Some days are diamonds

Tattered blooms on 'Cramoisi Superieur'-21
Tattered blooms on ‘Cramoisi Superieur’

Some days are diamonds. Others don’t glitter with promise. Instead, they are as jagged as rocks jutting out from a precipice. This summer, with its steady rainfall and cooler than normal temperatures, created beauty and surprise, but not all surprises are welcome. More rain means more weeds. Those I can handle with a tug and pull at their base. On the days I don’t drive to school, I spend early mornings writing and weeding, weeding and writing.

Rose Rosette Disease on 'Cl. Old Blush.' I guess sweet autumn clematis did win in the end.
Rose Rosette Disease on ‘Cl. Old Blush.’ I guess sweet autumn clematis did win in the end.

Rose Rosette Disease returned late summer with a vengeance. It staked a claim on the ‘Cl. Old Blush’ on one side of the arbor. I noticed the telltale signs a few days ago. I hope it hasn’t spread to ‘Cl. Old Blush’ on the other side. I can’t remove the sick rose until Clematis terniflora, sweet autumn clematis, finishes blooming. The clematis which was once my nemesis may now become a garden savior as it ambles up the main arbor in the lower garden. For one thing, it is a boon to pollinators. Before all the little flower flies, wasps and bees dream their big sleep, we need to give them nectar. C. terniflora does just that. After the first freeze, I’ll be out there with my shovel and Sawzall to take down a rose I’ve loved as long as my husband, over twenty-four years. More than a small death, it is like losing an old friend. Rose Rosette is consuming my roses one-by-painful-one.

Rose Rosette on 'Souvenir de Malmaison'
Rose Rosette on ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’

This morning, I saw infested canes on ‘Cl. Souvenir de Malmaison.’ Losing ‘Souvenir’ is especially bittersweet. Being a young and new gardener when I planted her, I made the mistake of buying the climber instead of the floriferous original. It sat there and did nothing much until the last five years. Once as ugly as one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. I would threaten to remove it, and suddenly, one spring, fat buds opened up to this. Oh my . . . .

Rosa Cl. 'Souvenir de Malmaison' When the weather is just right, she is quite the beauty, a beauty gone too soon.
Rosa Cl. ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’ When the weather is just right, she is quite the beauty, a beauty gone too soon.

I then realized why people wrote odes to it like this one by Peter Schneider, “an exquisitely beautiful confection of pearl and cream, with short petals quartered in a perfectly symmetrical arrangement.” Unfortunately, ‘Souvenir’ is placed very close to my favorite rose, ‘Carefree Beauty.’

'Carefree Beauty' in 2013. Her blooms are smaller, and there aren't as many of them.
‘Carefree Beauty’ in 2013. Her blooms are smaller, and there aren’t as many of them.

All summer, I’ve anxiously watched ‘Carefree Beauty’ because she hasn’t been well. You just know your plants when you’ve lived with them so long, and it’s as if a cancer is hiding somewhere within her stately canes. Her blooms are “off,” and she is no longer the robust lass who frolicked all summer.  She and ‘Souvenir’ were bedding mates for a long time, and it will be sad to see the garden without either of them. Pardon me while I go into the corner and have a cry.

I am as weary as these old chairs.
I am as weary of Rose Rosette as these old chairs.

While there are other beautiful things in the garden, roses were once its backbone, the very essence of its Englishness in the Oklahoma countryside. Without them, it grows wilder everyday. While I like wild, I love the scent of roses too, and their essence is evaporating in the dusk of a long summer day.

Ornamental millet 'Purple Majesty' with three colors of globe amaranth and Stachytarpheta frantzii, pink false vervain. I grew the millet and amaranth from seed, and I bought the false vervain in three colors from Bustani.
Ornamental millet ‘Purple Majesty’ with three colors of Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, and Stachytarpheta frantzii, pink false vervain. I grew the millet and gomphrena from seed, and I bought the false vervain in three colors from Bustani.

There are some who will say the garden is returning to itself and becoming one more in tune with its surroundings. Perhaps, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Today is not a diamond. It is a stone, and not a smooth one.

Here’s the tricky thing about working with and loving plants . . . no matter how good you become at recognizing subtle signs and making changes based upon observation and soil tests, nature nearly always throws you a curve ball. Rose Rosette is one I will never hit out of the park. There’s a lesson here, but today I am grieving too much about the roses to think anymore about it. I know diversity is the key to everything whether we are talking about gardening, our careers or even life.

Red Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, with 'Haight Ashbury' hibiscus. Doesn't it look like marijuana?
Red Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, with ‘Haight Ashbury’ hibiscus. This hibiscus doesn’t overwinter in my climate so I’m going to bring both plants into the greenhouse.

Things aren’t as simple as they seem either. Another sneaky trick is the grasshopper population. My word, those little creeps are still eating my  cannas down to the nubbins.

Zinnias. Part of the beauty in this shot is the zinnia bending its head. Sometimes weakness is strength.
Zinnias. Part of the beauty in this shot is the zinnia bending its head. Sometimes weakness is strength.

I have noticed they favor the dark cannas like ‘Australia’ and ‘Black Knight’ over variegated green and gold leafed cannas such as ‘Bengal Tiger.’ How nice of me to plant so many dark beauties for them. The grasshoppers are getting slower though. Nolo bait is taking a toll, but it is a slow process. In addition to the cannas, grasshoppers are gorging themselves upon my ornamental grasses, dahlias, the banana tree and ‘Purple Majesty’ and ‘Jester’ millets. They like ‘Jester’ best here. It is so wrong that the dahlias bloomed early because of the mild temperatures, and the grasshoppers ate them. Nothing I grew turned out quite the way I planned it.

Sunflowers nodding their heads at the end of the season.
Sunflowers nodding their heads at the end of the season.

Some things turned out better though. Planting seeds of three varieties of Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, made me deliriously happy, and the garage garden is as seductive as ever. By starting three different colors of seed and carefully labeling them, I could plant drifts in various colors, and I had more control over how they look in the garden. Next year, I’m going to try sowing seeds of the Audray series. I read great things about them. I tried starting seed for ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena, but it didn’t germinate very well. You can buy ‘Fireworks’ from Bustani Plant Farm next spring if he doesn’t sell out again. A hint: order early.

Don’t worry. The garden and I are okay. I harvested loads of veggies out of the vegetable patch and potager. We ate like kings.

Swallowtail on 'Bright Eyes' Phlox paniculata
Swallowtail on ‘Bright Eyes’ Phlox paniculata

Much of the garden is glorious from all the rain, and butterflies are starting to visit in a flurry of whispered wing. Each year the garden and I face challenges, but I also learn new things. What other hobby/passion/obsession can inspire us to work so hard I wonder?

What curve balls did nature throw you this year? How did you deal with them? Do you have Rose Rosette? If you had special happinesses this year, I’d love to hear about those too. Misery is fleeting. Life is about growth, and gardens are full of metaphor. No wonder Jesus talked about fig trees and mustard seeds so much.



  1. Sharrieboberry says:

    I heard an interesting talk on Rose Rosette’s Disease this past spring. A well-known rosarian, in the Dallas area, Claude Graves said, that in his extensive experience, that he just removed the infected cane, and then monitored the rose.

    In instances of Rose Rosette’s in a public garden, the disease often spread before it was caught in it’s early stages which warranted the removal of the entire rose garden. But in a private garden, removal of just the infected cane, when caught before spreading to the entire rose, was successful.

    So maybe just try taking out some canes and bundling up the infected canes in plastic and toss the infected part. Keep an eye on the rose and then make a decision later.

    It would be a shame not to try a less severe approach. I would check out the Collin County Rose group online. Perhaps you could email Claude directly.

    Good luck!

  2. I grew Purple Majesty millet a few years ago, and looked forward to the birds enjoying the seed. None never touched it. I am back to the old tried and true sunflowers and echinacea for the birds.

  3. Black spot fungus tore through my roses like the plague. It was devastating. I have a big Rose Rescue Plan ready for the fall. This summer was mostly gentle to my garden, which I appreciate. I love gomphrena, too. It’s one of my favorite annuals. 🙂 Gorgeous photos!

  4. Donna says:

    Roses here are never very happy. Sad to hear that your roses are diseased. We are not getting the rains like elsewhere and so much is dry and spent for the season. You got some nice photos of garden vignettes. The grasshoppers moved in with great numbers in my garden too, I just need something to eat them now. I feel for you as I am experiencing some of the same. At least you did get some rain.

  5. Dee it is sad to lose beloved plants so I am sorry for the loss. But your garden is doing well and look at the butterflies…none here sadly.

  6. What a sweet and bittersweet post, Dee. So sorry about your Roses. I don’t have a lot of Roses, but I do have a few and it would be so sad to lose them. I’ve been the same way at times when cherished plants passed on. It’s the memories as much as the plants, I guess. 🙁 We had a very wet spring, too, but more recently dry weather–to the point of worrying about drought again. Weird. I’ve learned so many things this season, some of which I’ll be posting at the end of the month. This would be a great post to link to the “Lessons Learned” meme. Take care–you’re among friends who understand.

  7. VW says:

    What a sad post! I’m so sorry your roses are being killed by disease. I was trying to think of unrelated flowers that wouldn’t get that disease but are somewhat rose -like . . . the double lisianthus might fill a little bit of your rose-longing in bouquets, though the plants are very different from rose bushes. I suppose there’s nothing quite like roses. I hope you have some diamond days soon 🙂

  8. Martie Brown says:

    Dee. Why did I find such comfort in reading about the “problems”in your garden
    this summer. I guess because misery loves company or if DEE NASH has
    problems, who am I to think I can get by without any!!!!!!!! I did have the rose problem
    with one of my Home Run roses. A man at TLC told me to dig below ground and
    cut the diseased part off. That was last summer (am keeping my fingers crossed)
    and it hasn’t returned. I love your red chairs just like they are. Put a wicker basket
    Or blue and white enamel on.

    Martie B.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Martie, I’m glad it brought you comfort. Everyone has problems in the garden. Yes, I’ve heard of removing the diseased part below ground. I’m too afraid to do that, but I appreciate the information. Thanks.~~Dee

  9. Holleygarden says:

    So sorry to hear RRD is in your garden. So far, it has not touched mine, but I feel that is it just a matter of time. I have quit buying roses. 🙁 That was one of my favorite things to do. But now I go around wondering what I will replace my roses with when/if the time comes. So sad. I hope not all of your roses get it. I can’t imagine a garden without roses.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I hope it touches no other beautiful rose garden. I think I’ve lost six or eight roses to it. It seemed to be gone, but now it is back. I do know you’re supposed to give all roses a late cutting to rid yourself of the mites that spread the disease. I’ll be doing that today. It makes me sad, but what can you do? A garden without roses is very sad indeed.~~Dee

  10. Frances says:

    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your beloved beauties, dear Dee. I understand how you feel, and do appreciate the beauty of your prose as you explain the sadness of seeing the roses you have nourished and cared for succumb to that dreaded disease. We have had similar losses over the years and I have not replaced any roses out of fear of yet more spreading. But there is the happiness brought by cutting a big, fat grasshopper in half with my snips when I catch him eating the Dahlias.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Haha Frances, yes, I am very violent with the grasshoppers. I smack them on the cement and step on them. It helps me not to go insane over the damage they do.~~Dee

  11. Rose says:

    I am so sorry about your beautiful roses, Dee. I haven’t been gardening all that long, but in these past seven or eight years I’ve discovered, too, that nature can certainly be unpredictable and thwart our best-laid plans. Rose rosette disease was discovered in the test gardens on the U of I campus, not far from our Master Gardeners’ Idea Garden. The volunteers in charge of the rose garden at the IG are nervously watching the roses there, hoping and praying it doesn’t wipe out all their beauties. Like Lisa, I am praying for rain–my garden is looking a little crispy these days.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Rose. That is a sad story about the test garden at your campus. Removing them was the best thing you can do. RRD may take down the entire rose industry before it’s all over. Sad thought, that. Thank you so much for visiting. I hope you get rain soon. It has been oddly situated over Oklahoma this year.

  12. Jacque says:

    I am so sorry that you lost your plants. They can root themselves in your heart, can’t they? I had a couple this summer that I had to literally give a talking to and it seemed to help. Just remember with each loss, something new is added that even though it can’t take the place of the lost item, it fills a new area of our heart and interest. Thanks for the lovely (as always) pics, I found a couple of new items to try next spring!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jacque, I’m so glad you liked my photos and thank you for the kind words. Yes, they do take root in your heart. Gardening is such a good metaphor for life.

  13. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Nature has withheld rain this month of August. The weatherman proclaimed this being the driest August in the last 30 years. Now it is also heated up. A bad combo. Luckily I don’t have too many new things in the ground that needs extra water. I do have several pots I have been tending. The deluge that happened in June is not helping now. I just think that this will not last. It will become more normal??soon… I hope. Cheers and have a great weekend. You know I will be dragging the hose around daily for awhile. :/

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Lisa, well, your description of August is our norm. I fear we got your rain all summer long. Here, we have green fields, and we’re all thrilled, but surprised too. We never know what nature will bring us. Perhaps, God felt sorry for Oklahoma and Texas after three to six long years of drought. I don’t know. I think He now needs to throw his attention to the wildfires out west. I pray rain comes back to your beautiful garden. A garden without rain is a crispy mess.~~Dee

  14. Even on a really bad day if you spend more than a few moments in the garden you can find something that brings a smile to your face. Your photos are so wonderful.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Charlie. You are so right.

  15. I have now lost 2 roses to RRD. One was a Double Red Knockout and one was an Amber Carpet Rose. It is scary. My garden is a cottage style garden and though I have a lot of roses they are not all in one area but spread out among perennials, annual and herbs. I don’t know it that will protect or hurt as far as the disease spreading. Time will tell. We have had a good year weather wise but now are in a season of dry, dry, dry. Tomorrow I will water and water and water to save my fall blush of roses. Thanks for sharing your garden stories.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Teresa, I’m so sorry to hear that. I thought you didn’t have RRD in your garden. It makes me sad to hear it’s there too. Mine are mostly spread out throughout the garden, and that may be the only thing that saves them. I didn’t see it for three years, and I thought I had it beaten. Alas, no. We won’t get anymore rain until September. I’ve been deadheading too.

  16. Carol says:

    Curve balls? My garden has produced a lot of weeds this year. I could spend hours yanking them. But, I have let some of them go. I’ll clean them up this fall. So sorry about the rose rosette disease. The loss of a well-loved plant is never easy, especially when we can’t replace it with another of the same kind.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sssh, I let some of my weedy grasses go too. I can only yank so many. Yes, the hardest part about roses is you shouldn’t replant in the same place. Other things will need to take over when the roses are gone. It will be okay.~~Dee

  17. Nancy says:

    I’m so sorry about Souvenir… I used to have that in its climbing version too, and then after a few years it died. I especially loved its delicate quartered blooms. I hope your Carefree Beauty pulls through. It is another favorite of mine. What a great rose! Fingers crossed for you.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Nancy, ‘Souvenir’ isn’t a very robust rose so I’m not terribly surprised it died for you. I am surprised mine lived this long. The Rose Rosette is a bit of betrayal after I let it live. Ha! ~~Dee

  18. Mona says:

    Dee, I love your post. This has been a challenging year for me too. I lost one rose to this disease last year but this year my roses don’t have it. My tomatoes completely failed from too much rain. We lost a small ghinko tree and two fig trees..I have lots of things that are doing good but like you, I am sad to lose old friends in my garden..and my strawberry fields globe amaranth grown from seed is purple..LOL.selah……there is always next year..your photos are beautiful..
    Love, Mona

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh Mona, I am so sorry to hear about your ginkgo tree. They are such treasures. I’ve been trying to think of a place to put one here. Bill said to be sure and plant it where it will be hard for him to mow. He’s really kidding. I introduced him to ginkgo trees at the Missouri Botanical Garden. He was in love with them. So, my sympathies. Yes, nature is so frustrating sometimes, but when the joys happen, it’s like heaven.~~Dee

  19. “Nothing I grew turned out quite the way I planned it.” I LOVE THIS! I’d carve it into a stone and put it somewhere special in your garden. 🙂 Meanwhile, violins and concertos for the roses. Darn. That *would* be a sad pill to swallow. I’m so sorry, Dee. xoxo

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Kathryn. Well, it’s kinda true of life too isn’t it? I may inscribe that as you say and put it somewhere. I can hardly talk about the Rose Rosette.~~Dee

  20. Ruby says:

    Just read your latest post from today. I am a garden designer in South New Jersey and I grow a number of different Gomphrena from seed. You probably know, but if not, I believe that your red Gomphrena is G. haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’ and possibly the pinkish one is G. haageana ‘QIS Carmine’. I grow both and if your plants are 24″ + they look like both of these and both are favorites of mine. I don’t get a chance to read many blogs, however, when I can I do read yours and really enjoy it. By chance, would you care to be bored and receive photos of my gardens? If not….no problem…at all!!!
    Evergreen Garden Design

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ruby, you’re pretty amazing. Yes, the pink one is ‘QIS Carmine,’ and the red, ‘Strawberry Fields.’ I was too lazy to look them up, but you are so right. I would love to see pictures of your garden. Gardens never bore me. Thank you for reading my blog. I’m honored.~~Dee

      1. Ruby says:

        Dee…as soon as I can catch my breath from this crazy weather we are having here in South NJ and if the mosquitoes don’t carry me away I will send photos…just be sure to let me know when you’ve had enough! Thank you for getting back.

  21. Deanne says:

    How dreadful to be losing your old friends. I’d go sit in a corner and have a good cry as well. I’ve never heard of Rose Rosettte Disease until I read your post. It looks like a horror! where did that come from? and how did you get it in your garden after all the years with your roses?

    A couple years ago I lost a patch of oriental lilies called ‘Bergamo’. They would grow to seven feet and each stalk would have fourteen or more flowers. There usually were two dozen stalks. They’d been in the driveway garden for ten years or more then one spring they just didn’t come back. The Meadow Voles ate every single one of them. I was heartbroken. After that it seemed that every winter I’d lose another two dozen lilies until I have very few left and with the lily beetles that is perhaps a good thing. Lilies used to be one of my very favorite and easy things to grow in the borders and now they are a major chore. Sad how these things happen.

    This year my favorite plant is a four year old specimen of Alocasia portodora. It’s about eight feet tall and just fabulous and gorgeous. It is not hardy here so has to come in during the winters. I have no clue where I’ll put it this coming winter. I might have to let the mom plant go and nurture one of the babies on to this splendid size in a coming gardening season.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Deanne, wow, I love that giant elephant ear, Alocasia portodora. I’ve only seen one specimen that large, and it was at Plant Delights when we visited a few years ago. They aren’t really hardy here either. I grow an upright one, not that large, and Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ and a couple of others. I love them. It must be hard to lose one’s lilies too. Losing the plants we’ve loved and nurtured is hard. Thank you for telling me about your experience.

  22. Boy did this post ever resonate with me. We’ve been having some hardships in our garden this summer, too. Interesting about the SDLM climber–I did the same thing and bought the climber and years later still waiting for it to do something. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m glad to be of help. It is a slow grower and very boring until it decides to do something. Then, wow! I’m sorry you’re having a tough year. Some years are much harder than others.~~Dee

  23. Oh my dear Dee,

    I have read of rose rosette disease but until I saw your graphic images, I didn’t realize what a horror it is. Loosing a 24 year old rose bush and having to visit its former cherished home several times a day must be and will continue to be hard. But knowing you over the last five years, I know your indelible spirit will recreate new beauty that is hard to see through your tears, but trust me, it will come forth from the red soil of your dear piece of Oklahoma.

    Prayers your way, my dear friend.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Patrick, I had RRD in my garden in 2010, and I immediately removed several roses that carried it within their systems. However, the damage was already done. The hard part about RRD is that it can live in its host for a long time before showing outward signs. Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, I’ll keep working. It’s what I do. Hope all is well with you too my friend.~~Dee

  24. Vickie says:

    Ugh. Poor you. So sad to lose so many roses. I’m losing mine one by one, too. I do have a joy – after three years of planting and replanting, the thornless blackberries have taken off like gangbusters thanks to all our unseasonable rain! Maybe next summer I can make jam from my own blackberry vines!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Vickie! I’m glad you’re getting good fruit from your blackberries. They are such fun now that we have thornless ones. Yes, my roses may all die. I don’t know. I just pull out the ones I see and slap something else large and lovely in their place.~~Dee

  25. Helen says:

    I am pretty sure we dont have that rose disease here which I am grateful for but I do know who you feel. I gave up growing lilies due to lily bettles which just destroyed them, it was so upsetting.

    I think you should give your chairs a face lift, paint them with something zanny alla Keeyla Meadow it will distract you from the roses.

    I am getting weary of the season and wanting to get on with projects. I am tired of watering and bored of the annuals so they might come out sooner rather than later – oh dear I am an impatient gardener

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Helen, I’ve heard of those terrible lily beetles. I hope they don’t come to my garden too. I have enough trouble with the new Japanese beetles. We never had those until a year ago. Things in a garden change just as they do in life. All we can do is hang on.~~Dee

Comments are closed.