Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Win! (a poem)

I Win!

I eat a grapefruit every day.
So does Martha Stewart.

I have blonde hair.
So does Martha Stewart.

I have dogs and cats.
So does Martha Stewart.

I grow flowers and vegetables.
So does Martha Stewart.

Martha Stewart married a Yalie.
So did I.

Martha Stewart needs a new hairdo.
So do I.

Martha Stewart is post-menopausal.
So am I.

Martha Stewart has a net worth of $638,000,000.
I have a granddaughter.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Insane Day, Weatherwise

It was hard to believe the date when I took the dogs out this morning. The air temperature was 41ยบ with a wind chill in the 30s. The wind was fierce, and it felt for all the world like fall. I fully expected to see leaves blown off the trees, not apple blossom petals.

The sun came out, encouraging me to try to do some digging. With my Raynaud's Syndrome, I avoid working outside when it's this cold. But I'm expecting five rose bushes to arrive very soon, and I need five deep holes to plant them in. So I tucked a disposable body warmer into my waistband, put on a pair of gloves, pulled a fleece top over my long-sleeved shirt, and ventured out.

I got one hole mostly dug and came inside for a bit. I was gathering up trash when I heard a crack and a CRASH. I went outside to see what had happened, but discovered first that it was pouring rain. I quickly pushed my wheelbarrow under cover in the garage and then took a peek down the road. A huge tree—which turned out out to be two trees—had come down across the road. It was now impassable.

I called the Township Supervisors to come deal with the trees, and by then we were having a hailstorm. I looked out at the dime-sized balls of ice bouncing all over the deck, and thought, It's the 19th of May, for heaven's sake!

The hailstorm ended and the sun came out. It was a tossup what I needed to do first, dig or mow. I needed to mow (badly), but the grass was wet from the storm. I decided I'd mow as soon as the wind dried the grass. I got back to digging. About three shovelsful later, the sun disappeared and rain came down. I rushed the wheelbarrow back to the garage.

It was like that all afternoon. No exaggeration. Sun comes out. I put my gloves back on and retrieve the wheelbarrow. Digging commences. Rain starts. Get the wheelbarrow under cover. Rush back to the house. Start a chore. Sun comes out. I put my gloves back on. And so it went for hours. I don't know how many times that pattern was repeated. At 5:30 I gave up and put the wheelbarrow in the shed.

I have one-and-a-half holes dug. The grass, having spent most of the day sucking up rain, is growing.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Lusty Month of May

I remember Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere, singing this song in "Camelot." Easy for her, with her flowing skirts, flowing hair, and full-to-bursting breasts. Not to mention her Maypole. Do you know anyone who has a Maypole? Think of what AC Moore would charge for all those ribbons. Or maybe they're available cheap on eBay. But Guinevere didn't have to worry about such things. Queens just demand ribbons, and they appear—borne on a pillow carried by a lustful knight.

The month of May traditionally finds me in the garden. What man in his right mind would lust at the sight of me digging in the dirt in my grubbiest of grubbies with black-rimmed nails, stringy hair, and face smeared with sunscreen? I am breathing hard, but only because the weeds are stronger than I. As for my passion, it is soaking in a five-gallon bucket, awaiting the planting that will take place as soon as I finish digging a big enough hole.

But judging from the activity my son saw yesterday in the woods, and the noises we heard last evening, May is indeed a lusty month if you happen to be a turkey. Or a duck.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So Much For Quitting My Rose Addiction

I thought at the very least I could take a year off from acquiring any more roses. I need to take better care of some of the ones I already have. I need to win a few wars with the weeds. I need to improve the soil. I need to work on the inside of my house!

But Saturday afternoon I opened up a thread on the Rose Forum about a Chamblee's order. And I read the stellar comments about Chamblee's. And I read someone's request for their website. So I gave her a link. And then I went to the website myself. And I saw all those wonderful Buck roses. And I remembered that last year I wanted to get more Bucks. And I thought about things like age and arthritis, and how it would be smart to put more roses in while I am still able to dig big holes (at least I hope I can still dig them), and how I want to plant as much as possible now so I can enjoy them sooner rather than later. And I thought about the fact that the next day was Mother's Day.

So I bought myself a Mother's Day gift: Quietness, Earth Song, and Aunt Honey.

Chamblee's prices were good, but the shipping cost more than the roses. That wasn't the case, however, with the Home Depot Website Sale, which I heard about on Tuesday. A selection of roses were half-price with FREE shipping! I ask you, how could I possibly resist??

I ordered two yellow roses: Sunsprite, a very fragrant floribunda everyone RAVES about, even gardeners in northern zones, and Strike It Rich, a new (2007) grandiflora, also very fragrant. This one grows tall and looks super vigorous. Whether it will look that way in my garden is anybody's guess, but at that price I'm more than willing to give it a shot.

I figure I deserve them because I've been a good mother. Most of the time. I think. At least my intentions were the best.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Look what my closeup lens spied!

He measured about 1.25" including his tail. So sweet! I love the skinny little "arms." These guys start out as tadpoles (aquatic), then grow to this Red Eft stage, living on land for two to three years before turning into a brownish aquatic form again. They live a long life—12 to 15 years. Jill and I always loved to see their soft little orange forms appear at the roadside in spring.

Again, click on the photo to see the larger size.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who Knew Dandelions Were So Exotic?

Click on the photo to enlarge for more detail!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Don't Quote Me

The other day I read a newspaper article that quoted a friend of mine. The quote made it sound as though he didn't know where he lived. I couldn't believe my friend could have said something so stupid, so I asked him about it. No, he hadn't said anything even remotely like that. But there it was, between a pair of solid, reassuring quotation marks.

I used to see this all the time when I covered meetings alongside a reporter who was making a lot more money than I. She would sit there, playing solitaire on her laptop, and the next day file a story with quotes that bore no relationship to reality. As a reporter, it pissed me off. As a reader (and occasional reporter), it still does.

Back in the 1970s my husband's chemical company had an explosion. The press descended upon us. One article had me pointing to some white stuff on the ground and announcing it was hydrogen. Huh? Never happened. Never came close to happening.

Can we assume that the Big Guns of journalism don't do this? Can we trust the major newspapers (and, of course, the gazillion websites that are hustling to get the news to us instantly) to print accurate quotes and accurate everything else? Or should we question everything we read . . . even this?

Friday, May 02, 2008

For Rose People Only

Anyone else would be bored silly.

It wasn't a good winter for roses. I knew this (ice, thaw, ice, thaw, ice, more ice), but still I was unprepared for the number of dead canes I had to prune away. Some of the roses have very little left to them, and trying to create some shape isn't even a possibility. (Well, it isn't helped by the fact that I'm a rather unskilled pruner.)

For those concerned with hardiness, here's the rundown. Bear in mind that winter protection is a four-letter word at my house.

Scarlet Meidiland
They look good, actually, except for the one I planted last year, which has disappeared entirely.

I thought Robusta would live up to its name again this year, but I had to cut away about half the bush. What remains looks a tad spidery at the moment, but I expect that will change as it leafs out more.

Knock Out
Or is it Knockout? In either case, it always looks weird to me, as though it isn't sure whether to thrive or migrate south. No change from last year. Or the years before.

Roseraie de l'Hay
Sadly, this huge, indestructible rugosa was no match for the snowplow a few years ago, and will probably never fully recover. This spring I had to cut away about a third of what was left, which doesn't leave much.

The Rock Garden Roses
The fact that I've forgotten their names should tell you something about their performance. Let me think . . . oh, yeah, White Meidiland (the oldest and most reliable of the bunch), Baby Blanket (a shade of pink the exact color of a baby's blanket, when they appear, which isn't often), and Carefree Marvel, which is neither. In fairness, I don't think their lack of vigor is their fault. I blame the chipmunks, which dig tunnels under the rock garden, and I blame the weeds, which rock gardens specialize in, and I blame me. In the garden, it always comes down to the gardener.

The Rose Below the Rock Garden
This one has always been nameless. I acquired it 30 years ago from an old woman who grew up with it. She didn't know the name either. It's not a bush; it's a mass of skinny canes about 2-3 feet tall, blooming once a year with vivid red buds and loose semi-double dark pink blooms. I'm fond of it. The canes appear to propagate underground, with runners. I don't think the winter bothered it at all.

The Walmart Mistake
I have no idea what this is. It was supposed to be Sir Thomas Lipton, to replace the one I lost after many years. But it most definitely is not. It looks like a rose cane. Its leaves look like rose leaves. But so far, after three years, it still has not produced a rose. Maybe its out-of-the-way spot is to blame. On the other hand, its out-of-the-way spot is probably the reason why I haven't tossed it. People have this experience with Walmart (and other big stores) all the time. They aren't exactly my main rose supplier, but sometimes you can find great deals there (see Wildberry Breeze and Lady Elsie May, below) and sometimes I'm tempted by the adventure of the unknown.

Crimson Sky
This was new to me last year. In fact, it was new to everybody last year, having been introduced in 2007. I got it on sale at the end of the season, paying $3.99 or some other ridiculous amount. Good thing, too, because I'm not at all sure it's going to survive in my climate. The canes died back all the way. Two thick red shoots are showing from the base, and I just hope they're from Crimson Sky and not the rootstock. One good thing is that it's a climber. It may never get to climbing height in my zone, but if it grows well enough to produce some of its lush red blooms every year I'll be happy.

Gertrude Jekyll
I was shocked to see how much damage this rose suffered this year. My Gertie is well over 20 years old, and has survived the rollercoaster of my gardening life, waiting patiently for me in the weeds during the years when I could do nothing for her or any other plant. But she was hit hard this winter. Lot of plant left, though, so I'm not too worried.

Gertrude Jekyll No. 2
I think of this one as a male, though I have no idea why. I liked Gertie No. 1 so much that I acquired a second one a few years ago. No. 2 is a great deal shorter, at least so far, but equally good at producing pink roses in a form that's perfection and a scent that's beyond perfection. It suffered some winter kill, but not too much.

A stronger rosearian would have "shovel pruned" this Canadian Explorer rose years ago. "Puny" is a good word for its performance in my garden. But then in fall, when everything is long finished, it produces a second flush of startlingly red roses, and I know I'll never dig up the plant. Right now it's so small that it's hard to tell if it has any winter damage.

Dart's Dash
Not my favorite name for a rose, but what a wonderful shrub! A small rugosa with heavenly-scented blooms, it came through the winter with no damage whatsoever.

Blanc Double de Coubert
Planted last year, and apparently unfazed by northern winters.

Prairie Princess
A Griffith Buck rose that went crazy last year, producing one gangly way-too-long cane. Most of the cane seems to have survived winter, but it didn't survive my pruning shears, which cut it by more than half.

Cherries 'n' Cream
Another rose that should have been shovel pruned. The flowers are pretty, but their much-touted scent is nonexistent in my garden. And the plant is so spidery and unattractive. But it's the most expensive rose I ever bought (how dumb is that?). I don't know how well it survived the winter because I haven't looked yet.

Henry Nevard
Completely gone. Again, I blame the gardener, who dug it up by mistake last year.

Lady Elsie May
I was tempted to buy this floribunda a few years ago because my Aunt Elsie was the best gardener I've ever known, even if her middle name wasn't May. It was a good purchase. Love the color! Her original site proved to be too shady, so I moved it last year. It seems to be okay. Not too many dead canes.

Carefree Beauty
Another Buck rose. This one stunned me last year with its vigor and gorgeous blooms, and all indications are that it will do the same this year.

Distant Drums
Yet another Buck. Died to the ground this winter. A shoot or two is emerging, so we'll see. Its blooms are so extraordinary; I hope it survives, but I'm not overly optimistic.

The Nameless Buck Roses
Well, they do have names; I just don't remember what they are. They seem to be doing so-so in my garden.

Belinda's Dream
Died over the winter after being moved last year. :-(

Angel Face
Also gone. This was probably my fourth or fifth attempt to grow this gorgeous lavender rose that smells like raspberries. I'm not tempted to try again.

Betty Prior
Gone as well. My second attempt on this one, mostly because I can hear my late mother-in-law's voice saying, "Nothing outblooms a Betty Prior!"

Sharifa Asma
Barely surviving. I probably should give up on David Austin roses, but the pictures on his website and in his catalogs are soooo seductive! Plus Gertie is an Austin, and look how well she's done.

Wildberry Breeze
Can you think of a worse name for a rose? Maybe "Bat Droppings." Wildberry Breeze sounds like a wine cooler or a room deodorizer. But what a lovely little rugosa it is! No winter damage at all, and a mass of wonderfully scented, single blooms to look forward to. Maybe I should stick to rugosas.

William Baffin
I'm in love. I planted this guy last year, too late to see any blooms, but I have the feeling I'll be in for a treat this year. No winter damage at all.

John Cabot
I was pleasantly surprised to find this Canadian Explorer climber at the Farmer's Market last year. I didn't think I had a place for it, but of course I bought it anyway. Then I thought of the tall garden gate that Joe made many years ago. It's still in place, though no longer serving as a gate to anything. It will be beautiful covered in roses. And, from the looks of the plant after its first winter here, that may well happen.

Abraham Darby
Another Austin. Growing nicely for me (although not as large as I'd like) until this year, when it took quite a winter hit. I'm prepared to give Abe some TLC as he's one beautiful rose.

Abbaye de Cluny (pictured above)
This was a pure impulse buy, and not cheap. I think divine intervention was involved. I don't know if it was all that divine a decision for Abbaye, as she lost all her canes over the winter. I actually dug the plant up last week, but replanted when I saw shoots emerging. It seems to be doing okay. Again, TLC more than worth it. Can you imagine that this rose smells as good as it looks?

If you'd like to see or read about any of these roses, Rose HelpMeFind is a great resource.