Yesterday was a milestone day in our family's newfound love affair with roses: my favourite son Ben and I spent four wonderful hours together - not out on my balcony, but in the back garden of the new home he shares with his lovely wife Paula and the adorable one-year old Baby Zack.
The day dawned bright and beautiful as I joined Ben in his family's home for breakfast about six blocks from my own home. As soon as Baby Zack headed off for his long morning nap, Ben and I donned our garden gloves and headed out back. This seemed like such a Big Day to each of us because we'd been planning it for MONTHS. But due to poor weather, work obligations, Baby Zack time and then a lost month when all three of them tested positive for COVID (!), our planned garden working bee just never happened - until yesterday.
But the most exciting part of yesterday was that we finally planted three of the four new bare-root rosebushes that Ben had pre-ordered from Russell Nursery last summer! He had ordered four different roses:
1. a climber called Don Juan (4" wide velvety red strongly scented blooms that are easy-care repeat bloomers, 10-12 feet high)
2. a climber called Arborose® Tangerine Skies (orange 4" wide orange blooms, strongly scented with dark green and glossy foliage, 8 feet high)
3. a groundcover rose called Flower Carpet Red (red blossoms with butter yellow centres, easy-care, disease resistant repeat bloomers, about three feet high x three feet wide)
4. a rose standard called Violet's Pride (a standard rose grafted onto a 36″ tree trunk with dense foliage, good disease resilience, and a grapefruit-like fragrance - named in 2017 after Lady Violet Crawley of Downtown Abbey fame)
The beautiful rose standard Violet's Pride
We were able to plant the last three roses yesterday, but ran out of time to plant Don Juan (which we carefully returned to its "heeling-in" position in one of Ben's raised beds to keep its bare roots covered and nicely protected until it can finally be placed into its new home).
In between those three roses, we worked pretty well non-stop (not even a lunch break, now that I think about it!) while we moved big clumps of lavender, shasta daisies and delphiniums around the garden. We hauled soil and heavy ceramic pots, we weeded, we edged unruly grass creeping into the newly planned rose bed.
Like many gardeners, Ben and I share a tendency to get distracted while starting one gardening job by a fascinating new job nearby that needs doing a few plants over. (At several points, we had to remind each other: "Focus!")
At the end of our four hours working together, we felt very sore, exhausted, filthy, sweaty - and SO HAPPY!
We'd accomplished so many gardening tasks on our To Do list, and were pretty pleased with how almost everything had seemed to settle in as planned.
Did you catch that ALMOST everything?
We were left with two areas of concern in Ben's garden: our still-homeless Don Juan climber of course, plus the little tree rose Violet's Pride. We had decided to plant Violet in a big beautiful ceramic pot because a standard rose seems to be one that deserves a showpiece place in the garden. But the pot seemed to be draining slower than we would have liked when we gave the rose its final watering (the soil we used was potting soil/compost with rose fertilizer and bone meal as directed on the rose tag, and then mixed in 2:1with Ben's existing garden soil which has a moderate clay content.
Clay itself is not actually the issue (most rose resources we consulted tell us that clay soil is very fertile and actually contains more calcium, potassium and magnesium then other soil types, all of which are important nutrients for growing healthy, strong roses that are resistant to disease and pest damage.
But clay MUST be amended with some organic material like compost to improve drainage and avoid a soggy heavy soil that might cause root rot. Stay tuned as we monitor Violet's Pride for good drainage in the next few days; if it looks wonky, we're ready to pull it out and find a healthier new home for that little rose tree.
Speaking of yucky things like root rot or poor drainage, I've also spotted two culprits that might become problematic: an aphid was found munching on a lovely new rose bud on my Coral Drift, AND it seems that our unseasonably cloudy and cool spring weather has affected the canes of all four of my new Drift groundcover roses (coral, red, apricot and pink) which are looking decidedly frail - how can droopy canes hold up the many emerging buds just waiting to pop open!? More on these two dastardly issues here.
And for even more dastardly issues, can you stand one more thing? Read this recent update about the day I spotted the dreaded Black Spot on my Coral Drift! Or this (another dastardly warning) about the powdery mildew fungus having a party out on my balcony roses.
But all is not lost - this week, all four of my new Drift roses are finally blooming - all at the same time! For the thrilling details, read this! - and here's a sneak preview for you:
(For more on how Ben and I first discovered that we MUST start growing roses - his in his large back yard and mine in my tiny apartment balcony, please read this post!)
Meanwhile, always take time to slow down and smell those roses when you do find them. . .