Garden Holes of Opportunity

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.

English rose 'Darcey Bussell' isn't showing any signs of Rose Rosette so far. Garden holes of opportunity
English rose ‘Darcey Bussell’ isn’t showing any signs of Rose Rosette so far.

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.

Rosa OSO Easy® Lemon Zest given to me by Proven Winners is a cute little thing.
Rosa OSO Easy® Lemon Zest given to me by Proven Winners is a cute little thing whether it’s open or not.

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.

'South Africa' is the first Hybrid Tea rose I've bought in years. I'm really pleased with its performance its first year. Now, let's see how it does after its first winter.
‘South Africa’ is the first Hybrid Tea rose I’ve bought in years. I’m really pleased with its performance its first year. Now, let’s see how it does after its first winter.

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.

'Mutabilis' rose is still healthy as can be.
‘Mutabilis’ rose is still healthy as can be.

As P.T. Barnum might have said, the show must go on.

Sunshine Daydream rose
Sunshine Daydream rose was sent to me for trial two years ago. I have nothing but nice things to say about this beautiful, fragrant and disease resistant rose.

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.

The hole left by 'The Fairy' rose is already filled with daylilies, mums and true lilies. I also hope the Japanese beautyberry grows more in the direction  of the best instead of just the path. It was crowded by 'The Fairy'
The hole left by ‘The Fairy’ rose is already filled with daylilies, mums and true lilies. I also hope the Japanese beautyberry grows more in the direction of the best instead of just the path. It was crowded by ‘The Fairy’

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.

Granted the arbor looks a little bare, but now I have time to paint it green like the others.
Granted the arbor looks a little bare, but now I have time to paint it green like the others.

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.

My other 'Belinda's Dream rose.
My other ‘Belinda’s Dream rose in the lowest bed where no RRD is. I hope that saves it.

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.

'Peggy Martin' found rose on a new pillar. I haven't decided whether to leave this pillar black or paint it. In the meantime, it's black.
‘Peggy Martin’ found rose on a new pillar. I haven’t decided whether to leave this pillar black or paint it. In the meantime, it’s black.

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.

Climbing aster, Symphyotrichum carolinianum, with pink crapemyrtle out of bloom. This is on the other side of where 'The Fairy' once bloomed.
Climbing aster, Symphyotrichum carolinianum, with pink crapemyrtle out of bloom. This is on the other side of where ‘The Fairy’ once bloomed.

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.

Unknown rose found in a cemetery. It looks like one of Dr. Griffith Buck's roses though by its growth habit, flower color and bloom.
Unknown rose found in a cemetery. It looks like one of Dr. Griffith Buck’s roses though by its growth habit, flower color and bloom.

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.

Honeybee flying to 'Wendy's Wish' salvia, one of my favorite plants.
Honeybee flying to ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia, one of my favorite plants.

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.





  1. patsybell says:

    Beep. Change of subject. Dee, I love your photographs. It is always delightful to see your garden.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Patsy Bell. I love taking photographs.

  2. We don’t like change when it’s not of our own making, but it’s how a garden helps us to grow up, don’t you think. We all face garden holes of opportunity at one time or another, and your post illustrates the best attitude to have toward them. Onward!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, Kathy, I think so. Onward!

  3. I love your philosophical outlook, Dee. It is so easy to become depressed with garden ‘failures’. You are a very strong woman, which will hold you in good stead when life problems hit. I have a few holes of opportunity caused by RRD and I like the idea of filling them with lilies. Thanks for the suggestion. P. x

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Pam, thank you. I’ll look forward to watching your lilies bloom in summer too.~~Dee

  4. Catherine says:

    I think my garden has hit its difficult teenage years of not behaving well at all, and I’ll have to start choosing which shrub I’m going to keep and which one I’m going to remove, as each pushes for dominance. My fault for overplanting of course! Gardeners have to be so resilient as new ‘plagues’ visit us nearly every year. Here in Australia it’s myrtle rust which looks set to decimate many of our local species, especially ones we’ve begun to grow in monocultures, like lilly pilly (Syzygium) hedges. That’s going to leave some giant-sized holes to fill. I shall try and be brave and see it as an opportunity.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Well Catherine, I hope it doesn’t come to that. Giant sized holes are very hard to fill. We gardeners are resilient, and it’s a good thing we are. Still, we should be allowed the many stages of grief. Bad things happen. We grieve and then move on. I guess these are good life lessons.

  5. Meems says:

    We have such bad nematode problems here in Florida that the only wise choice for growing roses is to stick with disease-resistant Old Garden Roses and China Roses. I have a few and they are pretty much carefree… which is unheard of with modern hybrid tea roses. Your garden always looks so warm and inviting. S. ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is one of my all-time favorite plants also! I’ve made lots of new ones from root cuttings to spread the love around my new garden. Best of luck with your “holes of opportunity”, my friend. Meems

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Meems, so lovely to see you here. I’ve enjoyed watching you build your new garden. I also take cuttings of all of my tropicals. I overwinter them in the greenhouse and look forward to the day when I can plant them out again. I think we are having more nematode problems too. It’s why I’ve moved my tomatoes and peppers all around. I try not to grow them in the same place more than a year or two. ~~Dee

  6. lazyw says:

    Dee I love you SO MUCH.
    I love your practical gardening advice, and I love your philosophical approach. I agree wholeheartedly, of course, that the garden is just about the perfect metaphor for life. Here we learn or better understand everything most important.

    And thanks for the giggle… “stages of rose grief.” LOL

    Hugs!! Glad you’re looking at the bright side. Look forward to seeing how those arbors fill in. xoxo

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Marie, love you back! I’m so glad that I made you giggle. I meant to in many places. We can’t be sad all the time. Aren’t you just loving fall?

      1. lazyw says:

        Yes I am loving fall so much. Busy busy, but in wonderful ways. Very grateful. And learning SO MUCH at class!

        1. Dee Nash says:

          Marie, you’ll know more than I once you’re finished. Have fun with fall.

  7. ginnytalbert says:

    Sounds as if you’re working your way through the ‘bump in the road’ of your gardening life. Keep smiling, Dee!

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I love the idea of a place of ‘opportunity’. I am not a rose fanatic but I like them. You wouldn’t hardly notice them in my garden because I have so few. I did purchase a Lady Banks this summer. I wonder if it will survive our winters. The tag says it will but I have only ever seen it thrive in the more Southern regions of it’s zones. I didn’t have a place for it to sprawl so I planted it at the base of a male holly tree that is huge. In my mind I want it to grow up that mass of green and have yellow blooms pop out. At least that is the picture I see in my minds eye. I will have to wait and see.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Lisa, I hope your Lady Banks blesses you blooms for years to come. We can grow it about an hour south of me. I can’t grow it here though. I wish I could. It’s such a beautiful late spring/early summer bloomer. I have fewer roses, but I hope some still stay. I hope. I think that one of the best things about gardening is that we always get to wait and see. We are always looking toward the future. ~~Dee

  9. fairegarden says:

    Diversity is essential in a healthy garden. Your garden looks both healthy and beautiful, my friend.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Faire! Yes, and change is hard, but necessary in order to grow. I’m embracing the change. Hugs.

  10. Roses can be a sort of love-hate relationship. I’ll leave it at that and knock on wood.

    I had never heard of crossvine before. Is it new? I mean, there are lots of trumpet vines (or what I thought were trumpet vines) here in Spain, which we call campsis radicans. I have a few planted in large tree pots to give some privacy to a porch, but I must admist that they are not doing much of anything and I’ll have to dig them up to try a different soil this winter.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Good morning! Crossvine isn’t new. It’s native to the U.S., and botanically, it’s Bignonia capreolata. The common name comes from cross-shaped markings on the stem (per Better Homes and Gardens website.) Campsis radicans, trumpet vine, is a cousin to crossvine. Here, it’s very, very invasive, but they have a similar look so we plant crossvine instead. Isn’t it amazing how similar some plants are, and how some are more well behaved while others aren’t? I’m sorry your trumpet vines aren’t doing anything. Here, they do way too much. 🙂 As for roses, they are definitely love-hate at my house.

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    It’s a valuable lesson when a gardener realizes that such changes are opportunities and that her garden will still be beautiful, just in a different way.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, it is. Thanks Cindy.

  12. vbdb says:

    You reminded me of those lyrics by Neil Young: “In the field of opportunity, it’s plowing time again.” Thanks for sharing info on rose rosette disease and ways to cope in its aftermath.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ooh Vbdb, I don’t remember that Neil Young song. I simply must go listen to it. I love the lyric, and yes, it’s always plowing time somewhere. Right now, it’s thinking cap time, but I’m enjoying it. I’m glad I can help others with Rose Rosette. At least that’s something. ~~Dee

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