Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Roses

We were getting plenty of rain this month for Southern California circumstances and it was relatively cold, too, but since yesterday the weather has changed and today we had 86 F! That was giving the roses a big boost and now many of them are blooming. Below I show you my most beautiful roses that flowered in the month of March in my garden.

(you can click on the photos to enlarge)

'Grandmother's Hat' produced my absolute favorite bloom this month. I am totally in love with this rose!

'Reine des Violettes' just starts to open. I guess the flower is a little bit blotchy from the rain and the cold. I assume, in warmer weather it would look a little different.

'Purple Pavement' is the only Rugosa rose that I grow. The rose is still in a pot, but did not seem to like our alkaline water. Still it was able to crank out some blooms. 

Bud of 'Sutter's Gold', very elegant looking.


I picked the same bloom of  'Sutter's Gold' later in a more open stage for indoors before the rain ruined it and find that it has a quite interesting coloration, even though it is almost a little bit too bold for my taste.

This is the first bloom that I ever see from 'Vi's Violet', a beautiful lavender miniature rose. It almost died after being eaten by rabbits twice, and now slowly recovers. I am still very new to miniature roses, but I start to like the small delicate flowers more and more. I think, they will be very cute for small indoor bouquets.

'Vi's Violet' again in a more open stage and wet from the rain. As you can see the rose has blackspot and rust, but I hope it will grow out of it as the weather warms up and gets more dry.


'Sweetness', this rose you already now from my previous post, wet, but this time not from rain but the sprinklers.  The rose truly amazes me, what it endures and still being able to look so pretty.

'Bewitched' loves the heat and produced yet another one of her perfect Hybrid Tea style flowers.

Fully open bloom of 'Baronne Prevost'. The flower was measuring 4.5" in diameter. I adore the Old Garden Rose form.

'Mme. Alfred Carierre'. Another rose that just loves the heat, producing effortless one picture perfect rose bloom after the other. Here it is really a no-brainer to grow.

The last rose for today, 'William Shakespeare 2000'. This is the first rose that the one gallon rose that I got from Chamblee's is producing for me. I love the form, but would like to see the color to be a little bit darker the same way it came with blooms from Chamblee's on it. Maybe I have to put down a little bit of soil sulfur and find out, if that changes the color in the direction that I would like it to be. 

I am dedicating the roses of the month March to the people of Japan. My heart goes out to you!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rose of the Month: 'Sweetness'

 (you can click on the photos to enlarge)

Good lavender or mauve colored roses are hard to come by, very hard to come by actually. Somehow they seemed to be more fussy to grow and disease prone than any other colored roses. On the other hand I find the color so special and striking that I am always on the hunt for a nice lavender rose. They have an appeal that is hard to resist and are also stunning in bouquets. Usually roses in this color are very fragrant, which is a big plus in my eyes. Out of the seven lavender or mauve colored roses that I have grown so far 'Sweetness' is really one of the best and therefore I would like to portrait this rose today.

General Information

'Sweetness' is classified as lavender, mauve or mauve-blend grandiflora and was bred by Dr. Keith W. Zary (United States, 2008). The rose was introduced in the United States by Jackson & Perkins in 2009 and to my knowledge is still sold exclusively by this company. 'Sweetness' was bred from 'Melody Perfumee' (seed) and 'Lagerfeld' x 'Shocking Blue' (pollen).

The rose is described by public sources to be a vigorous and healthy grower with good heat tolerance. The flowers are ovoid, pointed and high-centered, which usually occur in small clusters. The flower size is 4.5" - 5 " and has a petal count of about 30 rose petals and can be called full. The blooms have a powerful, strong citrus fragrance, which is very pleasing.

The rose likes full sun and is supposed to grow well in zone 5 - 10. The width is listed to be 3' to 4' feet and the height 5'. 'Sweetness' blooms in flushes throughout the season. The bush form is medium upright and the rose has glossy, dark green, healthy foliage. 

Sweetness makes a good garden plant but also delivers nice cut flowers.

Personal Experience

My 'Sweetness' was ordered for me as a birthday present from a friend (thank you Petia!) about three years ago. The rose was sent from Jackson & Perkins as a good size own root, bare root rose, which started to leave out and grow immediately after being potted up in a five gallon container. It did not take long and it flowered nicely (see photo below).

What stands out the most about this rose in my growing experience with her is the disease resistance. This is one of the two most healthiest roses that I grow in my garden up to today out of maybe 75 roses altogether. For a lavender colored rose this is quite astounding, I think! I have never seen a speck of blackspot or powdery mildew on my 'Sweetness' so far. Sure Southern California is not exactly blackspot country, but in certain weather conditions like this spring for example we get our share, too, and we do have sometimes a lot of powdery mildew pressure. Since I garden organically and do not spray disease resistance is very important to me, especially in this color range. Just to give you a contrasting example for a lavender rose that is basically a disaster in my garden lets talk about 'Sterling Silver' for a moment. The leaves of this rose are white on the top from powdery mildew and orange from below from rust right now, yuk! I have never seen a bloom on 'Sterling Silver' so far because the rose is too sickly to produce some and barely surviving.

The blooms of  my 'Sweetness' rose get fairly big up to the size they are supposed to according to the general information available about this rose shared above in this post. The best of them besides the wonderful color is the truly strong citrus, lemon fragrance in which I easily can get lost. I simply love roses with a strong fragrance! I also like to cut the flowers for indoors where I enjoy the big, Hybrid Tea-style blooms often placed as a single flower in a vase.

'Sweetness' is easy to grow own roots, grows vigorously, and does not need to be grafted on any rootstock in my garden experience, which sadly is not always the case, even though a rose is sold own roots from the grower. My rose stayed smaller than the official descriptions say. I just went out and measured it: height is 3' and width 3', too. That is basically the same measurement that the rose reached last year. I do not complain that my 'Sweetness' stays smaller than it is supposed too, since many roses especially the Hybrid Tea roses become here very tall, leggy and bare legged, whereas the bush of 'Sweetness' is almost round and full as you can see on the picture below. The bush would even be more dense, if the rabbits did not attack it so badly when it was just leaving out and making new canes. I suspect that the root competition with yet another Queen Anne Palm keeps the rose from being taller or it could also be that the rose is still too young and therefore has not reached her mature size. It is just about two years in the ground.

I also find that this rose is really heat tolerant, in fact, it seems to love the heat of summer here and thrives in it if watered well, of course. The blooms also do not crisp easily, which is a big advantage for those living in Southern California, only when it is so very hot that almost all flowers of my roses start to burn. On the other side I just found out this spring where we had plenty of rain for our area, that the rose can also take rain without balling or the color of the blooms being ruined or the petals getting brown and mushy. The photo below taken yesterday just shows the first bloom of 'Sweetness' this year after a couple of days of rain and just enough sunshine that day for the flower to open. Out of all my roses, it is the second rose to flower, so it seems to be an early bloomer, which is another plus in my eyes.

If this rose has one small flaw I would say it is that it does not repeat as quickly as I would like it to do. The spring flush is always nice, but after that it takes time to repeat, longer than is common for this type of rose class. Also the amount of blooms seem to shrink from flush to flush over one growing season. I am wondering if this also has something to do with the age of my rose and the root competition with the palm. This year I intend to fertilize is more repeatedly and see if this makes a difference. But as always you can not have it all and 'Sweetness' has enough positive attributes that I dearly love it. It is truly one of my best lavender roses!

Since the rose is not that long in commerce I would love to hear about your experience with Sweetness, if you grow this rose!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fertilizing Roses

(you can click on the photos to enlarge)

Today is the beginning of spring, even though it does not feel like that. The weather is down right nasty here in Southern California in the moment. It was gray and gloomy all day long and now it is raining out of buckets. But usually this kind of weather subsides quickly and the sky will open up to a clear blue color and wonderful sunshine, again. Besides this the rain will make the roses bloom even more prolific in the spring flush, so I am not really complaining.

I intended to finish fertilizing my roses growing in the ground this weekend (there are only three more left to feed in the backyard), but due to work and the weather I had to postpone that. Even though I am not done fertilizing yet, I still would like to post about how I fertilize and mulch my roses and was thinking I show it to you step by step. 

The rose I used in this post as an "example rose" is Pope John Paul II, a gorgeous white Hybrid Tea rose with great fragrance. The rose is pruned and looked like this on February, 27th this year. As you can see it is just beginning to leave out and this is a good time to lay down fertilizer.

Starting out with weeding the rose is important, because otherwise if you put down the fertilizer you not only feed the rose, but also the weeds, which will grow even more happily. It is a little hard to see (the light conditions were less than ideal on the day when I took the pictures), but on the photo above the rose is weeded and the soil is loosened up, which provide better airflow to the roots.

The last years I mostly used E.B. Stone Organics Rose and Flower Food (5-6-3). I am sticking to that brand, because it has proven to work well in my garden. But I also have to admit, that the main reason I am using this one is, it is simply the only organic rose fertilizer my local nursery is carrying. I bought also another organic fertilizer called Bio Start (3-4-3) produced by Growmore, which was recommended and sold by the San Diego Rose Society, last year for the first time. I could not notice any difference in the effects both fertilizer had on my roses. In addition to the fertilizer am giving my roses also E. B. Stone Organics Alfalfa Meal.

So the next step is to spread the organic rose fertilizer (the gray-brown stuff you can see around the base of the rose) I usually give each rose 1 1/2 cups. But that number can go up to 4 cups depending on the size of the rose and if the rose is having root competition of any kind, because in that case the roots of the other plant (mostly large palm trees in my yard) are eating the fertilizer, too.

After that I put down the alfalfa meal (has a green, yellow mustard color, which is now almost completely covering the rose fertilizer). Usually I use 2 cups per rose, but again I increase it up to 4 cups depending on the size of the rose and if there is any root competition from other plants. Alfalfa meal is thought to be promoting basal growth in roses. Since it is so important that the roses renew themselves I think, it is worth to make the extra effort and feed them with alfalfa meal. Of course I don't have any scientific prove, but I seem to observe more basal can break three to four weeks after giving the roses the alfalfa meal.

Then I scratch the rose fertilizer and the alfalfa meal into the soil. Organic fertilizers need to be broken down by microorganisms and that only can happen if the fertilizers are in good contact with the soil. 

Now it is time to put down a decent layer of compost. Here in San Diego it is recommended that the compost or mulch layer should be 3 - 4 inches thick ideally. The main reason is to cool the soil when the heat arrives and to conserve water, but another reason to spread compost generously is that is also breaks down and feeds the roses long term. It also improves the quality of the soil in general over the time. The drawback for me is, that since I do not have my own compost heap, I need to buy the compost and that can get quite pricey. To get a layer of 2 - 3 inches down around each rose it needs a whole bag of compost like you can see on the photo on top. My wish is to start my own compost bin to at least produce some compost by myself for the garden.

The photo above you can shows that half of the ground underneath the rose is covered with compost already. What a difference it makes visually. I think, a garden that is mulched with compost looks so much nicer. To me it is also amazing how much our poor soil has improved already after only three years of gardening, in the areas where I mulched with compost diligently.

Here (photo above) the whole ground around the rose is mulched with compost now. At this point the compost is also watered down well. It helps to get the fertilizer, which is underneath the compost, quicker into the deeper layers of soil and therefore closer to the roots of the rose. Now you can just sit back, wait, and watch the roses grow.

The image above is taken just two days ago. You can see roughly three weeks after fertilizing how much growth the rose has gained. The new leaves are strong, healthy and grow with vigor.

For me there is no question that my roses in the poor soil that we are having benefit from fertilizing a lot. Roses are also known to be heavy feeders and that is no surprise considering the amount of blooms that they are producing, which is another argument to feed your roses properly. Ideally I repeat fertilizing my roses after the spring flush is over, but I do not always get around to do it.

Happy spring to all of you, my dear readers!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Early Spring Joys

It is not officially spring yet, but the garden does not seem to care. As I walked around in the yard this week I took some pictures and would like to share them with you. We had a couple of relatively cold days (for San Diego circumstances, of course), but since Tuesday this week the weather was lovely: just warm and sunny. The garden seems to really get into spring mood, but see for yourselves!

(you can click on the photos to enlarge)

My one and only alstroemeria is blooming nicely already. It took a while to get established, but after three years it is really taking off. So easy to grow, you just have to make sure it is watered enough and it appreciates a little fertilizer every now and then. I use organic fertilizer for roses for this alstroemeria with good results.

Brunnera macrophylla. I love this plant, but unfortunately it doesn't love me back so far. I moved one from a location it was not happy growing in and I planted another newly bought one from a container into the ground in the front yard. Both plants disappeared completely and by now only one has made a comeback. Brunnera macrophylla has very neat small blue forget-me-not like flowers. Hope I get to see them this spring!

Finally my two white camellias 'Nuccio's Gem' are starting to flower. This is a very late blooming variety for me here. As much as we needed the rain the camellias really do not appreciate getting their flowers wet. They turn into a very ugly brownish-yellow color and are basically ruined when they are hit by rain. That happened to some of the early blooms of mine but this one opened nicely.

I am totally fascinated by the chartreuse color of my relatively new 'Key Lime Pie' heucheras. They look so fresh, almost yummy. They are supposed to have very delicate white to light pink small flowers, which can be used efectfully in small flower arrangements. Can not wait to see them blooming for the first time in my garden.

My blue nemisia is flowering so profusely already. A very easy to grow plant for me here.

The gladioli are emerging from the ground and you can observe them growing a little bit more every day. This is a wonderful dark violet variety, which is coming back the third year. I would have hoped that they would multiply a little bit more, but so far they did not. I am still happy at least to see them again this year. 

The lizards are enjoying the warmer temperatures and are quite active. Many of them look highly pregnant, but I don't know if they really are. This one I shot in the morning and it did not move at all even though I got quite close. Maybe it was still cold...

Even though I do not want to make this another "rose post" I have to sneak in one rose photo. This is 'Baronne Prevost', the first rose growing in the ground that has opened her blooms for me this year. How exciting is that?

Geranium 'Rozanne'. I love hardy geraniums, but they are not easy to grow here in San Diego, inland. This variety is supposed to do well in my neck of the woods, but when I transplanted it from the container I bought it in into the ground at the end of last year, it disappeared completely and I thought I lost it. So I was even more delighted when I saw it coming back this week.

Finally my green cymbidium orchid is starting to flower. Somehow its blooming period is much delayed in comparison to my other red variety that I showed you in a previous post (click here). In a way that is a good thing, since I can enjoy a longer orchid growing season. For me the cymbidium orchids only bloom once a year. I really like the pale green-cream color of this one. It also provides me with good cut flowers for indoors that last a long time.

Basal cane from one of my 'Pierre de Ronsard' roses. This is what most gardeners are waiting for in terms of roses, the precious basal growth, which helps the rose to renew herself. Although in this case I am not sure if  this is the Pierre de Ronsard coming up there (the color and the shape of the leaves look a little bit wired) or the rootstock, most likely' Dr. Huey'. Only time will tell.

I would love to say that these are my emerging flower seedlings, but nope, this is just the typical selection of weed varieties that are very common in our area. They sprout like crazy at this time of the year, especially with all the rain that we were having. You really have to stay on top of them or they take over a flower bed within a blink of an eye.

See you in the garden!


Monday, March 7, 2011


 (you can click on the photos to enlarge)

This is a picture of the throat of my stunning, velvety, fire-red Amaryllis taken in the evening sun. Isn't this color just a killer? The photo is not color-enhanced or manipulated in any other way. Of course, it didn't start out like this, as a matter of fact, it took a couple of weeks for the bulb to flower. You can see pictures of the unspectacular start of this bulb on an older post about forcing bulbs on my blog if you click here.

I was right in my initial guess that the bulb was producing two flower stalks. Besides watering the only thing that I had to do, was to wait patiently for them to grow and open their blooms.  


Here you can see that the flowers clearly show their red color already. 

A little later a close-up shot reveals that the individual blooms carried by this stalk are well formed and almost ready to open. 


A couple of days forward it looked like this.


Again, a few more days later, tadaaa... almost all blooms of the two stalks have opened. What a stunning sight, don't you think?

Close-up of the lower bloom cluster. The saturated red is really special. For sure not a plant to be overlooked!

At the same day when I took the two pictures above showing the fully opened flowers I got lucky and the evening sun was shining on the Amaryllis plant. It intensified the red color even more.

At the very last one more close-up of the upper bloom cluster of the Amaryllis also taken in the evening sun light. It was a lot of fun and super-easy to grow the Amaryllis bulb. Next year I would like to do it, again, but maybe I try a different color. I know that they are also available in white, which is my favorite color. I would love to hear about what are your experiences with forcing Amaryllis bulbs indoors.

See you in the garden!