Wednesday, December 27, 2017

No Doll Like China Doll

China Doll

A photograph in the crude colors of 1940-era garden books struck me right off. A happy little cottage surrounded by a white picket fence edged by multiple plantings of a new rose at that time called China Doll.

Its clusters of bright, medium pink flowers create one of the nicest landscape effects ever. It makes a wonderful low hedge. I bought 23 bare root ones in 1993 – every one I could find - and planted them as a border for my back garden rose bed.

After 25 years of marginal care and major abuse, only 8 have survived, most succumbing to being stepped on by me as I tried to get the hose over the hedge to tend the roses behind them or during various droughts when the shallow roots just didn’t get enough water.

It’s still the single most numerous rose, by far, in my yard. It’s never taller or wider than two feet. It needs just a little food and water to produce many, many blooms.

China Doll’s individual flowers are medium pink often with a white eye or white stripe near the center or along a petal edge. I have had clusters bearing up to forty different two-inch wide blooms at the end of a single stem. The flowers within a cluster open approximately at the same time so a cluster’s presentation never has too few open flowers and too numerous buds. The clusters are long-lived and attractive. It has a slight fragrance in full sun. It’s rarely out of bloom.

My China Dolls are grafted and therefore not invasive.

One spray has won the best polyantha ribbon in several Monterey Bay Rose Society shows. It contributes greatly to any garden which contains it and comes highly recommended by me.

China Doll was bred in 1946 in the United States by Dr. Walter Lammerts. A towering giant among American rose hybridizers, Dr. Lammerts of Livermore, California, developed the following long list of excellent roses: Bewitched, Charlotte Armstrong, Chrysler Imperial, Golden Showers, High Noon, Mirandy, Queen Elizabeth, and Sunny June. They were all created in the 40's and 50's and are still available widely which says so much about their quality.

Polyantha roses are descended from rosa multiflora and rosa roulettii. Early records are quite sketchy and dubious, but there was a market at the turn of the last century for roses which produced clusters of smaller flowers and repeated their bloom during the season.

Mrs. Dudley Fulton, a white or near white polyantha, is the seed parent of China Doll. She was bred from Perle d’Or — still one of the most popular polyantha roses, especially around California’s Central Coast where it is particularly well suited. Perle d’Or was bred in 1884 in France and is a peachy cream cousin of Mlle. Cécile Brunner. China Doll’s other grandparent on this side is a now rare orange pink polyantha bred in 1921 in England called Dorothy Howarth.

Tom Thumb, the famous 1936 miniature rose bred by De Vink in Holland where it is known as Peon was the pollen parent of China Doll. Tom Thumb’s parents are rosa roulettii and Gloria Mundi, a nearly forgotten, orange-red polyantha introduced in 1927 by De Ruiter again in Holland. It had been discovered as a sport of a dark red miniature of unknown parentage named Superb. It’s most famous offspring is a similarly colored rose named Pinkie which was developed by Swim in 1946. Pinkie’s elegant form is quite different.

China Doll is susceptible to powdery mildew especially evident on stem and peduncle during our foggiest summers, to black spot because of its compact growth, and to die back along a cut main stem.

I have wished that I could tend mine better. They are reachable enough but grow on a slight slope so watering and feeding them proved difficult - faulty garden design for California.

Also on the negative side, I’ve had beautiful cut specimens last only a matter of hours in a vase. China Doll does not rank at all as a suitable cut flower though it looks terrific combined with complimentary colored hybrid tea roses at least for a few hours.

I’m not sure how Dr. Lamnerts came upon the name China Doll, but its path of origin via France, Holland, England, and America ultimately puts one in China and as a rose, it is a doll!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Darkest Days in the Rose Garden

The Darkest Days in the Garden

Winter in the garden means less light, less growth, and fewer flowers but it shouldn’t mean less care. Watch your plants closely, especially during these gorgeous, mild sunny days. 

The ground can still dry out regardless of how little plants need at the moment. As the temperatures warm up, you still might find some hungry aphids who have refused to take a winter’s nap. Spray them with some dish detergent or a winter dormant oil. A weaker solution in both should do the trick


Although the need is far less than during those freaky hot spells we had a few months ago, plants need water throughout the winter. It usually falls from the sky but 2017 is ending up very dry.
If the top of the soil feels parched, by all means, give it some water. Use a hose and water. Walk away and do something else for a few minutes then return to the plants and water again. This way you’re certain the water has found its way down deep.
Plants in pots and those with roots near the surface are the most vulnerable. Pay attention as death can come quickly to them.
Trees are particularly vulnerable during long droughts and they are real trouble to replace. Water helps them keep their vigor and consequently fight off invading insects and diseases ready to push them on to death’s doorstep. So run a slow hose for at least 15 minutes at the base of each to make sure it gets to sink down to the main roots.


No point in giving plants anything powerful to eat at the moment. It would only spur growth that won’t be consequential and is likely to blow over as soon as the next wind storm arrives. If you do feel like fussing, however, a fistful of plain alfalfa pellets around the base is always a welcome tonic. Water it. Wait a day and water it again.


Now is a great time to look for dead branches and prune them all away.
Plants such as roses which bloom on new growth can be cut back at this time. Downsizing them will actually help them retain some water and sleep through these balmy days. You may also need to pull off last year’s leaves and discard them. That, too, will slow down growth and thusly conserve water.
Plants which bloom on last year’s wood such as flowering trees should not be pruned until after the petals have fallen in the spring. True, too, for one-time blooming roses.


If you can still find spring bulbs, take advantage of this easy-to-work-in weather and get them in the ground NOW. Always put bone meal beneath them and don’t stir it around. It decomposes too fast if you mix it in the soil.
I’m looking forward to planting a pomegranate tree in my front yard this weekend. I just need the time and energy to dig through the sod and get it done.

Winter is coming

Winter arrives on Thursday, Dec.21 and the coldest temperatures of the year are upon us. Let's pray to the Rain God and begin 2018 with long, gentle rain.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Loving Alba Semi-plena

Alba Semi-plena

truskot, alba semi-plena
On a trip to my hometown in Ohio in May 2001, I saw a magnificent rose in full, fresh bloom. It was growing up the eastern side of an old farmhouse, a structure dating from the 1870s, perhaps a little later, but definitely a building that’s been around for more than 100 years.

The rose was Alba Semi-plena, an old garden rose first referred to in Gerard’s Herball of 1597 and probably the white rose that the House of York selected as its emblem during the Hundred Years War.

Rosa Alba Semi-plena may also be the same as Rosa x alba nivea and Rosa x alba suaveloens. Rose historians agree that all of the roses found in the Alba group are hybrids, whether naturally occurring or not. So the references which list their names as if they were species roses are not accurate.

Any rose known by several names is certain to be very old. Some references list Alba Semi-plena as a sport of Alba Maxima which is a fully double, often quartered version.

Other authors list it the other way around and noted English rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas even observed a five-petaled sport on an Alba Maxima.

The leaves of both are an attractive gray-green, sometimes appearing “bluish,” and very dentate on the edge of each leaflet. The calyx (sepals) extends well beyond the flower bud. Some even appear beyond the outer most petals in a fully open flower.
The road-facing front of the two-story farmhouse I visited was about sixteen feet wide and thirty feet from its hand-hewn sandstone foundation to its peak. This elegant rose covered most of the first floor and a considerable portion of the second. This is a serious plant.

It appeared that the tenants of the house hadn’t bothered much about tending the property other than mowing the lawn. This was fortunate for a rose bush which thrives on neglect. I enjoyed viewing its flower covered canes with the backdrop of dense gray-green foliage.

The outer edge of the white petals on an individual flower curve upward and slightly inward forming a saucer-like shape with a thicket of bright yellow anthers in the center.

On the day of my visit, it was raining and I was trespassing and I was supposed to be doing something needed by others at a place far from where I was. Such were my family visits. I vowed to return to get a cutting before leaving Ohio.

A few days later, my sister took me to Columbus, Ohio’s famous Park of Roses. Columbus, I learned, had been the seat of the American Rose Society before it moved its national headquarters to Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Park of Roses was being primped up for Columbus’ Annual Rose Festival and the local society’s Rose Show which was to take place in two days. We toured the beautifully laid out and well-tended garden. It was still early for the first full flush of hybrid teas as Ohio had had unseasonably cool weather for the past three weeks.

I was particularly pleased to see two beds of roses developed by Gerry Twomey in Watsonville in the early 1990s: Eternity and American Glory. There may have been more but my time was limited and my vacation schedule packed with other things to do.

When we got to the Heritage Rose Garden at the far end of the park, my eyes were drawn to a white semi-double old garden rose. This, too, turned out to be as the labeled indicated, Alba Semi-plena. It was unmistakably the same rose I had seen at the farmhouse. What simple beauty!

Its semi-double blossoms are about 3-3½ inches in diameter and sport one of the loveliest fragrances in rosedom. Alba Semi-plena is grown widely in Bulgaria’s Valley of the Roses where it has been used to make perfume.

In another reference, Graham Stuart Thomas notes that the Bulgarian growers seem to prefer the old damask rose, Kazanlik (1689), for perfume extraction, but Alba Semi-plena is used as a hedge around the growing fields.

The blooming period of Alba Semi-plena is perhaps about a month which is standard for many of the old garden roses. In our climate, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it produces an occasional bloom in the fall.

The hips of Alba Semi-plena, are a bright red, prickle-covered oval about ¾” long and garner renewed interest in the shrub later in the season. I look forward to seeing them every fall.

The entire Alba group of roses are very hardy, somewhat shade tolerant, fragrant, and limited to a narrow color range of white, blush, and pink.

Most are tough plants which thrive with little care and resist most diseases. They make great bushes for the back of garden beds. When they are in bloom they attract attention. When they are finished blooming they compliment the roses planted in front of them. They make a particularly good choice for a north facing fence or wall where most other roses just won’t prosper.

Upon my return from that trip, I sent off for starter plant and it’s been growing beside a bay laurel in the back corner of my garden ever since.

The Alba roses which I have grown include Great Maiden’s  Blush (1550) which has beautifully quartered,  light pink, three-inch blooms on a disease-free bush (Its name in French is Cuisse de Nymphe Emué, or Nymph’s Blushing Thigh!); Madame Legras de Saint-Germaine (1846) which has 1½ - 2½ inch pure-white flowers and only an occasional thorn; and Félicité Parmentier (1834) which has light pink inner petals and creamy white outer ones and is endowed with one of the strongest true roses fragrances in gardendom. 

Two Albas I hope to acquire soon are Königin von Dänemark (1826) which is a medium-pink color and quite healthy; and Cymbaefolia (1807), one of the many curiosities in rosedom. It is also known as the hemp-leafed Alba. Its leaves are long and distorted and resemble cannabis. Its flowers are smallish and ivory white.

A few of the authors I read regarding the Alba Semi-plena commented on the plant’s ability to root easily. They also noted that for a period of years it had been used as a rootstock which may account for its presence at the rural northern Ohio farmstead.

I never made it back to the house at the crossroads in 2001. Instead, I cut down and dug out two poorly performing fruit trees, removed the sod, and built a new rose garden for my mother who was celebrating her 80th birthday. She enjoyed the new garden bed until she passed away 2010.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Season's Greetings from Botrytis Cinerea

Botrytis on a hybrid tea rose

Seasons Greetings from Botrytis cinerea

Fellow rosarian Paul McCollum sent this photo to me and asked: "What is causing this on this rose - I can only speculate."

It's a form of the very prevalent Botrytis cinerea. This fungal disease is airborne so the spores are everywhere. They germinate in small droplets of water which linger on the petals, aided by high humidity, poor air circulation, and warm temperatures.

The pink spots are most visible on lighter colored rose petals and usually the ones on the outside of the flower. The fungus is most attracted to the softer tissues of flowers and sometimes hips.

As the fungus matures, it feeds off the dead tissues and can produce brown rot if the moisture is sustained or gray mold - the fully developed fungus which issues spores.

With the pink water spots, usually, the petals drop before it develops the gray mold. But if the rotted outer petals dry somewhat and prevent the flower from opening, Botrytis will develop into what Victorian's called "Gray Ghost in the Garden."

There is no cure but you can control it by promptly removing rotting, unopened buds and disposing of them in your green waste container. The disease spreads rapidly, especially if your plants are too close together.

Botrytis cinerea affects many garden plants, fruits, and vegetables, especially in the late season. Pruning all of your rose bushes in January will also obviously put an end to it for the season.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Maria Callas Still Stops The Show

Maria Callas, aka Miss All-American Beauty

Maria Callas stops the show

If I was asked which hybrid tea in my garden I felt I grew most successfully, I would have to say Maria Callas (France, Meilland 1965). For some reason, an anti-operatic sentiment I’m sure, this magnificent rose is known and sold in the United States under the totally nondescript, unromantic, hard to say, Miss All-American Beauty. It’s Maria Callas most other places on the planet. Particularly irritating, Maria Callas was born in New York City.

Maria Callas is available locally. If your nursery attendant knows it by both names, I certainly would respect whatever else that person might have to say about roses. Maria Callas should find a prominent place in every garden for many reasons not the least of which is that it truly is easy to grow.

I would also add that she looks terrific in the garden if given plenty of room. She can last as an unfading cut flower in a vase for more than a week, sports an attractive fragrance, and resists all the common diseases we are plagued by. She’s not immune but puts up an admirable fight.

Maria Callas, unlike her temperamental namesake, is a carefree marvel. She readily produces basal breaks throughout the season. Nearly every bud eye will sprout and bear a long-stemmed, gorgeously shaped, dark pink rose about six-inches in diameter. She produces buds which will open throughout our foggy summers.

On very hot days, direct sunlight might burn a petal edge, but generally, she holds up well. And, very much like her namesake, she is a bit thorny!

Her fragrance is sweet but somewhat peppery with an ample hint of the true damask rose scent. The large, medium green leaves provide dramatic contrast and ample background for this stellar garden plant. I’ve grown three plants for seven years and have given dozens of blooms away.

While not a great exhibition rose, most blooms of Maria Callas contain “muddled” centers and not the perfect symmetry show judges insist on. This tendency to have multiple or nondistinct centers, however, has endeared her to me. It’s proof that she is a garden rose. She doesn’t look like she just emerged from a hothouse, unblemished and mass produced. Each bloom is different and has its own charm.

This queen, like so many other stars, was not born overnight. Maria Callas was introduced in 1965 and received the AARS award in 1968. In fact, Maria Callas is the product of decades of rose hybridization claiming some of the most distinguished roses in her parentage.

She was developed by the highly acclaimed French hybridizer Meilland of Antibes. Her parents are the fabulously scented and beautifully shaped dark red, Chrysler Imperial (USA, Lammerts 1952) and the medium red Karl Herbst (Germany, Kordes 1950). These two parents also contain roses you may have heard about in their ancestry.

Chrysler Imperial is the offspring of Charlotte Armstrong (USA, Lammerts 1940) and Mirandy (USA, Lammerts 1945), the former provided what was necessary for Maria Callas to grow so well on the Central Coast - good disease resistance, vigorous cane production, looser petals, and generosity of blossoms, the latter provided some of her terrific fragrance and ample petal count. Karl Herbst is a product of Peace (France, Meilland 1945) and Independence (Germany, Kordes 1951).

Maria Callas great-grandparents are also interesting. Charlotte Armstrong came from two terrific roses: Crimson Glory (Germany, Kordes 1935) and Soeur Thérèse (France, Gillot 1931). The former is a great old red rose that I found in a bin at Kmart many years ago and the latter is still available but very rare. Sister Therese is a yellow offspring of the red Old Garden Rose General Jacqueminot and Souvenir de Claudius Pernet which was a product of the Pernet rose breeding program that brought the color yellow into the modern hybrid tea roses. This same rose is also found in Peace’s background!

Regardless of pedigree, include a Miss All-American Beauty aka Maria Callas in your garden and it will be sure to give you a clean, healthy bush and abundant cutting-quality blossoms.   
Maria Callas, Truskot, hybrid tea, gardening, roses, Salinas

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Can't Grow Roses? Grow Iceberg

truskot, floribunda, iceberg, rose
Iceberg, floribunda, introduced in 1958

Can't Grow Roses?Grow Iceberg

 My father picked a spray of white roses growing near the entrance gate to the steel mill where he worked in Ohio and brought it back to my mother to show her. He was amazed at how beautiful it was–and how clean and how big. He thought perhaps they might get it to grow in their yard. He managed to root it and planted it in the front of the house. That must have been in the early 1960s.

Anyway, it was his habit to bring things home such as a spray of fruiting bittersweet or a tiny plum. He planted his white rose next to an old pink scrambler, probably Dr. W. Van Fleet (1910), which he had found growing near an abandoned farmhouse while he was out hunting rabbits.

Over the years, several extended periods of below zero weather and much die-back, these two roses continued to grace the front yard. My mother hated Dr. W. Van Fleet. It bloomed only in the spring and every time she went near it, a cane would scratch her and make her bleed. The white rose fared better, but since they’d become entangled they both frequently got chopped back.

During a rare visit to California in 1995, my father again true to his habit, smuggled in his luggage two rose cuttings from his yard. One was red, he said and the other white. I got them to root, nursed them along, and planted them in my backyard. The red turned out to be Dr. Huey – the infamous rootstock –and the white, the same one he’d brought home from work many years previous, proved itself to be an absolutely virus-free specimen of Iceberg.

Iceberg is a floribunda created by Reimer Kordes, son of the legendary rose hybridizer Wilhelm Kordes (1891-1976) in Sparrieshoop, Holstein, Germany. It was introduced in 1958 and is known in Germany as Schneewittchen (Snow White) and in France as Fée des Nieges (Snow Fairy). Its large clusters of bright white, medium-sized flowers will nearly cover the entire bush. It has large flushes of blooms but is rarely without any.

Its growing habit created an entirely new use for roses in the landscape. Iceberg, when planted fairly close together in a row or circling a flagpole, will form a beautifully neat and uniform hedge. The bright green, disease resistance foliage creates a magnificent backdrop for the ample sprays of pure white flowers. It is repeat-blooming and, most importantly in a multi-rose planting, self-cleaning. That is the petals from the three- to four-inch flowers, once spent, fall to the ground and do not remain dried up, dirty beige wads clinging to a branch.

Because of its great landscape value, it has probably been bred in the millions by now and figures prominently in many, many gardens. You can actually see it growing in prominent areas at several international heritage rose gardens! (“Oh that,” a somewhat embarrassed tour guide responds to an inquisitive visitor, “that’s just Iceberg.”)

What it may lack in individual charm, historical grandeur, and distinctive grace, it readily wins back in “the most bang for the buck” category. If you don’t have time to grow roses, plant Iceberg. It looks fine in a vase, too, and lasts for several days. It is wonderful in a garden. I detect a fresh scent, but it really has no great fragrance.

The parentage of Iceberg makes it, even more, an anomaly and proves again how full of genes these biological wonders are. Its seed parent is Robin Hood (1927), a cherry red, hybrid musk bred in England by that class of roses’ chief promulgator, the Reverend Joseph Pemberton.

The hybrid musk background accounts for its vigor in partial sun and for its clusters of flowers. Its pollen parent is the hybrid tea Virgo (1947) bred in France by Mallerin and introduced by Meilland. Virgo’s gracefulness of individual flower and its moderate growth habit are apparent in Iceberg.

In 1983, Iceberg was inducted into the World Rose Hall of Fame joining Peace, Queen Elizabeth, and Fragrant Cloud.

The progeny of Iceberg is also quite surprising. A climbing version became available in 1968. It is a fine pillar-size rose though I found it a courser plant than the original and more likely to be carrying a rose mosaic virus. The telltale mottled leaves disfigured my two large specimens in the front yard so badly that I dug them out and discarded them with great effort. The climbing sport is not the bush at its most elegant. 

Iceberg is the seed parent of the one rose that has nearly upstaged it on the landscape circuit – Simplicity (1978) which was developed by Bill Warriner at Jackson and Perkins. Simplicity got all of Iceberg’s admirable garden qualities. But its pink color distinguishes it from its parent as does its diminished flower-size and, in my opinion, further shrunken personality. These two roses were bred to be admired from a distance and in mass plantings. They are flowering bushes which look good with minimum care.

In placing a whole new class of roses in the forefront of rose commerce, David Austin used Iceberg as the parent or grandparent in three of his most successful cultivars: the yellow shrub Graham Thomas (1983), the peach-colored bush Belle Story (1984), and the light pink Heritage (1985).

Brilliant Pink Iceberg was a sport found by Lilia Weatherby in New Zealand. This remarkable plant has all of Iceberg’s good qualities with the addition of a hot pink flush, appearing on each petal. The effect is more like a hand painted bloom than a solid color variety. This sport finally gives Iceberg a little more charm as an individual rose bush.

Other variations of Iceberg are now in commerce: Blushing Iceberg, Blushing Pink Iceberg, Burgundy Iceberg, Golden Iceberg, and Pink Iceberg.
truskot, rose floribunda, iceberg,
Iceberg showing its think and dark green foliage

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Rose Growing History

Truskot, Gardening, Roses, Old Roses, Roses of Yesterday,
Old Catalogues and Lists Document Garden History

Number Update & Rose Garden History

While moving a bookcase to paint the living room, I discovered two catalogs and a list of good roses for our area on one of the shelves. The catalogs were from Rose of Yesterday and Today, located on Browns Valley Road in Corralitos. The nursery has gone through many changes since I started my garden and is now only a shadow of its former self but still operating.

The catalog, however, was fun to go through and remember all the roses I bought from this specialized nursery which offers old garden roses and unique or hugely popular modern roses. By running my finger down the list of entries, I kept recalling the ones I bought.

I'd completely forgotten that I once grew several rugosa roses. They are essentially hedge roses and have the desirable quality of sending out runners which quickly fill in the empty spaces and create a living fence.

Unfortunately, in a standard backyard garden where most roses are grown on rootstock, a rugosa on its own roots will send out runners all over the bed. Rugosas also aren't roses which keep their petals very long and aren't good for cutting or show. They do offer healthy plants, interesting hips, and most complimentary, unusual fragrances. I kept Frau Dagmar Hastrop in the back garden for a decade or so because her flowers had a wonderful clove fragrances so different from most other roses. Visitors loved smelling them.

I also found a list containing roses the Monterey Bay Rose Society recommended as easy to grow. It was an old list and many varieties have been replaced by ones now more readily available. On that list, I'd remembered several that were once in my garden.

Why aren't they still in the yard? Good question and the answers are many. I'd moved some bushes around several times adjusting roses for the heights they attained. Many didn't like waiting for a new spot in a pot and died. Others mildewed or proved to be riddled with rose mosaic virus which I pledged to remove from my yard. Still others were good roses but didn't flower enough to justify the amount of space they were taking up. Many roses wanted more heat than Salinas provides and I gave them away.

So now, when Joe Truskot says he's grown 250 different varieties, he's lying. The count is 258 and growing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cl. Etoile de Hollande, photo credit lost

A fact-based number of roses

In 1996, I got the bright idea of listing all the roses in my friends' gardens. I'd joined the Monterey Bay Rose Society in 1993 and found like-minded rose lovers whose passion for the plant equaled, if not far exceeded, mine.

Like many beginner-level rose gardeners, I wanted one of each and set about buying up as many as I could find. Then realized that all roses are not equal and many of those available locally will not do well in our climate. I learned this fact the hard way - through personal experience and a colossal waste of money. I fell back on more experienced rose lovers and wished to know what they had growing in their gardens.

So I made appointments and cataloged each rose in the gardens of Ruth De Bord, Otto Lund, Chris Rabe, and my own, plus the roses growing at the La Mirada adobe in Monterey where, at the time, Chris Rabe was the gardener.

I'm still looking for the original Excel spreadsheet I created after my visits. I know it's filed away somewhere. But I have found my own garden list and that of Ruth De Bord. She was president of the Monterey Bay Rose Society at the time.

The point of all of this research has to do with my background information on this blog and answering a fact-based question, just how many rose varieties have I grown during the past 25 years? (I bought my house in December 1992 which makes that an accurate number.)

If you read my profile in the right-hand column, you'll see the figure 250. That's 250 different rose varieties, not roses. In many instances, I've grown multiple plants of the same bush. That was 23 China Dolls originally forming a low hedge in the back garden.

So I set out this week verifying that 250 number. As of this morning, I've named 241 unique varieties having just found an article I wrote on Cl. Etoile de Holland which, alas, succumbed to crown gall years and years ago. That wonderful old rose was not on the updated list. So I'm destined to find nine more roses absent from my tally and my memory as I continue to wrack my brain.

All of this adds up to a short list of excellent roses to grow here and definitely a longer list of ones to pass by which I'll soon publish.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Truskot, frost, roses, winter, dormancy
Frost on the grass, Monday, Dec.4, 2017

Winter Garden Clean Up

Salinas woke up to a decent frost on the lawn and rooftops on Monday, Dec.4, 2017. Let's give a group cheer for Mother Nature and hope for an even more severe one in the coming weeks.

Frost is a natural occurrence along the Central Coast with harder frosts happening inland and in lower lying areas. Cold air does roll down the slopes and settle at the lowest point in the valley.

A good frost helps roses slow down and rest in anticipation of daylight increasing gradually and temperatures doing the same.

Benefits of a good hard frost also include the end of the weed cycle, the dropping of leaves on deciduous plants, plus a general reduction in fleas, ticks and other insects which can double your pests if adults winter over.

Invasive plants such as Kikuyu and Bermuda grass are tender and will die back with a good frost. Bindweed is also looking pretty tawdry now. However, unless we get a really intense frost which only happens every 30 years or so, death only occurs above the soil line. With rain and warm air, they'll be back.

Some people begin pruning back roses bushes in December, especially when they grow 100 plus roses and rainy weather may delay the process. I usually recommend starting in January and projecting a finish in February for folks growing just a few dozen roses.

However, if certain canes keep snagging me as I work around the garden, they'll get a quick snip. Also, any dead (or nearly dead) canes can be pruned immediately. Also, clear out any annuals you might still have in the garden barely clinging to life.

Keep the yard neat and clean with plenty of air circulating around and you're more likely to reduce the fungal diseases: blackspot, mildew, and rust.

With the increase in leaf drop, make sure you rake them all up and dispose of them in a garden waste container. Don't put dead rose leaves in your compost pile. The spores of fungal diseases might not be killed and many insect eggs might also make it through the decomposition if the internal temperatures are high and sustained.

truskot, winter garden, frosty morning.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

sudden cane death, hybrid tea, roses, Oldtimer, Truskot

Sudden Cane Death in Roses

Weather and age eventually take their toll on all of us. Alas, rose bushes are no different.

This fall, I've witnessed several of my otherwise healthy roses just cash out their winnings and stop sending water and nutrients to established yet older canes.

The terrific heat we had in September and October, I'm convinced, just pushed them over the edge. If the rose needed to conserve water and it had been sending H2O to a cane that was, as the picture demonstrates, cane on cane on cane on cane on cane, it let the extremity die.

Look closely at the picture and you'll see that two new canes are emerging from lower down.

The rose is Oldtimer (see below) and as it's the last specimen of this unique rose in my garden, I want to protect it. As I'm not sure if it's still in commerce, I've been very reticent to prune it heavily. That in the long run maybe why the bush decided to prune itself or at least send me the signal that it had divorced itself from that large cane.

With the ample rain we had last winter, spring and summer produced on the other side of this same bush two new basal breaks (canes emerging from the bud union or at least lower down).

Flowers are certain to come from those new canes for several years in the future and Oldtimer, in spite of its name, abandoned its oldest cane.

So as dramatic as it appears, nearly half the bush (really just one cane) gave up the ghost.

I got my pruning saw out and the dead branch is now gone.

rose, lavender lassie, hybrid musk
Lavender Lassie, hybrid musk, leaves on left show damage from scorching heat and sudden death of end cane

sudden cane dieback, rosa alba, truskot
Freddie sound asleep under Madame LeGras de St. Germaine, 1848, alba

Meanwhile, across the garden, an alba rose named "Madame LeGras de St. Germaine" also bid an adieu to one of its larger canes.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Growing Roses in California, Mediterranean Climate

Central Coast Rose Manual

Available at the following local businesses.

Alladin Nursery, Freedom Blvd, Watsonville
Bokay Nursery, Hitchcock Road, Salinas
River House Books, Carmel
Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz

Contains basic information on growing roses with a month-by-month to-do list, and answers to many of the challenges faced by rose growers. Ask any experienced local rose grower or Master Gardener for an endorsement.

hybrid tea American honor, Jerry Twomey

American Honor

hybrid tea, introduced in 1993, no longer in commerce

It was a great honor to have met Jerry Twomey who hybridized this rose in Watsonville, California. It has won Queen of Show twice at the Monterey Bay Rose Society's annual show for me.

My three plants continue to produce new canes and flowers and do so regularly throughout the season. I'm not sure why this rose just didn't catch on across the country as it has many attributes which make it easy to grow, including resistance to powdery mildew and rust.

The flower's shape is top among its winning qualities with perfectly radiant petals unfurling from a central focal point. It often produces a single flower on top of a long straight cane. It has more thorns than most gardeners might want and it tends to lose its lower leaves faster than reason would prevail. It also produces many side canes or short and stubby growth which needs to be removed before they catch falling leaves and promote disease. It has no fragrance and often turns an ashen color after a few days in a vase. But it keeps its color when left on the bush.

Top photo was taken in midsummer and bottom photo in November.

Rose, Hybrid tea, Jerry Twomey, American_honor


hybrid tea, introduced in 1969

Increasingly harder to find, Oldtimer, as evident from the above date,  isn't all that old in rose terms. It was also introduced as Coppertone, roughly coinciding with the introduction of the famous suntan lotion.

It has the largest diameter flowers in my garden often stretching itself out to 7 inches and regularly being 5.5 to 6 inches. It's a dark apricot and fades to a lighter color. It's just as pretty when fully opened. It blooms regularly throughout the summer. It's a great candidate for rose-in-a-bowl. I've supplied many of them as the table decoration in a large glass bowl to stunning (and very easy) effect.

There's no doubt about it. I love this rose and it's different from most other ones in the garden. Unfortunately, it's very susceptible to mildew during the summer. A little sulfur dust will keep this to a minimum as will regular feeding and watering. My tolerance has grown over the years knowing that I just have to put up with mildewed leaves throughout foggy June to August.
large_flower_hybrid_tea, Oldtimer

white_rose, sombreuil


large flowered climber, introduced circa 1880 (or maybe not)

Perhaps my all-time favorite rose in the garden, Sombreuil, like many roses that have been around for a long time, has a long list of attributes.

It truly is what Heaven is going to smell like, every day for eternity. It has a strong tea fragrance yet very light, not overpowering but always present.

In spite of its hundred or so petals, it easily opens in California coastal gardens.

Sombreuil is a small climber and one if grown in full sunlight will have leaves and flowers from its top to its bottom, unlike many other climbers.

Its thorns deserve respect and the plant does well after a good winter pruning.

Be prepared to have your garden or patio covered in fallen petals. They dry to a beige color and nearly form drifts when the wind blows.

Sombreuil, fragrant_rose


Joseph's Coat

large flowered climber, introduced in 1965

Climbing Joseph's Coat is a long-time favorite. It blooms continuously throughout the season. When well fed and watered, its sprays are bouquets themselves. Buds open to a yellow-orange color and fade to red. It is thorny but easily pruned and vigorous. It does need some support and most fences will do.

On California's Central Coast, it mildews in the coldest and wettest summers but that's easy to tolerate.

I picked several fully blossomed canes, stuffed them into a Mason jar and brought cheers from the audience at a garden club.

Mine three bushes grow alongside my house. When I had the home painted a few years back, I pruned all three down to stubs - protection from the house painters stepping on them and splitting the bud union. Within weeks, Joseph's Coat sent up several new canes on each bush. Truly, takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

Its fragrance is minimal but its color always vivid.

Secret, hybrid_tea, rose


hybrid tea, introduced in 1993

It's one of the best roses for California's Central Coast. Among its qualities are its beautiful colors, strong fragrance, generous blooms, tall height and relatively few thorns. It also is very disease resistant and regularly puts up new canes.

Talk to your local independent nursery and make certain they order one for you and your garden. You won't be disappointed.

I have two bushes in my back garden and have cut a bouquet of 18 roses to bring to a party. It's important to remove all spent blooms and allow only one bud to develop at the end of a cane.

Top photo was take in November. Bottom photo in mid-summer. Its form and color make it a good candidate for the Rose Show trophy table.

It is usually disease resistant but with the right weather conditions can blackspot so make certain it as lots of air circulating around it.

Secret, rose, hybrid tea