My Favorite Roses

 

To name my favorite rose varieties is a bit like being asked to name my favorite children. All of them! I want to say. But when you have one spot for a rose and thousands to choose among, a “Favorites” post is a very helpful thing.

Of course, it is only a starting point. Like a diving board into a very deep–and very wonderful–pool, let this little list be a starting point only. Because every garden is different, and every rose will respond differently, and, well, don’t let that overwhelm you. If you decide a rose isn’t happy in your garden–give it away! Or add it to the compost pile and try again.

This is supposed to be fun. And it is!

  • ‘Queen of Sweden’: A David Austin rose (pictured above). Tall, but not too tall. Graceful and healthy. This is one elegant, easy-to-grow rose.
  • ‘Lady of Shalott’: Another David Austin, this coral beauty blooms and blooms and blooms. It needs a bit of room for its tall arching canes. Very healthy in my hot and humid garden.
  • climbing ‘Cecile Brunner,’ the “Sweetheart Rose”: the climbing form of this rose is healthy and vigorous (mine used to romp all over the enclosed chicken run). I love the juxtaposition between small, perfect boutonnières and the vigorous size of the plant.
  • ‘Bonica’: A healthy, medium to large shrub covered in continuously blooming, ruffled, shell-pink roses. Just what a rose should be. The beautiful orange hips are an autumn bonus.
  • ‘Madame Hardy’: beautiful, spring-blooming antique rose. Flat white flowers with a green-button eye.

 

A New Point of View on Native Plants

 

For too many years, I resisted learning about native plants because I associated that topic with grumpy, finger-wagging experts and uninteresting science. I longed for colorful, ornamental plants, and I didn’t want anyone to tell me I couldn’t have them.

It turns out, I had it all wrong.

I began to understand what I’d been missing when I visited the garden of a friend from church. She’s a bird watcher and a bird lover, and sitting on her patio  while she named the birds whose trills and melodies we could hear as we sipped our tea was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

“Why are there so many birds in your garden?” I asked.

“Because I made this garden for them,” she answered.

That day I could only dimly perceive what she meant, but as she walked me around her suburban yard, and later as I read some of the books she recommended, I realized that native plants don’t place a burden or a limit on our gardening practice, rather, they offer an invitation.

I had been so sure that the study of native plants would force me to identify some of the plants I loved as “bad,” that I had never really learned just how good a native plant can be. Native plants are our opportunity to restore habitats lost to development or other changes in the environment. Native plants allow us to feed insects, which means we are also feeding birds.

To fill our yards with native plants, is to enact a project of return and restoration. It is a way of reclaiming wonders that have been lost. And, assuming it isn’t a greedy invader, there’s no reason why we can’t plant natives and an ornamental exotic or two (or more!). Like so many complex subjects, this doesn’t have to be an either / or equation.

Give me peonies.

And give me the beautiful, spring flowering fringe tree chionanthus virginicus.

Seeds for Beauty and for Flavor

 

The French term potager expresses the beautiful, ornamental potential of edible plants.

A potager was traditionally a kitchen garden that emphasized beauty as well as fresh flavor. While you might find many of the same things growing in an ordinary vegetable garden and a fancy potager, the vegetable garden is more likely to have utilitarian rows of corn and potatoes and other “crops,” while the potager emphasizes eye-pleasing arrangements of fresh-picked beauties like lettuce, herbs, and even edible flowers. It might be helpful to think of a vegetable garden and a potager, not as distinctly different, but as gardens on a related spectrum. The vegetable garden at one extreme is entirely utilitarian. The potager at the other extreme might resemble the famous gardens at Villandry in France where blue leeks and red cabbages are planted out like annual flowers.

I lost my large vegetable garden with its picket fence and raised beds when we installed a new driveway here at Maplehurst. This year, I’ll be growing some of my own food again, but with a potager flare. I’ve identified a spot near our gravel terrace for four square beds. Here are a few of the eye-catching flavors I’ll be planting out in them:

  • ‘French Breakfast’ radish
  • ‘Cool Mint’ lettuce
  • Arugula
  • basil
  • Swiss Chard
  • ‘Lacinato’ kale
  • Nasturtium
  • Calendula
  • Cherry tomato
  • Beets (red and gold)
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Mini yellow bell pepper
  • viola (like the Johnny Jump-ups pictured above)

 

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