Friday, May 24, 2013

Rosa 'Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria'


In its day (it was introduced in 1891 by German rose breeder Peter Lambert) this rose was one of the most famous, widely grown and esteemed roses in the world. In the English-speaking world it was "KAV" to many, some of whom no doubt also eventually grew "K. of K." ('Kitchener of Khartoum'). But K. of K. wasn't introduced until 1917, and by then sentiment for things German had shifted in the English-speaking world, hadn't they?

For a full decade the Kaiserin did not have a rival. But in 1901 that same  Peter Lambert introduced 'Frau Karl Druschki', another white-flowered rose of undoubted garden worth. Beautiful as she is, the Kaiserin prefers to be pampered, and the rumor is that she is not really hardy enough for garden use in really cold climates. Frau Karl is not only hardy, but she is also vigorous.

The two roses make an interesting contrast: the Kaiserin is a rose in the style of the old tea roses: not too hardy, with sweetly scented, nodding flowers, white with a warm suffusion of yellow in the center. The Frau on the other hand is hardy, not scented, with flowers borne rigidly upright, and of a cold, brilliant white (although she is known to blush very slightly pink in some weather).

My preference is for white flowers with a slight wash of warm yellow.

The form grown here is the climbing form of 1897.

Rosa 'Lamarque'

Two famous old white-flowered roses are blooming this week: 'Lamarque' and 'Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria'.

Let's take 'Lamarque' first. This is one of the so-called tea-noisettes from the early nineteenth century. It was raised before the craze for high-centered roses developed.
The flowers are heavy and nod; they have a distinct fragrance which has a citrusy quality. There is no use asking for a dozen long-stemmed 'Lamarque' roses: cut blooms are suitable for low bowls or for floating in water. Or, for really grand effects, entire branches in bloom can be cut.

I've heard of thriving plants in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area, but Philadelphia-area gardeners during the twentieth century struggled with it. Given the milder winters we are experiencing now, there's a chance it might establish itself here. My guess is that near a sheltered wall it would be a sure thing. And a thing well worth having!

Pleione limprichtii

Here's another of the Pleione which seem to take well to life here. This is another old-timer in our gardens ( or at least in catalogs), yet I'll bet that it's all but unknown in our gardens. I don't trust my pleiones to the garden: they come in for the winter, either to be stored in the refrigerator or to spend the cold season in a cold frame.

Compared to those of 'Tongario' shown in a recent post, the flowers of Pleione limprichtii are smaller.  The bright color pattern and delicate fringing on the lip of the bloom get my attention.


Rosa hemisphaerica the sulfur rose

Rosa hemisphaerica put on a good show this year.

Of this plant, Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, in a chapter entitled "The Small Rose Garden" in the book The Gardener's Week-end Book (co-authored with Eric Parker; the edition I have was published by J.B. Lippencot Company, Philadelphia & New York, 1939) had this to say: "The far-famed yellow Provence, R. hemispherica (sic), surely the most beautiful of all yellow roses, is now exceedingly rare...Its rich color (unlike that of any modern yellow rose), the tasselled beauty of its centre, its habit of growth, are all arresting."

As proud as I am to have this rose, evidently thriving, in my collection, I don't think I would call it the most beautiful of all yellow roses. When Rohde wrote that, the rose world was swarming with Pernetiana roses and hybrid teas of Pernetiana ancestry, many of which did (and still do) yellow very well.

Surely she would have known those roses, too. Perhaps rarity and antiquity colored her opinion: few roses can compete with Rosa hemisphaerica on those terms.

The heavy, very double flowers of this rose hang down; indeed, entire branches laden with these blooms hang down. When the plant is in full bloom, the effect is that of a small shrub hung with yellow globes.

The flowers of this plant are sweetly scented and the foliage does not have the fruity scent of that of the so-called Austrian briars (the roses often called Rosa foetida).

Wayne took the top two images with his new camera.

Salvia 'Big Swing'

Salvia expert Richard Dufresne is in town this week: he had a booth at Green Spring last weekend and will be giving a talk this evening. I won't be able to attend the talk, but I was able to buy some plants from him at Green Spring. Above you see one of them, Salvia 'Big Swing'. This has the potential to go up to three feet, maybe more,  and Dufresne told me it will bloom throughout the hot summer. If you like blue, you'll love this one. The flowers appear to be literally ephemeral: so far, my plant has dropped its blooms each evening.

With luck I'll have some pictures of this one later this year when it should be much bigger. The intense blue of these plants is almost invisible in the garden, but close up it's an amazing color. This one is probably not hardy here, so someone please remind me to take cuttings late in the summer.

Check out Dufresne's web site here:

Rosa 'Paul Ricault'

This mid-nineteenth century beauty has the characteristics of several classes of roses, and as a result its placement has long been a topic of discussion.

The blossom shown above opened in the refrigerator: it had been picked as it was opening, and since a storm was predicted, I put it in the fridge to hold it for a photography session later. This rose has a great scent.

Pinellia pedatisecta, a plant with high invasive potential

The aroid genus Pinellia includes two species with the potential to be invasive plants under our local conditions.  These are P. ternata and P. pedatisecta. In the image above you see the inflorescences of P. pedatisecta. What you don't see are the propagules deep down inside the spathe. In a few weeks those I did not pick will shed these propagules and soon another dozen or two of this plant will appear.

I've called these propagules because I'm not sure just what they are. Are they seeds? Are they produced parthenocarpically? I don't know, but whatever they are, every one seems to grow.

These plants are interesting, but I suggest you avoid them and never plant them in your garden.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fragaria 'Mara des Bois', a yummy strawberry

When the other gardeners at the community garden plots see me they like to ask me "Jim, are you going to plant any vegetables this year?" And my standard reply is "No, vegetables draw too many bugs." But if they were to look closely, they would find some comestibles among the roses: garlic, shallots, multiplier onions, asparagus, newly planted rhubarb and, maybe best of all, strawberries.

The strawberry variety I planted is the newly fashionable 'Mara des Bois'. Please don't assume I'm one of those folks chasing after boutique vegetables such as ramps, fern fiddleheads or whatever it is that that crowd is currently celebrating. I picked this variety because the catalog description suggested that it might be a strawberry bred with the things in mind which make strawberries so wonderful.   

I had two hours free today to work in my little garden up on the hill, and after doing the things on my list, and with a bit of time left, I took a look at the strawberry patch. The corn poppies are in full bloom there, and when the poppy flowers shatter, their petals fall among the strawberries. As I looked at the patch I thought "Surely all that red can't be strawberries". But most of it was, and I spent a happy half hour combing through the strawberry foliage, time after time uncovering yet another cluster of ripe fruits. I was working quickly and raked in a few poppy petals, too.

You see the results in the image above. I wish you could smell the fragrance!

Rosa 'Souvenir de Madame Léonie Viennot'

Roses and books make a potent combination, and I can't imagine being a rose grower without a substantial pile of books to keep the flame going during the dark seasons and years.  Long ago I picked up a slim paperback book with the intriguing title The Bedside Book of Old-fashioned Roses by Keith Money. His approach to growing roses seems much like my own. It was there that I learned about the rose shown above. It's a late nineteenth century tea rose, not a hybrid tea rose but a tea rose. It's a climbing rose - and a vigorous one, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Iris pallida 'Dalmatica'

Before the development of modern tall bearded irises,  Iris pallida was one of the most widely grown garden irises in European and American gardens. Once you've seen it in a congenial garden setting you won't have any trouble understanding why. Nor will you have any trouble understanding why so many of us still grow and cherish this iris. I'll stick my neck out and say if I could have only one tall bearded iris, this would be it.

The flowers are not huge in the way of the modern hybrids, and the overall shape of the flower is basic bearded iris. The poise is rigidly upright, and the flower is taller than it is broad. The fragrance is intense and wonderful. The color is marvelous. While photographing the plant this year, I was not paying attention to the background (in this case masses of tulips). When I got home and saw the image of the iris against the varied tulip colors (but especially the soft pink, salmon orange of tulip' Menton'), I realized the potential this plant has in a mixed garden setting.   

Iris 'Quaker Lady'

It's hard to believe today, but a century ago the tall bearded iris as we know it now can hardly be said to have existed. There were a few tall bearded irises in gardens, but even the best of those are smaller and plainer than the modern tall bearded iris. The early twentieth century saw the tall bearded iris undergo a multifaceted transformation: the colors were clarified, the color range was widened, the scapes became taller and stronger, the number of blooms on a scape increased, the individual flowers increased in size and acquired flounces not seen in the old forms.

Those were the days when the tall bearded iris emerged from the category of general favorite to become a specialist's plant. Iris societies began to pop up across the country and backyard breeders raised hybrids by the thousands. And, over time, thousands of these hybrids disappeared as newer, bigger, more colorful hybrids were introduced.

There is no way it all could have been saved for the future.Yet here and there old varieties did survive, some no doubt due to nothing but chance, others because they have qualities which endear them to iris enthusiasts. In the image above is Bertrand Farr's 'Quaker Lady', an iris which dates from the days before the First World War. Note that the colors are not clear, the color range is narrow, the scapes are relatively short, the number of blooms on the scape is low, the individual blooms are relatively small and the overall form of the bloom is plain and lacks the flounces which almost all of the modern hybrids have. And yet 'Quaker Lady' is as beautiful in its way as any iris needs to be. Generations of iris enthusiasts have felt the same way - that's one reason why we still have it. I'll try to remember that the next time I'm out deaccessioning things in the garden.

Narcissus poeticus 'Albus Plenus Odoratus'

Here’s a daffodil I really didn’t think I would ever be showing you. This is the double flowered form of the poet’s narcissus, Narcissus poeticus. Its garden names are ‘Albus Plenus Odoratus” and “the gardenia flowered daffodil”. it’s an old plant in gardens. It keeps the fragrance of the typical wild form. The plant itself is easily grown, and it annually produces budded scapes. But in a climate such as ours, these buds rarely open: typically, the floral parts rot inside the sheath.

Heat is probably the culprit. So in our climate it’s rare to see a fully formed flower. But this year was different, wasn't it? Not marked by extreme cold, late winter and early spring this year remained stubbornly colder than normal. And here’s one plant which actually benefited from that prolonged chill.
I’m keeping these in the refrigerator so I can get a good long look at them: I don’t expect to see them again next year.