This garden has seen the most changes. It has been almost in constant change mode.
Some changes: from moving a clematis to make room for a honeysuckle; from rose Darlow’s Enigma to Purple Smokebush; from tall cedar to clematis. And almost everything in between.
Some permanent fixtures are the hosta we brought from Becky’s mother’s house in Grand Rapids. It is easy to tell summer is wearing on because the green leaves turn brown due to slugs feasting on them.
I tried the beer bath to annihilate slugs. I tried putting chicken grit to tear open the slugs stomachs.
My most successful eradication is no eradication at all. Let the slugs eat cake. Let them feast and don’t worry about it seems to be the most successful, at least less stressful solution.
Let’s start from the left (west).
The first bush you notice is one we have talked about before. When we moved in 43+ years ago, there was a Snowball Bush (Viburnum). It was smaller than it is now. I have cut it back to the ground frequently and fertilized it on several others.
Now it stretches around the corner and almost encroaches on the Jackmanii Clematis.
Several years after we moved the clematis from the west side of the porch to the present location and fertilizing it every year it grew wide enough so we could add another width of a support.
Now it will grow wider and wider for years to come.
The most recent addition to this garden is the Hydrangea Limelight. We purchased a very nice plant from Bloomer’s Greenhouse in Grand Rapids MN.
I always include good Moo-nure purchased from the Home Depot when we plant. For the next few years, I top-dressed with more Moo-nure.
It is now a superlative plant that will provide many years of pleasure in nature and as cut and dried flowers.
Next to the LimeLight is a Serviceberry Bush.
I had not heard of Serviceberry Shrubs until my wife said we should try some.
She was correct. They grow strong and tall and the berries change into three colors and the birds love them. A winning combination.
Serviceberry Bush – berries change colors as they ripen
Next is a perennial favorite. Yes, I intended the pun. The Variegated Dogwood has a special place in the garden.
It is in the middle of the Front Garden and is the focal point for the background.
It has been a strong vigorous grower until a few years ago.
That year a Serviceberry and the Variegated Dogwood got hit with a black blight. All of the branches suffered a black coating that seemed to suck the life out of the bushes.
I suspected the cause was brought in by our newest lilac, The Beauty of Moscow.
It was the unwitting accomplice in bringing the blight to our garden.
The Beauty of Moscow
The Beauty will be an awesome lilac and is in a garden on the far side of the yard. It is not even close to the infected bushes, Variegated Dogwood and Serviceberry.
A few weeks after planting the Beauty, I noticed a blackening of the branches and the leaves also curled.
I had never been confronted with a disease of this nature. My usual nasty visitors consisted mainly of rose gall.
I found an effective countermeasure at Menards. It is a systemic fungicide/insecticide made by Spectracide.
It worked. As long as I kept up a daily routine of spraying the affected bushes the blight did not progress. It infected only one of the ServiceberryBushes.
After that rigorous routine of daily doses, I reduced the application to once a week.
It stopped the blight. Now the damage assessment began. The Beauty of Moscow lilac suffered no longlasting ills.
However, the Serviceberry and the Dogwood had to be pruned to the ground.
Even the next year the blight returned to these two bushes. Again the daily doses that were reduced to the weekly regimen.
It is now the third year after the nasty visitor showed up. Since we moved out of the house before the blossoming of the Serviceberry I could not gauge the extent of the ‘cure’.
The branches came up strong and that encouraged me. Hopefully, the new owners will provide the hands-on work of rescuing these bushes.
I still find it interesting it affected only one Serviceberry bush.
I need to get back to talking about another great bush.
The Green Smokebush or Green Sprite is just that. It grows tall and full with bright green/gold leaves.
This bush is now the centerpiece of the garden. It is slower to grow each spring (I prune it back almost to the ground).
Green Smokebush aka Golden Sprite
This year my wife had to prune the Limelight Hydrangea and the Green Smokebush since I wasn’t able to walk in the garden.
Becky has always been a real asset in growing these gardens. She has undertaken the challenging but necessary task of deadheading the rose bushes.
The opportunity to clip a blossom of our favorite roses, the Snow Pavement came up.
She had been making several trips back to the house each day to haul more stuff to the apartment. She clipped just one blossom. Such a treat.
A melancholy fell on me when I saw that she had brought the single blossom into our apartment.
Rather than endless bushels of rose blossoms to add to our home each summer and early fall, we would now have none.
Maybe next year the landlord will let me plant a Snow Pavement on the property. I will wait and gauge my enthusiasm for the project next spring.
Now it doesn’t seem to grab at my heartstrings the way a normal spring would.
Also, I am struggling to make the change to a smaller desk.
For years I have had the pleasure of a drafting size desktop. Much more space than I needed but enough space to stretch out my elbows.
After much discussion, I listened to the reasons why I should not take the big desk. My bride and her helpers won the day and I greatly appreciate the smaller desk now.
I now have enough room in my ‘office’ (the second bedroom) to have shelves and small bookcases. I would have lost too much mobility if I had brought the ‘monster’.
Alas, my dog would have loved it.
Berkley, Faithful Companion
Berkley, asleep at my feet under the big desk
She has always crawled under the desk to be at my feet.
She doesn’t have that luxury anymore. We both can’t be in this desk area at the same time.
She is a Landseer Newfoundland and weighs 135 pounds.
She still takes her place when we leave on an errand but I think she is despondent that she can’t lay at my side for all of the hours I am typing up these posts.
A bush that has been the bane of my existence is the Crimson Honeysuckle.
It has seldom flowered.
It is invasive to the other bushes. It tangles with their branches and is really a lot of work to trim.
One of the bushes that suffers the encroachment of the honeysuckle is the Purple Smokebush.
This was a discovery unmatched by any other plant.
We didn’t know what it was. We just happened upon it on a foray into a new (to us) garden center.
The light, fluffy tendrils captivated me. We scooped it up and didn’t look back.
It is an impressive bush. Strong, long branches arch over the whole back corner of the front garden.
It is the perfect spot for the plant. No other plant has done as well in this spot.
One last bush I included in the Front Garden is the William Baffin roses, one on each side of the front steps.
I sure was excited to see how the William Baffin has taken to those places of honor.
Canadian Explorer Rose, William Baffin
Each fall I have to cut the long canes back or the branches just chew our flag to shreds.
Pruning, digging into the rose canes to reach the dead ones and then carrying them back to the fire pit is a day-long project.
The big problem is that we can’t burn the canes until next spring. The wood is too green and generates too much smoke.
Two years ago we took out the sidewalk that ran around the east side of the porch.
That was quite a shock to the William Baffin on the east side of the steps.
Each one I have purchased has withstood the test and proved to be not just sturdy and hearty but a blush of bright color in our gardens.
A few words of wisdom before I return with the next post.
When planting bare-root roses, always make the hole much bigger than you think you will need.
Use good topsoil, a dose of sphagnum moss and a healthy portion of Man-nure.
Your roses will delight you much sooner if you do.
Always water the freshly planted roots thoroughly.
I recommend a slow drip to completely water the roots. I lay the hose end right in the hole and let the water trickle for at least an hour.
Mulch. Mulch and mulch some more.
There are many colorful mulches now on the market so you can even decorate your landscape using a mulch of different colors and textures.
Two to three-inch deep mulch will help control weeds that will sap the energy from your roses and help regulate the water you lay down doesn’t get reabsorbed into the air. It needs to stay at your roots.
Always plant new bareroots before the days get long and the sun hot.
That reminds me of another lesson hard-learned.
Do not buy bare-root roses from your local big one-stop store. You may get them to grow at first.
But they will break your heart before long.
Buy from a reputable nursery such as Hortico that will ship your roses at the right time of spring to plant.
Discovering new roses to plant is a great winter’s day treat. Lighting a fire in the fireplace, thumbing through the newest Hortico catalog ( or the catalog of your favorite nursery) is a great pleasure.
Deciphering the language to picture the roses a few years after planting to envision their color, texture, height, and girth is a pastime of many winter days.
I just read the Hortico recommendation to use an antidesiccant in the fall to prevent the rose canes from drying out.
That sounds like great advice.
A trick I learned when I was planting a few bushes at one time. I laid a plastic tarp on the lawn.
I placed topsoil, manure and sphagnum moss (usually in equal measure) on the tarp. I then used a rake to mix the ingredients together.
This is much easier to get a well-blended soil that trying to mix the ingredients in a wheelbarrow.
Another wise word. One year my sons bought me a wheelbarrow with two wheels. I would never go back to a wobbly single wheel version.
If I was putting the roses in an area where I was concerned whether they would get enough moisture or if I was concerned about the soil compacting over time, I would also add a dose of perlite to the mixture.
It doesn’t mix with the soil and keeps it from packing down.
Friable soil is always the goal so that your hard work in planting will pay great dividends in blossoms and healthy plants.
Next post, we will make a run down the east side of the house.
The names are a bit grandiose in relation to the actual ‘gardens’ but it helps me remember which is what and where. I assure you it is entirely on purpose to no purpose except to point an old mind in the right direction.
You have to remember that I am more than 68 years old and my memory is impaired. I am scheduled for a 4-hour session with a neuropsychologist next week.
That sounds a bit scary and it is. But maybe this doctor can find where I lost my memory. I don’t remember where I put it.
In the front of the house are the west side garden, the west front garden, the front center and the east front.
We may only get through two gardens in a post. We’ll have to see how much gabbing I do.
The west side garden is probably the best place to start since it has the fewest plants.
West Side Garden
When we moved in more than 43 years ago there was a large chokecherry bush on a small hill. In order to plant a French White Lilac, we move the chokecherry bush to the west side of the house.
The major drawback to this location is that we can’t see the birds feeding on it.
It does well most of the time.
However, since an invasion of tent caterpillars a few years ago it has struggled. Tent caterpillars are a nuisance in town.
But in rural areas, they are outrageous and dangerous. Cars have slid into a ditch after striking a patch of caterpillars.
Bob King An invasion by an army of forest tent caterpillars swarm the yards of residents in Lakewood Township.
fileCATERPILLAR0110c4 — t5.31.00 Bob King — kingICK2c1 — Hordes of forest tent caterpillars wriggle up the walls of a home on Apple Ave. in Lakewood Township this week only to fall back down in a pile and try again.
Forest Tent Caterpillars aka Army Worms in Minnesota
Just a glimpse of these crawling masses of Army worms is sufficient to bring back the odor of thousands (4 million can reside in one acre of a forest!) of these squished by car tires on rural roads.
They are nasty, ugly and bright green when squished.
People line the trunks of their expensive flowering trees to prevent these worms from climbing into the branches and devouring every last leaf.
Most of the time trees recover in the same season from being de-foliated. But there are times when the march of the Army worms is a contributing cause of trees dying.
I take this time to introduce you to one of my favorite image makers. Her name is Annie Spratt. Her images are found on Unsplash.com. You can download any image by thousands of professional photographers for FREE!
In the west side garden, in addition to the chokecherry bush, we planted two Jens Munk roses in memory of Becky’s sister Sue. These Canadian Explorer roses have blossoms that may look frail but their canes are not in the least frail or fragile.
They have nipped a grandchild or two so they just stay out of that area of the yard now.
Ms. Munk looks after herself. Her thorns are almost a wicked as the rosa glauca (more on that rose later).
In the background of this garden are Iris. This is a picture of the bulbs we grew.
I am sitting in my big easy chair, typing on my bride’s grandfather’s desk. I dropped the front down so I can set my laptop down.
I am glad laptops have evolved from the huge heavy beasts they were. Mine is at least three years old. I know that because I am still making payments o it.
My Rose Garden Party. This is the first installment. More to come.
We lived in a traditional 2-story house with a small yard (50”x150”).
Our cold climate limited roses to those that could survive the bitter winters – as in Proctor Minnesota. However, in my experience the big killer was springtime. I was trying to grow varieties of hybrid tea roses as they do in the spectacular Rose Garden in Duluth MN just about 15 minutes drive on the Interstate.
I prepared a mound that would be of a size to plant about 18 roses. More on that in a future post.
Topsoil, with equal parts of compost/manure, sphagnum peat moss and a good amount of perlite.
Duluth Rose Garden is only a 15-minute drive but it is entirely different climate. No doubt it is Zone 4 compared to my Zone 3.
Lake Superior provides cover by moderating the weather.
I have read books and books on the subject. Because of the Internet, I can find an answer to almost all questions that arise.
This is not a formal rose gardening article. I don’t pretend to be an expert or even moderately educated on roses.
This is the story of my successes and failures of growing roses for over 20 years.
Hopefully, you will find it somewhat helpful and a little entertaining.
Why write this? It is cathartic. It is a memorial or testament regarding more than 20 years dreaming, planning, digging and resolving frustrations.
20 years of growing roses, trees, shrubs, and a variety of plants
20 years of spending time in the dead of winter absorbing rose catalogs like Jackson-Perkins, Roses, Wayside Gardens, The American Rose Society and my absolute favorite Hortico Gardens in Canada.
Warning! Once the thought “maybe I should try growing a rose” strikes you are on the garden path to addiction.
A word of caution and you are in a let’s say, grocery superstore and see “SALE Rose Shrubs” and you see bare-root roses, all shiny with a waxy look, with a price of $3.99 or so, RUN!
These are not what you are looking for.
A Rose by any other name…
The rose is not called “The Queen of flowers” for no reason. There are times that an appellation “The Symbol of Love” is also added.
And rightly so. Why not grow a beautiful, fragrant rose and drop petals so you can sprinkle the love of your life’s pillow. Before she wakes I would recommend.
She will wake up to a delicious surprise and you gain another title, as the ‘Man of Ultimate Romance’. I wonder where that will lead.
She might even take a fancy to help tend the roses by deadheading spent blossoms. She may even bring blossoms into the house that you can feast on the aroma when you arrive home from work.
Take a baby step.http://www.hortico.com/home/ and go to this address, click on products, a page with 4 headings will pop up. The box on the right is labeled Roses. Click on that and a smallish yellow box with blue links will pop up.
Is that all there is you think to yourself.
Ah ‘grasshopper’’. Click on ‘roses by section’. Another yellow box will pop up with about 30 different TYPES of the queen will pop up.
Each type contains dozens of different plants,
What a way to spend a cold, blustery winter evening. The fire is crackling in the fireplace. A small toddy is at hand.
Soon you are warm inside also. Color, blossoms, forms, and texture start you buzzing with excitement.
Which ones will grow in my Zone 3 on the zone map?
Where can I place her my yard so she shines and preens for you and your guest?
You have to buy one that will be happy where you plant her and will grow and blossom for years to come.
A few of my favorites that grow well in Zone3 climates.
An excellent guide to the Pavement Series of roses is here. Good description, a good guide to growing, clear Language.
Don’t be scared off by the section on problems. I never had any problems.
Here is a picture of one of my highlights:
This bush started as 2 plants. It is now about 4 feet tall with a spread of 8 feet.
She sits just off the front walkway to the house. As you approach the house you catch her sweet fragrance. /soft, tantalizing, great to bring into the house and float blossoms in a shallow dish with tepid water. (Would you like to come indoors and immediately soak your feet in the cold water? I think not.)
She will reward you for years (mine about 20 and still going strong.)
I cut her to the ground two years ago. All of the old dead canes are gone. Fresh new robust green branches as she quickly approaches her previous height.
Her name: Snow Pavement
She will have an amazing show of blossoms in her first flush this year. She will be greatly missed.
As will all of the gardens.
After 43 years my bride and I have to move to an apartment. My legs just can’t do stairs anymore. With no cartilage in my knees compounded by the nasty effects of diabetes in my feet, I haven’t been able to tend the gardens the last two years.
I hope you have been rewarded with a brief introduction to roses and how I feed my fascination for over twenty years.
Please leave your comments. If you have questions I will try my best to answer them.
When I first fed my craving for roses the ‘Queen of Flowers’ I followed the advice of online nurseries. Also, I had breezed thru “Roses for Dummies” and a few books with lots of color with flowers of all kinds.
I learned about the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. USDA Hardiness Zone Map. I lived in Proctor MN just across the road from Duluth MN.
Look closely at the map and you will see Northern Minnesota in the color designated as Zone 3. Duluth is right on the shore of Lake Superior which is Zone 4.
That little blue strip along the lakeshore made all the difference in being able to grow hybrid tea roses or like my experience, add to the compost pile.
This hardiness map is accurate for plant selection and care. Another thing crucial to your garden is that within any zone or an area of a zone you will find microclimates.
An example is my yard. While it is all zone three there is an area next to the house which protects from the north and east. This has allowed me to plant roses and other flowers that say they are for Zone 4.
An example is the rose“Darlow’s Enigma” (so named because the creator is not known). It is a Zone 4 rose which did well in this snug corner. I have since moved it to another which full Zone 3.
I hoped it had hardened to withstand the vagaries of Zone 3. My experiment is only somewhat working out.
Hoping they would survive cost met one plant but one is still going after quite a few years.
A rogue winter will knock it back on its heels. But gentle nurturing and good fertilizer will win the day.
This is a good time to discuss fertilizer.
Good soil and good fertilizer are required for most roses. (Some rugosas do well on sandy beaches and highway berms.)
You can buy compost and manure as a mixture in a bag at almost any garden center or big box store like Menards and Home Depot, my preferred places to shop.
When they run sales on items like mulch and topsoil you save a lot of money. In addition, they are easy to drive to and you can fill your other maintenance needs at the same time.
I used Miracle-Gro Tree and Shrub Soil because it has pieces of branches etc. in it.
Wood adds long-lasting organic matter to the soil which permits nutrients to reach the roots and creates a long-lasting rich soil. There is also a soil for roses explained here.
All commercial fertilizers use cow manure unless they specify “Chicken’ or ‘Sheep’ and so on.
Roses love nitrogen as I have noted. If you know someone that has horses you may what them to become your next best friend. Horse manure is high in nitrogen. Well-aged horse manure would a real treat for your roses.
Fertilizing on a hot sunny day should also be avoided for the same reason.
The other fertilizer I used is Miracle-Gro. I used the lawn fertilizer on all of my plants and the grass. I bought the hose attachment that allows you to a bottle of Miracle-Gro liquid.
In the early morning on a Saturday I would fertilize the lawn and also spray the leaves of all the plants including the roses.
Fertilize the roses in the spring, after leaves have developed and several times throughout the summer.
Each book you read may have a different opinion on how to fertilize. I developed my system and encourage you to sometimes forget the books and venture out on your own.
It may reward you or you may end up with something else. The main thing in my mind was to keep learning.
Every few weeks I would gather up two 5 gallon plastic cans, a bag of dry Miracle-Gro for lawns (in the box I would buy at Sam’s there are several individual bags), a stick or some device to stir the solution, and a hose.
The food for lawns has a good amount of nitrogen and is a good price at Sam’s Club.
I would go to the where several roses bushes stood, put the dry crystals of Miracle-Gro in the pail and turn the hose on. Fill the bucket about 80% full.
While the water was filling the bucket I would stir the crystals to help dissolve them. There is no point in using the water to fertilize if all of the crystal remains in the bottom of the bucket.
Now here is where I would throw caution to the wind. Instead of 1 spoonful, I would use two large spoonfuls. (a spoon comes with the fertilizer. It has a large spoon and a small one. I only used the large one).
I would fill both buckets of the well-mixed solution. Then I would go to a rose bush and toss ½ of the bucket at the base of one bush. I would go to the next bush and toss ½ of that bucket on the bush.
I would go back to the first bush and toss the remaining solution on the base of the bush. Then the remaining solution of the other bucket on the second one.
This method allows the fertilizer solution to soak in without flooding them all at once or running off and just helping weeds grow.
It also allowed me to stand up and stretch my back and shoulders. Both had begun talking to me. Standing bent over holding a 5-gallon bucket of water is challenging when there over 20 bushes to fertilize.
One big secret I will share with you. I took almost twenty years to figure out it was easier to bring the empty bucket to the bushes and then fill them with water.
When I was first learning I would fill the buckets at the faucet and carry the full buckets (approximately 30 pounds to a bucket) to the bushes. I am a slow learner!
It is so much easier to carry two empty buckets all over the yard. !?!*
Well, this has grown longer than I expected so I will close with that remark about my lack of efficiency when it was staring me in the face or maybe I should say staring me in the back and shoulders.
The next post will start the process of looking at each garden as I called them and the characteristics of the several types of roses and other plants.
We will look at this fabulous rose for northern gardens. Snow Pavement is her name.