Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It's hard to only see the beauty in a garden once you've started gardening in earnest.

Oh, yes, you see beautiful things.

But you also see weeds.  Plants die, or they become sick.  Sometimes they're trampled on.  Sometimes your design doesn't look they way you imagined it.  Sometimes the colors clash.  Sometimes the plants get too big, or not big enough.

There are a lot of things you begin to see that aren't necessarily beautiful.  And if you're gardening in earnest, you see them on an almost daily basis.

But there was something I saw this week that I've never seen before.  And it was kinda spooky!

I was reaching out to deadhead a rose.  When it dawned on me that there was a spiderweb attached to the rose.  And attached to the spiderwb was a spider.  Luckily, I realized it before I reached down and touched it.

Now, spiders generally don't bother me.  I know they can be good.  I don't mind them.  Unless they've put their web across my path, causing me to walk right into it.  I don't think webs have a mind of their own, but for some reason, webs always get tangled around my face and in my hair.  Always.

This, however, was a puzzle.  I wondered what the other stuff was.  It wasn't just a regular spiderweb.  And being arms length, I couldn't see it very well.  So, I did the logical thing.  I bent down closer.



My face was just inches away.  Then I suddenly realized what it was.

Spiders!  LOTS and LOTS of baby spiders!  Tiny, miniature spiders just starting to hatch out, wriggling around on their eight tiny legs, crawling around the leaves of the rose.

The mother spider was protecting her babies.  She was ready to do battle with me.

No need, mother spider!

I had jumped away just in time, with a jumbled mix of awe, disgust, shock and fright.  I was spooked!

Then, briefly, a feeling of paternal bonding swept over me.  It was very, very brief.  Yet, I couldn't bring myself to do anything to the mother or her numerous babies.  It was spooky, yes, but not necessarily bad.

Still I wonder: Do I really need that many spiders in my garden?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Best for Last

How do you eat your food?  Do you save the best bite for last?  I do.  Maybe dessert was invented for those that don't.  Just so they, too, could have one last delicious taste to savor before the meal ends completely.

October is like the end of the main course in my garden.  It gives us one last bite of beauty to luxuriate in and to appreciate.  The roses always put on a splendid flush in October.  Relieved that summer's heat is over, their blooms are bigger, with saturated color.

It seems my garden saves the best for last:

Buff Beauty


La Marne

Madame Joseph Schwartz

Lady Hillingdon

Madame Berkeley

Carefree Beauty


Antoine Rivoire

Innocencia Vigorosa

And right on cue, the camellias begin to serve their contribution:

Hana Jiman

Camellias are like dessert.  They usually come after the big flush of the roses, and bring a small taste of charm and delicacy to relish all winter.  Not a big meal, but just enough to sweeten the garden.  Obviously, the spider above likes dessert!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Greetings From the Garden

It's not just Wal-Mart.  It's every retail store.  At least, here.  They all have them: Greeters.  People that cheerfully shout out a warm "Hello!" when you walk into the store.

Some days I expect the greeting, even look forward to it.  With a spring in my step, a lilt in my voice, and a smile on my face, I look them square in the eye and greet them back with a big "hello!"  Other days, I am preoccupied.  My face down, my mind on other things, their cheerful greeting takes a few seconds to get through the fog in my brain where it finally registers.  "Oh, hi", I'll say, with a slight wave of my hand.  Not so much a wave of hello, but a wave of dismissal.

Even on the days that I dismiss the greeters, I would miss them if they were not there.  They probably don't realize just how much I appreciate a cheerful greeting.

I have my own greeter in the garden.  Like the greeters in the retail shops here, Gruss an Aachen consistently sings out its cheerful "Hello!" when I walk into the garden, always greeting me with numerous stages of bloom.  I appreciate it more than it will ever know.

Gruss an Aachen literally means 'Greetings from Aachen'.  The city of Aachen was a favorite of the Emperor Charlemagne, and where he was buried.

Gruss an Aachen

At first, you might think that Gruss an Aachen would be a bit inconsistent.  After all, it has been put into almost every rose class one can think of:  hybrid tea, polyantha, china, shrub.  Usually, though, it has the distinction of being classified as the very first floribunda.  The color is also a bit inconsistent.  Its blooms are a blend of pink, apricot, and cream.  The intensity of the color changes with the weather, and as the bloom opens and ages.  I find that quality charming.

But there's one quality Gruss an Aachen is very consistent with: blooming.  It has such a sunny disposition it will even grow in part shade!  Plus, it's very disease resistant, fragrant, and grows to around 3 ft by 3 ft.  It grows in zones 5 through 9, some say zones 4 through 10.

bush shot

Want to be greeted with a handful of rosy blooms in your own garden?  You might want to give Gruss an Aachen a try!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wow! Look at All the Roses!

The first thought that goes through your mind when you walk into The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden at Tyler, TX, is "Wow!  Look at all the roses!"

And it truly is amazing.  The Tyler Rose Garden contains over 600 varieties of roses with over 32,000 rose bushes!

The best way to view this garden is leisurely.  You could spend the entire day here.  Or several hours.  But don't try to rush through the experience, or you will miss something!

The roses are, of course, the main attraction.  There are numerous classes of roses grown here, and even an entire section of David Austin roses.  However, the majority of roses here are modern Hybrid Teas, growing in row after row after row.

I have always loved this wall of climbers (below).  This is actually the back of the wall, which was the old entrance to The Rose Garden.

This view from the other side shows how much you can miss if you don't wander the entire grounds.

Wandering around, you will discover a small Camellia Garden,

many shady areas to rest,

several ponds,

a gazebo surrounded by azaleas,

and a water garden.  I am mesmerized by water jets spraying in a sequence of events.  Are you?

In case you're wondering, the red tents in the middle of the garden were in anticipation of the Queen's Tea, a part of the Texas Rose Festival held in Tyler every year in October.

If you are interested in growing any of these roses, each bed is labeled with the rose name, class, color, and AARS rating, if applicable.  This makes it very nice for identification of the beauties growing there, and extremely valuable for taking notes of roses you may wish to grow in your own garden.  I thought these were the biggest, most voluptuous blooms I'd ever seen!

Oh, no wonder!  ;)

Don't like roses?  Don't worry!  There are some plantings with no roses.  And the Idea Garden has a wonderful variety of different plants.  I saw a rose or two here, but they are almost hidden among the other plants.  The Idea Garden, in addition to showcasing other plants, is the area in which talks and demonstrations are held.  They are held quite frequently here, on numerous gardening subjects, not just roses.  So, see?  There's something for everyone!

And don't miss the Heritage Rose Garden (located in the far Southwest corner) which includes older and antique roses.   Buff Beauty, Old Blush, Souvenir de la Malmaison, and Jaune Desprez are just a few of the 50 varieties in this area.  They are surrounded by perennials, such as one would have in a suburban garden.  I suggest visiting this area first.  Visited last, if you compare this area to the overwhelming number of blooms in the main area, it might feel a bit anticlimactic.  However, this area gives the most realistic portrayal of roses in a non-commercial garden, no matter which class of roses you plant in your own garden.

If you come to Tyler, Texas, I hope you take the time to visit the Tyler Rose Garden.  Admission is free.  If you love roses, I assure you, you will not be disappointed!  Want more information?  Click here for a pdf brochure.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Garden Book Reviews October 2012

I am an early Christmas shopper.  Are you?  I like to have all my Christmas shopping completed before Thanksgiving.  This year I haven't started, but I plan to begin soon.

If you are interested in giving a gardening book, the book I am reviewing this month would make a beautiful gift.  It is a true "coffee table book".  A book that one can leaf through and see gorgeous and inspirational pictures that could spark a conversation about gardens and gardening.

However, this book would only be appropriate for those gardeners that love formal design, or English gardens.  Look around at their garden.  You should be able to tell if their taste is formal or not.

The book is:

The English Formal Garden:
Five Centuries of Design

by Gunter Mader and Laila Neubert-Mader

The book starts with a comprehensive history of the English garden, covering over 500 years of design.  I read the history, but that's not why I love this book.  It's the pictures I love to thumb through!  In fact, I could sit for hours just looking at all the pictures, and dreaming.

There are 10 gardens that are specifically covered: Montacute House, Parnham House, Pitmedden, Penshurst Place, Hidcote Manor, Hestercombe Garden, Snowshill Manor, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Hazelby Garden, and Barnsley House.

But that's not all!  The majority of the book is broken into the features of a formal English garden: trees, hedges and walls, gateways, terraces, garden steps, garden paths, pergolas, knot gardens and parterres, the sunken garden, flower borders and color themes, topiary, statuary, garden seats, water, lawns and flower meadows, summerhouse, kitchen gardens, and orchards.

It is these features, and all the pictures and drawings, plus the additional explanation included about each feature, that will get you dreaming about how you can incorporate these into your own garden (if you like this style).

In fact, there is more than adequate inspiration in this book.  For instance, under Knots and Parterres, there are over 40 drawn designs of knot gardens should you wish to put one in your own garden.  (Yes, I'm dreaming of one!)  There are also several different pond designs, summerhouses, garden steps and path designs.  See what I mean about inspiration?

If you live in England, or plan on visiting, there is even a list (their opinion) of the 100 most beautiful formal gardens in the British Isles.

This is a nice, heavy, thick book.  Anyone that loves formal English garden design would greatly enjoy receiving this book as a gift.  I checked prices online, and they vary greatly.  From $12 for a used book, to $25 for a new hardcover, up to over $100 in some places, be sure you know what you're getting.  A little shopping around for the price and condition you are wanting may be in order.

This book was first published in German in 1992 and the English version came out in 1997.  Although not a newly released book, this book and the gardens shown within its pages are timeless.

If this isn't the type of book you'd like to give, I'll have another suggestion next month.  Or you might find just the perfect book in one of the entries below, or on the page listing all books reviewed so far this year.

Garden pictures in this post are from the Annie duPont Formal Garden and the garden at Ashlawn-Highland.

You are invited to join us on the 20th each month with your own garden book review.  Any book with a garden influence qualifies! 

Now it's your turn!  What garden book will you be reviewing this month?

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!

Do you remember the robot from 'Lost in Space'?  These warnings were accompanied by the robot waving its arms, the lights on its head blinking, and its body moving back and forth.

Well, I am warning you!  My arms are waving, my head is shaking, and my body is jumping up and down.  Warning! Warning!

What am I warning you about?  A rose.


A rose?

Yes, a pretty rose.  A very pretty rose.  A rose by a sweet name - the Butterfly Rose.  That name just doesn't seem to impart danger.  But I'm here to tell you the truth.  And to warn you.

The Butterfly Rose is the nickname of the rose 'Mutabilis'.  Those sweet little blooms look a bit like butterflies all over it.  When I planted Mutabilis in the middle of a corner in my garden, my sister laughed.  Laughed!

"Where's the rest of the plantings?", she asked.

"That one rose will grow to take up the entire corner."  One look at her and I knew she doubted me.  "Really!"

I knew.  Or, at least I thought I knew.  I knew Mutabilis got to 10 ft. tall at maturity.  I knew it would grow to fill in the entire 8 ft. corner.

What I didn't know was that Mutabilis would grow from around 5 ft. tall last year to almost 9 ft. tall this year - only its fourth year!  I didn't know that instead of just filling in the corner, it would outgrow it!  I'm thinking 10 ft. tall is a small estimate of its mature size, and 8 ft. wide doesn't even come close.

I really don't care how tall this rose gets.  The sky is the limit - literally.  But width is another matter.  It covers the sidewalk, and no one can pass by.  I have cut it back twice this year already and I'm sadly realizing I am going to have to keep trimming on it to keep it within the bounds of its corner.  Not what I had planned at all.

No room to walk on this sidewalk!

Last year I waxed poetic about Mutabilis.  I even wrote, "I have it in a corner where it can grow as large as it wishes."  Ha!  This year I know - Mutabilis is an uncontrollable monster in disguise!

 For reference: the fence (far left) is over 6 ft. tall here!

I still recommend this rose.  It's an easy care rose to grow.  But now I'm adding a warning:
Grow Mutabilis at your own risk.  It needs a large area.  
A very large area.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thank Goodness for Chemicals!

I have been spraying myself down with chemicals every day.  Oh, I wouldn't go without it!

Yes, you are right - I have tried very hard to not use chemicals in my garden.  I admit to the rare use of a chemical fertilizer or herbicide.  But those are rare, not occasional, instances.  And I have been rewarded.

Rewarded with butterflies.  Rewarded with bees.  Rewarded with all sorts of strange and wonderful creatures that I don't think I would have ever seen otherwise.

I am especially excited to see the toads in my garden.  I haven't seen toads since I was a child.  When we first moved here, we could hear them down past the big pond, singing and talking every night.  It was as if they were carrying on several conversations, and each toad would talk louder and louder, trying to talk over the other toads' conversation.

But my neighbor sprays his pasture, and the conversations stop.  All goes silent.

Lately, however, we have been hearing the toads talking again.  My neighbor has moved, and while he still owns the property, he has not been doing any spraying.

I have been thrilled to see toads coming all the way up to the house!  They are such a surprise and a joy to see.

Not every creature is a joy, though.  We have been seeing scorpions - in our house!  I don't know where they are coming from, as I don't see them out in the garden.  But this summer alone, we have killed over 10 scorpions in the house.  Thankfully, we have not been stung.

My husband has asked me if I want him to spray for the scorpions.  But I think of the toads, and I say "not yet".

But there is one creature I have begun using chemical warfare against.

That creature is the mosquito.

It started with the six inches of rain we received.  And ever since then, we have been swarmed with mosquitoes.  I have walked around the property, emptying any pan or container that could hold water.  I have drilled holes in the fountain we not longer use (it's broken, but I like it anyway).  Pet bowls get refreshed regularly.  I don't know where these mosquitoes are coming from, but they are relentless.

Since there have been over 4,000 cases of West Nile this year, with 1/3 of those cases from Texas, a mosquito bite has deadly potential.  In fact, we have discussed how odd the mosquito bites are this year.  They make large whelps on our skin with just one bite, and I have wondered if a little bit of the virus is in every mosquito.

So, every day I go out into my mostly organic garden, and spray myself down with deet.

I try to eat organic vegetables.  We eat very little meat.  I try very hard to have a very creature-friendly garden, no matter the creature.  And yet I spray a chemical on myself every day!  It seems a bit bizarre to me.  And yet, oddly, I'm thankful that I can spray myself and go outside.

Scorpions may not make me cross the line into chemical warfare.  But tiny little mosquitoes do!

What about you?  What would you like to eradicate, through any means, from your garden?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

If Momma Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

For years I have wondered if David Austin was happy.  Successful?  Definitely.  Handsome?  Clearly.  Cordial?  Surely.  Commanding?  Probably.  But happy?  I wondered.

That saying "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" kept running through my head.  Basically, it means that if the woman of the household isn't happy, then she will (either obviously or covertly) make the other family members miserable.  I wondered if David Austin was miserable.


Well, because of Pat.  Pat Austin is David Austin's wife.  Pat Austin is also a rose.  A rose bred by David Austin and named for his wife.

Pat Austin

Naming a rose after your wife would surely make for some moments of marital bliss!  Still, I wondered.

I know absolutely nothing of Pat Austin, the person, except for that one simple fact.  She is David Austin's wife.  But, I wonder if there are clues in the description of her rose on the David Austin website:

  • Short climber (actually, in my garden, she's still a short bush)
  • Strong fragrance
  • Bright color
  • Tea-scented with a warm sensuous background
  • Deeply cupped flowers (I'll let your imagination run with this!)  ;)
She grows in zones 5 through 10.

Her description sounds lovely.  But for years she wasn't very lovely in my garden.  Maybe it's just American soil, or the fact that mine is own-root, but in my garden, and in some others I have heard about, she has been a source of complaint.  

And with such a poor rose named after her, I wondered if she was happy with this particular rose bearing her name.  And if she wasn't happy....  well, you know the saying!

But I shouldn't have doubted.  I should have trusted.  David Austin surely knew what he was doing.  He wouldn't have named a poor performing rose after his wife!  And, he didn't.  Because now that Pat Austin (the rose) has finally grown to maturity, she is outstanding.  Yes, her blooms still nod (maybe hinting at a trait of shyness?), but they now nod on stems that are strong.  Years ago their blooms dropped face-first into the mud.  But now she is the delight of my garden.  She is utterly charming.

She has a unique but beautiful color.  An orange, but not a neon orange.  Copper is the word used to describe it.  And it's a good word.  Like copper, sometimes her patina has a slightly pink undertone.  Sometimes the undertones are more yellow, and yet she mixes well with other soft-colored roses.  I think in real life, she must be a gracious hostess.

I am so glad I didn't get rid of Pat Austin prematurely.  She is a rose that needs a bit of time to fulfill your expectations.  She can't be rushed.  She must be nurtured, pampered, and attended.  But treating her gently will reward you greatly. 
bush shot

I now know that David Austin must be a happy man.  I now understand why he would name this rose after his wife.  It is a remarkable rose, if you will only give it a bit of time.  She will never be the star of the garden.  She doesn't stand out.  Yet, she is a gentle and lovely addition.  Her softness is her strength.  She has that one particular quality that is uniquely rare and underrated: she elevates the garden with her presence.  

Yes, I'd say momma is happy.  Well done, Mr. Austin.
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