Gardening with Galligan: The month of roses

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Here’s the bed at the North Ferry! I was going to suggest to them that they plant a couple of bright pink climbing roses behind the catmint, but then thought better of it. We don’t really want compelling distractions, car crashes and fender benders on the ferry line.

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Here’s the bed at the North Ferry! I was going to suggest to them that they plant a couple of bright pink climbing roses behind the catmint, but then thought better of it. We don’t really want compelling distractions, car crashes and fender benders on the ferry line.

So, Gardeners all, I saw a terrific ad on television this week that I must bring to your attention. It begins with a little boy approaching a refrigerator. The door of the fridge then opens and the viewer sees the entire inside, stocked with nothing but bottles of water. The camera then pans to the little boy’s face. He’s horrified. The voiceover then says something like, “You wouldn’t just feed your child water, would you? So why are you doing that to your plants?” and then goes on to promote some plant food. Really, really good! So. You are feeding, aren’t you? By now, you should have done at least two, three would be better.

And realize that what you buy in pots for décor, etc., also needs to be fed. When you bring a plant home, if you don’t start feeding immediately it begins to go into shock. It’s really best, if you can swing it, to set up a watering station outside with everything you need. The easier you make the task, the more likely you’ll do it. And if you do it lightly with every watering, so much the better. But the important thing is to do it, one way or another.

Now, what’s really important in June, which is the month of roses? The answer is, to have something flowering, either lavender or purple but somewhere on that spectrum, that you can cut and add to your bowl of roses. Remember, it’s contrast, as well as color, that counts. I’m going to suggest two possibilities, either of which would work well.

The one I use is Salvia, variety East Friedland. It’s easy to grow, will tolerate shade, likes sandy soil and is virtually indestructible. It grows close to 20 inches, maybe a little more, tall enough to fill in the background for the rose display. The one I don’t use (because I have a cat and they roll around in it) and wish I could, because it’s wonderful is Nepeta faassenii, otherwise known as Catmint. You can see a huge bed of it (as in I’m green with envy) around the North Ferry Building.

The flowers come on stalks, and are lavender-blue, the foliage a sort of grayish green. It’s easily grown and should be cut back hard after blooming to promote next year’s bloom. The plant has a long history; it was known in Roman times for use in making herbal teas as well as an insect repellent. And it is still considered useful as an additive. As the flowers begin to bloom, harvest some leaves and spread them out in a cool, well-ventilated place, until dry. Then store the dried herb in an air-tight bag to preserve it. Add to soups and sauces. According to Google, “tea made from the leaves and flowers can be used for calming nerves and relieving coughs, congestion, and menstrual cramps.”

I did discover, reading about all this, that catmint is not nearly as attractive to cats as catnip. But I don’t dare grow any. Although I was thinking, hmmm … maybe … just one? Far enough away to … It’s so pretty!

See you next month, happy June!

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