted colors and this very pale apricot hue is one of my favorites colors that stock is available in.

But this post is not just about stock. I also would like to catch you up on the happenings in my garden over the last few weeks and show you some photos.

One cool morning in February I found the peppermint geranium leaves covered with natural dewdrops. Don't they look like they have gotten a dusting of powder sugar? These leaves also release a wonderful and fairly strong peppermint scent when rubbed between fingers.

I use them often as a filler green for single roses in bud vases. The velvetiness of these leaves goes very well with the beauty of a single rose.

Talking about roses, mine certainly enjoyed all the winter rains that we were having and sometimes their leaves looked like clothed in diamonds after the rains had ceased and the sun came out.

Do you remember my excitement when I found the first self-seedling of one of my hardy geraniums (see the post here)? Well, my enthusiasm has gotten quite a damper. The plant grew like crazy, but only produced insignificant tiny flowers that you had to almost search for with a magnifying glass. Well, by now it is ripped out and found its way into the compost bin. I guess this is why we need professional plant breeders...

One storm tore so much at my Queen Palms that it ripped off a whole palm frond, which landed on the backyard lawn. These fronds are huge! I put a regular size garden chair at the end of the frond so that you get a better idea of its size.

Back to the front yard and the stock. This container is beautifying a column of our decorative wall, which is the very first thing that you see when you walk up to our front door. I really like the dark blue of the container together with the different colors of the stock.

This year I didn't buy any pansies or violas because our last winters were so mild and then we had heat waves very early in the year, they did seem to last only for the blink of an eye. So this year as a substitute stock is bringing the first spring color into my garden.

Here is a photo of the walkway to our front door. In the very front is rosa 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' which became less and less vigorous over the years. I pruned the rose hard to see if it would rejuvenate, but unfortunately, it didn't and was not able to produce any basal shoots again.

I also pruned my Verbena Bonariensis back quite severely and with this plant, it worked. It came back nice and strong and I am so much looking forward to seeing it in bloom again. It is only its second year in my garden (I bought it in late summer last year) and therefore I don't know when it will start to bloom.

Two commentators on my blog said that Verbena Bonariensis will reseed freely. Well, that is not the case in my garden (hardly anything reseeds here and I blame the strong root competition between the seedling roots and the always present palm roots, but, oh wonder, two little seedlings of Verbena Bonariensis made it.

At least that is what I think these little guys are. I will dig them up and see if I can grow them on to more vigorous plants in containers first and then transplant them back to other areas of the garden. I loved the two Verbena Bonariensis plants last year in my garden and would like to have more of them.

Another plant that is doing well this year is the daylily 'Gentle Shepherd'. The fans have nicely multiplied in this plant but I have to say I have a second one which has only made it to grow from two fans up to three.

Walking towards our front door you can see that all roses are pruned and I am done with the spring clean-up waiting for the garden to explode into new growth.

I would love for this part around the cycad to be underplanted a bit more and hope that I will get to it this spring. I will move the small pelargonium located on the right side of the cycad, right in front of the blue container to another part of the front yard and I am contemplating to plant a blue flowering ajuga there instead, which has done very well in my backyard.

Some more shots of the stock. This pale lilac variety is also one of my favorite colors.

We really had torrential rains at times here in the last couple of weeks, but altogether the stock flowers held up to it surprisingly well. Only the white ones showed some browning of the flower petals. I find that white flowers, in general, react always the most sensitive to rain.

Here we are looking at my relatively newly planted bed to the right side of the house. The rose in the front is 'Cymbaline' an older rose bred by David Austin. It was planted in August of last year, meaning in the heat of summer and I am so happy that it survived. Especially since I lost the 'Crocus Rose' here that I planted prior to 'Cymbaline'.

Rosa 'Cymbaline' is happily leaving out and the best is that it is even producing basal shoots from the base of the bush.

This is one of my two 'Climbing Iceberg' roses in the front yard by the garage. It is a joy for me to see how vigorous it is leaving out this year. 

I will end this post with three more photos of the stock. The magenta tone is also very nice.

Close-up of a newly developing flower spike of a soft apricot colored stock. 

I have read somewhere that stock doesn't like the heat so much so we will see how mine will last since we are just having our first heat wave right now with temperatures of 82 degrees Fahrenheit/28 degrees Celsius today. But from tomorrow on it shall slowly cool down again, reaching 71 degrees Fahrenheit/22 degrees Celsius by Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday we are even promised a little bit of rain again. 

Even though my stock was reasonably priced buying annuals gets expensive. I wonder if stock could be sown successfully directly onto the ground, which I would be very tempted to do if there is a chance that it could work. I know I don't have the patience or space to grow it on in containers, but if it would be possible to sow it directly on the ground I might give it a try next year. 

How about you, are you also a fan of stock? Or is it not your favorite. Does anyone of you my dear readers have experience with growing stock from seeds? Especially with sowing it directly onto the ground? I would appreciate if you would share your experience.

Wishing everyone a nice rest of the week I hope wherever you live spring has reached you by now or is only an arm's length away. 

See you in the garden!

Warm regards,