Monday, April 26, 2010

'Kaiserin Friedrich' Rose

This is 'Kaiserin Friedrich's' prettiest bloom yet. I love how it varies between peach and pink. According to the sadly defunct Peaceful Habitations rose garden in central Texas, I can expect repeat blooms on this one throughout the growing season.

KF is named for this girl:

That's Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, also named Victoria (but called Vicky). I wrote about her in my dissertation--she's my favorite of QV's five daughters, and was the most progressive and accomplished of her sisters, though also, perhaps, the saddest. In the pic above, she has just triumphantly married the Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick (Fritz to the family), and the two are headed off to Germany. It's a picture I always find so sad. They look like what they are--two young, naive children, about to stumble into a vicious and toxic political environment for which they are utterly unprepared. Somehow, even before they've left England, they already look lost.

Vicky was intellectually gifted with an interest in the sciences, promoted female education, ran in literary and artistic circles, and supported the professionalization of nursing. Her parents thought that she and Fritz would introduce a new era of British-style liberalization to militarized, authoritarian, rigidly stratified Prussia. But this was Bismarck-era Prussia: they were completely outclassed in terms of cut-throat machinations, and the most powerful elements of society were united in their rejection of Jews, Catholics, educated women, working women, lefties, education for the working classes, social mobility, and also the British. Ouch. (I may be exaggerating slightly. I'm no longer in academia--I'm under no obligation to maintain a measured critical distance.)

Bismarck and Fritz's reactionary father (combined with Vicky & Fritz's problematic parenting skills) seduced Vicky's emotionally unstable eldest to the Dark Side (i.e., the Junkers and other feudal-minded war-mongering jerkfaces). Then Fritz died prematurely and horribly of throat cancer. And then her whack-job eldest became Kaiser Wilhelm and spent his spare time smearing his parents. Then Vicky was marginalized and also developed cancer, which attacked her spine and she died a slow lingering death in torment. Then Willy engaged in a bunch of asinine chest-thumping military one-upsmanship with with his uncle, Edward VII of England, and got Germany embroiled in WWI, which led to Hitler and Nazis and WWII. So. Sad story.

However, at least some people held the same ambitions for Prussia/Germany as Vicky and Fritz. And when poor Vicky died, some of these presumably sympathetic folks bred a lovely Tea (or Noisette--there seems to be some disagreement) rose and named it in her honor. Thus the graceful and elegant and surprisingly tough 'Kaiserin Friedrich.'

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lots of Roses...

...Not a Lot of Narrative

We've taken a few cuttings of interesting roses, and tomorrow we'll be working on building the eastside pond levee, but beyond that we haven't been doing much in the garden beyond wandering around in bewildered pleasure, saying, "Ooooo! Look at that!"

Here on the blog, too, I'm going to let the plants do all the work, while I nurse a Cuba libre and ponder the ineffable niceness of April.

Look at '4th of July'! I don't care if it is a modern--I love that rose, with its exuberant explosions of red.

A particularly pretty '4th of July' blossom

Here it is on the trellis. Yeah, it clashes with 'Cramoisi.' Let's just pretend that it's a deliberate, stylish, cutting-edge color dissonance, and not a failed piece of wishful thinking, shall we?

'4th of July' on the left; 'Cramoisi Superieur' on the right, standing in a thick puddle of its own petals

And speaking of reds, check out this gorgeous maroon climber in our neighbor's yard. He said it used to be 'Blue Girl' (possibly the world's most violently photoshopped rose--gadzooks), but the plant died back and was reborn as this loveliness (middle rose), which I presume is 'Dr. Huey,' commonly used as a rootstock here in N. America for roses too evolutionarily challenged to stand on their own one foot. Mr. M kindly let us have cuttings, so hopefully we'll have one of our own soon.

'Dr Huey' (presumptive) in the middle. I love that color.

And speaking of colors I love, 'Buff Beauty' is beginning to hit its stride.

One of the fragrant, delicately shaded blooms on 'Buff Beauty'

Meanwhile, 'Graham Thomas' is reminding us, with great, lovely cupfuls of golden yellow, why we put up with his rangy, black-spot-riddled ass.

This is why.

In shape, GT always reminds me of 'Madame Joseph Schwartz' and her sister rose, 'Duchesse de Brabant,' though they don't seem to be related at all. (GT has a lot of pretty recent ancestry, though he is a few generations away from a very pretty China Gallica* called 'Duchesse de Montebello')

'Duchesse de Brabant'

This is the first spring here at Chez M for 'Kaiserin Friedrich' (whose name I tend to misspell. In any German word, I'm never sure if it's going to be "i before e" or "e before i"). This is a very nuanced, very dainty-looking cultivar that is a cross between 'Gloire de Dijon' and 'Perle des Jardins.' It's young yet, but it's already had a few blooms

Pretty 'Kaiserin Friedrich.' Like its namesake, it's tougher than you might expect.

There are other things happening in the garden besides roses, of course. I bought 2 different kinds of blue-eyed grass this year (first time I've seen them in the nursery trade, though have often coveted them in the wild). The big one in the back came from the Antique Rose Emporium, while the small, pale, and rather weedy one up front came from the LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center plant sale.

Two Sisyrinchium.

Gah! The oak-leaf hydrangea still isn't in bloom!

Its slow-developing flower heads have teasing me for the past month. Bloom already! I've waited two years for hydrangeas blossoms in the shade garden. Are we there yet?

Arrrrgh! Not yet!

And finally, can you spot the flower?

It's the funkstastic mutant, 'Green Rose.' It's currently named Rosa chinensis var. viridiflora, but it used to be called Rosa monstrosa and 'The Green Monster,' which seems a little harsh. It has no petals, but grows a flower's worth of sepals in rosette form. A rose for people with a taste for subtlety. Or a perverse sense of humor.

The 'Green Rose.' It does what it says, it says what it does.

* Duchesse de Montebello is listed on as a China, but elsewhere--much more plausibly--as a Gallica. Not only are its color & form unChinalike, but it's apparently not remontant, which is incredibly weird for a China.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Dietary Indiscretion and Other Blunders

Hey! Cat: Don't Eat That!
So, my cats. Not, perhaps, the brightest creatures on four paws. Last week, we noticed they were eating less, and Po started vomiting a lot. At first we thought he was trying to hork up a particularly stubborn hairball, but eventually their decline in appetite became positively alarming. We also noticed that they had nibbled at the leaves of the Easter lilies in the den.

So I googled to see if there might be some relationship there, only to discover that Easter lilies are lethally, horribly toxic to cats (they cause death by kidney failure). So we made a late night run to the veterinary emergency room Sunday, stayed for 4 hours, spent pretty much all of our rainy day fund, and learned that their kidneys were fine (thank goodness). Apparently, they hadn't eaten enough to cause kidney damage, though possibly enough to make their tummies sensitive. But as for what the real culprit was, that remained a mystery.

So we were told to keep an eye on the beasts, and if they didn't improve, take them to our regular vet for a battery of tests. Okay.

Izzy improved quickly, but Po malingered. And then on Tuesday, I found the culprit in the hall, covered in a repulsive brown matter that made it very clear that the item had spent some quality time in Po's intestines.

An entire elastic headband. (Sort of like the ones at right, only tan and less... spotty).


That doesn't look like food, smell like food, or feel like food. Not on the first swallow, nor on the thirtieth, which is what it must have taken for the little beast to consume the entire thing. Interestingly enough, vets refer to this sort of thing as a "dietary indiscretion." That doesn't quite seem to cover it, does it?

So Po isn't dying (yay!), he's just thick as two planks ().

Pond: Oops.
Meanwhile, we chugged ahead on the pond. We put 1-2 inches of sand on all horizontal surfaces.

Then we put our carpet remnants from our nice neighbors down.

And finally, we put a king's ransom worth of 45 mm rubber liner down.

And then we filled it.

And discovered that the east leg of the pond is about 8 inches lower in elevation than the west end. Somehow, we never quite realized what a drop it was. Whoopsie.

So now we have to build a berm on the east side to raise it so that we can put in enough water to come up creditably high on the west side. Bother. The good news is that we were planning to put in a raised bed anyway, so the new highness, hopefully, won't stick out too much.

Lots of Roses
Meanwhile, the roses are full of awesomeness.

Below is the petitely charming 'Climbing Cecile Brunner.'

And this is a frothy pink noisette whose name we somehow lost track of*.

Also in bloom:
Cramoisi Superieur (x 2 - and how!)
Ducher (still just seething with blossoms)
Georgetown Tea (covered in polymorphous big fat pink flowers)
Belinda's Dream
Climbing Old Blush
Buff Beauty
La Marne
Archduke Charles
Mystery Pink Globes (Margot Koster? Mothersday?)
Mutabilis (x 5 - blooming riotously)
Mystery Red Legacy Pillar
Reine des Violettes
Souvenir de la Malmaison
Maggie (x 2)
Graham Thomas
Duchesse de Brabant
Green Ice (x 3)
4th of July (x 2)
Comtesse du Cayla
Autumn Damask
Kaiserin Freidrich
Mademoiselle Franziska Krueger
Isabella Sprunt
Martha Gonzales
Maybe Katy Rd Pink

It might have been easier to list the roses that aren't yet blooming, or only barely:
Mystery Hybrid Perp
The Fairy
New Dawn
Wild Blue Yonder
Ferdinand Pichard
Burgundy Iceberg
Madame Joseph Schwartz
Mrs. RM Finch
Red Cascade

Most have a good excuse: we just transplanted The Fairy, Red Cascade doesn't get enough sun, Ferdinand Pichard is recovering from a bad brush with RoundUp... But overall, I think this garden is about 1 week away from hitting Peak Bloom for 2010. It's wonderful.


*After a little research, I strongly suspect that this is 'Madame Alfred Carriere,' a name I often get confused with 'Alister Stella Grey.' In fact, before it bloomed, I thought maybe it was ASG. However, ASG is much too yellow for our rose. There is a faint possibility that it could be 'Juane Desprez,' but the pale pink looks more like MAC to me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


'Purple Robe' black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Things move fast in the spring, and there's much to report, garden-wise.

The Pond is Carpeted
We ordered up 3 cu.yds. of sand from good ol' Bert's Dirts on Thursday. That's way more sand than we needed for the pond (by about 2.25 cu.yds.), but we've got a big walkway to lay down, plus we need to take up the kitchen patio and re-lay it properly. So that sand won't go to waste.

In any event, we put 1-2" on all of the pond's horizontal surfaces as a cushion/protection against sharp pointy things. Then we spread out our carpet remnants and the ones given us by our nice neighbor, Ms. D. Even our combined remnants were not enough, but another neighbor, Mr. H., dropped by to offer us his carpet remnants, so now I think we're solid. How lucky was that?--2 different neighbors had spare carpet at just the time we needed it.

The carpet (fuzzy side up) is our cheapola underlayment. I'm hoping this week to lay out the (painfully large pile of) ooftish for the 45 mm rubber liner. Which is pretty darn exciting--after a month or so of it being a stagnant mudhole, we're on the cusp of turning this pond thing around.

There will almost certainly be a series of further delays once we have the plastic down: we'll need to look into pumps/filters, that lovely fountain I want, fish, plants, a rock edging, getting electricity out to the pond to run everything, and in the very vague and distant future, a crushed granite terracey-thing and lighting around the edges. Oh, and landscaping all around.

But I think that by next weekend it will at least contain water, which will be pretty cool too. Our 'Purple Robe' blacklocust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is just starting to bloom with great plummy, languid, wisteria-like blossoms--how lovely to have them hanging gracefully over the water!

Rose Season Begins in Earnest
The best of the bunch: still 'Ducher,' a dense green shrub absolutely head to toe in pretty lemony-white rosettes.

'Ducher,' laden with blooms

Other goodies: Second best is probably 'Duchesse de Brabant,' with 'Georgetown Tea' close behind. Reliable and graceful 'Duchesse' bears many fairly uniform bowls of clear pink, while GT's blooms are constantly mutable and surprising--each a different shade or combination of shades of pink, and their shapes ranging from pointy proto-hybrid-teas to Bourbonesque cabbages.

A particularly cabbagey "Georgetown Tea"

Viewed from up the street, one of 'Cramoisi Superieurs' is superimposed on top of 'Duchesse'--I'm surprised at how much I like the combination of colors. Cramoisi is a dark pinky-purply red, and Duchesse is a bright middle pink--you'd think the combination would be revoltingly Valentinesy, but for whatever reason (perhaps the unfussy nature of these two roses?), it's really just very, very harmonious.

Lovely and amazing 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' has put on its first blooms--great, huge cabbagey things in the most restrained pale pink possible.

'Climbing Old Blush' is just starting to pop--the gazebo is positively roofed with rosebuds, and I'm very much looking forward to the full show.

'Climbing Old Blush' blooming on the gazebo

Also, the hedge of 'Mutabilis' roses is in full flower. Most of the pictures I took came out lousy, but the color was surprisingly good on this one:

A young 'Mutabilis' rose

Some of last year's plants are putting on their first proper show. The last of the cemetery irises are still in bloom, and to my surprise the Drimiopsis and a wood violet both appear to be making a comeback.

The oak-leaf hydrangea that was so desolate all last year is full of new leaves and even its first flower buds. We bought a second OLH at the Peckerwood open house, and it's doing much better than the first, even though it's smaller--more flower buds and no sulky foliage. Not sure if this is due to weather or to an inherent superiority of the Peckerwood strain.

An oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) bud

In addition, the columbine are taller and bushier than they were last year. The one below was a stowaway in the Japanese maple's pot, and now it looks like it's trying to strangle the poor maple.

Columbines smothering a Japanese maple

And the 'Purple Robe' black locust is rewarding us again with gorgeous panicles of plummy, fragrant flowers. It's odd that you don't see more of these around. Funny to think that we got it by chance and just chunked it in the ground to see. And now it's giving us so much gorgeousness.

'Purple Robe' black locust

New Plants
We bought a couple of 'Archduke Charleses' in our recent visit to the Antique Rose Emporium--they're already full of flowers, a bit bigger than Cramoisi's. They're going to make a little hedge to bracket the far end of the kitchen patio--it currently just sort of peters out in this rather disheartening way.

Blossoms on our new 'Archduke Charles'

We also picked up a blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.) I had bought two 4" BEG at the LBJ Wildflower plant sale, but they are kinda scraggley, weedy things with tiny, pale blooms. The one from ARE has tidier, more attractive foliage and larger, deep indigo blooms. I wish I'd bought more.
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