Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Carmel's River House Book Store for Sale

Since its publication in 2011, this book store has sold more than 40 copies of my Central Coast Rose Manual. I wish Diane and Gordon a happy retirement and hope that the new owners will continue this wonderful independent bookstore.

Here's the email I received yesterday.


With sad heart, wanting to let you know that River House Books will be closing by the end of April, when the lease is up, as Diane and Gordon are retiring.  The store is for sale, so hopefully there is a future for a bookstore continuing here in Carmel at some point.

Thank you for letting us sell your books.  We have enjoyed getting to meet so many of you.  Also, a reminder, if by chance you have unused Gift Certificates laying around, now is the time to redeem them.

Thank you for your patronage.

River House Books

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Re-invigorating Agèd, Grafted Roses

Barren bud union of Oldtimer, hybrid tea, 1960. 

The time comes in every rose garden when that beautiful hybrid tea you've enjoyed for years starts slowing down, producing no new strong canes from the bud union (basal breaks), and looking more and more like a gnarly, bark-encrusted tree stump. The above photo shows Oldtimer which has been growing in that spot for more than 20 years. It once produced 7-inch blooms in abundance but has gradually declined with fewer flowers and no new strong canes.

The natural aging process in grafted roses is particularly hard. With each season, new canes are produced further and further out from the bud union. As the organic material in the soil decomposes, the soil compacts, and the rain and wind erode the dirt around the rose, the bud union - the spot of the original graft - becomes more and more exposed to the dry conditions which cause it to crust over. When the bud union sits too far above the soil line it becomes nearly impossible for the rose to break through the hard and dry wood with a new cane.

Tiffany, hybrid tea, 1954
Those plants that continue to do well over the years have probably wandered off the rootstock and developed their own roots. Eventually, the rootstock becomes useless and, if its shoots are consistently removed, will die. The above photo shows Tiffany, planted in 1994, still producing canes from its bud union (on the left) but also having a cane that's developed its own roots (on the left). In order for a grafted rose to develop its own roots, the new canes must be touching moist soil.

So what do you do if the grafted roses are sitting high above the soil line and refuse to produce new canes?

1. If it's a particularly popular rose such as Peace, Iceberg or Double Delight, dig out the old one, freshen up the soil with compost and manure; buy another Peace, Iceberg or Double Delight; and plant it in that spot.

Remember: if this rose was given to you by a special friend or was the rose that was growing in your late grandmother's garden, still plant a new one. Roses are reproduced asexually which means there is only one rose bush that is Double Delight, all plants are multiples of it. They are simply clones.

2. Look around the plant and see if any of the canes are touching the soil line. Now is a great time to remove this cane and pot it up. If it has a few fledgling roots already developed, all the better. Dust the root end with some planting hormones and grow a new plant. It will take two seasons for it to develop properly but it will solve the problem. A change in location with fresh soil may produce great results.

3. If it's a rose that is no longer in commerce or one that you never knew the name of, the best way to keep it flowering is to start a new plant. Make a cutting and get it started now. Warming days, periodic rain and increasing sunshine - all typical of spring weather - will put less stress on it and improve your chances of it "taking."

4. You can also scrape and saw the gnarly bud union until you reach some green wood. Then, mound up the exposed bud union with some cow manure and alfalfa pellets and let the sun shine directly on it. The bacteria and sunlight will increase the temperature. Make sure to keep it moist.

Others have recommended the addition of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) and or Vitamin B1 to stimulate growth. With some luck, a new basal break will show itself. This is more likely to happen when the bush has other canes to provide energy.

When the rose sits far above the soil line, mounding up the soil might not be practical. You may consider improvising or investing in a plastic fence which will help keep the soil in place.

Remember that roses are part of the botanical family Rosaceae (named after them!) which also includes apples, plums, cherries, almonds and other trees. Older climbing roses do develop supporting canes which looks like bark-covered trees.
Climbing Cécile Brunner

Sunday, February 18, 2018

At Home with Westerland

truskot, westerland, shrub_rose
Westerland 1969 shrub

When Kordes introduced Westerland in 1969, this distinguished German rose hybridizer had achieved a new level of excellenze

Westerland truly has everything people are looking for in roses: exemplary beauty, ample vigor, superb disease resistance, delicious fragrance, and an intriguing apricot color blended with cream, yellow and orange depending on the climate and time of year. It also has a long vase life.

To these general characteristics, let’s also add the California Central Coast criteria—the flowers always open, the petals drop-off when spent, and the plant is rarely without flowers. 

I’ve only grown it now for a dozen seasons now so I’m a longtime friend. Others who have had it much longer are equally rapturous with the caveat that it does get “big.” I'd originally planted it in the front yard but there was too much shade so I moved it two years ago into a prime location on a backyard fence.

The breeding of Westerland is one of the most interesting in hybridizing history. In its ancestry, Westerland has R. foetida persica and R. eglanteria—the yellow Persian species which brought that color to modern roses and the wild European sweet briar rose which brought its excellent disease resistance to the table.

The hybrid perpetual General Jacqueminot (1853)—one of the first repeat-flowering crimson-colored roses; the hybrid teas Madama Butterfly (1918), Crimson Glory (1935), Golden Masterpiece (1954), Charlotte Armstrong (1940), and Peace (1945); several of the Pernetia roses including Souvenir de Claudius Pernet (the great French rose hybridizer Pernet (1920)—credited with bringing the color yellow into the hybrid tea class—named this influential hybrid for one of the two sons he lost in World War I.); and the hybrid musk roses Robin Hood (1927) and Eva (1933) through its floribunda parent, Circus (1956).

With such a mixed ancestry, Westerland is given the nondescript classification of “shrub.” Earlier in its history, it was considered a Climbing Floribunda.

Westerland has produced a yellow sport known as Autumn Sunset and an offspringthe relatively unknown but acclaimed, Jane Eyre. 

My cuttings came from former MBRS president Ruth DeBord’s garden. I gave two to the raffle table, one to a friend, put one in the ground, and have one to spare. Even in the worst part of wet springs, I lost no leaves to black spot. Even in the heaviest July fog, it had no powdery mildew.
I presume that Westerland is named for the northern most city in Germany, a seaside resort town. The City of Westerland is located in the Frisian Islands in the North Sea, reachable by causeway, and approximately due west from the German border with Denmark. Given this connection with marine climates, is it any wonder this rose does so well on California’s moist coast?

Westerland, which bears a good rating of 8.3 in the ARS handbook of roses is carried by specialty nurseries and is also available from Weeks and Edmunds. Local nurseries do have access to ordering it so let your contact at your favorite nursery know.

With such ample credits to its name, this rose deserves to be known and grown more. After all, Westerland is where the sun sets in Germany and California is where the sun sets in America. A full spray of Westerland has all the colors of a magnificent sun going down.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Madame Alfred Carriere

Pruning Climbing Roses

Many benefits can be derived from roses which send out long canes looking for as much sunshine and support as they can find. These include providing a verticle element in the garden, filling spaces that shrub roses can't fit into, adding extra security along fences to keep out unwanted visitors, and being among the first roses to bloom in the springtime.

Unlike other plants which are called "climbing," roses do not produce tendrils, like grapes, which wrap themselves around what they cling to or, like ivy and trumpet vine, produce invasive growths which work their way right into tiny spaces on or between boards and the bark of trees. Both of the latter will overtime bust up fences.

Climbing species roses often have evolved hooked thorns which help them cling better to their support or to themselves in the wild. Garden climbers, however, all need their gardeners to tie them down or provide material they can weave themselves into and out of.

Pruning climbers can be a daunting chore but it's one I always look forward to as I can do it while standing up and when the garden bed is wet. The top of my fence which surrounds the back garden also gives me a guideline as to the ideal height and the cross boards easily support the horizontal canes. Pruning will help them rest and build up strength for a magnificent first of the season bloom.

Like pruning other roses, several principals remain the same. Remove all dead wood or damaged canes, snip off spindly growth especially lower down on the verticle canes, pull off and discard all of last year's leaves, and check to make certain your support is still tightly secured to the fence, arbor, trellis or archway.

When pruning a climbing rose, leave stubs from last year's growth along horizontal canes. Flowering stalks will emerge from these growths and provide a profuse bloom.

While pruning, check the ground around your climbing roses. If they are grafted, you want to make sure that the bud union rests at the soil line and some light and warmth reaches it as that's where your new growth will come from.

I usually try to prune my largest climbers a little before winter's wind and rain. Here's the work I did on my noisette rose "Madame Alfred Carriere."
Madame Alfred Carriere Before Pruning

Madame Alfred Carriere After Pruning

It may seem drastic but Madame Alfred Carriere is a vigorous noisette rose and will soon respond to the rest period and the lengthening days. My purpose in pruning is to keep the rose a manageable size and to maximize the flowers. Noisette roses bloom repeatedly throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Purchasing and planting bare root roses

It's been several years since I purchased a bare root rose. Most of the roses in my garden were given to me as a gift, won on the raffle table and were already potted up or were cuttings that I rooted and placed in my garden.

This year, however, with the creation of this blog, I thought it would be helpful to review some best practices with bundled up bare root roses.

1. Purchase your bare root roses as soon as they are on display.

2. Look for Grade #1 which usually means three strong canes and comes at a higher price. If you purchase the lesser Grade #1.5, make sure you have at least two strong canes on opposite sides of the graft. Watch out for broken canes. That can happen when shoppers are rifling through the bin.

3. Expect to pay more for the patented roses which will be the latest introductions. National chain stores usually carry some patented roses and many older varieties as they can offer the ones that have been around for awhile at a cheaper price.

They can also count on gardeners to have heard some popular variety names and be inclined to choose something they've heard of rather than experiment with something they don't know. This year in the bins I've spotted Mister Lincoln (no), Camelot (no), Oklahoma (maybe), Olympiad (yes), Sterling Silver (hell no), Peace (maybe), Pascali (yes), Double Delight (yes), Miss All-American Beauty (definitely), Oregold (no), Playboy (yes) and Queen Elizabeth (no). I also spotted some climbing roses in the bins: Joseph's Coat (yes), Don Juan (no), Piñata (no), and Golden Showers (yes). Climbing Cécile Brunner, too, is very large, healthy and floriferous in the spring with an occasional flower during the season.

4. These chain stores purchase roses at their corporate headquarters in enormous lots without any reference as to how well they will do on the Central Coast of California. Some will do well, others won't perform as you might wish and are susceptible to many of our fungal diseases or have too many petals and a shape that needs night-time heat to open properly.

5. Discount stores may also offer roses for sale. Like most of the merchandise offered at these businesses, they are overstock items, often from lesser quality sources. No matter, I decided to go through one of their bins and pick out one more rose.

The rose I purchased - Blue Girl - came from the fields around Tyler, Texas which is a different climate than ours so I expect some early vigor and will watch to see if during the summer it can adapt and grow.

(I bought Blue Girl as it grows well in the Monterey Bay Rose Society's display garden, located on Lake Avenue, east of Watsonville on the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. It's lavender and I don't have an example currently of that color in my yard. At $5.99, it would be worth the risk of buying a rose with a mosaic virus. I'll know as soon as the leaves start growing and displaying the virus. It doesn't spread from bush to bush and would have been probably introduced from the tainted rootstock.)

6. Unwrap the bundled rose in a far corner of the garden. Discard the paper wrapping and allow the sawdust to fall in the garden or your recycle bin.

7. Inspect the rose carefully for broken or damaged roots. It's likely the rose will have produced a few new roots while in storage. They will be pale white. If you find a broken root, prune it off about a quarter inch above the break.

Blue Girl being re-hydrated. The weak middle cane will be removed.

8. Plunge the rose into three or four gallons of water to which you've added a tablespoon of bleach. The rose was probably harvested in October, processed and wrapped and sent to a cooler set at exactly 33 degrees. You don't know how long it sat on the delivery truck or how long it was in the back room at the store and in some cases how long it's been out in the sun at the store's front door. It will definitely be in need of a drink. The bleach is a safeguard against any bacteria, fungus or insect eggs which might be on the plant from Texas.

9. Allow one or two days for re-hydration. When you're ready, you can either pot the rose up in pristine soil or plant it directly in your garden. I now opt for a 15-gallon black pot. Mostly due to the fact that I'm not sure where in the garden I want to put a new rose or how healthy the plant might be.

10. Dust the roots with some rooting hormone before you bury them. I've found that this helps the rose to establish more roots faster.

11. If the bud eyes have already sprouted and are starting to produce leaves, push off multiple sprouts from one location always leaving the strongest one. Choose those sprouts coming from the top part of the cane and facing away from the center of the plant.

12. Spread the roots out as much as you can and place soil about an inch above the bud union (the point where the rose you bought was grafted onto the rootstock). Fresh soil usually settles a bit and the soil line will come to rest right at the bud union in a matter of weeks.

13. Do all this now while the days are still short and the nights are cold so there won't be too much stress on the plant.

14. Give the newly planted rose about a gallon of water. Don't drown it. It doesn't have a strong root system yet and you don't want to have what roots it does have to sit in water.
Blue Girl ready to receive winter rain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rose Pruning is fun ... and necessary

Just look at the great group effort to prune the 125 hybrid teas, floribundas, and climbers at the Monterey Bay Rose Society's display garden at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds outside of Watsonville on Sunday.

The garden will be finished on Wednesday and ready for new top dressing. It's much easier to add soil amendments and mulch once the bushes have been reduced in size.

My home garden is about half done and I hope to return to it later today. But during the pruning, I was reminded again of the importance of opening up the center of bush, getting rid of all canes which cross over the center, and pruning to a healthy outside bud eye.

During my last time pruning, I found the following cane and thought you'd benefit from some advice. Occasionally you will find a damaged cane on one of your bushes which somehow got scaped during the summer.

It's best to prune off any canes that have been injured like this as they are only supplying the upper part of the cane with half the nutrition needed. As the growth below the damaged area was spindly, I cut even further down the cane as the photo indicates.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Brenda Wood, consulting rosarian, in the display garden

Pruning Clinic coming to Rose Society's Display Garden

Join members of the Monterey Bay Rose Society for an upclose and personal lesson on how to prune rose bushes. The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, January 13 and 14 at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville. Enter through the Horse Show Gate across the street from Sierra Azul Nursery. Drive to the end and look to your left.

The program includes a step-by-step demonstration of how to prune, what to prune and how much to prune. It also covers a lesson on the appropriate equipment and how to keep your pruning shears sharp.

The advantage of this demonstration is that all participants are encouraged to put on their gloves and sharpen their blades and try it out under the supervision of an experienced consulting rosarian.

All are welcome.
Marjorie Callahan, consulting rosarian, pruning in the display garden