Thursday, April 16, 2009

War of the Roses

(Tamora, a David Austin Rose with May Night salvia)

Roses are so beautiful, who doesn't love them? Gardeners devote inordinate amounts of time and money feeding, watering and grooming them. Many people paint and spray their roses with everything from manure tea to napalm trying to combat the 1001 insects and diseases that plague them.

Now the forsythia are blooming. It's time. I suit up in my body armor, grab two pruners and the loppers and go bravely forth to prune the roses. This is my least favorite garden chore because it always involves blood and pain.

This year I escaped with minor wounds. Abe Darby managed to sink three wicked thorns into the top of my head as I bent to reach the base. Note to self: Wear helmet. Even if I somehow escape blood loss while pruning, the roses will eventually win. They leave many vicious thorns behind on top of the soil just waiting for the gardener to pull a weed wearing only light weight summer gloves. Every one of those thorns will eventually find my fingers.

This year in my far northern climate, the rose canes had to be cut all the way back to the soil line. Even my Canadian roses lost most all of their cane to winter damage. They do bounce back amazingly well. By the end of May they will be about two feet tall and blooming. The thing that frustrates me most about growing roses in this hostile climate is that they will never reach any height. Wonderful ramblers and climbers that cover walls and roofs in the south will barely reach eight feet here before another harsh winter sets them back to ground zero.

A note to new gardeners: There are some heirloom roses that don't have thorns. Just wanted to mention that so you wouldn't decide all roses aren't worth the suffering they inflict. These heirlooms don't require toxic weapons to prevent disease and insects either.


My very first bloom of the 2009 season.

Just a common daffodil, nothing unusual. We've all seen a million of them on blogs since February when they began blooming in far southern gardens. This one is special to me because it means spring is finally here in northern Illinois. Before the grass is green, before the leaves cover the bare branches, here is the first spot of color in my garden.

Everyone have a wonderful weekend and enjoy whatever is blooming in your garden.


Susie said...

Hi Marnie, I was hurting just looking at those rose thorns. I have Knock-out roses that do the same thing. I cut them back in Feb. and you're right, that is the worse job. Ouch!!!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Marnie, LOL, I for one am not wild about roses. I've never grown any myself but I've cared for them for clients. Wednesday I struggled with two inordinately overgrown wild roses--with some canes 15 feet long and very entangled--and I have all kinds of scratches and pokes! I think you need one of those beekeeping suits! Have a good weekend.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Susie, I have one pink Knockout. It's not too bad. The Canadian Roses and Westerland are the worse. Ouch is right;)

Monica, it's the long canes that grab you when you reach down to the base. One cane holds your clothes so you can't escape while another claws at any exposed flesh;)


Anonymous said...

Those are some threatening looking canes! They always bite me when I go to prune them back too, but the flowers are worth the brief pain. :) Beautiful Daffs!

BeadedTail said...

I love roses but the thorns are always such an issue. I only have two rose plants in our yard so I spend a lot of time going to a rose garden in the park to get my rose fix without dealing with thorns.

Kathleen said...

lol, I can so relate. I just completed this task in my garden as well Marnie and came out battle-scarred exactly like you mentioned. I've never thought about getting head gear but I think it's a good idea! Good thing they are worth the scrapes, scratches and pricks when they're blooming. Interesting, mine had to be cut back much more than normal too and I think I lost all the hybrid teas (most I didn't plant). I have been blaming that on the wind which we had so much of this winter. Did you have more wind than usual too? or were you colder than normal? Happy Spring with the daffodil blooms. Aren't you happy we finally have them in our own gardens (instead of looking at them everywhere else!)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi PerennialGardener, you're right that's why we put up with the nonsense;)

BeadedTail, wise decision. Let somebody else deal with the pruning and spraying. The blooms are just as lovely if you didn't have to to it yourself.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Kathleen, I don't know why the winter was so hard on them this year. It wasn't colder than usual here and we had snow cover for much of the time which usually protects them. It was windy, that may be the cause. I'm afraid I've lost both Paul Neyrons (which are notoriously temperamental) and maybe Chicago Peace. Looks like only one good cane left on Pat Austin. I'm weaning myself away from the HT's and the Austins and going to old garden once bloomers.

Sue Ellen said...

I too love roses. The thorns will get me every time and you are so right about the ones on the ground. I have several Austin roses and a few hydrid teas. I pruned them when the forsythia was in bloom and we have had one pretty cold spell since then that knocked them back but I am hoping that I will still have a good bloom season.

Sherri said...

Marnie, I'm sorry your roses attack you. Then you won't want to get a William Lobb Moss Rose-they are loaded with tiny little thorns that "bite"! I guess one just has to be extra careful around these creatures!!

sweetbay said...

Yay, daffs and forsythia! You must be happy to see those.

I feel your pain. Every once in a while I have to go in and trim the deadwood out of Mermaid -- you've probably heard about Mermaid.... ;) The thing that gets me more than anything else is blackberry brambles. Those come up all over the place here. I hate to grab onto one of those things, when they are mixed in with grass and other weeds. Ouch!

troutbirder said...

Very nice. I loved my roses but when we moved into the woods I had to give them up. Not enough sun

joey said...

Marnie, your photos are stunning! I only have carefree but also thorny. Be carefull pruning ... I lopped off my left index finger (not pretty). Hugs ... your daff trumpets spring!

Gayle@Mountain Moma said...

My daffodils are blooming now as well, and my cherry tree.:)
I suppose I should prune my roses tomorrow. I always wonder if (when I am all scratched up) people wonder what kind of fight I was in. Would they believe one with the rose bush??

Northern Shade said...

The first bloom is always endearing, and much photographed. Your daffodil is a classic, cheery flower.
You forgot to wear your safety helmet before pruning the roses. Next time, you'll have to wear a hockey helmet with a face visor. :)

flydragon said...

Hi Marnie,
I love roses!!! The looks, the smell..I also don't have any myself:) except for 2 Knock Outs. I didn't think I had to prune them. I guess I'm wrong about that?
Whoo hoo on finally getting your daffys:)

A Wild Thing said...

Ahhhh...spring, finally here,as I played happily and wondering in my lost gardens raking and humming to the tune of Nature, we'll see what comes up from the deluge...ha!

Have a great weekend, rain and all!


walk2write said...

Ah yes, the rose pruning time. It's twice a year here in FL, at least for the Knockouts. I love your description of donning the battle gear, Marnie. A year before we left Illinois for the second time, I planted a Zephirine Drouhin (sp?) to climb up the deck railing. It's one of those thornless heirloom roses you were talking about. I wanted to go back last year and see how it was doing, but the guy who bought our house is kind of a prickly person, and I didn't think he would take kindly to us nosing around. Darn! I really wanted to see how the rose was doing. Have you ever grown one of them?

100 Thoughts of Love said...

I have tried and tried and roses just don't like me. Even these no easy to care for Knock out roses just aren't too happy with me!
I love them though and as always your photos are lovely!

Naturegirl said...

Hi Marnie! OUCH!! looking at those thorns brings back those painfull memories of clipping back. I have returned home from AZ where the roses were so plentifull!Mine in my Canadian garden like yours are just beginning to put out shoots,so it's time to get those special gloves on that come up to my elbow and start cutting back.
Nothing is blooming in my garden as yet..all I see is the necessary
winter damage and clean up.. :(

Rose said...

Marnie, Congratulations on that daffodil! And I'm so glad that spring has finally found its way to you. I love other people's gardens:) I know me, and I know I don't have the patience to do all the work that is required to grow beautiful tea roses. That's why I've stuck to my Knockouts, which require little care and not a lot of pruning. Of course, they still have thorns and then there are those darn Japanese beetles that like them as well as a fragrant tea rose.

Gail said...

Marnie, A common daffodil? Maybe! Beautiful? Absolutely! Your first bloom? A reason to celebrate!

Excellent title...and there is nothing worse then the cane to the head! I never think of protecting the head...but the face and eyes...need protection!


VW said...

A couple of weeks ago I spent 45 minutes trying to tease out a rose thorn that buried itself in my index finger. UGH! But that one was my fault - why do I so often end up gardening without going to get my gloves?

TC said...

Ms. Marnie, can I copy and paste this post and use it for mine? It's exactly how things are around here. And I too must start that thorny chore! The daffs and forsythia remind me it's time.

TC said...

One last thing, a suggestion; perhaps it's time to let the snow melt completely and use a new blog header image. The one you have is very pretty, but oh so cold for spring (however, we've had April snows, so maybe you should leave it until after May Day so as not to jinx spring's arrival).

Nan and =^..^= said...

Hi Marnie,
Hope you've had a good weekend of gardening and that the thorns of the roses were kind to you.
Here's a quote I love,
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns, I am thankful that thorns have roses."
Alphonse Karr

marmee said...

i am so glad for you that you are finally getting some spring coming your way. we are in full swing here and i am loving it. i grew roses on purpose in fl but here i have some wild ones. i love roses but they can be troublesome. i am really loving ranunculus, they look alot like roses only no thorns.

Balisha said...

Wicked Thorns!!!I think that I lost one rose bush. The knockouts are thriving. I guess those should be my roses. They are coming in different colors now.

Anonymous said...

The part that really relates---an unexpecting weeding glove that finds one of those thorns. You made it and we don't have to visit you in the hospital--do they have high speed access?

ChrisND said...

Love your first bloom of the season...thorns on any plant seem to find the gardener's unprotected hands or arms. Even on a hike I seem to get the prairie rose thorns in my shins! But they all look so nice.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Sue Ellen, one of those chores everybody dreads. Hope you didn't get serious damage from the freeze.

Hi Sherri, I'll remember not to get William Lobb;)

SweetBay, I've heard other people talk about pruning Mermaid;) For sure I don't need that one.

Hi Troutbirder, they aren't happy without full sun. Oh well, more birds in the woods;)


Roses and Lilacs said...

Oh my goodness, Joey, an accident like that would surely put me off pruning forever.

Hi Gayle, I know what you mean. I usually look like I went a few rounds with a wild cat.

Northern Shade, I have a construction hard hat, should have worn it;)

Hi Flydragon, you changed your avitar. I just prune out the dead wood, which is all wood in my northern zone.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hey Sharon, we really, really needed the rain here. This is all we've had this month. It should really make things pop.

Hi Walk2Write, Zephirine Drouhin isn't hardy here, I wish it was. I've seen photos of her growing into trees and on chains. Absolutely beautiful.

Hi Pat, roses aren't really that difficult to grow. Choose a variety that isn't prone to fungus disease like Knockouts or heirlooms.

Hi NatrueGirl, hope your roses are in better condition than mine. I lost all the cane on most.

Rose, the Japanese beetles is what has finally defeated me. As my everblooming roses die or have problems, I won't replace them. I'll have a few once blooming heirlooms instead.

Hi Gail, no body can possibly cover up every body part. The thorns will always find some flesh.

Hi VW, when they get embedded in the fingers, that's the worst.

TC, feel free to borrow the post and if we lived closer, I'd lend you my gauntlets and hard hat. The header will have to wait till I have some time--or something blooming to photograph. Forecast is calling for snow flurries tonight.

Hi Nan, you and Karr are right about the roses. That's why we put up with their thorny nonsense.

Marmie I've never grown ranunculus. Always thought of them as florists blooms. Saw some at Home Depot. Perhaps I'll try a few.

Hi Balisha, Knockouts are a wonderful rose. No disease, and always in bloom. Can't ask for more.

FlowerGardenGirl, I know what you mean. I have sore fingers all spring and summer.

Chris, me too. And wild raspberries tangle you up and scratch right thru your jeans.


Charmingdesigns said...

Oh my, I had such a wonderful time visiting your blog.It is wonderful!! Laurie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Laurie, thank you, what a nice comment to leave. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Hi Marnie,
Your pictures are exquisite! As common as the daffodil is, I still love to see them after such a long cold winter here on the Island. Thank you for sharing your pictures and your advice.


Catherine said...

Gorgeous Rose!! I love the David Austin roses~I have Heritage! Pruning roses not a favorite chore of mine, I've yet to find really good pruning gloves to keepy my arms & hands from getting so scratched up! Those are some vicious looking thorns,~but to me they make the rose even more beautiful!:)
Have a wonderful week!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
You're a better person and braver gardener than I! The thorns are a big reason I have absolutely no interest in growing roses (give me hibiscus any day!) ... not only do I not have the patience to putz with them, those thorns intimidate me. Same reason I always refuse Cleome plants people are always trying to give me. Those things are wicked as well and we were always afraid one of the dogs would get gored by them ... and as curious as Hanna is, I don't want her anywhere near roses or Cleome!

Glad you're successful with them though!

Niels Plougmann said...

I sometimes think roses have thorns to get their iron, from the blod dripping of those who grows them. I also know what you mean about having to prune roses so much down each year - even though the last 5 years have been record mild and warm here. Most Austins here have to start from a few inches, but at the end of the summer they were 6 feet tall again. I really admire someone growing roses in a cold climate - at least you can enjoy the first flush before the japanese beetles come. Hope you are well!