Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back To My Rosy Roots

'Benjamin Britton'
I've begun thinking recently that too few gardeners set a straight and true gardening course and steer along it.  We start out with a garden in our mind and we try to build that garden in the soil. Too soon, we are tossed among the waves of garden fashion, the trends of garden design, setting out a nice hosta bed we never intended to add, or marring our shadeless garden by the addition of a large red maple that will eventually smother half the sun-loving plants.  I know that I am guilty in this regard, collecting new plants on impulse purchases, experimenting with new species and even new genera that don't fit into my garden's themes, and in general, just mucking up any semblance of continuity in my garden design. 

As a doctor (okay, as a veterinarian), there are several symptoms that are diagnostic for the disease that I hereafter dub "Garden Dishevelment Disorder", or GDD.  By listing them below, I hope to do humanity and gardeners everywhere a service.  Knowing and admitting you have the disease gets you halfway to a cure.

1.  Do you frequently read a marvelous article in Fine Gardening about, for instance, Camellias, and resolve to purchase and attempt to grow every last Camellia cultivar you can find, despite gardening in the USDA Zone 2 regions of Alaska?

2.  Do you impulse buy plants at Big Box stores or at supermarkets, without the slightest idea of the plants identity or cultural requirements, merely on the basis of flower appearance or cost?

3.  Do you often buy plants without the slightest idea of where you are going to plant them?  Include and admit here all those plants you've purchased with the knowledge that a particular bed is full, but the belief that you just might still be able to "spoon it in."

4.   Do you collect plants in certain genera with no thought given to where they fit in your overall garden design or if they are, in fact, appealing on a grand garden scale?

5.  Do you create new beds for your garden without thought given to garden design, but merely to expand the number of plants you can grow?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you have GDD.  If you answered yes to all of them, as I do, then you need real help, deep long-lasting help, to even pretend that you have a garden rather than being a simple obsessive/compulsive plant hoarder.

This winter, I looked more closely than ever at the plants that grow well here on the prairie, at the plants that add to my overall garden design, and at the plants that I just enjoy growing.   From that self-garden-examination, I've resolved, as evidenced by recent purchases, to go back to my rose roots (sic).  There are not many other genera (okay, maybe daylilies and peonies) that are as effortless to grow well on the prairie as Old Garden Roses are.  And I might as well face it.  Deep at heart, I'm a rose gardener.  A rose (Mirandy) was the first plant I bought when we purchased our first home, and I still can't walk past a new rose at any store without determining if it is worthwhile to purchase. 

To begin my transition back to more roses, my plant purchases this year so far have been 15 mail-order and three local potted roses.  I'm expanding from OGR's to some more modern roses, since I'm now theoretically Zone 6 and I have a prayer of getting a Hybrid Tea intact through winter.  I've got 5 more roses on order and I'm looking today for two shrubs and a tree to fill a couple of holes.  But the large, impossible to transplant, Miscanthus's (Miscanthi?) that I've eliminated from the borders are being replaced by roses.  And I think I can squeeze a couple of more roses into the "hydrangea bed".  And maybe I can add a new bed or two, and dedicate them specifically to roses.....


  1. Ah, you definitely have me pegged. I suffer a strong case of GDD. My disease process leans most heavily towards the 3rd and 5th symptoms of the disease, but the 4th trips me up more often than I'd like to admit.

  2. The best way to prevent this problem is to plant the more aggressive plants in pots (with holes in the bottom to allow drainage, of course).

    how to garden

  3. Helena, I agree, I think of containers for plants that are aggressive about spreading. I haven't, though, just used them for clumping plants that are difficult to move if planted in the ground. Certain varieties of Miscanthus, like 'Superstripe', should come with warnings such as "Do not plant unless you are certain you are going to leave this plant in place or are otherwise certified in the use of dynamite"


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