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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in roses (19)


Should We Risk Our Health for A Beautiful Rose? 

Image:-, a Canadian catalogue and online plant provider.Recently, the French language garden magazine Fleurs Plantes et Jardins published a pictorial review of roses that survive cold climates. Included in that article was a photo of the hybrid musk rose, Mozart. A continuous top seller at many retail and online nurseries, it caught my attention because it is striking and beautiful.  

Researching this plant online, I discovered that it flowers profusely, producing a non-stop show of enormous sprays of small, single pink blooms with white centers and reddish-  pink edges. Its arching habit allows the gardener to grow it as a cascading specimen or as a climber against a fence.

This is a perfumed rose that tolerates light shade, re blooms until autumn, and grows 3 to 6 feet tall depending upon growing conditions. In some locations, it is reported to spread wider than 8 feet. In the fall, the color display is followed by showy orange hips.

Most importantly, it has excellent resistance to disease. With a winter tolerance for CND Zone 4 or USDA Zone 5, the description of this rose is impressive. What’s not to like? Plenty!

While Mozart is virtually disease resistant, it is not pest free. Here is a list of all of the bugs that might attack this rose, depending upon a gardener’s local eco-system:-  Aphids, leaf hoppers, spider mites, scale, caterpillars, sawfly larvae, cane borers, Japanese beetles, rose stem girders, rose midges, rose slugs, rose chafers, and  leaf-cutting bees.

If Mozart is such a cafeteria for bugs, it may be necessary to spray it with pesticides. However, many gardeners worry that using such products compromises the health of all living things; some are not convinced that it does while still others pay no attention to such matters.

I don’t want to tempt fate by trying to prove who is right and who is wrong. I prefer to be cautious. Consequently, I am reluctant to plant this versatile, eye-catching rose. Those who are concerned about the residual effects that toxic substances have upon all living things will opt for carefree plants that need no pesticides to survive.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if breeders could develop a pest- free rose that performs just like Mozart does?


Plants That Perform All Season, a book review

Powerhouse Plants, 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty, Graham Rice, Timber Press,

Graham Rice is an international renowned and respected plantsman with gardening experience on both sides of the Atlantic. He is also an award-winning writer with more than twenty gardening books to his credit.

This latest work reaches out to readers who garden on small plots of land where plants must do double duty because there is room for so few of them. To create beautiful and interesting gardens under these confining conditions, Mr. Rice recommends that we consider using versatile powerhouse plants.

Such plants enhance the design of small gardens because they multi task throughout the growing season. Included in this category are perennials, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses, vines and ground cover, all of which put on visual performances that last longer than their respective plant tags indicate. They do that by transforming themselves from a flowering summer perennial, for example, into a display of intensely colored fall foliage.

The inherent potential of these versatile players allows the gardener to create different and evolving plant combinations for various times of the year, all the while using a minimum number of plants.

Readers will be delighted that the author’s suggestions are confined to ones that are easy to grow, hardy, and glorious performers. Nothing makes a gardener happier than to discover that a beautiful plant is also a workhorse and that it requires little attention.

In that respect, nature has been very cooperative. Mr. Rice has managed to identify no less than five hundred and ten of these powerhouse plants – each with characteristics that evolve or linger in the garden, and whose beauty and visual interest is sustained long after they have lost one of their salient features.

Such a plant will display at least two of the following attributes: - spring shoots pushing through the soil, fresh unfurling foliage, spring flowers, summer flowers, summer foliage, attractive fruit and berries, evergreen foliage, vibrant colors in the fall, bark, interesting and colorful stems in winter, and winter or spring foliage rosettes.

Of course the above list doesn’t even begin to address other characteristics that a plant make contribute to the garden. These would include form, shape, texture, movement, fragrance, birds, and butterflies. All are qualities that enhance the value of most of the recommended plants in this book.

Gardeners who struggle to maximize the visual appeal of their small gardens will be relieved that there is now a handbook to help make that an easier task. Creative homeowners with larger gardens will also benefit because versatile, all-season, powerhouse plants enrich the appearance of all gardens, regardless of their size.



Farla's Flower Garden of Alphabet Verse

In winter, I look for indoor activities, away from home, that allow me to breathe in fresh air, as I transition from house to car to parking lot to building. One of my destinations is a community center where I joined a writers’ circle. Some members of this group are storytellers, others write poetry in free verse or iambic pentameter. One member, Margie Golick, is a talented, humorous, poet. She wrote the following as a birthday present for a friend. Astute gardeners, who might find exception to some of her botanical facts, should note that this writer’s expertise lies in rhyming couplets.

Flower Facts for Farla by Margie Golick 

Seeding, weeding, digging, hoeing; Like the Energizer Bunny, Farla keeps on growing.

In every single garden bed; Nature’s secrets A to Z.

AnemoneAloe, anemone, astilbe; We’re your friends and always will be.

BegoniaBluebells, buttercups, begonia; But you’re in your garden when we try to phone ya.

Campanula portenschlagianaCampanula, core-opsis; No time for a movie – Just read a synopsis.

Dahlia Mary's Jomanda Dandelion, daffodil, dahlia, daisy; No one would dare to call you lazy.

Echinacea Mama MiaEchinacea, edelweiss; A garden is a healthy vice.

FuchsiaFuchsia, foxglove, forget-me-not; (Unless they find you growing pot)

GerberaGerbera, gentian, and geranium; Guarantee a youthful cranium.

Fall HyancinthusHyacinth, heather, hollyhock; Hold you steady as a rock.

Iris versicolorImpatiens, ipomoea, iris; Impenetrable by any virus.

JasmineJack–in-the-pulpit, jonquil, jasmine; For sure you’ll never be a has-been.

KelpKeep your garden mulched with kelp; You’ll find this is a lot of help.

Mountain laurelNeed to patch a lover’s quarrel? Try lilac, lemon mint or laurel.

MimosaEverything will be hunky-dory; With mimosa, marigold, morning glory.

NasturtiumNarcissus, nasturtium, nightshade, nettle; Put a little in your kettle.

OleanderJust a whiff of oleander; Women flirt and men philander.

Shirley poppyRemember to think outside the box; With peony, poppy, petunia, phlox.

QuinceAnd always reserve a little space; For growing quince and Queen Anne’s lace.

Oso easy strawberry crush roseRosemary, rhododendron, rose; These will banish all your woes.                                                                                                            

Snapdragon frosty lavenderSalvia, snapdragon, sunflower, sedum; Got 'em, got ‘em, got ‘em, need ‘em.

TrilliumTiger lily, tulips, trilliums; Will bring you fortunes by the milliums.

Ulex europaeusYour beds will never be unruly; With ulex, ugni, and uhule.

VioletVenus fly trap, vio-let; Will also keep you out of debt.

Wisteria blutentraubenWeigela, wisteria, water lily; Keep you warm when the day is chilly.

XeranthemumXeranthemum if you want variety; Will bring you welcome notoriety.

YarrowWith yarrow, yucca, yam, and yew; You will never catch the flu.

Zinnia cherry double zaharaFrom Vancouver east to West Virginia; These facts hold true and I’ll be Zinnia.  


The Surprising Autumn Pink of Rose Bonica 

Rose Bonica is an old friend. It has been growing in my garden for almost 18 years and has never disappointed me. I selected this plant when I first determined that pink was to become the dominant shade in my garden. Over the years, it would prove to be both the favorite of many easy-to-care-for roses that I would plant as well as the anchor for the color scheme.

After planting, a full three seasons would pass before it became established; once it did, it performed very well. Bonica is a reliable, floriferous bloomer with a crop of dainty, light pink flowers, enhanced by full sun, regular irrigation, and nourishment. I used to apply commercial fertilizer but now feed it Epsom salts and compost instead. The only attention this plant receives is the twice monthly deadheading of spent buds.

Now that it is mature, I allow nature to take care of its irrigation. The water sprinkler is turned on only when a drought or heat spell has lasted for more than five days. It's amazing how well this plant handles the harsh summer conditions that sometimes occur in USDA Zone 4.

Unfolding in a mini-explosion of pastel pink, Bonica’s roses are a delight to behold in early summer. However, they lose their pallor in the bright midsummer sun. While that faded look is disappointing, I have not made it a serious issue as, by that time, there are so many richly colored perennials blooming nearby to capture one’s attention. Besides, in August, the attractive shade of pink returns.

In October, something almost magical happens to this plant. As soon as the angle of the sun changes and nights turn very cold, the color of the rose is transformed from pastel baby pink to a very warm, deep pink with a subtle overcast of coral. This unusual shade is never on display at any other time of year. It’s one pleasurable bonus to have a bush pump out roses when all other flowering plants are dormant; it’s another to discover a new color in the fall garden.


The Elephant in the Garden Room

Gardening is not an equal opportunity hobby. Perennials, roses, rhododendrons and flowering shrubs can be costly to some, yet inconsequentially inexpensive to others. In some countries, even organic-rich black earth is considered a luxury.

When I first began gardening, beautiful plants were available only by mail order. Each season, I would budget for plants a portion of the college money that I had earned during the previous summer. Because these funds had to underwrite an entire year of school, the amount I spent on gardening was modest. As a result, the number of perennials that I was able to add  to my garden each season was paltry.

Occasionally, a neighbor would give me a cutting of a perennial, but since city gardeners in those days knew of only twelve perennials, flowerbeds were uninspiring without supplementary mail order plants. Later in life, when gardening became a second career, I was able to comfortably buy plants to my heart’s content because I now shopped wholesale, But until then, all garden purchases had been measured and re considered, ensuring  that my resources were wisely spent.

The other option that was always available was growing plants from seed. However, urban living in a crowded, central-heated home, in a cold climate, did not offer the appropriate physical environment for the successful germination of seeds.

Ordering expensive plants by mail was the only way that I, and most other people, could expand our flowerbeds. That option remained constant until the arrival of two commercial phenomena that changed the way ordinary people gardened.

The combination of the credit card and the big box store brought ornamental gardening to those with limited resources. All that was required was to select a desirable object, place it in a shopping cart, and pay an ostensibly modest, but deceptively high, monthly charge to the credit card company.

Big box stores also brought seemingly affordable and eye catching horticultural products to the mass market. By displaying temptingly, blooming plants to a consumer who had arrived to buy light bulbs, these behemoth retailers instantly, turned unsuspecting do-it-yourselfers into gardeners, and a new target market of gardener-consumer was born.

This historical commercial development deflects the fact that without the generosity of others who offer free plant cuttings, and without the opportunity or time to grow perennials from seed, ornamental gardening remains - in real dollars - an expensive hobby for a sizeable portion of the population.

Publishers and writers never acknowledge this enormous elephant in the room – the fact that some gardeners can’t afford to buy the plants we write about. We discuss “how-to”, and “what is new”; often we recommend spending more than necessary because a costlier plant will yield out-of-proportionally spectacular results -  for only a few dollars more  In our sincerity and zeal to share all of our best gardening tips with as many people as possible, sometimes we forget that our advice is not appropriate for all gardeners.

That is because ornamental gardening crosses socioeconomic lines; it gives pleasure to everyone, regardless of one’s station in life. Consequently, there will always be some, desiring to recreate that pleasure in their own back yard, who will find themselves hard pressed to allocate finite resources to infinite garden dreams.