14 February 2012

Valentine's Flowers

The last six months or so have been really confusing for plants in Texas.  The summer was so hot that everything went dormant, so when fall finally set in, the landscape experienced a second spring, and winter has been so mild that our gardens are still all abloom.  Over the last few weeks, I've loved checking out the flowers budding around me as I have gotten back to running around the neighborhood.  Here are some of the specimens I've seen in the last few days.  First, the roses:

Then there's this purple lantana that is intertwined with...um...a yucca?  Our lantana has died back (although it's starting to sprout again), but this lantana has been perky and bright all winter, and I love how it looks with the yucca-or-whatever:

I'm not sure what this is (firebush?), but it's growing everywhere:

And then there's our yard...and our roses:

There's our red knockout:

And our double pink knockout ("double" 'cause it has more petals than a regular knockout rose):

But my favorite of our roses is the mutabilis, which has grown a ton since the fall:

With those two huge stems that sprung up recently, it's our biggest rose bush, and it has the most roses right now.  They're not necessarily the kind that you would cut and put in a vase (but we can see them from our bedroom window, so who needs a vase?).  They're flat five-petaled roses, and what I love about them is that the flowers change colors (hence the name), from yellow to peach to pink.  A few days ago they were mostly peach:

Yesterday, after a big rain (and even some sleet!), and just in time for Valentine's Day, every rose on the bush had turned to a sweet, soft pink.

Conventional wisdom, at least locally, says to prune rose bushes on or around Valentine's Day.  Not only is it an easy date to remember, but it's around the time of the last freeze, so it's a good time to get them ready to put on a nice springtime show.  So it was with that in mind that we headed out to the Natural Gardener last weekend for a presentation about rose care by the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium.  We had already figured out that antique roses are basically easy to grow, whereas hybrid roses (the fancy new varieties with the biggest blooms, longest stems, etc.) are finicky, so all of ours are antique varieties.  We were hoping to hear whether this winter's mild weather warranted a change from the Valentine's Day pruning schedule, as well as any other insight into how to care for them...and we were shocked when the presenter grabbed his hedge clippers to demonstrate proper pruning technique and proceeded to haphazardly attack the rose bush he had on hand.  It probably didn't take more than two seconds and he was done.  But his point was that there's really no wrong way to prune an antique rose; the important thing to keep in mind is the optimal size and shape for its location and purpose (hedge vs. specimen, etc.).  So I was feeling pretty good about going home and doing some pruning, but after the presentation wrapped up, three questions from the audience made us change course:

1. Are the pruning rules different for single-blooming roses (that only bloom once at the beginning of the season, instead of all summer long)?  Answer: Yes -- pruning a single-bloomer now will make it a zero-bloomer.

Good to know.  We'll skip our single-blooming Sweet Briar rose and get into a habit of pruning it right after it blooms.

2. Should newly planted roses (less than a year old) be pruned?  Answer: No.

Okay, so we're exempt from all rose pruning this year.

3. Why aren't these cuttings rooting?  (The question-asker showed the presenter a little pot where she had tried to plant a 3" cutting from a rose stem.)  Answer: Because it was planted upside-down!

Everyone had a good chuckle, and then we learned the proper way to plant rose cuttings -- which I kept in mind as I pruned my neighbor's overgrown rose bush that grows along our property line (he's super-easygoing and had offered to take out the rose when we took down part of the fence, so I knew he would be okay with some pruning).  Since another of his roses didn't survive the summer, I thought it would be nice to give him a clone that he can enjoy.  So we now have four cuttings planted in some soil in a ziploc bag.  I'll keep you posted on how goes.  (So far I'm zero-for-whatever on cuttings, but I'm ever the optimist....)

So that sums up our recent rose adventures.  But I can't resist adding this last picture. It's a sign that's posted at the Natural Gardener.

Clearly I'm not a parent -- I didn't get it at first and thought it was a nice gesture to give lost children a beverage and a little plaything.  Then it clicked.

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