Planting Roses

Years ago a really stuffy up tight and out of sight guy said “Oh, it’s too late to plant roses.”

Canadian Explorer Rose

Easy Gorgeous and repeat bloomer

Let me tell you….it is never too late to plant a rose bush.  Roses are EASY…don’t let any slob tell you otherwise.  I’m not saying you stick them in the ground and walk away…this is a living creature we are speaking about.  The most important thing to remember about planting a rose is that it must be planted where you see it everyday and where other people, like total strangers can also see it every day.  Why…’cause roses are the magic moments of a garden…they are an ancient species and carry the ages in every leaf, every petal, every thorn and every bud.  Oh…remember…if you get pricked by a thorn it means great great luck is on the way!

So now down to the practical stuff.  You need at least 8 hours of strong sunshine Two Shrubs here - now 10 years old. NEVER USE ROSE FOODthroughout the day for a rose to bloom.  June is indeed the month of the rose and is when your rose will have its first blush of beautiful blooms.  So you need 8 hours of sun ALL SUMMER LONG at the location you want to plant…not just 8 hours in June.

If you have enough light, go get yourself a rose.  I suggest ONLY CANADIAN BRED roses. If the tag doesn’t say MADE IN CANADA,  go to the next or ask for Canadian Roses Only.  The Explorer Series invented by Agriculture Canada after WWII, to encourage people to garden and beautify their neighborhoods (and to sooth the tattered souls of returning soldiers, nurses, docs and all others who fought in Europe) are TOUGH, disease resistant and because they are Canadian to their roots, are way too nice for bugs to bother.  I have a George Vancouver and it is gorgeous…see pic!  I LOVE it.  It blooms all summer, it’s blooms work well in vases and it has a beautiful gentle scent when warmed by the sun.  It is right by my front door.

Oh:  Before you head off to buy your rose, fill your watering can and set it in the sun.  If you don’t have a watering can (?????I thought you were a gardener?????) fill your kettle and leave the lid open and set it out in the sun.

So, you’ve got your rose. The first thing you do with it when you get it home is set it in the shade and give it a long drink from your sundrenched watering can or your sundrenched kettle.  Chlorine has burnt off, the temp of the water is perfectly ambient and your rose will immediately be able to drink up without any shock factor.  NEVER WATER A ROSE FROM THE GARDEN HOSE.  You water it with left over water in your kettle or water from boiling potatoes, corn, NOT FROM THE HOSE.

Now that the rose is happy for a few hours, get to work.  Dig a hole – A REALLY BIG HOLE.  Much bigger = wider than  rose pot.  Let’s say 3 times the width of your pot and deep enough to meet the same spot on your rose as does the soil in the pot.

Fill the whole to the top with water…from the hose is OK here  because you are going to let the water sit and soak into the soil.  When the water has disappeared, place compost (you know I love Nincompoop compost)  or any organic matter will do – old leaves, vegetable matter, potato peels, carrot peels  and fill the hole again and let it soak in again.  Now, go water the rose again, really well with ambient water.  You’re almost ready for the big moment.

If you are going to be very conscientious, you will wait 24 hours and let the hole rest, let all the soil creatures calm down and let the soil cities adjust.  Or, if you just can’t wait to see that rose in your good earth, at least wait until your hole is shaded and the sun has passed over it.  Do not stress the new rose and you by planting in seering sun.  Give the little sucker a chance.

After giving your rose another good soaking, take the pot out of the shade and move to your new hole.   With one gloved hand splayed across the soil in which the rose sits, tip the pot upside down and slide the pot off the plant.  Still holding the entire rose upside down, gently loosen the roots at the bottom of the pot.  If some soil falls away, relax. Lower the plant into the ground and turn it around to the way you wish it to face you and the sun.

Gently fill (back fill)  in the hole with soil….half way then douse with water ….not from the hose….from a watering can.  Fill the rest of the hole.  Gently tap down the soil WITH THE FLAT OF YOUR HANDS.  Never stomp on newly planted plants like they advertise….it crushes all the capillary roots that draw in the water.  Stand up and stand back and decide if you like the actual positioning of your new rose. Yes (I hope so)  Now, kneel down and with the flat side of your hand, pressing down to make a gully, draw a circle about 10″ away from the main stem.  This is where you are going to water from your watering can.

NEVER GET THE LEAVES WET.  NEVER WATER A ROSE WITH A HOSE.  Slowly pour water from your watering can every day for the next 10 days. Doing this first thing in the a.m. with your coffee in one hand and your watering can in the other is the best time to water roses (or anything for that matter)  Within 10 days you should be seeing new little buds, new little green shoots.  HOORAY!  All is well.

Hooray….you have a rose in your garden….you have made your world and ours immeasurably better, more beautiful place.  The universe thanks you.

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Six Perennials to LOVE

So the mad mad May long weekend rush is over at the garden centres.  Hope you didn’t invest a lot in annuals….thirstythirsty pigs they are.  Here are my top 6 picks for perennials for you garden – they are well behaved (not invasive) and grow relatively quickly…that means of course that as a perennial gardener you have the maturity and wisdom to accept gardening is about patience.

1. Rudebekia – aka Brown Eye Susans. There are dozens of versions of this. They last from July to November with deadheading – cutting off their dead blooms so they bloom again and again.  They make a great cut flower but strip the leaves and your water won’t turn yukky. Full hot sun.

2. Lemon Lime hosta – bright green with a pretty scented bloom.  This hosta reminds you to think about foliage after the bloom.  Hosta leaves make fantastic fillers in bouquets and add a lovely texture to your cut arrangements. Shade, dappled light. Beautiful beneath a Japanese Dogwood.

3.Songbird Columbine – so beautiful. It always reminds me of the apple blossoms that bloomed outside my big sister’s bedroom window.  These are a lower columbine that I use as a gorgeous groundcover and are delicate and lovely. Great for shade, dappled light.Gorgeous Groundcover Perennial

4. Nemesia – plant this for part sun and watch it turn any space into a beautiful pond!  Spreads but easily managed.  A true blue perennial.True Blue Perennial

5. Mock Orange shrub – the scent is a miracle of summer. Plant one NOW.  Feed it lots of compost and mulch.  If possible place it  by a path you tread every day or a window you open regularly.  It is grand to see it and to smell it.

6. Sweet Woodruff – a gorgeous ground cover with a delicate perfume.  Looks great under a tree or interspersed with other groundcover.  Prefers shade but will tolerate some morning sun.  The shiny green leaves last all season after the May flowers disappear.

Sweet Woodruff

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Compostea – Magic Tea

This is a fine invention – making a magic tea for your garden and planters.  It is a very easy and effective way to deliver organic matter to the soil in your pots and planters.  Remember, we don’t have to feed plants – they have all the equipment to do that. All we have to do is keep the soil rich in natural organic matter (compost) and the plant roots will take up exactly what they need at exactly the right time. When you see products that say ‘plant food’  run away. Save your $$$$.  Nobody and nothing can feed plants. Plants feed themselves.  All we have to do is keep their soil moist and rich in humus and organic matter.  They will pick and choose from the soil. Kind of like stocking the fridge for the kids – let them pick and choose from healthy stuff.

So back to the tea: 1 full (brimming) cup of Nincompoop compost into 3 litres of water. Stir, set in the sun for about 20 mins (to burn off the chlorine and warm the water) then water your pots and planters as per usual.  Fantastic results will come within 24 hours.

This Miracle Tea is vital to hanging plants as they dry out so very quickly and the wind, heat and sun leach nutrients right out of the potting soil – which is always a little light on nutrients.  Amend this with compost tea.

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Why 17 Watering Cans????

Confession: I own 17 watering cans.  Just those green plastic jobbies that hold about 7L of water. So many people are in awe of this – I have no idea why.  Plastic because the gorgeous metal cans with the beautiful brass spouts and handles are TOO HEAVY when full. Be kind to yourself in the garden…buy light tools when possible.

Why so many?  Only when I am drip watering trees and very large rose bushes (my climbers that are well over 10’tall and 6’wide) do I use a hose to water.  While convenient – more or less – watering with a hose is not garden friendly.  The water that is arriving from deep and far along your water main is increasingly cold.  The tiny, hair like capillary roots that pull the water and nutrients are literally petrified by this flow of cold and getting colder water.

I fill up my watering cans and let them sit in the sun. This warms the water to ambient (air) temp and lets the chlorine burn off.  Then I water my plants – beginning with any new plantings I may have and moving to shrubs and bushes next.  I NEVER (ok hardly ever)

Established perennials seldom need watering

Perennnials save water

get water on leaves.  Leaves are lousy conductors of water unless it is mixed with nitrogen and oxygen which only happens when it rains.  Using a watering can lets you root water – just getting a slow and gentle flow of water on the roots.

Oh that reminds me.  You know those spout caps that come with watering cans that imitates a ‘gentle rain shower.”  get rid of it.  Throw it away or use it as a gap filler (filling the hole in the watering can through which you fill it.)  They get the leaves wet.  You ONLY want to water the soil around the base of the plant.  Not the leaves.  A steady gentle stream of water from your watering can is perfect.

Watering in the morning is best before the sun gets too hot or direct. Watering at night tempts fungal action in the encroaching dark.

Jeesh, this sounds like work right?  Stop complaining – you likely did not have to haul the water from a well or a distant river.  Just think, how would you feel if somebody sprayed you with freezing cold water that hurt your feet and made your toes curl.

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Pruning Your Roses

OK…so now is the time to prune your roses.  Let’s start with an older rose bush….that would be say 5 years. And lets say it is a shrub bush as opposed to a climber…the pruning is a little different.

First, get rid of the winter kill.  Canes that have died over winter will have no leaves forming on them now, no sign of life and be a dull, flat brown or blackish colour.  Trace them back with your eye to their main source – another bigger can or the main ‘trunk’ of the shrub.  With very sharp clippers – secateurs – make a nice clean cut leaving about 1″. Try to cut on a slant, away from the shrub.

Rose pruning is where Garden Staring really pays off.  Garden Staring as noted in a previous post, allows the garden to come to us.  We begin tonotice small details nobody else sees.  Garden Staring teaches us how to look at a rose bush to see what needs to be cut out.  After dealing with the winter dead (oh- if you have a wood burning fireplace or a barbecue pit save these dead canes and boughs for your fire…great kindling)  Now search for diseased or broken canes.  Broken canes will have vertical cracks or breaks in their surface – another result of winter.  These ‘open sores’ will appear toward the outer edges of the rose bush where the cane has been exposed to harsh cold winds sleet.  Inspect the cane and cut – on a slant – above the last sore.  You should be able to save the cane if most of it is healthy with smooth, unbroken green or reddish-brown surface.  Once you are satisfied that you have cut out all the winter kill, water the shrub deeply with air temperature (ambient temperature) water that has sat for about 2 hours. This allows the chlorine to burn off into the air.  Now, leave the bush alone for 24 hours.  Let it rest from your interference.

Next day, with all the winter dead gone and the ‘sore’ canes, it is time to shape your bush/shrub.  You want to keep rose canes, leaves and buds off the earth.  This prevents the uptake of fungus and mould from the soil.  So the first thing you will do is to cut  the canes spreading on the ground or less than 2″ from the soil. Cut on a slant away from the shrub.  Now you will be able to spot ‘suckers.”  These are long and strong canes with no blooms but lots of leaves. They grow out of the lowest part of the main stem of the shrub and really sap the energy of the shrub.  Clip them as close to the stem as possible.  You don’t want suckers.

Getting rid of winter dead, sore canes and suckers allows oxygen to flow through the bushl. This is vital against pests and mould.

Water your shrub deeply again and let it rest. Now, spread Nincompoop compost ( all around the base of your bush and let it settle into the soil on its own.  Do not let any earth or compost (ever) touch the main stem of the shrub or any canes or boughs.

Sit back and do some Staring.  You will be sure to spot some dead canes and some suckers that you missed, as you gaze.  Cut them then know that your rose is very very happy.  It is free of dead, it is safe from fungus and mould, it has a lovely flow of oxygen and you have fed the soil so the rose will have a full and rich buffet of nutrients upon which to feed over the next several weeks. You done good.

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Lining Up Before Lifting Up

This time of year is a great time of year to injure yourself in the garden – ouch, damn! You may find after only an hour of enthusiastic spring gardening, when you are revved up by the sheer joy of being back in the earth, with all the sprouting  plants and bursting trees, you suddenly have a myriad of aches and pains you didn’t have earlier….or you don’t remember having last season.  Gardening muscles  tend to get a little stiff over winter, backs a bit vulnerable and hands slightly rigid. Rather than risk a pulled muscle, a twisted groin or a wrenched shoulder, take a minute – literally 60 seconds – to stretch your legs, especially your hamstrings, to loosen your shoulders and neck muscles, limber your spine and open your hands. That 60 seconds will make a HUGE difference to your flexibility, your energy level and your enjoyment.  If you are not into stretching at least take a brisk walk around the block (check out other gardens), swinging your arms gently: this will get blood into your muscles, get your back limber and relax your neck and shoulder muscles.  Walking like gardening, is generally good for anything that ails you.

Heavy lifting or even bending,  always requires the mantra`Nose, Knees and Toes all in a Row.` That reminds you to make certain that your nose, your knees and your feet are all straight and in line or ‘lined up before you lift’…anything from the morning newspaper to a heavy granite rock.  Twisting when you lift is incredibly dangerous to your spine, your neck and your hip joints and can result not in just pain, but in a long-lasting injury that causes chronic pain. Treat yourself kindly…  Line up your body before you lift – Line Up Before You Lift Up.  And, gently pull in your tummy to help support your lower back.  Once you are `lined up`concentrate on your legs and try to lift more with your legs – your biggest, strongest muscles – rather than with your back.    It will save you a lot of grief, frustration and pain.  `Nose, Knees and Toes All In A Row.` A worthy garden mantra.

Check out for easy, terrific stretching pre and post gardening.  It will help save you an injury that will frustrate and annoy at best or, at worst, defer your gardening time.  A gardening pal of mine has printed off this page and nailed it to the back of the garden shed door.   Great idea!

When you are in the garden, mix up or rotate your tasks.  Try to keep track of how long you are in one position.  Alternate  weeding on all fours (avoid crouching!!!) with pruning standing up. Switch between raking with digging.  And remember to remain hydrated….lots of water, tea or juices to keep muscles and joints lubricated.  If you have some heavy moving or shifting to do, consider waiting for another pair of hands or, use a wheel barrow or a drag cloth (an old sheet or tarp to drag the item you are moving.)

Finally: consider your footwear. Take a look at a previous blog “On Brains Footwear and the Garden of Eden.“ Never go into the garden with bare feet or exposed toes in sandals.  Full sturdy shoes and fresh dry socks are the order of the day to prevent painful toe injuries from dropped tools or toe fungus (yuk!)  Shoes that give you good support, keep your feet dry and are hardy enough to absorb a tool landing on your toe, will ensure your comfort over several hours.

No matter where you are, the gardening  season is too short to lose precious time recuperating  from a preventable injury or to be hampered by pain.Be kind to yourself…love you as much as you love your garden. Consider for a moment….what would your garden do without you?

Posted in garden footwear, garden safety, garden stretching, gardening, gardening forever, spring gardening, stretching exercises, stretching pre and post gardening, Uncategorized, weeding | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fading Bulbs…What to Do

Take heart, your early daffodils and tulips that are fading now are actually getting ready for next spring!  How amazing is that?  As the daffs turn papery brown and their pretty yellow heads drop, with a pair of kitchen scissors (vital garden tool) cut the flower ONLY and put in your compost bin.  Leave the leaves.  They are taking in light and moisture to replenish the bulb.  The bulb is the feeding factory for the blooms and will need to be nourished for the next blooming season.  When the leaves start to look straggly and brown, splitting, roll them down to the ground and wrap an elastic around them or tie them so they are nearly out of sight.  Whatever you do, don’t cut the leaves until they are nearly all dry and no longer green. Ditto tulips.

I had a neighbour who used to lift hundreds and hundreds of daffodil and tulip bulbs every

Leave Bulbs in the earth to naturalize

spring.  Jeesh….so much work.  I dig deep when planting bulbs and they are pretty well protected against heaving frost or digging squirrels.  I leave them in the ground year round, they ‘naturalize’…have babies and more bulbs and more blooms and it just seems the natural thing to do. And, clearly it works!

Posted in bulbs in spring, lifting bulbs, naturalizing bulbs, next year's daffodils, saving your bulbs, spring gardening, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment