Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Knocking Out My Roses

From the Gardens of Cheesecake Farms


I am so hopping mad at the way my Knock Out roses look this morning that I'm ready to throw in the trowel!

I've been struggling with my (once) gorgeous Knock Out roses for the past few years.

Red, pink, palest yellow.... I have about 20 bushes.  My front garden was a blaze with carefree, gorgeous color all season long.  Their delicate, multilayered petals danced in gentle breezes.  Glorious!  

I cut them for arrangements.  Never had to spray.  
Knock Outs were a dream come true!

Then, 2 or 3 years ago, I started noticing that they were getting spindly.

"Prune them back hard," a gardening pal said.  So I did. 

Blossoms started to decline.  A few bushes shriveled up and died.  Then the deer started eating them - a sure sign that something was wrong.

"Fertilize them with 10-10-10," someone said.

"Give them aspirins."

"Spray the leaves with baking soda and water."

I did everything everyone told me.  Nothing helped. 

Spring is rolling around and, even though it was a mild winter here in Virginia this year, my Knock Outs look, well, knocked out.

So this morning, I took to the internet.
Guess what I found?

It's not me.   It's the plant!

Knock Out gardeners everywhere reported the same thing.... 
On average, Knock Out rose bushes live only about 6 years.

Mine are 10 years old.  No wonder they look so bad!

Traditional rose bushes can easily live 30, 50 or even 100 years.
One gardener even reported a 1000 year old bush growing in Germany.

All the tips my garden pals were giving me would have certainly helped traditional, long life roses but on short life Knock Outs, they made no difference. 

Knock Outs were introduced to the market in 1999 so there is no history on their performance.

One gardener went so far as to say she thought they were bred to have a short life so you would have to replace them.  Ouch! 

So, I'm going to pull them out and pitch them.
I'll replace a few I'm sure (because I do like them) but Knock Outs seem to be the annual of the rose world - a very expensive annual!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Weeding Out Mother Nature's First Responders

From the Gardens of Cheesecake Farms

Your garden soil is a labyrinth of networking life forms.

When you dig and disturb the soil, Mother Nature sends out a distress call to protect the habitat.  

Like magic, tiny plants emerge to repair soil damage and fill in bare spots preventing erosion.

We call them weeds.

Mother calls them her first responders.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pruning as Prayer


As Master Gardener, I learned that there is an optimal time to prune trees, bushes and just about anything in the garden.  And, like most people, I usually miss that window vowing to do better the next time the window comes around but I never do.

It recently occurred to me that there are a lot of people out there giving gardening advice and, although some of it is pretty much the same, a lot of it depends on the garden and the gardener.  

So this morning, with clippers in hand, I went out and pruned my "desperately in need of pruning" roses.  It may not have been the most optimal, by the book time to prune but it was the only time I had so I pruned.  And, guess what?  They'll be fine….. and why shouldn't they be?  I prayed over each and every one.

Well, maybe praying is not exactly the right word.  Praying implies that I was asking God to spare my roses from bad pruning.  It was more like meditating actually, a freeing focus on my task that cleared, quieted and refreshed my mind.

I got as much out of pruning as my roses did.  We both got the dead wood cut away and new places were created for fresh spring growth.   

Here's the key to pruning regardless of when you do it.....  never prune away more than about 1/2 the bush at one time.  You can always prune less but never more. 

If you cut away more than half the bush at one time, you will without doubt shock the plant and it may well die.  Sounds a little like people, doesn't it?  Cut away too much of who we are and we will no, doubt die, too.

After you're done pruning, leave the bush alone for 1 growing season.  It needs to get itself together.  People need to get themselves together, too... hence the happy hour, the weekend get-away and the shopping spree.

Timid about pruning?
Prune a little then stop.  Come back another time and see if you want to prune some more.  You can spread pruning over weeks.  You don't have to commit to anything all at once.

One last thought.... pruning is not cutting blossoms for the vase.  Pruning is shaping and molding and getting the bush to fit into its environment.  Cutting blossoms for the vase is just taking a little bit off the top.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How To Tell If Your Garden or Landscape Is Healthy

Bringing life to your garden

A healthy garden grows

A healthy garden or landscape  is alive with activity. 

There's lots of birds, bugs and butterflies.  Hummingbirds, too, and bees.  

When your garden is alive, it will grow and produce abundantly.  If there's no life, it will shrivel and die.   That's true for people, too. 

Bugs?   Did I say bugs?   Yes indeed!

A healthy garden needs LOTS of bugs.  Good bugs.  Lots and lots of good bugs.

Here's how it works:
Healthy plants attact good bugs.  Good bugs pollinate the plants and keep away the bad bugs.

Look closely!  
A good bug is
 hiding in fern-y dill and carrot tops.
It rewards us by turning into
a gorgeous butterfly! 
Birds eat bugs (both good and bad) and gently nestle the leaves of the     plants which helps with pollination, too.

Birds also leave their droppings which help fertilize the plants.  Droppings often contain a "volunteer" plant seed which is a gift from Mother Nature.  Birds bring their beauty and song to your garden, too.

But wait, there's more.... bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, birds' nests with tiny eggs, toads, even the ocassional kitty - all bring life to your garden.

Brightly colored flowers
attact birds, bees and butterflies
It's easy to pump up the volume of activity in your garden and attact birds, bugs and butterflies.  Just add brightly colored flowers (like zinnias) and a water feature (like a bird bath).  Skip chemical pesticides and weed killers.  It won't take long for your garden to come alive.

Whether it's gorgeous flowers, abundant vegetables or just a perfectly manicured lawn that you're after, your Garden of Eden should be as congested as Times Square on New Years Eve.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pliers - The Quick and Easy Way to Pull Out Thorn-y Vines

By Karla Jones Seidita
Home Economist & Master Gardener

It's May and I'm embarrassed to tell you that today is really the first day I have been in the garden this spring.  But last night, as I fell into bed, I vowed to get up and get into the garden before breakfast.  No excuses!

We've been so busy here at Cheesecake Farms (with a calendar chock full of guests - even mid week which is unusual for us) that I've hardly had a moment to spare.  Plus, we just had the outside of the Mane House painted - deck and all - so I was hesitant about doing any real planting for fear the painters would step on everything and break bushes with tarps.  But now the painting is over.

So this morning, as the sun came up and I opened my eyes, I got excited about getting into the garden.  No marathon mind you... just a pleasant hour or so of fresh air and sunshine.  I made myself a cup of coffee and headed out with my favorite tool....a pair of pliers.

I can hear you laughing but pliers are the perfect tool for pulling out nasty, thorn-y vines.  Just grab the vine with your pliers and pull.  Out it comes!!   The closer to the ground and the base of the vine you position the pliers the better.   

Happy Gardening!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Winter Garden - Dreaming About Spring

Dream'n About Spring
By Karla Jones Seidita
Home Economist & Master Gardener

Thinking about spring?

You're not alone!

Every gardener longs for the spicy scent of spring's early thaw.

This is a good time of your to plan a little before the gardening rush begins.

As you dream about the beauty of a manicured lawn, carefully pruned bushes and the beds of bulbs, think about the activity of your landscape.

A healthy garden or landscape will have lots of birds, bugs and butterflies.   Hummingbirds, too, and bees.  Your Garden of Eden should be as congested as Times Square on New Years Eve.   

Without activity and buzzing around, your garden might as well be filled with plastic flowers because it has ho life.

To pump up the volume of activity in your garden, attract birds and butterflies by adding brightly colored flowers (like zinnias) and a water feature like a bird bath.  

Forget pesticides and weed -killers.  Don't be afraid to let the bugs come.  They'll make a hearty dinner for the birds who'll reward you with their beauty and grace.

It won't take long for your garden to come alive.  The more activity in your garden, the healthier it is!!!