Wild West and Unruly Roses

While living in Texas, a friend granted me permission to nurse his plethora of neglected roses overcome by the Houston area’s heat and humidity in Zone 9. His commercial event-venue site, intentionally designed to look like a scene from the wild west with it’s saloon, antique store front, equipped with a functioning old-wooden windmill and railroad track, is a small business with big property and numerous garden beds that needed nurturing attention. Historically operated and maintained by family members, seasons had changed and grown children moved on creating a void in the property’s landscaping maintenance. Thankfully, our friend happens to know a rose-fanatic such as yours truly to lasso up such wild, overgrown, prickly canes and force them to reach their potential of proficient blooms once more.

Over three Sundays this past February, my husband and I tackled the encroaching and overcrowded rose canes. While clearing away debris around one of the roses base, I felt like an archaeologist upon discovering a buried and partially worn off label confirming these roses are ‘Double Knock Outs’ from Chamblee’s Roses in Tyler, Texas, a famous and large rose nursery several hours away. Knock Out roses are a popular, typically disease resistant shrub sold at nearly every box home improvement store and nursery throughout America. Consequently, hot pink and ruby red blooms flourish in the beds of shopping centers, medical office parks, and numerous homes throughout the Country. While ‘disease-resistant’ is a wonderful trait to market and buy into, it should not be confused for ‘disease-proof’ meaning many roses succumb to some form of disease if they are not nurtured at least on occasion as the appropriate season requires.

Planted like row homes in a crowded city, these shrubs were planted far too close to one another, a common error of the previous owner. Additionally, the beds have not been weeded and the shrubs had not been pruned in years possibly ever by the looks of them. Albeit, Knock Out shrubs are usually far more forgiving, but this is hot and humid Texas just southeast of Houston, so both the master gardner and the roses must be prepared for regular attention and robust abuse of the elements. Upon careful inspection of the various shrubs’ canes, I noticed a white-green film smothering it as well as hints of furry spikes. How bizarre and challenging! I had never seen such growth on rose canes before, but I could tell this was not the usual suspects such as powdery mildew, boytritus, or scale, as some examples of more common rose diseases. Additionally, I noticed many of the canes were hanging on fighting for their lives while others had succumb to canker and ultimate rotting death. Moreover, I was intrigued by this peculiar unknown-to-me growth and the quest to overcome it!

Thankfully, we live in an age where anything one could ever want to know can be found on the internet. After typing in a few words attempting to describe the white-gray growth on the canes of these roses as well as the bark of a nearby tree, I was able to diagnose my botanical dilemma. Lichens, pronounced likens (LIKE-ENS), are a combination of both fungi and algae stimulating and propelling one another in their growth, similar to marriage. The other soft spikes of gray launching from the canes and branches are known as ‘Ball Moss’. Neither lichens or ball moss is particularly harmful, but rather a symptom of possibly a lack of air circulation, poor soil nutrition, as well as too much moisture such as high humidity combined with sprinkler usage. Consequently, I significantly pruned all the rose shrubs throughout the sprawling property and had my husband dig up the dead bushes or the one’s clearly on their death garden-bed. In the meantime, a paid worker weeded the beds. I experimented by spraying the canes with neem oil on the mild Texas days of February to ward of the spider mites (another symptom of neglected and diseased roses) and hopefully rebuff the lichens. I hand picked much of the ball moss off the canes as that particular moss easily comes off, but the gray-white-greenish layer of lichens refused to be evicted.

Within weeks of pruning, the roses blossomed once more in hues of hot pink. Evidence of lichens still lingered somewhat, but better soil nutrition as well as much better air circulation after pruning should thwart future growth. Regardless, these roses appear to be ‘ever-blooming’.


The Last Pruning

As an unusually warm February day invited me to take off my jacket to embrace the glow of the sun, I found myself inspecting my wintered roses. Despite being in the hardiness zone 6b and it still being technically winter, my roses were bursting with eye buds as well as signs of eager growth. Generally speaking, it is best to wait till the forsythia begin blooming before doing any pruning – at least for this area. You never know in this wacky Pennsylvania weather when a large snow storm could strike. Last year, I had blooms and black spot in January, then over 20″ of snow dropped on just one February day.


Spring 2016

Nevertheless, this particular warm February day, my heart warred as it wrestled with joyful signs of Spring, but also feelings of remorse. After having our home on the market a few months, we received an offer and settle in April. Although there will be much I miss about our home of 10 years, my rose garden will be sorely missed. We hope to do some traveling while settling somewhere in the South – most likely the Myrtle Beach area, which is hardiness zone 8a/b – a whole 2 zones warmer (that much I am looking forward to)! Alas, if we move there, we would purchase a condo with a balcony. Because if I have to give up my rose garden, I require at least a balcony. It wouldn’t surprise me if rose bushes mysteriously pop up around the condominium community too! πŸ˜‰

While perusing my eager rose babies, I decided to clean up the garden and do some pruning. After all, they still are mine and I long to see a stunning Spring flush one last time before we have to say our goodbyes. Oh, how I hope the young lady who purchased this safe haven, this small glimpse of heaven, will come to cherish it as I have. I can’t even comprehend anyone ripping out rose bushes to settle for ordinary grass. Yet, I realize not everyone is “obsessed with roses” as my friends and family notate about me.

Upon completing my work in the garden, I dusted off the dirt that gathered around my lower limbs, discussed with my husband my accomplishments, and then cried.



The Irony

Eden Rose

Eden {photo credit: unknown}

Upon waking up this morning, my heart nearly stopped when looking at my phone to see snow in this weekend’s forecast. The irony of snow falling on the first day of the much anticipated warmth of Spring. Ordinarily, such a surprise winter attack would not be cause of panic, but when one considers I just planted the newly arrived and leafed out Eden rose a few days prior, my heart sank. Not to mention, freezing temperatures were not in the forecast. Even the forsythia are blooming as well as Japanese Magnolia trees (also known as Tulip Trees) and Eastern Red Bud Trees. With such promising signs the welcomed warmth of Spring was seemingly here to stay, I proceeded in clearing my rose beds and pruning my beloved rose babies just last week.

Naturally, prior to even completing a full cup of coffee, I was on the phone with my local nursery getting critical feedback on how to protect my newest addition, Eden. Upon receiving such advice, I also called Heirloom Roses, where I ordered Eden from, to get a second opinion. Both retailers suggested I apply mulch around the base of the plant then cover the hopeful bush with a 5 gallon bucket and blanket of sorts using a brick to secure it. Fair enough.

While driving to the nursery to purchase mulch for our emergency rose rescue operation, my husband gently, but adamantly declared we will most ardently not be purchasing any more roses in this trip or ever as our yard is small yet full of roses (plus I do believe he is tired of breaking ground). I calmly assured him not to worry. After all, unbeknownst to him, I already inquired on the local nursery’s rose inventory and was informed all they had right now was a few bare roots and left over Knock Outs. Naturally, I had every intention of still browsing their selection as well as all the other garden candy they had to offer. Ironically and much to my surprise, upon walking up to the few bare roots they had on display, my adamant “no more roses” husband immediately fell in love with Angel Face, a lavender purple color rose and promptly suggested we get it (we can plant the bare root rose once this cold snap passes).

Angel Face

Angel Face (photo credit: Pinterest)

Consequently, I about fell over… Then again, I did pull him close and hugged him before entering “the danger zone” of the nursery (aka where they keep the roses). Ha! Although I did not knowingly intend to manipulate, I discovered bodily contact within the nursery limits was certainly a good way to get more roses should he ever attempt to intervene in my apparent rose addiction again.

With all that said, I’m hoping, of course, the up and coming snow fall turns out to be a bust, but am thankful regardless for it provided me an unexpected rose and a productive day of weeding and mulching! The irony!

(Update: Thankfully, the weather experts were wrong. It didn’t snow nor even rained. But Jesus cares about roses and still answers prayers!) πŸ˜„

Envisioning an Ever-Blooming Garden


{photo credit: unknown}

With the unlimited skies looking like grey mounds of cotton candy earlier today, I stood in my sweats on my urban patch of limited land envisioning an ever-blooming garden due to evolve this Spring and Summer. It appears even on gloomier days, I long to be in my garden! I suppose I miss the enchantment my garden provides me with especially after spending most of my days earlier this week soaking up the generous rays of light our area’s been afforded recently.

Little by little this week as the warm weather beckoned, I eagerly found myself picking up garbage attracted to my yard located in the heart of this city, yanking a few new weeds, and ripping out dried up vines that encompassed the pillars of my six foot black powered aluminum fence. Despite my own advice of waiting on the “forsythia factor” before pruning, I went ahead and started the process. After all, the chances of finding forsythia in this concrete jungle are slim to none. Ha! (Update: Since posting this blog, I’ve seen forsythia all over this city at properties on the outskirts of the city limits and at the local minor league baseball stadium in downtown). I figured it was safe to at least begin the process of pruning considering the fact that I must tackle my small yard in segments due to my back but more importantly, the leaf buds are already birthing their deep red leaflets, bright green grass has miraculously appeared along with a few prideful weeds, and the forecast predicts temperatures to remain above freezing the next few weeks. My drive to proceed could also be due to lack of patience and self-control: fruits God is still tending to within His daughter. πŸ˜‰

Regardless of the melancholy weather today and my abundant eagerness to bring on Spring, there I stood mentally picturing where I would soon be planting the purchases I secretly made online while my husband napped. Although he too enjoys gardening, he prefers we plant things we can actually eat. I try to tell him all about the many uses of roses, but rose tea, rose oil, and rose potpurri do not appeal to him as much for some reason. He has tried eating a rose hip after I explained to him the immense health benefits in doing so. Still, he’d rather swallow a pill.


The blooms of the Eden climbing rose are so large and heavy, they often dangle. {photo credit: unknown}Β 

So while he is napping after working hard all week, I either am planning out my rose garden, writing about it, or in my yard making my urban rose garden dreams a reality. For now, as I stood in my garden tiny in size, but bountiful in joy and hope, I meditate on where my husband will be digging a space for my much longed for Eden rose due to arrive in a few days. And while visions of 4.5 inches of white and pink blooms dazzled my mind, my eyes mentally planted the 4 lavender hidcotes due to arrive in mid-April. Hey, American Meadows had a great sale on lavenderΒ that I just couldn’t pass up! It was like lavender was in the $5 bin at Walmart (something else I am a sucker for). If we run out of Earth, which no doubt will be soon and very soon, I will happily move on to creating a colorful container garden.

While standing there for several minutes perusing the 14 rose bushes I’ve adopted, I considered the importance of air flow and color scheme. And yet, I still squeeze in other herbs, clematis, and miniature roses among others on my wishlist. What is this garden gal to do?! On one hand, my back is grateful for petite pieces of real estate such as mine, but on the other hand, I contemplate digging up my earlier boring rose choices so I could replace them with others I’ve since discovered. But like children, how hard it is to part with any rose.

For now, my eager soul rests peacefully while dreaming of her up and coming ever-blooming garden.