Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring: An Ambivalent Appreciation

Spring is so complicated. My allergies have been bad enough to completely incapacitate me after yardwork two Sundays running, and Claritin can't begin to keep up. On the other hand, everything is so wonderfully densely green and juicy and pulsing with vitality. I can't decide if I hate or love this time of year.

Meanwhile, roses are popping into bloom all over the place. 'Fourth of July' is putting on its first buds. Matt, who hates moderns, grumbles about this viciously thorny rose a lot, so I'm doubly glad to see it bodying forth its streaky red awesomeness. FOJ: more than just a bad-ass lethal ninja weapon.

'Fourth of July'

'Madame Alfred Carriere' is just starting to bloom up on the gazebo. It's sporting a number of foamy pink blossoms, although when it comes to the gazebo, the flower bedizened 'Climbing Old Blush' is really where it's at right now. OB's individual flowers, though, can't compare to the delicacy and refinement of Mme AC's.

'Madame Alfred Carriere'

'Isabella Sprunt,' which is a comparatively new addition to the garden (planted last fall, I think), has put out a number of its unusually long, narrow buds, which prefigure the elongated buds of the hybrid teas. They open to pretty pale lemon blossoms.

'Isabella Sprunt'

Both of the 'Archduke Charles' that we planted last year are sporting many Valentine-colored pink-on-pink flowers. Part of me finds this combination a little too twee, but most of me thinks the overall effect is rather spectacular. Look at all those flowers on this little bitty shrub!

'Archduke Charles'

And then there's 'Sombreuil,' a big favorite of my husband's. We're growing it on one of the new trellises for privacy around the pond, and we ended up buying a rather expensive 5-gallon from It's a Jungle that had been trained up a plant stake. At the time, we weren't very happy about this, but it was the only 'Sombreuil' in town. Once we got it uncoiled and woven into the trellis, though, it was obvious that the extra $20 or so was totally worth it. It already fills out the trellis nicely, and it immediately popped into bloom, with several large, densely petaliferous, fragrant disk-like flowers.


So that's spring in Central Texas: bursting with loveliness and color... that I can only see through bleary, itchy, inflamed eyes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Roses & Other Spring Things

First Mutabilis blossom

We're starting to see the first roses of the season: two Chinas and a Polyantha, which makes sense (Chinas being one of the more rugged and floriferous classes of roses for Texas).

Our 'Mutabilis' hedge is looking incredibly dense and leafy and vigorous, and it's sporting one of the season's first blooms.

'Climbing Old Blush' bloomed heavily last spring and only indifferently after that, which is a bit unusual for this cultivar. I think a lot of roses bloomed so hard last spring that they wore themselves out and had to take the summer off. I'm not sure if I should be encouraged or not by the 5 or 6 blossoms COB is already sporting this March. Pace yourself, old thing. You don't want to fizzle in June.

The dense foliage and precocious flowers of 'Climbing Old Blush.'

And 'La Marne' has produced its first two flowers. LM ended up in our garden in some happenstancical way, and even though it's a doughty and productive rose, I can't seem to fall in love with it. The color, the flower shape, the flower size--it's all kind of meh. Still. Flowers are a nice thing. So carry on.

I do not love all my children equally. The neglected polyantha 'La Marne.'

Our trees are a good bit more cautious than our roses. Sophora affinis, X Chitalpa taskentensis, and Quercus polymorpha are all leafing out, but the others are either just at the swollen bud stage or else slumber on. Our s....l....o....w.... growing Ginkgo biloba has endearingly snubby little fat buds that are just starting to green up.

The fat little buds of the Ginkgo biloba

And our crinum are leafing out. They all appear to have survived the freezes: the 'Peachblow', 'Pink Parfait', and (oh, I always forget her name--Pauline Something, maybe?) that Matt gave me for Christmas, all the C. macowannii seedlings scattered around, the C. jagus and C. jagus scillifolia, the tentatively identified C. digweedii, the two red scabrums, the C. powelliis--white and pink--and the many 'Ellen Bosanquets' we have about the yard. The C. powelliis by the study door sort of glued themselves together to the top during our last freeze and I never cleaned them up; now their leaves are weirdly conjoined at the tips.

Crinum powelliis with their leaves glued together

And lastly, a perverse sort of a sign of spring, all the nasty old ligustrums that suffered freeze damage this winter are cutting their losses and dropping their necrotic leaves. I think the pattern of colors on this one is really rather pretty.

A dying ligustrum leaf

Friday, March 11, 2011

Roses of Interest

I'm making a list of roses I covet. It's a long list.

Queen Victoria-related:

My dissertation (in what now seems like another lifetime) had to do with Queen Victoria, so I'd like to collect at least a few of the scores of plants named in her honor.

Reine Victoria (#1 - Tea, light yellow; 1837 - Vissley Vandaël, Paris, France - lost?)
Queen Victoria (#1 - Hybrid Perp, mauve; 1840 - Laffay, France)
Queen Victoria (#2 -Tea, salmon; 1844 — M. Bélot-Défougère, France - aka 'Souvenir d'un Ami')
Queen Victoria (#3 -Hybrid Perp, white/pink; 1850 - Fontaine/A. Paul, United Kingdom - aka 'La Reine à fleurs blanches' - lost?)
Queen Victoria (#4 - Hybrid Perp, white/blend; ca.1860- Jacques-Julien, Jules Margottin Père & Fils, France - aka 'White La Reine' Is this truly different from the one above? Lost?)
La Reine Victoria (#2 - Bourbon, carmine pink; 1872 - Joseph Schwartz, France - aka 'The Shell Rose')
Queen Victoria (#5 - Tea, light pink; 1872 - Eugène Labruyére - lost?)

On the left, the one 'La Reine Victoria' that is reliably commercially available today (Schwartz, 1872--pic from Apuldram Roses), and on the right, a cartoon from early in Victoria's reign, depicting her as "The Rose of England"

Kronprinzessin Viktoria (Bourbon, cream/yellow - 1888 - Vollert/Späth?, Germany - aka 'Yellow Souvenir de la Malmaison')
'Kronprinzessin Viktoria' - pic by frederic on

This is one I particularly want: 'Kronprinzessin Viktoria,' named for the queen's eldest daughter. It's the ivory-colored sport of the fabulous 'Souvenir de la Malmaison.' We've already got one rose named for this same individual in our garden: 'Kaiserin Friedrich,' which is the title she took when her husband, Friedrich, became the German emperor.

Other Long-Desired:

Fortune's Double Yellow ( species, yellow/copper/salmon; bef.1845 - Robert Fortune, UK)
Abraham Darby (shrub, apricot; 1985 - Austin, UK [AUScot])
Ballerina (Hybrid Musk, pink/white; 1937 - Bentall, UK)
Basye's Purple (rugosa, mauve; 1968 - Basye, US)
Basye's Blueberry (shrub, pink; 1982 - Basye, US)
Chestnut Rose (species, pink; R. roxburghii, Asia)
Eglantine Rose (species, light pink; R. sylvestris odora, Europe)
Green Rose (China, green; bef.1845, disc. Bambridge & Harrison, China)
Madame Hardy (Alba/Centifolia/Damask, white; 1832, Eugene/Julien-Alexandre Hardy, France, aka 'Felicite Hardy'. Extreme blackspot resistance)
Madame Plantier (China/Noisette[??], white; 1835, Plantier, France, aka 'The Bride's Rose')
Spice (Bermuda/China, white)
White Pearl in Red Dragon's Mouth (China, red w occasional white streaks; aka 'Chi Long Han Zhu')
Winecup (found rose, burgundy--put at Cl Cecile Brunner's feet)

Maman Cochet (light pink; 1892 - Scipion Cochet, aka "Mrs Morgan's Delight")
Mrs BR Cant (deep pink; 1901 - Benjamin R Cant & Sons, aka 'Mrs Benjamin R Cant')
Adam (pale pink; 1838 - Adam, Rheims, France, aka 'President')
Gloire de Dijon (Tea Noisette, pale salmon/pink; 1850 - Henri Jacotot, France, aka 'Glory John')
Général Galliéni (dark pink to yellow; 1899 - Gilbert Nabonnand, France)
Madame Wagram, Comtesse de Turenne (pink; 1894 - Alexandre Bernaix, France)
Perle des Jardins (yellow; 1874 - Antoine Levet, pere, France)
Tipsy Imperial Concubine (pink blend; 1982 - Hazel le Rougetel, found China)
Clementina Carbonieri (salmon/pink/yellow; 1913 - Gaetano Bonfiglioli & figlio, Italy)
Francis Dubreuil (dark red; 1894, Francis Dubreuil, France [in US, probably actually 'Barcelona'])
English Roses
Gentle Hermione (alternate: Queen of Sweden)
Tradescant (alternate: Falstaff)
A Shropshire Lad
Abraham Darby
Jude the Obscure
Crocus Rose (alternate: Glamis Castle)

Hot Cocoa (brownish orange/red, Floribunda; 2003 - Carruth (Weeks) )
Honey Dijon (tan/yellow Grandiflora; 2005 - Sproul (Weeks))
Pearl d'Or (shrub; 1883 - Rambaux, Dubreuil, France)
Mme. Pierre Oger (Bourbon, pale pink; 1878 - Verdier, France)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spring Moves Fast

Spring! The snowflakes are blooming!

Everything seems to happen at once here in the spring. One day, we're sitting around the pond, contemplating the skeletal wreck of our garden by the tawdry orange glow of the sulfur streetlights (I really hate those lights). The next day, there are snowflakes (the botanical kind--Leucojum sp.--not the meterological ones) and cemetery irises (Iris albicans), the roses are covered in tufts of red and bronzy leaves, and the crinums are poking their little green snouts out of the decaying remnants of last year's leaves.

...and the Montezuma cypress is putting out new leaves. It never actually dropped last year's dead leaves, curiously enough.

Meanwhile, Matt & I are sprinting to keep up. We recently finished the last of our trellises and cemented them in around the pond, and I hoed and raked and shaped the berm that will become our grass-n-roses bed.

Two of the new trellises, with two severely ailing 'Sky Pencil' hollies. I wouldn't have thought a holly would mind a wee bit of a freeze, but these were evidently feeling... fragile.

All three new trellises. Matt is in the process of de-rusting and painting our old iron stove.

We're trying to plant up the new beds (pond + grass-n-roses), tackle the bermudagrass (I hate that stuff worse than sulfur lights), mulch everything, and finish off the new front walkway to use up the pile of crushed granite leftover from the pond terrace. Oh, and repair and build on to our irrigation system.

It's a lot of stuff. Matt says we should take a break once we're done with that before buying more giant piles of mulch/dirt/sand/rocks that we then have to shovel somewhere. It's a radical proposition, but I have reluctantly agreed to give this a try.

In any event, today's installment was putting groundcloth under the new front walk, and shoveling as much sand and gravel was we could endure to hold it in place. (This turned out to not be as much gravel as it used to be. We're a lot older than we were about 4 months ago when we were last shoveling gravel. Ow. Gardening can be hard on the body.)

New front walk. The stones are not in their final configuration--just holding the groundcloth down.

We also planted a 'Red Fountain' rose on one of the pond trellises, placed a 'Puerto Rico' to block the right side of the AC unit, moved a misplaced 'Paul Neyron,' and planted three Lindheimer's muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) in the grass-n-roses bed (which is nice, because now it's a proper "grass-n-roses" bed instead of, as before, just an "n-rose" bed, containing exactly one 'Mrs. Dudley Cross' rose--and a heaping pile of bermudagrass.)

A Lindheimer's muhly in the new grass-n-roses bed. And, in the lower left corner, the inevitable bermudagrass. Ug.
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