At least it seems to have stopped raining and the week’s forecast looks good. (I write these columns a full week before you read them, so sometimes it’s hard to be actually timely.) Not that any of us believe anything any more, but hopefully …
I want to begin by telling you something that has nothing to do with roses or June but is something you do need to know and know now. When you buy a plant in a really well-run nursery, especially if it’s a large one, like the Glass House in Jamesport for example, be aware that their nursery-wide watering system does not just water. The water is actually laced with a one-third percent fertilizing solution. So every time they water, they’re feeding as well.
When that plant is brought home, if it’s just watered every day, its experience is going to be along the lines of, “Hey! What gives?” And it’s going to be majorly disappointed. And you know what happens when a plant is majorly disappointed. So set up your watering system accordingly. I just keep an open container of fertilizer and a spoon next to my watering can. You don’t need to be any kind of fussy. Just make the water light blue. Then pour.
Now a few words about roses, yes, the “Queen of Flowers!” Everyone loves them, everyone grows them. And that’s been true for centuries – wild roses have been found as fossils, dating back to 40 million years ago. That’s called a long time. It’s believed that they originated in Central Asia, spread across the Northern Hemisphere, but, inexplicably, never crossed the Equator. No wild roses have ever been found in the Southern Hemisphere. That apparently has nothing to do with heat, since they grow abundantly in the heat of North Africa as well as in the heat of India.
It’s worth noting that wild roses do not resemble cultivars at all. Instead of the familiar globes with tightly inter-weaved petals, they actually look more like apple blossoms — one layer of five petals, a “single” in horticultural terms. This open form is most useful and may account for the plants’ longevity, since it exposes the pollen for easy transmission by insects and wind. The plant’s chances of reproduction, then, are clearly enhanced. And so they’ve managed well without human help, since before humans were actually around.
There was a time, it should be noted, when the rose was less valued for its beauty than for its medicinal value. Extracts were made from dried petals and used in medicines and ointments of many kinds. Rose hips — the hip is what appears on the stem after the flower fades and drops off — is an excellent source of Vitamin C. In England during WWII when all supplies of citrus fruit were completely cut off, the hips were made into jelly and syrup, and dispensed to the children.
One word about roses in America and gardeners will surely understand this. When immigrants came to America, the space they had in which to pack their worldly goods was limited. But, and this is significant, roses travel bare root. Many women, at least I always imagine them as women, dug up their precious bushes which they’d tended so carefully for so long, cut them back severely, placed them at the bottom of their trunks, and packed the rest of their clothes carefully around them. Being a physical coward basically, I don’t think I ever would have been brave enough to leave. But if I had, that’s exactly what I would have done.
See you in July!