Thursday, May 28, 2015

Roses: They are beautiful...

Rosa 'Abraham Darby'  

Roses are beautiful when they are not ugly.  All cultivated roses were selected or bred for appearance and/or in combination with fragrance, disease resistance, vigor and many other desirable characteristics.  They are all beautiful to begin with.  However, we all know that sometimes the promised beauty does not surface due to a number of factors. With more than two decades worth of experience in growing roses in California, I've come to realize a simple truth - there exists no spectrum when it comes to the outcome of the rose. There are only two opposing classifications: beautiful or ugly.

A rose plant growing under optimum conditions and cared for by a conscientious gardener, will come out to be a poetic symbol of beauty, love, fragrance and art.  A rose is a rose when the world is fair. But the world is not always fair.  There are microorganisms lurking everywhere - in the air, in the soil and water - just waiting for the its carrier and opportune moment to charge the garden.    The weather that dictates production rates of plants can be austere or excessive with its blessings and sometimes favors the proliferation of the microscopic society with its ever changing combination of humidity and temperature. All of these natural factors contribute to the outcome of roses.  Then there is the gardeners and his/her management techniques or lack thereof.

Rosa 'Evelyn'

They are beautiful this year.  Their leaves are clean with no significant diseases to worry about at present - hopefully it will stay that way. With the exception of the ones that are shaded by trees, all are growing better than in the previous two years.  The sweet fragrance emanating from the David Austin rose 'Evelyn' is very pleasant that even after many years of purging my rose collection, I thought of checking the rose catalogs again.  :)

Rosa 'America'

Although, the natural factors remain to be out of my control, there were some things that this gardener did that possibly contributed to the excellent performance of the roses during the current season.

1. Deliberate choice and timing of fertilization.  Complete fertilizer (16-16-16) was applied to all my roses right when the new buds were about three inches long and around the time when we had some rain in February.  This is key to the vigor of the roses in the early spring.  A second application was done during the first deadheading.

2.  Limited but regimented watering due to statewide water conservation. Watering is regulated in our area - this time we can only turn on our irrigation systems twice a week.  This means that we are not in danger of over watering the plants and daily exposure to moisture on the leaves.

3.  Increased presence of birds in the garden.  The birds like to linger in the yard with the consistent provision of food and water.  As a result they are also there to peck on bugs before they become a problem.

4.  Improved soil condition through generous application of mulch.  Our pet bunny uses sawdust pellets as bedding material which in turn becomes mulch for the flowers and shrubs.  We all know the benefits of mulch in soil moisture conservation, weed control and soil structure.  And yet, here we have a bunny-enhanced mulch with higher nitrogen content!  Beyond all these perks, the decomposition process of the sawdust reduces the soil pH to some extent.  Since roses prefer a slightly acidic soil, this practice has positive effects on roses.

Rosa 'Sally  Holmes'

Roses are beautiful when they are not ugly.  :)

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