The John Davis Roses

climbing roses (11)One of the many benefits of planting summer containers for a client that has had a landscape and garden designed and installed by us is the chance to see how that landscape is growing on. This client is 45 minutes away, so my visits are not all that often. I will drive out whenever there is a problem that needs some attention. But this yearly visit is never about trouble. It is about adding some seasonal plants to a garden that is the apple of its owner’s eye. She not only looks after it, she truly enjoys every bit of it. Planting her containers in June is a pleasure. The soil is warm, and the plants that have spent the early weeks of the summer protected from unpredictable weather in a greenhouse look great, and will handle the transplanting without issue. Though we planted 21 containers today, the big news of the day were the John Davis roses.

June 13, 2016 055John Davis is one of the Canadian Explorer Series of extremely hardy and disease resistant roses developed by Agriculture Canada in the 1960’s.  The goal was to hybridize garden roses that would not only withstand cold northern winters, but would perform beautifully in spite of it. John Davis is hardy in zone 3-think of that. There are quite a few roses in the series, all of which are good garden plants in my zone, meaning they are tough plants that shrug off the fungal diseases roses are famous for. They bloom as if there were no tomorrow. John Davis is a great choice for a not too tall climber that has the look of an old fashioned rose more often seen in England or California.

climbing roses (6)This is the 4th June for the John Davis climbing roses planted on each post of a pair of long pergolas that frame the view from the back of the house to the lake. Each was planted with a companion clematis, which range in color from white to dark purple. The clematis do not seem to mind the competition from these vigorous roses. Though John Davis usually tops out at about 7 feet, these roses are up 9.5 feet off the ground, and have started to grow over the roof of the pergola. I will be interested to see if they keep adding more height. I have planted John Davis in a number of gardens, almost all with great success.  This group has seemed happy from the moment they were planted.  The soil is heavy clay, and does not give its moisture up easily.  There is a constant breeze from the lake, which I suspect has something to do with the fact that I never see mildew or black spot on the plants. They get a yearly dose of rose tone, and extra water when they need it. All that remains is to stand back in June, and take in the bloom.

June 13, 2016 065The lax canes have had some support to attach them to the pergola poles, but that is not visible. The flowers are not particularly large, but there are thousands of them on each one of these plants. I am surprised that this series of roses is not more readily available in my area.   The roses we have available at Detroit Garden Works, including John Davis, had to be custom grown. I made arrangements for that almost a year ago.

June 13, 2016 047I understand the reluctance to grow roses.  They are ungainly plants that no one would have, but for the bloom and perfume.  They routinely fail.  I mitigate that tendency by planting the graft 2 to 3 inches below ground. No gardener wants diseased plants in their garden. Choosing roses with a clear track record of resistance to disease and hardiness is educated buying. The Canadian Explorer roses might be worth a look. I find that they are reliable in every regard.

June 13, 2016 110Roses in bloom like this is a garden experience like no other for a gardener who greatly values romance. Roses invoke romance like no other garden plant. I would go on to say that the big idea here is that any garden plant in the right place and endowed with the proper care will thrive. So much about the success of a garden depends on a thorough understanding of the horticultural requirements. I am rarely perfect in this regard. I have been known to short some greatly needed sun to sun loving perennials. I have placed my share of part sun perennials in shade that is too deep. I have exposed shade plants to blistering sun, in the hopes they will adjust.  I have planted perennials that require perfect drainage in soggy soil, in hopes I could skate by.  Suffice it to say that everything I have leaned about planting perennials has come from the plants.  Any plant that is unhappy will speak back to me, if I am inclined to observe, and listen.

June 13, 2016 080These John Davis roses in bloom are extraordinary. I can only claim that I somehow managed to put the right plant in the right place, in the beginning. What had happened over the past 4 years is a constellation of events attended by nature, and looked after by an extraordinary client. This does not happen so often. Thanks, Harriet.

June 13, 2016 053The day planting containers here was a moment I shall not soon forget.

climbing roses (10)June garden

climbing roses (8)Venus dogwoods in bloom

climbing roses (1)John Davis

climbing roses (7)The greater garden is just as beautiful.

climbing roses (5)oxeye daisies and amsonia “Blue Ice”

climbing roses (4)looking towards the lake

climbing roses (9)A June garden-what could be better?



Roses On The Mend

007Once the piles of snow melted this spring, the rose news was not so good.  All of my roses were holding onto their dead leaves for dear life-as if our terrible winter caught them completely off guard.  This scene just about broke my heart. A good part of the heartbreak was the uncertainty about the future.  Were my roses dead? The early spring was cold and unfriendly.  The garden was groggy, and slow to wake up.  This story was a story about uncertainty that went on for weeks.

AQpril 26 2014a (17)I did not touch them-that was pure instinct.  It looked as though every cane was dead. The idea of giving up this old rose garden was very tough to take. The late spring meant we have had an incredibly busy spring at work.  I quit looking at the roses, and hoped for a miracle.  Hoping for a miracle-what else was there to be done?

ROSES 2014 (2)More than a few readers of this blog have suggested that our foul winter meant the roses got a rejuvenation pruning.  This is polite talk for dead back to the ground. Dead back to the ground, I have learned, does not mean dead.  I am glad I have been to busy to fuss over them. It took well into May to see what was gone for good, and what would survive. I watered deeply when it was hot and dry-that’s all. Today’s story? Most of the climbers died back to the ground.  The few canes of Jeannie Le Joie that survived are bravely blooming.  All of the climbers, including Eden, are coming back strong, from the root. Only one shrub rose is dead.  Two of them I suspected were dead send up new canes jut a week ago.   I decided not to cut back the dead climbing canes.  My idea is to attach the new canes coming on from the ground to the trellis made by the old canes.  How do those surviving canes look today? Not gorgeous.  Just brave.

ROSES 2014 (4)My Carefree Beauty and Sally Holmes roses are coming back strong from below ground.  The foliage is glossy green, and full sized.  A scant month ago I was sure this garden would need to be replanted from start to finish.  Not so.  The will to live is a very strong will indeed. Any plant that is challenged by a brutal winter, or a lack of water, or a swarm of Japanese beetles-plants respond on their own schedule. The first and the last word belongs to nature. The Carefree Beauty roses I have blooming now are indeed a little miracle.

ROSES 2014 (6) I am delighted about this turn of events.  The two burned spots in the boxwood is the only winter damage I have to any of my boxwood. I was lucky in that regard. The roses are almost 5 feet tall.  The Japanese anemone and boltonia are spreading their wings, with all the space and sun they have now.

Sept 8, 2013 (182)I took the following pictures last June. This June is remarkably different, but I wonder if that winter rejuvenation pruning to prove to be all for the better. I have the feeling I will have beautiful roses again.  It just may take a while.

Sept 8, 2013 (184)Roses blooming

Sept 8, 2013 (153)Roses

Sept 8, 2013 (160) I am pleased the roses are on the mend.



Monday Opinion: When I’m 64

When I am 64-that would be yesterday.  How is being 64 going so far?  Sunday had to be one of the most beautiful June days in recent memory. 78 degrees, and breezy.  Delightful.  I put my feet up, whenever I could.  No worries-I took the time to enjoy the day.  I have sketchy plans for the work this week-sketchy is good enough.  What was I studying on, having turned 64?   Orange geraniums, and roses.

Many years ago a client in the fashion industry was miffed that I planted orange geraniums in her pots.  She thought they were too pedestrian.  I have been planting container gardens since 1987.  I have seen a lot of plants come and go.  I have passed on a lot of plants that couldn’t stick out a summer season in a container, start to finish.  Ordinary plants are ordinary for very good reasons.  They deliver. The dandelions bloom and prosper, no matter every effort that is made to eradicate them.  Queen Anne’s Lace prospers and blooms in every field, and every crack in the highway.  Pachysandra is a green mulch that covers the ground in almost every condition.  As for orange geraniums, I love their color and robust habit.  They bloom profusely. My client who felt she was getting pedestrian  was mistaken. I appreciate any plant that is willing.  They are a sensational shade of orange.  Orange flowers and ordinary plants did not interest me much, 30 years ago.  What did interest me was too embarassing to to repeat.  I was a young person, endowed with all those ideas that reeked of  babyhood.  As for that planting of orange geraniums for my client- I switched her plants out, and took the orange geraniums home.

I was thinking yesterday  that my fascination for orange geraniums might be a function of my age.  I worry about that. Too much history can smell musty.  I have been at planting containers a very long time. I  like to think that every year my choices get better, my eye gets sharper.  In an orderly scheme of things, my ability to compose gets better at the same rate that my knowledge of horticulture gets better.  But maybe my love of orange geraniums, picotee petunias, yellow variegated foliage and purple sweat shirts may be a sign of my age.  I have a memory of my Mom in her sixties-how old fashioned she was!  It could be I am following in her footsteps. What would a young client think about picotee petunias?  They might be appalled. At 64, I am thinking much about how I can continue to be relevant to my clients.That said, I think it is important at any age to put aside fashion, and think independently.  Plants go in and out of fashion.  Fashion is a concept that applies only given permission. An old windbreaker from the seventies may suit you just fine.  My Chevy suburban with 110,000 miles-I am still quite happy with it.    So even if a love of orange geraniums is a function of my 64th year, I will go ahead and plant them.

As for the roses, on the occasion of my 64th birthday, I have this to say.  I was sure that every one of my 26 roses were dead this spring.  I have not touched them for two months, as I have not had time to touch them. Given my neglect,  25 of my roses have come back strong from the root.  I was not in any way patient about the trouble they suffered from our winter.  I have ignored them, as I had to.  I have been so busy, working.  They had time to do what they would do, without interference from me.  The spring is a very busy time for me.  A late spring is all about work day and night.  I was not expecting them to burst forth and grow from underground.  The day I saw new growth from the bottom shocked me.  I was so sure they were dead.  Not so.  Many of them are going on 5 feet tall now.  Five feet of growth in 6 weeks?  Astonishing.  I have not taken any of the dead climbing rose canes off the wall.  Those dead canes still have dead leaves attached to them.  The few canes that are blooming are surrounded by dead rose leaves from last fall.

I have never seen anything like this, even though I am 64.  I thought about cutting all of the dead canes of the wall, but I decided not to interfere.  This decision was pure instinct.  I will just tie the new canes to the old.  This seems fitting.

I have just about driven Buck crazy, wanting to go see the dead roses every night after work.  He is such a good sport about touring the garden, every day.  But even he has gotten caught up in the rose drama.  The roses are roaring back.  I am thinking I might need to hard prune my shrub roses every 2 or 3 years.  To force basil growth.  Truth be told, my roses were rangy and overgrown. I did not prune them back hard.  Maybe I was too old to be tough on them.   Our past winter was decisive. Nature may have done for my roses what I needed to do, and didn’t.

A the dawn of the age of 64, I am learning so much I never knew about nature, roses, and the color orange.

Mother’s Day, 2014

rose-garden-in-May.jpgWe have had enough warm weather for any gardener to begin to sort out the landscape disaster at hand, courtesy of our 2013-2014 winter.  As the weather warms, it becomes clearer what is surviving, and what will not.  Evergreens pruned after August 1 show plenty of damage.  Late season pruning may look smart, but it is an invitation to trouble.  I would advise, if you have formally pruned yews, boxwood or arborvitae, quit cutting August 1.   As for my roses, I quit dead heading them in mid August.  In the interest that they might so better over the winter, intact.

winter-damage-on-roses.jpgThe spring version of the state of the roses was alarming.  The cold came so quick they did not shed their leaves in November. But I had hope. Even though I know that there is no negotiating with nature.  The winter was what it was.  No matter what I hoped it would be.  \winter-2014.jpgIn February, I was buried in snow, and enduring below zero temperatures-for days on end. Now I really understand the winter we just had was incredibly hard. The damage to the landscape is impossible to ignore. I am still worried about my parrotias, and my dogwoods. Given a certain level and length of cold, treasured plants can fail.  The end of a hundred miles of really bad garden road-devastating.

carefree-beauty-roses.jpgMy rose garden is not large or elaborate. It is not perfectly maintained.  In a good year, it delivers thousands of blooms.  The perfume is exquisite.  It has taken 7 years to get the climbers to represent high on my south facing wall.  Never mind the time it took to attach each cane to that wall.  I was living large, given my wall of roses.  My shrub roses were 7 feet tall.  Not so shapely, but beautiful in bloom.  I treasured them.

rose-garden.jpgEvery night in June Buck and I go to the rose garden.  To talk about the day, and to admire the roses. This is a ritual that helps bring order to my busy work life. For the past week, I have been studying the current situation.  Today I am quite sure most of my roses are dead.  The climbing roses are leafing out 8 inches above ground level. The Sally Holmes shrub roses are all dead, but for 2 lone shrubs who have shoots emerging from the bottom. The tops of the Carefree Beauty roses are leafing only intermittently. All of their 7 feet of height has died back to within 6 inches of the ground.

rose-garden.jpgI will say the winter devastation to my roses is very tough to take.  I know I need to prune every rose down hard.  I hope the climbers will respond to my pruning call with gusto, and grow like crazy. As for my shrub roses, I am warming up the idea that they will need to be replaced.  And that I will need to start fresh, and design a new garden. I won’t do a new garden tomorrow-I am still in the shock stage.

garden-roses.jpgI lost my Mom in 2002.  I think about her most every day.  If she were still here, she would encourage me to get over my troubles, and move on. She would never dream of making fun of my disaster.  She would feel for my loss-genuinely.   That’s what Mom’s do.  They help make their children grow.  But she would nudge me in a new direction.  I know I would be so grateful for her concern and counsel.  A Mom-there is no one else quite like her.

garden-roses.jpgMy good friend Joey Randall posted on her facebook page this week that a Mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go. Her words are so much comfort to me today.  If you have had treasured plants that have disaster written all over them, call on your heart.  If your Mom had a lot to do with the length, width, breadth and capacity of your heart, consider yourself blessed. Consult her in any way you can. I cannot really explain this, but my memory of Julia will make my loss of the roses easier.  A Mom is a delight, and a steadfast and most dear friend. A Mom is an ally of the most important sort.

Thinking of you today, Julia.