i have spent much of this week contemplating roses, which is weird because i sort of hate them. maybe i’ve just read too many books that talk about how much work they are, or lost too many david austin grafts to horrendous winter kill (5 or 6 last year alone, i believe), but roses, man, i dunno.
except i keep going after them, keep planning around them, keep ordering them, keep planting them, re-designed an entire bed last year (and re-built half of it) to accommodate them. maybe i feel better equipped? my current rose bible is roses without chemicals by former NYBG rose curator Peter E. Kukielski. and last year, i skipped the tempting david austins (mostly) in favor of own-root samplings from roses unlimited in south carolina.
none of them were (or are, i presume) big enough to bloom yet, but all of them watered in well, showed little or no disease, and, i think thanks to the large pelargoniums i conspicuously planted all over the bed, seemed untempting to japanese beetles, who preferred my knock out rose standard on the other side of the yard. (we’ll see what happens if they bloom this year)
my rose bed is a looooong L-shape that runs against a small rock wall (a retaining ledge against a small slope and a natural stream), forks to the west at a 90-degree angle, and continues along the fence of my vegetable garden.
last year i added a lot of roses, and do not have a completely accurate idea of what ended up where. i was mostly just glad i got everything into the ground and watered in a timely fashion. i know for a fact that at least two roses have to move: the two climbing ‘rosanna’ roses i ordered last year have a greater destiny for themselves by adorning the living willow archway i am putting in against the orchard fence.
so this week i contemplated roses. by this i mean i printed out little flash cards of what my shopping list might be and re-arranged them until i had them paired up and in groups that were pleasing to me. this was the first grouping i decided on:
i imagine this grouping going along the vegetable garden fence, with the moonlight (which is a climber) going up the garden fence.
i was able to order all of these from either palatine roses or roses unlimited, giving me a selection of both own-root and grafted, though, i confess, i do not have the experience yet to grasp the subtleties in the OR-vs-grafted debate. i just know that, given my past rate of winter kill, in general i would prefer a plant that does not stage a coup from below the bud union every year, even if the plants themselves may need a few extra seasons to be at their full strength. that said, i want to try the palatine grafts because they are from ontario – maybe it is silly, but i feel more confident trying grafts that also come from a northern location.
i want also to consider underplanting. i have too much bare mulch in the bed and a large seed bank hiding under there. i am not sure what my ‘matrix’ plant might be yet, but my inspiration is for something wild – large, rambunctious, with plenty of grasses and perennials interspersed to keep everything from feeling too bare or too arranged. some annuals, too – a rainbow of zinnias and nicotianas, to start with.
i’ve done some winter sowing to this effect, a large mix of flowers in a 30-quart underbed box: zinnias, prairie dropseed, yarrows, ‘cherry brandy’ rudbeckias, tinker bell nicotianas and some annual milkweeds. i also planted ‘a big mix of little alliums’ from white flower farm in the fall.