From several conversations I’ve had with gardeners lately, I know you’re worried about my roses. I’m worried too, but I am trying to take a proactive approach toward Rose Rosette Disease without letting it upset me too much. I’ve cried and stamped my feet enough. I’m calling the spots where I’ve removed roses “garden holes of opportunity.” Here is a more recent post on Rose Rosette Disease. I have way too much experience with it.
Gardening isn’t only an exercise of the mind. It is not virtual and exists in the real world of life, death and rebirth. When a gardener turns over that first spade of soil, or lays down those newspapers and mulch to smother the grass, a garden is born. It grows to maturity, and then parts of it change for better or for worse. Sometimes, a whole garden may die, but that’s another post for another day. There’s good reason gardening is often used as a metaphor for life.
Why do you think Jesus used garden language in so many of His parables? He knew His audience, and their history. When shopping, I often see the saying “Life began in a garden.” Yes, and death often comes there too. The insects and small animals show us that everyday.
My garden is middle-aged, as am I, if I’m lucky. Parts of it are about the same age as my marriage of twenty-five years. Sections feel a little creaky here and there, while other parts are younger. Perhaps, these younger plants are the hip and knee replacements of the landscape world.
I’m kidding. I’m kidding.
Please try not to worry. I have many roses left. With over 100 shrubs, I had way too many to begin with. Roses take up a lot of elbow room in my landscape. I still think roses make great foundation plants, especially the older varieties and newer shrub types like ‘Mutabilis’ below and OSO Easy® Lemon Zest above. Even some Hybrid Teas like ‘South Africa’ are statuesque and beautiful, thus deserving a special spot.
Roses also leave a big hole when you must remove one. You can either be sad about this–trust me, that’s okay–but at some point, you may want to move to the next stage of rose grief–the philosophical stage.
At first, I was very sad. I am now much more like Sophocles and Aristotle.
As P.T. Barnum might have said, the show must go on.
Before roses show any sickness, I take cuttings of my favorites, the ones I don’t think I can replace through commerce. This only works well with those grown on their own roots. Some roses are grafted for a reason. I’m growing these baby roses in pots in the greenhouse and then placing them in the garden where Rose Rosette has yet to be a problem. This is hedging my bets in more ways than one.
As for the holes of opportunity, I recently wrote of plants to replace climbing roses. Last weekend, it occurred to me that I could put lilies where the roses were. Being tall and multiplying over time, true lilies also take up a lot of shoulder room. I planted ‘Golden Splendor Strain’ hybrid lily in a spot where ‘Belinda’s Dream’ once was. I still have another Belinda so don’t worry that she is entirely gone from my garden. ‘Amarossi’ Orienpet hybrid lily went where ‘The Fairy’ once stood, and ‘Red Hot’ Orienpet hybrid–which isn’t red at all–is in another great place where no rose ever lived. I planted several daylilies where two Pink Knockouts once were, and I bordered that same bed with a very large Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Overdam’ I divided. It is much more balanced than before.
I divided Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass and put it on both sides of the arbor where ‘Cl. Old Blush’ once reigned. I moved Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine to cover the arbor on the other side too. Pam Penick has some great photos of crossvine on her blog, Digging. Native grasses and vines aren’t roses, but they are beautiful just the same. Plus, crossvine helps butterflies and hummingbirds. I may plant ‘Dragon Lady’ in another spot where ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ once grew. You can see that the American wisteria is going gangbusters on the side where the other ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ was.
Don’t confuse crossvine with trumpet vine. Even though they are cousins, trumpet vine is invasive while crossvine is not.
The arbors may look at little bare at present, but it won’t take long for the crossvine to do its thing, and in the overall scheme of the landscape, the garden is still full. The roses that are left stand out like beacons, and I find I like that aspect of this shovel pruning anyway.
As for roses, I still have many, and I haven’t given up on them yet. I bought ‘Peggy Martin’ this year. She is trained up a pillar. I will have to get the smaller version of the pillar in the photo below for the climbing aster a friend gave me. That should bring some continuity to the garden. You can’t see the aster so well, but it’s in the back on the left, or you can see it from another angle two pictures below.
If you haven’t read the inspirational story of Rosa ‘Peggy Martin’, here it is from Dr. William Welch. With ample support ‘Peggy Martin’ and the aster should mingle happily. That’s my hope anyway.
See? I still have roses. It’s not as bleak as it seems, and things always seem at their worst right before a breakthrough. I have this feeling that by the time Rose Rosette spreads throughout the U.S., scientists will come up with some way to help us. Note, in the photo below of my cemetery rose, the red foliage in the photo is NOT RRD. It is normal, beautiful new foliage.
My garden is different because of these holes of opportunity, but I am also able to plant more pollinator favorites from shrubs and trees to tropical salvias like ‘Wendy’s Wish.’ The very disease that threatens my favorite plants also makes it possible to think in new ways. Every gardener lives for the excitement of trying something new. I am no different, and I don’t want to plow up more land. I already have more than I can easily care for.
When you’re confronted by a pathogen, insect or disease that has you stumped, remember that no monoculture is healthy, even if it is beautiful. Let’s not mourn what we’ve lost, but instead, make something beautiful with what we can today. That’s my vow anyway.