Thursday, August 26, 2010

Survivor: The Dark Rose

If I were to hold a contest inviting all of my lovelies to enter various categories—hardiest, most neglected, best tended, most beautiful, most perfect, and best survivor—,
the  winner would come from the last category, Survivor, and it would have to be this dark red rose, whose name has been lost and forgotten. She is a either a Weeks cultivar or a Jackson and Perkins purchased probably 4 years ago at Bath Nursery in Ft. Collins. Looking rather tattered because of the leaf cutter bees and the aged bloom whose weakened stem droops under the weight from the lawn sprinkler, Dark Rose has proven to be a survivor. In order, however, to hold the title, Dark Rose must survive the harsh, dry Colorado winter. We tend to get very early fall frosts and late spring frosts, and very cold temperatures, especially right after the first of the year. Some years we have scant snow; other years we will have blizzards and snow that will stay on the ground for months. Perhaps the worst winter condition here are the very dry winter days. Hard on our skin, hard on our garden plants, hard on newly planted trees, the dryness takes its toll. While we can moisturize our skin and drink plenty of water, we often forget to do important winter watering, which is a real pain. The automatic sprinkler system has been winterized, the hoses drained and rolled up, and we have devoted our spare time to in door winter projects.

But I digress. I wanted to tell Dark Rose’s brief little story. She is a transplant. We moved to this Garden Spot about 18 months ago, leaving behind a well established and well tended garden that included about a dozen roses collected, nurtured, loved, and admired for years. My favorites were the David Austins for their prolific bloom and sweet, sweet perfume. The last rose that I added was Dark Red, a hybrid Tea Rose, costly, not a Walmart special. We had a nice collections of iris and great collection of Oaks’ day lilies. We also had a small assortment of hand-me-downs, plants starts given to us by friends and bits and pieces of green that I collected my dad’s garden before we sold his home. The hens and chicks we transplanted from the old house remind us of  a dear friend who suddenly died. He had proudly dug the clump from the parent group at his front door. I had to have piece of Mike’s hens and chicks here, too. We dug most of the iris and all of the day lilies. All survived the winter and bloomed in abundance this summer.

But the roses. Oh my lovely roses. I decided to leave them for the new owners to enjoy, mostly because they were so large and so well established and planted rather closely together, but we dug Dark Rose because she was young and small.

I told my husband “Get a healthy root ball. They don’t like their roots exposed.”  As he dug and then lifted the plant from the ground, the dry soil around the roots just crumbled away, exposing not just tender shoots, but the main roots as well. None-the-less, we planted Dark Rose at the edge of the back patio. We watered and fed and watched all spring and most of the summer. Looking for the tiny bit of new life that had just broken through the bark before we dug her up in early spring, we kept waiting, but the sprout never matured. I gave up. I told my husband that we might as well dig her up, but he cautioned that we should give her some time. And then she sprouted a new bud, which grabbed onto life and ran with it. Dark Rose had lived.

She has had her trials. Just as she was about to display her first bloom, I knocked the delicate branch with the hose, breaking it off at the base. Another branch sprouted and Dark Rose has bloomed all summer, one gorgeous dark red bloom after another.

Her garden companions did not fare as well. We listed the house the end of May and closed the end of June. We were quite lucky to sell so quickly in a horrible housing market and in a very small town. The roses were at their height of bloom, and I was sure the new owners would tend them and love them as I did.

I dove by the old house the other day. The rose garden was gone. No more to be said, except to say, if you do sell a home and have the opportunity, strip it clean of your cherished and loved plants, for seldom do new owners share our desire and need to nurture a garden. I am glad that the new owners will take good care of the home and they will make it theirs; they paid for it, they can do what they want. I have to keep telling myself that and then I see Dark Rose and I smile.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning to Blog

After my first day back in the classroom, I am relaxing tonight and playing with the blog. I have had problems with sizing my photos. I found an article on Gardening Gone Wild Blog on sizing photos with instructions on how to use Picasa to resize photos for the web. So I am trying it to see if it works. And it does seem to work.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nature Walk

We took a nature hike this morning at the old gravel pits east of Ft. Collins that have been preserved as nature areas. Rich with wildlife from dragonflies to frogs, from Great Blue Heron to Canada geese, the area gives nature lovers a place to go for a nice hike without dogs, bicycles, or fishermen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Backyard Bullies

As summer winds down, we are finishing up gardening projects and planning new ones for spring.  On Monday I will return to the classroom where my duties there will take most of my energy—good energy. I have solved one garden mystery: identifying a bug that has inundated my flowerbeds. Over the summer I have found dead insects on my zinnia heads. It seems as though the little critters just went to sleep on the spot and never woke up. I wasn’t too distressed to see dead miller moths, but then I began to see dead little bees, and finally a dead painted lady butterfly and then another dead one. Thinking the first butterfly had just reached the end of her life’s cycle, I brought her in the house to perhaps preserve, but then I found another. On a walk through the vegetable garden one afternoon, I watched one painted lady furtively flapping her wings and then fall to the ground dead.

There are many varieties of assassin bugs. Essentially, they are lethal predators in the flowerbeds Not harmful to the flower, they are deadly to other insects—both the good and the bad. After a bit of research on how to control them, I realized that I would just have to live with them. One entomologist wrote that a garden has its own ecosystem and once we tamper with that ecosystem with chemicals, we upset that balance and could end up with worse problems. So I will live with the assassin bugs. Over all the years of gardening I have resisted using any insecticides because I never wanted to destroy the good guys—bees, butterflies, lady bugs, the rare praying mantis (here, anyway)--, so now in this new garden spot I will just have learn to tolerate the assassin bug, the backyard bully the gangster.  In Colorado (and in my garden) we have the Ambush bug (Phymata), a deadly preditor, that lives especially on yellow flowers, where it waits in ambush, or it patrols the petals looking for victims. They kill their prey by pouncing on them or grabbing them with their front legs and then piercing them with a sharp, pointed mouth. Like or not, I guess I will just have to tolerate them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Beginning

I have just entered the blogging genera. I am sure that it will take me a while to get things figured out. I have been inspired by the wonderful garden blogs that I discovered while researching the care and feeding of captured toads for my 7 year old grandson. The toad photo popped up in Robin's Nesting Place. I was so impressed with her photography and her narrative that I decided that I must start a blog as well. Then I begin exploring the blogs that she follows, and I was hooked. Still concerned with privacy issues in the blog, I decided anyway to migrate from Face Book to a blog where I can really do some good writing. I teach college freshmen English: basic composition, college research paper, and intro to literature. I teach writing; therefore, I should write, but I have needed an audience. So here I am.

Hoping to write about gardening and life in Northern Colorado, I will also be able to share my garden photography. I have seen many wonderful blogs that serve as role models and examples for me to emulate. I am excited about this new adventure. Now I need an audience.