Thursday, May 19, 2011

Garden Changes By Nature

From last year, when the garden was a foot deep heap of magnolia leaves and a few japanese holly ferns, til today that little world is a different place.  It actually looks.... pretty.  Unfinished, still, but pretty.
The back garden before I owned it

Another view of the back garden before I owned it
But some of the most breathtaking changes are ones that have happened without me.   Last year when I started shoveling out dirt for garden plants, the dirt was like a dry silt, mixed with some broken concrete pieces of a project gone awry from years past.  It didn't even look like dirt.  2 healthy doses of compost manure last year, and always spending the time to amend every hole intended for a plant has lead to each shovelful this year containing worms.  You build it, and they will come.  It is amazing to me, as I don't know how they figure this stuff out so quickly?  Wormy scouts?  I mean, they don't have eyes!

Within minutes last year of planting flowering perennials, I had bees happily roaming from flower to flower, doing their life's work.  Now, I can sort of understand how they might have come across flowers in the once barren wasteland.  "Fred, you aren't gonna believe this... I was just zooming back from the Ashley sunflowers and took a small detour because there were a couple of suspicious birds, and remember that old place to the left of Ashley? The one where you accidently mistook that half buried beer can for a tulip (snicker)? Well, there's flowers all over the dang place... come on, before anyone else finds it.

"Oh come on now, Pete, I was just over there not two weeks ago... I think you need to lay off the pollen beer."

By fall of last year I was graced with butterflies and moths, had met my first two snakes, had a close encounter with a curious hummingbird, and my garden became a happening spot for carolina anoles far and wide.  Every day the lady teenaged lizards are putting on coconut oil and basking in the sun.  They sigh those lovely southern sighs as they watch the hunkie older males take down mosquitos with their strapping tongues.

Sometimes these little things take your breath away.  Its like they have come to visit me, because they like me, they really like me.   As ridiculous as this all sounds it does make me very happy to know that they wouldn't be here except for me rolling out the green carpet for them by wanting a garden.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fun With Layouts

After spending what totaled a disgusting amount of time, I was finally able to put together a floorplan of my back garden space.  It might be another year or two before I create the other two (front garden, parking garden) unless I get a lot faster at this.

Double Click for Larger View

Anyhow here it is!  This is what I prattle on about over and over and over and over.  But I figured it would be nice to see the entirety, which is impossible in a picture.  (click to make a reasonable size). The best I can get is from the guestroom window.. I am not climbing a tree to get the opposite view!  This is the garden inside the white picket fence, and the liriope in the beds right outside the picket fence.

Click For Larger View

I spy with my little eye:
-8 rose bushes and 1 climbing rose
-1 jasmine vine
-12 monstrous liriopes
-4 ugly varigated ligustrums whose days are numbered and who will be replaced by boxwoods and roses
-2 tree like chinese ligustrums
-1 palm tree
-5 hydrangeas
-2 potted japanese maple trees
-2 nelly moser clematis
-3 holly ferns
-1 autumn fern
-1 large fatsia bush
-1 sum and substance monster hosta
-1 beautyberry bush
-lots of sunny perennials on the southern exposure
-little grill
-1 tree stump, from sayonara to southern magnolia
-godawful furnace, and much less conspicuous heat pump
-lots of creeping mazus on the way up the path to the statue (who is conspicuously missing - I can put in a compost pile, a dog house and storage locker, but no statue...some programs are not brilliant)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Visit To An AARS Test Garden

The All American Rose Selections committee each year recommends what it considers to be the highest quality roses that have been introduce to the market during the calendar year.  Most years there are between 2-4 different varieties which get the AARS stamp of approval which takes into account novelty, form, color, aging quality, fragrance, habit, vigor, repeat ability, and disease resistance.  Each year in 10 sites across the USA these roses are planted and watched to garner the rating.
I happen to live about 70 miles away from one of these test gardens, at Edisto Memorial Gardens, located in Orangeburg, SC.    At this AARS test gardens, along a lovely stretch of the Edisto River, they have maintained nearly every single winner since 1940, along with other donated heritage and old garden rose varieties.   These donated OGRs are healthy in this area, including a large variety of Noisettes, a class originated in South Carolina.
Looking over a sea of Opening Night, 1998
So what's it like to come upon hundreds of varieties of roses winners, planted in drifts of 30-50+ of each variety?  Its overwhelming!  I started out taking a picture of each and every one, and made it through about the first third and gave up, deciding to take photos of only those that struck my fancy after that point (and more than 300 pictures).
Donated Noisette
It is interesting to see these 'best of' selections en masse, both because you can see how styles have changed through the past 70 years, and you get to see what types of roses regularly are winners.  There is no doubt that the AARS favors hybrid teas and floribunda roses above all others.  Recently though, shrub roses have begun to pop up in the ranks on a regular basis (such as Rainbow Knockout, 2007).   They also have a huge soft spot for the graduated color roses, those that go from white to pink to red, or from yellow to red, or from yellow to orange, etc.   Orange seems to be one of their favorite colors in general, along with brilliant reds, whereas white roses are few and far between throughout the years in comparison to all other colors.   Yellow, on the other hand, has recently had a comeback, with nearly half of the past 5 years roses of that hue, including this years winner.  Most of the winning varieties were magnificently fragrant, and specifically fragrant in the classic tea rose scent.  There were a few though (Cherry Parfait, 2003) who carried very little scent whatsoever.

One of the wonderful things for me, living in the local area is that ability to see these roses in local climate reality. While many roses were still blooming, it is after the first flush here and I could witness roses who were downright ugly in the post bloom stage (Bonica, 1985), who had a tendency to terrible balling (Tournament of Roses, 1989) or whose habit was not for me.  I could see those that stayed three feet and those who grew 10 feet tall, which as a hybrid tea looks pretty odd to me!  
Bad Balling on Tournament of Roses,  1989
Unballed Blooms are Beautiful though. Tournament of Roses, 1989

A few of the notables for me (no photo retouching, these are the actual colors, in the worst washout 1pm lighting too!):
Gemini, 2000
Showbiz, 1983

Can double as a nightlight! Carribean, 1992
Strike It Rich, 2007
The oddly named Seashell,  1976
If I came upon a seashell this color I'd fight a battalion of shell seekin' old ladies off!

The very famous Double Delight,  1977
Midas Touch, 1994
Crysler Imperial, 1953 Best Red Bush IMO. Great full shape.
Bazillions of very double flowers and no balling on: Secret, 1992
Elle, 2005 who was incredibly fragrant too
Glowing Peace, 2001
Lady Elsie May, 2005
Daydream, 2005
And my breathtaking favorite, the Garden Party Rose, 1960.  This rose has the standard hybrid tea shape, but I can ignore that, given the huge fragrant blooms.  Love it.  I might just have to procure myself one!

ps. no flowers were picked in the making of this blog post, however, it almost killed me to not take a sample of the Garden Party.  Particularly seeing as I was all alone in the gardens minus a middle aged couple with Queens accents, the lady of the couple shouting intermittently, "Hennnrrrry, wheres the purple one Henry?  I don't see the purple one."  "Hennnry?!"  "yes, dear"  "Henry, where's the purple? I don't see the purple."  "To the right dear" (without looking up).   This of course went on for a good 10 minutes before the wife called him an old fool and stomped off.