Let your photo(s) tell a story. A timely reminder to think spring.
I don’t know what possessed me to buy 80 bulbs, but after the winter of our discontent, I think we’re going to need a big dose of beauty and color.
Let your photo(s) tell a story. A timely reminder to think spring.
I don’t know what possessed me to buy 80 bulbs, but after the winter of our discontent, I think we’re going to need a big dose of beauty and color.
I don’t bother with fall decorating outdoors as my pink Knockout roses (see link) are still going strong, and pink and orange (as in pumpkins etc) are not the best color combination in my opinion. It may be odd to see roses in October, but Knockouts are repeat bloomers and they’re usually in their 3rd bloom cycle in September with roses appearing right up until mid-November if we have mild weather. Although obviously not as abundant as in June, they do well considering that I have long given up all pretense of fertilizing and watering.
Fall is late here in my part of Ontario with no frosts so far and the trees just catching fire. The temperature today was 50 F (10 C) with another nice week ahead, with a few days in the 60’s, although there is already snow out on the prairies. While I would love to prune them now as I do my other roses, the timing is key, and so I wait and then curse in the spring and sometimes in December too as pink does not go well with Christmas decorations either! By then they are definitely the worse for wear especially when the rest of the yard has been tidied up but it’s much too cold too tackle any outdoor work. One year it snowed while they were still blooming, and that was a very strange sight.
I’m presently busy with the art world, with mom’s exhibit opening next week and writing time scarce, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of them, in their final days of fall glory.
They often look scraggly this time of year, shooting off in all directions, but are almost the same height as the deck.
I took these photos on the sheltered side of the house as the colors are more vibrant in the shade.
The bushes at the front are fuller but more blowzy, the wind having knocked many of the petals off.
I have other pinks in the fall – the odd hydrangea, a leftover dinner-plate hibiscus, but they are usually finished by the end of September.
My phlox was especially lovely this year.
This flower in the side yard belongs to my neighbor, but I’m not sure what it is?
The pale pink climbing roses on the front trellis are repeat bloomers too, so I don’t cut them back until they are finished.
A definite sign of fall, this burning bush looks almost pink in the shade.
And that’s it – the last of the pinks until next year!
August has always been the most depressing of months to me. Summer is already half over and the threat of cold weather looms in the distance, heralded by chirping crickets, cooler nights, and heavy morning dew. Those hours of evening lightness are no more – it’s dark at 8 pm, a warning of much worse to come. A bit melodramatic maybe, but hey, it’s Canada, we live for summer here.
It starts with the clouds. You may wake up to a flawless blue sky, but soon those big puffy August clouds come rolling in, spoiling a perfectly nice beach day.
Oh, they’re pretty in a way – it’s best to look at things from Both Sides Now. (Musical interlude – Joni Mitchell wrote this song on an airplane looking down at the clouds, although it was first made famous by Judy Collins. I find the lyrics gloomy, but then it’s become such a strange world, I really don’t know life at all….)
Then you start to see the odd tree branch dipped in paint. There’s a big maple tree on the main street which always starts to turn in early August.
Then there are the back to school ads, a perfect dilemma this pandemic year, although some kids may be looking be looking forward to returning and seeing their friends. Classes don’t resume here until Sept 8 after the Labor Day holiday weekend.
While the stores may beckon with fall clothes, I really can’t justify shopping for anything but essentials when there’s nowhere to wear it, but just being in a store for some hands-off browsing cheered me up immensely.
It hasn’t been the best of summers, with my health issues in May/June (my favorite time of year), the hot humid weather, July’s multiple catch-up appointments and the isolating pandemic solitude. The normal distractions which might bring joy – street festivals, summer theatre, concerts – have all been cancelled.
Plus, August is my birthday month, which is depressing enough, as I’m wondering how I ever got to be that age?
Yes, that age. (BTW, Paul McCartney wrote that song when he was just 16, but it was not recorded until the 1966 Sgt. Pepper’s album, the year his father turned 64. The lyrics reflect his view of old age – gardening, grandchildren, an annual vacation on the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear….but even that is out this year.)
I remember my father when he turned 65, saying he wished he was 16 again and looking at him and thinking, you’ve got to be kidding, they’re paying you to stay home! Yes, it’s nice to be retired and collecting the old age pension but it also means you’re old! While I wouldn’t want to be 16 again (too much angst), my stress-filled 30’s are looking pretty good, and someday I may look back and wish to be my current age. I know I should be grateful to be still alive, relatively healthy and COVID-free, when so many are not. (End of whining).
Although it may feel like summer has slipped away without much in the way of enjoyment, there are still a few weeks to relish the rest of the season. Here are a few things to love about this time of year.
A trip to the Farmer’s Market is always fruitful….
Plums, peaches and nectarines.
The glads for sale are a riot of color but the pinks are still my favorite.
It’s melon season.
And tomato season.
And cherry pie season.
And let’s not forget corn on the cob, slathered with butter for those lucky folks who can eat it.
The new ice cream place is doing a booming business, although they don’t have gelato. Does anyone really need all those weird exotic flavors when chocolate reigns supreme?
Note these are mostly food related, but it’s mostly healthy food and food can be enormously cheering! You can walk off the ice cream and cherry pie with a stroll On The Waterfront. (see future blog)
and watch the boats go by.
Having the beach to yourself on an August day can be a reflective type of solitude,
with only the annoying screech of seagulls to interrupt your thoughts.
You can go beach-combing and gather enough shells,
to make a souvenir of summer!
PS. WordPress congratulations me on my third anniversary of blogging (once a week, Wed/Thursdays, 154 posts, 84 new followers give or take a few persistent vitamin sales people). This was posted in the classic editor but I’m wondering why the photo captions are no longer centered? And why I can’t shrink photos? And where is the word count so I don’t ramble on? I couldn’t post video either? It seems like some of the basic functions are gone. Onward and upward to the dreaded block editor, eventually, but for now I’m enjoying these last days of summer.
During a particularly trying time in my life, a summer filled with stress and drama, I bought myself a lemon tree.
They were half price by late July, so I also bought one for my mother. I had read in Oprah magazine that was the thing to do to cheer yourself up, a reminder of the old saying – when life hands you lemons make lemonade. (Oprah was always keen on the visual stuff). Of course, the photo in the magazine showed a smiling model beside a waist-high plant covered with big lovely lemons. Being optimistic, I expected that’s what I would be getting eventually, with some TLC.
I might also have been inspired by one of those posts which circulate from time to time on Facebook, a real estate ad depicting an abandoned Italian castle you could buy for cheap (it might even have been free) if you were willing to spent millions restoring it – an enormous stone monastery-like building which came with it’s own lemon grove. It was the lemon grove which appealed to me – I already owned a building which required extensive renovations.
I’ve never seen a lemon grove, but it must be lovely. I’ve passed orange groves on my way to Disneyland as a child, but never paid much attention. We don’t grow lemons here in Canada, our winters are way too cold to grow any kind of tropical fruit outside of a greenhouse. While my southern readers might be amused at my nativity, I had high expectations of being able to pick my own fruit. I envisioned making lemon cake from scratch using my own homegrown lemons.
My plant did smell heavenly – I placed it outside in a sunny spot, and made sure it got watered and fed regularly, and it rewarded me with fragrant flowers right on schedule. By fall when the nights started to get cooler, I brought it into the garage, and went they got downright chilly, it was brought into the house and placed in a sunny spot by the big front window. With such a prime view it should have been happy. By then it was covered with small green dots, which grew to the size of big green olives which then shriveled and dropped off one by one. My mothers did the same, so I know, it wasn’t anything personal, it just wasn’t able to adapt to the change in conditions. (It’s not like I expected a bumper crop or anything, but could not one or two of them have reached lemon-hood?)
Ah well, the best laid plans sometimes go awry, but I could just as easily buy shriveled-up lemons from the grocery store in the dead of winter if I needed to. If you’re looking for a moral/life lesson instead of food, this has definitely been the year for way laid plans and being adaptable to change, but if you are looking for recipes, I don’t have any to share this week because although I’ve tried multiple lemon recipes, with mixed results, nothing was worth bragging about.
I could never seem to get the right proportion of lemony flavor no matter how much zest I used, so I don’t bother experimenting anymore as I found an excellent Lemon-Curd Cake at the grocery store which can’t be beat. (sometimes the easy way out is the best….)
It has lemon curd in the middle so it’s in the frozen dessert section, which is a bonus as it keeps well and you can just slice off as much as you want, for company or not. Sometimes I add more lemon curd on top for an extra dollop of lemony goodness.
However, while lazing on the swing recently, reading the June issue of Victoria magazine,
I noticed a culinary feature on lemon and lavender,
And the lemon and lavender scones looked very tempting. Plus I just bought some creamed honey at the Farmer’s Market. They also sold a lemon-flavored creamed honey which I may get on my next trip.
And then there was this lemon tart – although decorating it with dried roses and sprigs of lavender does seem a bit over the top, my August garden yields plenty of both.
So many lemony-good recipes, so much time to experiment this summer, so yes, my own lemon grove would definitely come in handy. Best to pick up a couple of lottery tickets when I go to the store to get some lemons….
PS. My apologies for the somewhat deceiving title, see the Victoria magazine website for a recipe for lavender-lemonade. (link)
It’s been a bountiful year for lavender. I don’t remember ever seeing so many buds on my plants before – the bees are certainly rejoicing!
Lavender is an easy-care perennial, sun loving but can tolerate some shade, does well in drought and poor soil – exactly my kind of plant. I have about twelve bushes but admit the ones in the shady back yard,
are not as lush as the ones in the sunny facing front.
I’ve grown lavender for years as the fragrant smell has always appealed to me. It’s inexpensive at $5 a pot, and once established, it’s beauty can last for years. I usually plant English lavender as it is the more cold-hardy species. My few attempts at growing French lavender were not successful as it did not survive overwintering here in our Canadian climate. I also prefer the sweeter English lavender smell, whereas the French has a sharper Rosemary-like scent. French lavender has a longer bloom time and a darker purple flower. Someone brought me back some from Provence once and while it was nothing at all like mine, it would still be lovely to see someday.
These photos from my garden show the progression of color with the season, from the palest shade early on,
gradually darkening to a more vibrant purple.
In certain lights it can take on a blue tone,
but the softer light of early evening really makes the purple color pop.
Usually by the end of July, the buds are dried out but there are always a few spears still growing in September. Cutting them back is supposed to encourage a second flowering – I’ve never tried this but might this year as it is so abundant. While some people like to harvest early for best fragrance and dry their lavender bundles upside down, I prefer to enjoy the beauty of the plant and and strip the dried buds off later.
If you don’t have a garden, a pot of lavender is a nice alternative.
Lavender has long been known for it’s calming fragrance. Add a few drops of lavender oil to the bath water after a stressful day for instant relaxation.
For sleep-inducing properties, use a lavender spray or tuck a lavender sachet under your pillow. I often give sachets away as presents and one year my cute little 5 yr old neighbor insisted on taking one home for her shift-worker dad. Lavender can also be used in cooking, adding a subtle fragrance to baked goods like cakes and cookies. While I’ve never baked with it, I used to drink a brand of lavender flavored Earl Gray tea before I gave up caffeine.
One year I tried to make my own lavender oil, with disastrous results. There were two methods suggested – the first extracting the oil with oil required steeping the leaves and flowers in a crock of olive oil and repeatedly pressing, straining and adding more buds every 24-48 hrs, repeating the process 6 to 8 times. The second method, solvent distillation, which involved extracting the oil with alcohol to make a tincture, sounded much easier. They recommended ethyl alcohol, but if you couldn’t find it, vodka was acceptable (but not rubbing alcohol). For a non-drinker like me this required a trip to the liquor store where I was surprised to find even the smallest bottle of vodka cost $20. The lavender buds were soaked in the alcohol in a jar, in a process called maceration, meaning steep or rest, an old pharmaceutical term I remember from my school days, as in the extraction of a drug by allowing it to stand in contact with a solvent. The jar was placed in a dark cupboard, with instructions to agitate it once a day. I missed a week while I was away unexpectedly, but it just looked darker and murkier. After several weeks (2-6 wks), you drained the liquid off by straining it through a cheesecloth filter and froze it in a suitable container. The lavender oil was supposed to congeal on top of the alcohol, which does not freeze, and could then be scraped off and placed in a glass bottle. I ended up with about 3 ml (half a teaspoon), of a strong lavender-like but somewhat foul smelling brown liquid, not enough to fill even half my dropper bottle, which eventually got thrown out during one of my cleaning binges. My advice – drink the vodka instead and just buy a good quality essential oil. Some products have fake lavender scents, but I’ve found this to be one of the better brands, and at $12 it’s reasonably priced.
Storing a lavender spray in the fridge to spritz on a hot summer day is a refreshing trick.
The calming scent of lavender soap can help you pause and relax while performing that all important frequent hand-washing activity.
It’s nice to scent your drawers with a lavender sachet. Wedding favor bags from the party store are great for this purpose.
I admit the lavender bushes aren’t quite as pretty when the season is over and they’re brown and dried out, but the smell is still lovely, especially after a summer rain.
My lavender is almost ready harvest. With such a bumper crop this year I may have to hire help!
Book of the Day:
Visiting a lavender farm has long been on my bucket list, preferably one in Provence but even here would do. For those who dream of living such an idyllic life, a memoir of the reality by a New York city writer who moved to Texas with her National Geographic photographer husband to start a lavender farm. I read this when it was first published in 2008 when I was interested in making scented products. As I recall, they lasted about ten years, including time to get the plants established, before they gave up and moved to Mexico. (Rating 3/5 stars.)
Song of the Day: (and Source of Blog Title) Lavender’s Blue
This song is stuck in my brain after watching a Disney movie last week (2015 Kenneth Branagh version). I always liked Lily James as Rose in Downton Abbey and she did a credible job as Cinderella. Okay, I wasn’t really watching it, but it was on TV while I was editing photos. An old English nursery rhyme/folk song from the 17th century, it seems faintly familiar.
And last but not least, one of my mother’s paintings:
This is the first year I haven’t bought any garden flowers – no hanging baskets, no geraniums, absolutely nothing. It was cold with snow flurries until mid-May so the pop up nurseries had a pathetic selection of small and withered looking plants. We went straight into hot humid weather and I was waiting for them to go on sale but then never made it to any of the big box stores or nurseries.
On the plus side I don’t have to water, especially welcome in this record breaking heat. On the minus side, I miss the beauty of having baskets, even the humble geraniums, but I’m trying to focus on my hardy perennials. Due to the late spring it was a bad year for lilacs (exactly 3 blooms) and peonies (a poor showing, only one or two on the new bushes) and some of the rose bushes did not fare well. The ones on the north side are very sparse and two had to be dug out entirely. On the other hand, the rest of the roses were abundant and the lavender was so plentiful it deserves it’s own blog.
Here’s a recap since May. A carpet of blossoms on my daily walk.
My 50 cent purple iris was a beautiful bargain once again.
The daisies showed up early.
Second year for the prolific purple clematis.
The older purple clematis is still hanging in there.
The fuchsia clematis.
Purple salvia and pink roses make a colorful contrast.
The heirloom roses were bountiful.
And so were the Pink Knock-Outs,
and the newer lavender bushes are doing well.
Stay tuned for The Lavender Blues next week…
And speaking of blues, the hydrangeas were more cooperative this year – some lavender hues and my favorite blue tones, aided by a generous dose of aluminum sulfate to acidic the soil. I wonder how much you have to add to get that brilliant blue you see in gardening magazines?
The garden is my backyard oasis, a tranquil respite from this crazy COVID world. How is your garden growing this year?
Lily of the Valley is one of my favorite garden perennials – it’s delicate white flowers herald a unique fragrance which I always associate with the first days of summer. The scent is sweet, although not overbearing like that of honeysuckle or wisteria.
A woodland species, lily of the valley is not actually a lily but a member of the asparagus family, and is considered to be poisonous to pets and people.
It flowers in June here in Canada, although in other countries earlier in the spring. In France, May 1 is considered Lily of the Valley day, where vendors set up their stalls in the streets to sell bundles brought in from the countryside.
I inherited my now thriving patch from a free clump given to me by a fellow gardener.
Warning – it is an invasive species, spread through underground rhizomes, something I always appreciate in my garden where so much withers and dies, usually from neglect. A hardy plant, it can take care of itself, although it prefers a shady spot.
Often a favorite of bridal bouquets, like Kate Middleton’s, even a spray or two adds a delicate touch of white.
I like to put a few springs in a bud vase and perfume my rooms. While the smell may only last a few days, you can recapture the mood with scented products. I remember wearing a fragrance by Coty called Muguet-des-bois, many years ago.
Scented hand soaps are nice too – especially as we’re washing our hands so frequently – a little dose of springtime year round!
In the language of flowers, lily of the valley means the return of happiness, perhaps a signal of sunnier days ahead.
PS. The third week of May, this beautiful blue flower bloomed right in front of my lily of the valley.
I don’t know what it is and don’t even remember planting it – possibly it was from the horticultural sale two years ago — but it’s unfortunate they didn’t bloom at the same time, as blue and white is always a lovely color combination. It’s nice to know that even in this time of COVID monotony, the garden can still hold surprises.
PS: Speaking of old and new, I’m still on the old editor. When I decline, not now, it allows me to continue with the old, but I’m not sure if this is a permanent thing or if I haven’t been switched yet? Is anyone else still using the old? I would have thought they would have migrated everyone by now?
Last Wednesday I joined a group of local artists for a plein air painting session. They meet once a week during the summer, always at a different location, (garden, park or water view), paint from 9:30 until noon, then break for lunch and social hour – and show and tell if you wish to participate. I did not, as my mother is the artist in the family. I was only there as the driver and unofficial brownie-baker. I never took art in high school, can’t draw a straight line and have no desire to learn. The few times I have attempted to paint I sit there with a clenched jaw, frustrated that the end result does not in any way resemble the vision in my head. My mother on the other hand, finds it pure bliss, and paints almost every day, although she has no formal training. Still, plein air painting looks like fun, if you enjoy dabbling with a brush.
Plein air is the act of painting outdoors. Artists have always worked outdoors, but in the mid-19th century, the en plein air approach became more popular as painting in natural light became important to groups such as the Barbizon school, Hudson River School, and Impressionists. In Canada, the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson are examples of en plein air artists. (Wikipedia source)
The invention of a portable box easel which held paint and palette, as well as the availability of paint in tubes, made this outdoor activity much more convenient. Previously oil paint was made from pigment powders mixed with linseed oil. As there was no photography to record a scene, if you wanted to paint a landscape you either conjured up the image in your head, or went straight to the source, be it harbor, garden, or field of wheat.
For the Impressionists, like Monet and Renoir, it was all about the Light. How the play of light affects and influences a painting was important to them, especially if you were lolling about in the south of France where the light is reported to be particularly inspiring. Imagine a sketching tour there!
Monet painted his famous Haystack series (25 paintings) after visiting a wheat field near his home at all hours, seasons and weather conditions, in order to capture the effect of different variations of light.
Below is my favorite Renoir painting – a testament to natural light, shade and color – plus it looks like a fun outing.
No problem getting your friends to pose for hours if you ply them with enough food and drink and a boat ride down the Seine.
The Group of Seven were Canada’s first famous artists, painting outdoors in Algonquin Park in the early 1900’s. They would often take summer tours where they would do preliminary sketches in the great Canadian wilderness, then return to their studios to finish the work over the winter.
Our Canadian summer is almost over. It’s cooler now in September and nice weather can no longer be depended upon. This outing was the last of the year and an add-on for a session which was rained out earlier.
While not Monet’s famous garden,
the park we visited is known for it’s gardens. I here to photograph the flowers, which are at their fall peak.
We arrive a bit late, as it’s a fair drive from home, and I’m not an early riser. These artists are all morning people, but I suppose it’s cooler then for painting in the summer. Today is overcast with a cold north wind, so we are all bundled up in sweaters and jackets. It’s a large park, basically deserted at mid-week, and the painters have already scattered along the paths and picked their solitary spots.
There’s a separate Zen garden with a tranquil waterfall but no one is painting there. Maybe it is too Zen?
I wander around the flower beds admiring the fall colors,
and stop to visit with several of the artists, marveling at their talent.
Most of the artists have been painting for years, but some, like my two friends, are relative beginners,
still learning the tools of the trade.
Watercolor and oil are best for painting outdoors, as acrylic dries too quickly in the hot sun.
At noon they break for lunch, (brownies anyone?) in a spot sheltered from the wind,
and afterwards, show and tell. They pass each painting around the circle and I’m totally intimidated by then.
And also grateful for that thermos of hot coffee.
One of the artists points out a white squirrel which frequents the park, so I pursue a picture, although I only have the zoom lens on my cell phone, so it’s not the best pixel-wise.
White squirrels may be albino (with red eyes), caused by a mutation of a pigmentation gene, or they may be a very rare variant of eastern gray squirrels. He was a strange sight – and definitely an antidote to all that color.
After lunch, I’m in desperate need of a nap. All that fresh air is so tiring – makes you sleep like a baby – maybe I will dream in technicolor?
PS. Although it was an enjoyable day, I think I’ll stick with my writing gig for now.
I was looking at my big fat beefsteak tomatoes the other day and it struck me how very green they were, so I thought I would do a photo essay of summer ending – by color. Color my world – just like we used to back in grade school, with the big 64 pack of Crayolas. I just happened to have a box with my craft supplies in the basement and they have the same waxy smell I remember.
The Crayola company first began selling crayons in 1903 and since then they have made over 200 distinctive colors. (Wikipedia link) Although many of the original colors are still around, I believe they are a bit more inventive with the names now, so I’ve decided to help them out, (see brackets).
The very green tomatoes. (Lean Green Tomato Machine, because what tomato plant isn’t this time of year)
The purple clematis is blooming. (Purple Rain, as in the Rock Star Formally Known as Prince).
The neighbors yellow Black-Eyed Susans nodding hello over the fence, (so very Mellow-Yellow).
The orange tones of fresh summer fruit – melons, nectarines and peaches. (Fruit Salad Palette)
Ripening tomatoes. (Red Hot Salsa)
The Last of the Pinks. This Dipladenia was the best plant I bought this summer, water and drought resistant (we had both) and no deadheading. It’s still hanging in there as if it was in the tropics, which it felt like some days. (Caribbean Dream Pink).
The first bouquet of fall flowers – yellow and green and pink.
White for the clouds of late summer, towering and cumulus, but looking fall-like. (Cumulus Cloud White)
Blue for the water and sky and sailboats. (The original Sky Blue can’t be beat).
And beige for the sand and the last trip to the beach. (Sandblaster Beige)
Let’s say goodbye to the last (Psychedelic Sunset) over the lake.
The first signs of fall are already here – the sound of crickets at night, sometimes on the hearth – the first drift of wood smoke in the air – the maple tree with it’s leaves dipped in paint – that first chilly morning when you have to reach for your chenille housecoat and it’s not because of the A/C – and that dreadful/wonderful/your pick pumpkin spice which saturates the season!
Class dismissed – put the crayons away and go outside and play while the sun is still high in the sky! (Sky High Blue-Green)
PS. Red for the apple for the teacher and for the harvest coming in at the farmer’s market. Speaking of farmer’s markets, I’ll be doing a restaurant review soon on a locally sourced Harvestfest Dinner (link) – so get your forks ready to join me. I hear there will be pie – as in (Very Cherry Red)!
The Knock-Out Roses are blooming again, starting into their second cycle of the summer. While never as showy as the initial blooming, they are still a welcome sight, a bright spot of color among the withered baskets and dried up lawns of early August.
If you want a low maintenance, easy to grow rose then Knock-Out Roses are the rose of choice. I have 24 of these rose bushes and it was one of the best garden investments I’ve ever made.
At $20 per pot for the pink double ones I’ve had ten years of beauty from them.
If you are not familiar with the family of Knock Out Roses they were created by rose breeder Bill Radler in 2000 and were a hit right from the start. Traditionally roses have had the reputation of being finicky plants, hard to establish and prone to disease, requiring lots of tender loving care.
Knock-Outs have become popular because they are basically no-care and disease resistant, but the biggest appeal for me was they are repeat bloomers. After a glorious initial bloom in mid-late June here, they will repeat the blooming cycle every 5-6 weeks. New growth on the bushes is seen as red shoots/leaves. One year when we had a particularly late fall, I had roses up until December – they looked quite strange with a dusting of snow on them.
They are also self-cleaning in the sense that there is no need to dead head them, although you can if you wish. I spray mine with the garden hose on jet when they start to look too shaggy. They are also heat tolerant and do well in most hot sunny locations, requiring 6-8 hours of sun a day. The two I planted on either side of the house do not generally do as well as the others as they do not get enough sun, likewise several at the back which are in the shadow of the house.
Although that is not true this year, as we have had horrible heat close to 100 for days, so the ones in the shade are doing better than the rest. We also had a late cool rainy spring with little sun, so the bushes have failed to achieve their usual height. I should point out that most of these pictures are from previous years, lest anyone think I have created miracles during this weird weather year.
They also don’t need much water, so as they are the perfect plant-them-and-forget-them rose, especially important if you are a lazy gardener like me who hates to drag the hose around.
Pruning and height: I prune mine back to about 12 inches in early spring, although last year I misjudged and pruned in late March then we had two more weeks of wintry cold, so I learned my lesson and waited this year. If no pruning is done, they can reach 3 to 4 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet tall, and some years I have achieved this when we had a milder spring and a good growing season. Although they may be shorter than usual this year due to our poor spring, they still have plenty of buds on them.
Caring and fertilizing: I give them a dose of bone meal in spring and a sprinkle of controlled release fertilizer and that’s it. The website suggests some winter protection in colder climates, but the year I blanketed them with a layer of fallen leaves, was also the year I noticed a lot of blackspot on the stems the following spring. The nursery owner suggested I forego the leaf layer and spray them with horticultural oil to treat/prevent any fungal disease, which I do now every spring. I do mulch them, but other than that they have survived our brutal Canadian winters, although this year I was a bit afraid as the stems were so late greening up and looked so dry and brittle for weeks, but they eventually came along….sigh of relief.
Here’s the company’s website, with a page of FAQ’s – link.
There are ten colors. I have the Double Pink Knock-Outs, as I love bright pink and when I bought the first lot the nursery owner suggested keeping the color the same if I wanted to make a statement. The Double blooms are fuller and put on a nicer show, so I always recommend the doubles. Unfortunately three of the Doubles I bought a few years later came out as singles, despite the silver grower tags on them stating double – liars!
I really wish they had climbers, but they only have shrub roses so far. They do have a tree rose, which stands about 6 feet, but at $90 I found it hard to justify when I have so many others and being a small tree, I wondered how it would over-winter here?
Of course there’s always a gardening mishap or two. One year some unidentifiable slug (I was never able to capture one), started munching on the bushes on the west side of the yard and managed to steadily eat their way along the whole row. I was busy with work and by the time I noticed it was too late – they had decimated six bushes.
Although I tried everything – soap, powder, washing them off with the hose – they continued their stealthy munch munch munch. But the next spring they bounced back, good as new.
Although they are bred to be disease resistant, a few years ago Rose Rosette Disease (also known as Witches Broom), started attacking the Knock Outs in some parts of the United States (see Southern Living article), but it hasn’t affected mine so far. Knock on wood that it never moves this far north, but if does, then it’s game over and they all have to be dug up and discarded. Best to check with your local nursery to see if this virus, spread by mites via wind, is a problem in your area before buying.
While I do have other roses – an ancient climber,
with prolific blooms,
and a ‘John Cabot’ climber, (also very short this year due to the difficult spring), the Knock-Outs remain my favorites.
So if you are looking for an easy care rose which will provide beauty all summer long, these are the roses to pick!
PS. An old oil painting of my mothers.