Sunday, April 20, 2014


Friends, I knew that we had a long, hard winter here, but I didn't know how exactly how hard it was until my normal spring chores came around to my "formal rose bed."  You can see it below and then from a different angle, just after cleanup, open and bare, ready to begin new growth again.

It has been years since this bed looked so bare, so lacking of the beauty within.  It probably hasn't looked this way since I first planted it, over 10 years ago.  In most years of late, as Zone 6B has moved up to our region, I've given most of these roses a mere trim with a hedge trimmer, leaving 3-5 foot bushes throughout the garden.  Only one or two Hybrid Teas get a regular scalping, and sometimes even 'Tiffany' or 'First Prize' stays at the 3-foot level.  This year, however, most every rose was either growing back completely from the roots or had only spotty growth higher on the bush.  I could hear them whispering.  "Renew us."  "Help us."

Many of the 50+ roses in this bed are cane hardy to at least Zone 4, so that really tells me what our winter was like.  The remaining tall roses of the picture are 'Therese Bugnet', 'John Franklin', 'Martin Frobisher'  'Earthsong', 'Variegata di Bologna', 'Red Moss', 'Leda', 'Blush Hip', and 'Coquette de Blanche'.  Notice that most of these are either Canadian Roses or Old Garden Roses.

As for the chopped off group, they're a varied lot of fame.  Two English roses, 'Golden Celebration' and 'The Dark Lady'.  About eight Griffith Buck roses went down, including 'Prairie Harvest' and 'Autumn Sunset'.  'Sally Holmes' and 'Lady Elsie May' became midgets, along with two Bailey Roses including 'Hot Wonder and 'High Voltage'.  Even two Canadian roses, 'Winnepeg Park' and 'Morden Fireglow', got burr cuts.
I would be upset at the winter kill, but, to be truthful, this wholesale destruction needed to happen anyway.  The bushes here were tangled and overgrown, some of them massive things that were shading out more delicate neighbors.  And, in the end, it is fitting that the renewal of this garden took place on the eve of Easter.  What better day to ready oneself and one's garden for a new beginning?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


This is what a night low of 25ºF does to a beautiful magnolia flower. The only casualties seem to be this magnolia and one other, an apple tree full of open blossoms, and the daffodils that were blooming.  Thankfully, everything else, including the baby roses made it with minor or no damage.  Until next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stellar Magnolia

Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'
Despite the lack of much rain, there is a bright spot in my garden.  I've mentioned it before, but a nine year old Magnolia stellata is once again the center of attention in my garden...or at least it was yesterday.  A "center stage" performance, even though it is positioned in the wings of the garden, east of my peony bed.

My M. stellata is a cultivar named 'Royal Star', according to the label.  Those wonderful waxy white blossoms began opening a week ago and seem to be peaking today.  I believe this year's performance is the best of its short lifetime in my garden, and perhaps because it is reaching towards the heights promised at maturity.  My 'Royal Star' is about 5 feet high and 3 feet in diameter, a bit below its advertised 10'X8' maturity, but still a respectable size to make an impact.  She's reportedly hardy to Zone 3B, and I've never worried about her health, only about whether a late spring freeze would shorten the life of these blossoms.

M stellata's best input to my garden is undoubtedly sensory.  During these showy days, a unique fragrance wafts across the garden.  Although I'm not a "fragrance expert", I'd describe this one as dense or heavy, warm, moist and musky, a suiting aroma for a genus that first made sugar from sunlight in company with the dinosaurs.  If I were to make a dinosaur park, a playground reminiscent of Crichton's The Lost World, I'd surely fill it with magnolias from edge to edge.  Those thick heavy petals also echo the mists of time and the presence of swamps and humid breezes and dark jungles. Creamy white at first glance, if one looks closely at a flower, one also sees a slight pink blush when the flower first opens, as if it were embarrassed to be caught in such an immodest display.  Born new into a world when asexual means of plant reproduction were old and unfashionable, and pollen and stigmas and flower sex were new and "hot", magnolias exude sex, from the heavy musk of their fragrance to their brazen display of desire.  "Come up and fertilize me sometime," says this early Mae West.

So, if there's a plus side to not yet having spring rains, its that M. stellata is blooming in peace, petals unstained, perfect and beckoning in the sunlight.  It is a sad thing to think that I'd trade all this beauty for a measly inch of warm spring rain.

Update:  I wrote this before things turned bad yesterday.  This morning my 'Royal Star' is almost stripped clean by last night's wind.  Plus it's below freezing out there.  A fleeting moment of beauty followed by bare nothing.  I'll bet the dinosaurs went out the same way.


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