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An Unexpected Pleasure

I picked these roses in mid December in Bill and Lydia Fontenot's garden near Carencro, Louisiana.

I’m always delighted in late autumn when the antique roses come forth with one last burst of bloom.  It happens every year but I am usually distracted by the fall foliage, the autumn berries, the sasanqua and aster blossoms.  And suddenly I look up and am dazzled to see all the roses in bloom.

Today – out on a Halloween stroll, I realized that my ‘Cramoisi Superieur’ rose was in full bloom.

‘Cramoisi Superieur’ is one of my old friends.  It is one of the first antique roses that I ever planted in the garden.

I simply could not resist a rose with a French name that meant Superior Crimson!

My lovely specimen has bloomed dependably for an average of 10 months each year for the past 20 years.

As my landscape has matured, shade has encroached.  In response this rose started to climb onto an adjacent titi.

Cramoisi Superieur is loaded with Halloween roses.

What can I say?  She is a survivor.

Like many other old roses, her blooms demurely nod.  They are heavily laden with rose red petals and cannot hold their heads upright.

Cramoisi Superieur is an old China rose (from 1832).  Blossoms are two toned with  rich red petals that are lighter on the reverse side.  They emit a wonderful fragrance.

The stems are pea green and practically thornless.

Foliage is deep green and healthy.

It’s all good.

Cramoisi Superieur is perfect for every garden… except for those people who insists that a rose hold its head proudly upright.

I think that Cramoisi Superieur is a proud rose with a modest demeanor.   Her blossoms nod and as I pass by, I nod back.


 

 

Freeze Warning

The view from my kitchen sink

Our first frosts are in the forecast.

As usual, the seasonal changes are inspiring me to create flower arrangements.

This time of year I seem to almost follow a formula when I head to the garden to collect materials.  I’ve documented my process below.

Recipe for an Autumn Flower Arrangement

  • Gather a variety of fall flowers. I scored asters, tea camellias, ‘Silver Dollar’ sasanqua camellias, a lingering sweet olive stem and some Chipola river daisies (Coreopsis integrifolia).  I allowed myself to pick one precious sweet lady’s tresses orchid (Spiranthes odorata).  I raided the prairie garden and snagged grass plumes from big bluestem, switch grass and purple top.
  • Add blossoms from plants that are blooming out of season. The dropping temperatures always stimulate unexpected plants to flower.  I gathered  blossoms from ‘Nastarana’ and ‘Archduke Charles’ roses and was delighted to find flowers on the Sekidera azalea.
  • Combine a pinch of fall fruit. Yesterday the garden yielded stems of rose hips and a fragrant stalk of sweet Annie.
  • Mix well with colorful fall foliage. The scarlet tinted huckleberries (Vaccinium elliottii) filled the bill.
  • Assemble in a vase and fill in with healthy evergreen twigs. I gathered one of my favorites Florida leucothoe (Agarista populifolia).
  • Add water and enjoy.

The results reminded me why I love to do floral design.  The vases hold a distillation of a moment in garden time.  My favorites look like a portion of an overgrown flower border where the wild plants mingle with the garden exotics.

I particularly enjoy the arrangements that I place over the kitchen sink.   I have plenty of time to carefully study them while I wash the dishes!


 


 

 

Ponytail Palm in Peril

Joe and Maybelle love to perch on the deck rails and launch attacks on the ponytail's grass-like leaves.

Joe, the Jungle Cat, pauses before going in for the kill.

About 32 years ago I worked at a greenhouse range in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

One of the greenhouses had a bench with flats and flats of tiny ponytail palm seedlings beneath.

One rainy day, when things were slow, I spent about an hour picking through the flats until I found the cutest little seedling with three tiny trunks.  It was about three inches tall.

I potted it into a small pot and it made several moves with me.  I continued to pot it into larger containers.  It is now over 7 feet tall and has fallen on hard times.

It is too heavy for me to move easily and is currently in a very large (20 inch plus) broken plastic pot.

The swollen base stores water but kitties know it is really the perfect scratching post.

Worst of all, a new generation of baby kitties have discovered it.

If I had known how attractive a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is to a cat, I might never have made the commitment to this one.

The long flexible leaves are especially irresistible to kittens.  They climb the trunk or leap off the deck railing to gain access.

Ponytails are also called Elephant’s Foot Palms because with age the enlarged base of their stems becomes trunk-like and swollen to store water.  To humans it looks much like an elephant’s foot.   To a kitty it looks just like the perfect scratching post.

Over these 32 years, generations of kitties including Elwood, Luna, Thibadeaux, Rebob, Molly, Gilly, Bubba, Titah, Lemur, Jeeter and Cakester have frolicked in and on the ponytail palm.

Their shiny pointed teeth and sharp little claws have brought it perilously close to death.

Luckily for the ponytail palm the back garden offers many distractions.

Now the new kits on the block, Joe and Maybelle, have discovered it.  They are greatly enamored of it.  I fear that they will love it to death.  My only hope is that they are distracted by the many other wonderful plants in the area that may be tough enough to take a beating.   They do, after all, have their very own personal black bamboo grove and native plant garden.

In the meantime, I’m worried that the Plant’s Rights Activists may come knocking at my door.  So I have plans to go shopping for a giant pot and maybe a dolly so that I can move this behemoth.

I will probably need to prune the top growth to stimulate new leaves at a shorter height.

Then I will relocate the plant to the front porch – away from Joe and Maybelle for the remainder of the season

I’ve got my work cut out for me!


 

Swamp Rose???

The swamp rose blooms cheerfully in Bill and Lydia Fontenot's Carencro garden.

I am quite fond of the late spring roses.

Right now my vases are full of them.

I especially like the antique roses – the old forms that are closest to those found in the wild.

Some of the roses in my garden are named for the people who gave them to me.  I have Carson’s rose and Lucky’s rose.

Others were named by the person who gifted them to me like Dr. Dirt’s ‘Dirty Red’.

The swamp rose or Rosa palustris is an original – the real deal.  It is not just an antique rose, it is actually a wild or species rose native to wetlands in the Eastern U. S.

I first encountered a double form of the swamp rose called Rosa palustris scandens.  It is a deeper hot pink.  The shrub has a lovely form with arching canes and is fairly free of thorns.

This form was introduced into commerce in 1824.  According to the Antique Rose Emporium catalog, Redouté painted this rose in the garden of Empress Josephine of France.

Native swamp rose is perched on a cypress knee in the Wolf River.

This double form of the wild swamp rose is a popular garden plant.

As the name indicates, swamp rose has an unexpected proclivity  for wet areas.  It grows in well drained garden soil as well.

In June 2008, I saw swamp rose in the wild.

I was on a canoe trip with Krisin Lamberson on the Wolf River.

We were near the Tennessee-Mississippi border (probably in Tennessee) when we found a stand of the roses perched up on cypress knees growing in the wetland.

It wasn’t quite what I expected – a rose growing atop a giant cypress knee????

But then… you just never know what to expect from nature.


 

 

Complementary Colors

A lemon four o'clock complements magenta beautyberries. I left this pair undisturbed because four o'clocks were not made for vases.

Today, I took the dogs and went on a quest to fill my vases.

It was quite a chore.

I could not rely on flowers alone.

I gathered fruiting stems of beautyberry and hearts a busting.   I nabbed some trailing vines loaded with starry clematis seedheads.

I smiled as I gathered stalks of native grasses – big bluestem, switch grass and eastern gamma.   Learning grasses has not been easy for me and I was happy to know the names of those I chose.

I snagged the last of the spider lilies and new buds of Caldwell Pink and the maple-leaf rose.  I conservatively snipped a few of the last black eyed Susans  and Delta Snow phlox.

And for good measure I picked as many chartreuse budded goldenrod panicles as I could carry.

I walked all over my 6 acres and harvested enough fruit, buds, culms and slightly tattered blossoms to fill three vases.

The arrangements are pleasing but the expedition was priceless.


 

Delightful Rambling Roses Adorn the May Garden

Lucky's Rose is delightfully laden with flowers right now.

As much as I love the wildflowers and native plants, I am still a sucker for antique roses.  I love them in the garden as well as in a vase.

I began collecting them about 20 years ago when I had my nursery.  At first most were found roses.

They came from friends and I had no idea what they really were.  Some were given to us as pencil sized leafless hardwood cuttings and others were small rooted plants.  For convenience and for fun, we made up names for them like “Debbie Shirley’s Husband’s Papaw’s Rose”, “Carson’s Rose”, and “Lucky’s Rose”.

As I learned more about antique roses,  I discovered the actual names for some of them.   I found the Antique Rose Emporium catalog and web site quite helpful with that endeavor.

“The Rose that Came With the House that Wouldn’t Die” was a rose that my friend Carson bought along with his house.   It was abused in every possible way but still persevered.  Eventually we found out that it was actually “Aloha”.  Good to know but I kind of like the made up name better.

“Lucky’s Rose” is one that we have yet to identify.  It came to us from our friend Lucky Lisenbee.  It blooms in spring only and we call it a rambling rose because it is quite vigorous and will climb if not pruned each winter.  It is very fragrant and as close to a purple color as is found in the rose world.

If  anyone knows the Christian name of this rose, please post a comment to let me know.

It is mysterious and beautiful as is and I am inclined, as Iris Dement would say, to “let the mystery be.”


 

Jeeter’s Rose

My Crepuscule rose was planted in memory of Jeeter.


 

I came home late yesterday after speaking at an Urban Forestry conference near Memphis.

I was anxious to get out and see the garden after a three day absence.  Instead we’re having thunderstorms and tornado warnings so… it’s a great day for blogging.

I have looked out the window enough to see that the rains and wind have knocked the last of the azalea flowers into the middle of next week.  Luckily the roses are waiting in the wings!

During a break in the weather, I scurried out to the grocery store.  As I struggled down the front walk laden with groceries, I was delighted to see that one of my new roses was blooming.

I still miss the late Jeeter. He was quite a garden cat.

About three years ago, my favorite garden cat, Jeeter, was killed in the street.   My heart was broken because I had bottle fed him when he was a baby kitty.   Jeeter and I were inseparable in the garden.  I had never seen him in the street so I was totally blown away when he was killed by a car.

I buried him in my front flower bed in one of his favorite hang-outs.   I planted an orange rose on his grave.

The rose is a thornless climber called ‘Crepuscule’.    It is an antique Noisette that was introduced in 1904.   After three years I have trained ‘Crepuscule’ to clamber up into a nearby red buckeye tree.   The buckeye is still blooming a bit and I am happy to report that the red buckeye flowers harmonize perfectly with the soft apricot ‘Crepuscule’ blossoms.

I am even happier that the flower color is almost the same color as my boy Jeeter.   I like to think that the Crepuscule is channeling Jeeter and that as it rambles to the top of the 12 foot buckeye, Jeeter’s spirit is roaming the garden.

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