Monday, June 18, 2018

A Rose is a Story

Rose shrubs are practically "older than dirt." I say that very fondly knowing my grandparents and relatives often used that expression, plus they grew roses. Roses have been around for at least 35 million years. See what I mean? We know they are that old because rose fossils have been discovered, documented and photographed in the Herbarium at Florissant National Monument, just down the road from Denver. Worth checking out for sure.

Internet photo
I wonder if the 35 million old rose growers assigned names to their roses like we do today? Can't answer that one forward to World War II. Yes, a war story, but this one has a very happy ending.

The stories behind the naming of roses is a blog unto itself, thank goodness there is an excellent book about this very topic by Stephen Scanniello and Douglas Brenner named "A Rose by Any Name."

The authors do a great job tackling the "thorny task" of writing about the provenance and names of several roses - old and new, many surrounded by scandal, romance and lore you'd never think to make up. My focus is the naming of the ever popular hybrid tea 'Peace' rose - a favorite of so many gardeners, the number as high or higher than one hundred million around the world. 

'Peace' rose is a newly minted forever stamp - honored in April by the United States Postal Service and the American Rose Society as one of the most popular roses of all time. One other piece of trivia - the rose is the official nation flower of America, designated as such in 1986 by Congress. I've read where it beat out the marigold and lilac - go roses!

Bet you have one in your garden, maybe it's time to plant a 'Peace' rose and add to your collection.

The 'Peace' rose story...

It was a dark and stormy night, no, that's not the beginning, but maybe. In 1935 while the Germans were planning and soon carrying out the occupation of Europe, rose seedling number 3-35-40 was growing in a trial rose garden by Francis Meilland. Francis was the son of Antoine Meilland who in 1850 founded Meilland International SA, a family owned rose growing business in south eastern France.

Francis was expert in rose breeding and bringing them to market through distributors all over the world, including America. In 1939 Francis invited some of his international growers to view No. 3-35-40 - a very large, full petaled canary yellow, pink edged fragrant, beautiful rose. They liked what they saw so orders were placed by his customers in Germany, Italy and the United States. The two former countries received their rose orders, but not his American distributor in Pennsylvania. Something got in the way of the shipment, a little period in world history called the Nazi occupation. 

Frances Meilland
Now we're getting to the "stormy night" part of the story. Once France was occupied, nurseries were ordered to grow food crops for their troops and people. Francis complied by plowing under a couple hundred thousand rose bushes to make room to grow pumpkins, cabbages, rutabagas and more crops. He kept a little patch of land for his special roses. 

In 1940 important diplomats were getting out of dodge (France) quickly. This included the American consul in Lyon who was asked by Francis Meilland to smuggle a packet of 3-35-40 bud eyes out of the country and through his dispatch hand deliver them to Robert Pyle of the Conard-Pyle Company in West Grove, PA. Yes, it was literally the last plane out of France. No doubt Ingrid and Bogie comes to mind.
'Peace' Rose from Edmund's Roses
Later, during the war Francis named his special yellow blend rose 'Madame Antoine Meilland' after his deceased mother. It was also being sold in Germany as 'Gloria Dei' ("glory of God" in Latin). In Italy it was called 'Gioia' ("joy"). It wasn't until 1944 and the liberation of France that he learned in a letter that 'Madame Antoine Meilland' made it to Robert Pyle who was growing and cultivating the rose in America. 

The letter from Robert Pyle read "my eyes are fixed in fascinated admiration on a glorious rose, its pale gold, cream and ivory petals blending to a lightly ruffled edge of delicate carmine. I am convinced it will be the rose of the century."

On the same day Berlin fell to the Allies - April 29, 1945, rose No. 3-35-40 was officially named 'Peace' at the Pacific Rose Society exhibition. According to Stephen Scanniello and Douglas Brenner from their book, Robert Pyle paid a higher royalty fee (33%) for 'Peace' instead of the customary 15%, but asked for exclusive rights to market the rose. No matter the loss of sole proprietorship, the Meilland family was happy and making huge profits in royalties. Robert Pyle was rewarded with considerable profits as well, he sent Francis and his family a grand thank you gift - a new model 1946 Chevrolet sedan!

'Peace' Forever Stamp - April 2018
If you like 'Peace' rose and many other roses, your opportunity to enter a judged rose show is fast approaching. The Denver Rose Society is hosting their annual rose show on June 30, 2018 at Denver Botanic Gardens in Mitchell Hall. First time exhibitors are encouraged to give exhibiting a try. 

There's no charge to enter the rose show, you just need to grow the roses yourself, the exception is the photography entries. The theme this year is "Around the World in 80 Roses," which means several of the categories to enter follow this fun theme. Read the entire rose show schedule at this LINK. Click on 2018 Rose Show Schedule. If you have specific questions about exhibiting please contact the Denver Rose Society HERE. A volunteer will be on hand to assist first time exhibitors.

If you wish to just check out the exhibited roses and winners, please stop by Mitchell Hall at 1:00 pm on June 30. No charge to sniff and view the roses, just pay entrance to DBG if you're not a member of the Denver Rose Society or Denver Botanic Gardens.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Time to Cut Garlic Scapes

If you planted garlic last fall and live along the Front Range, then it's probably time to cut the flower scapes on your hardneck varieties. It's important to cut them down now so they'll focus the next couple of weeks before harvest on growing a larger bulb. Softneck varieties do not grow a flower scape.

In my garden the garlic is about two weeks ahead of the normal time to cut scapes, which means you may be ahead as well, so we'll be harvesting earlier too. 

Cut a couple of inches above where the scape grows from the plant, there's really no major right or wrong, just cut enough so you'll have plenty of length to saute or grill. The scape is fairly woody (stiff) closer to the plant so that's why I cut a couple of inches above that part.

Below are links to a couple of past blogs on garlic so click for more information-

Glorious Garlic Scapes

Garlic Harvest - Fall Planted 

Also, check out the video I did a few years ago with the Denver Post on harvesting garlic. If it doesn't open, please click on the link below.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Summer isn't Summer without Basil

My garden life wouldn't be complete without growing basil (Ocimum basilicum) every summer. I suspect you're in the same camp. Today I direct seeded two containers and will seed every few weeks all summer. It's one of the easiest herbs to germinate and grow to your heart's pesto desire.
'Red Rubin' Basil and Golden Sage

There are over 160 varieties of basil. Pick your favorites. The purple leaves of ‘Dark Opal’ or ‘Red Rubin’ are a wonderful contrast to the usual green varieties, they taste great and add a pop of color to green salads. 'Purple Ruffles' produce large leaves making them a pretty culinary garnish or a very attractive plant in containers or beds.

Try the large leaf varieties 'Italian Large Leaf' or 'Napoletano' and use in place of lettuce in sandwiches. They are large enough to use as chicken or fish wraps.
'Napoletano' Large Leaf Basil
Scented basils add a unique flavor to dishes and can be used to make jams, jellies and vinegars and teas. They include lemon, lime, cinnamon, and licorice basil. 'Sweet Thai' is served in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Basil leaves are used for seasoning Italian dishes and are the main ingredient of pesto sauce. Use the traditional 'Genovese' variety for authentic pesto flavor.  

Basil prefers well-drained, amended soil. Use new potting soil for containers (see my video below, or click HERE if it doesn't open). Keep the seedbed moist during germination, and watered throughout the growing season, the soil can dry a bit between waterings. Basil prefers full sun with late afternoon shade. For the best flavor avoid over fertilizing basil unless the soil is very depleted of nutrients. 

Pinch off flower spikes as they form. This will maintain basil’s full flavor. Harvest leaves regularly during the growing season. Cut or pinch directly above a set of leaves so the plant becomes more bushy. Start harvesting early, at the four leaf stage - younger leaves taste the best, especially when tossing into salad.  
'Lettuce Leaf' basil in Smart Pots®

Although not university research-tested, companion planting with basil is said to repel insects such as aphids, mites, tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles. Whether true or not, basil looks great inter-planted throughout the entire garden. Basil is vulnerable to slugs, whitefly, spider mites and Japanese beetles. Fusarium wilt, a fungus can attack plants leaving them yellow, stunted with discolored stems. Rotate where basil is planted each year and look for resistant varieties if you've had disease issues. My plants came down with downy mildew a few summers ago so I'm seeding in Smart Pots®. I cover the plants with inexpensive veil from the fabric store to prevent Japanese beetle damage.

Cut or pinch leaves directly above a set of leaves
Basil leaves can be preserved by freezing or drying. Remove leaves from stems, then rinse, then dry with a salad spinner. Toss leaves (not stems) in a food processor with oil. Chop well, add more oil if needed, the mixture shouldn't be dry but not too oily. Freeze in small containers. For quicker processing, rub olive oil on leaves first then place in ice cube trays or bags. Dry plants by hanging them upside down in a dry area. Crumble leaves and place in an airtight container to use all year. Dried leaves don't taste nearly as good as fresh or frozen, but they are better than store purchased dried.

Internet Photo from
To end a stressful day steep one teaspoon of dried basil leaves with a cup of boiling water. Cool and add ice if you prefer chilled. It's goods for the digestive system, but even better for your outlook even if your outlook doesn't need improving!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Japanese Beetle Battle Plan for 2018

Adult Japanese Beetles on Siberian Elm Weed Trees
Welcome to the first 2018 blog about Japanese beetles. If only the topic could be something more fun and more important like peace on earth.

Maybe next time.

Sigh. There's no better way to prepare for the imminent arrival of adult Japanese beetles then to face the reality together. They will be showing up soon to begin their plant eating carnage. What's your management plan? I'm calling my plan - "battle readiness in four steps." 

First, as difficult as it may seem - wrap your head around the fact that JB management is ongoing from first sighting on your favorite plant (s) to sometime in September when their numbers wane. There is no one fix all/kill all application for adult beetles and their egg-larvae offspring (both stages can be treated). Well there is one fix all but that would require moving to Alaska or the Caribbean. 

Second, determine if and how you'll remove or manage the adult beetles all summer as they keep coming and coming and coming - just like the mail.

Third, determine if and how you'll treat your turf where they lay their eggs - you know, the next generation - 2019 beetles. 

Four, act on your plan.

The good news for determining two through four is that Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University entomologist extraordinaire has revised his very informative and helpful fact sheet on the Japanese beetle. Find it HERE.

I suggest printing the fact sheet and reading it carefully. Pay attention to their life cycle (one year) and realize that effective management involves dealing with both adult beetles and their offspring. Dr. Cranshaw includes excellent management recommendations for both life stages. Circle the ones that make the most sense to you based on your time and pocketbook. Some products are pricey if you choose to use them regularly. Other controls sell out very quickly from mail order companies. 

Dr. Cranshaw has helped us tremendously with control details on the fact sheet by listing common names for the products, trade names, persistence tips, whether it's okay for food crops and the ever important pollinator hazard information.

Action - You may opt to do nothing - no management. You'll just complain to anyone around you who will listen, trust me from experience, eventually they will ask you to please stop complaining. Maybe they will pack your bags.

The most rewarding and immediate control method is to flick adults into soapy water in the morning or evening when they are sluggish and easy to flick. Keeping the numbers down actually reduces more beetles from joining the eating party on your plants. What attracts them to the plants is the plant oils released by beetle chewing (called congregation feeding), so less beetle chewing means less beetle visits. The research on Japanese beetles says that it is fine to squish or pinch adults on the spot. Their smushed parts do not attract more beetles to the area - it's the chewed plant oils that put out the welcome sign.

I know retired people who flick beetles on their infested plants twice a day. I don't think they are available for hire. If they did, their business card might read - 
Japanese Beetle Removal - The Number One Firm in Flicking
"We flick so you don't have to"
Personally, it's not easy for me to flick since Japanese beetles mainly dine on the tall silver lace vines that border our property. The beetle numbers are overwhelming, so I will use two, possibly three organic products this summer to kill adults. Remember - there are several management choices.
Silverlace Vine

My plan includes using a neem product containing azadiractin and Btg, also known as beetleJUS!™ which is one of the mail order products that sells out quickly. I'll also hand pick reachable beetles and hope for Glinda, the good witch to show up and cast a removal spell on all Japanese beetles on the planet - now we're talking peace on earth. 

I also plan on mowing less often - keep the lawn on the tall side which adult females don't like. Their preference for egg laying is moist, low cut grass. Keeping the lawn on the drier side during egg laying (June when they emerge till gone) is also effective on egg mortality. Just use care to keep any trees in or near lawns watered so they aren't stressed.

For grub control I will use a one-time only needed application of Acelepryn. This is a granular product that is safe around people, pets and pollinators - provided no blooming clover or dandelions are around which bees may be visiting. Always mow prior to application of any granular product. I will apply Acelepryn by mid-June. 

As we enter the 2018 Japanese beetle season - for additional information you're welcome to view my Google website on JB management in Colorado. In one place you'll find additional research-based fact sheets, plant lists JBs prefer and mostly avoid and more. Find the link HERE.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Got Wet Garden Soil?

If you're happy about the recent rain storms then clap your garden gloved hands! Apologies to areas that got hit with hail, unfortunately that's often a common denominator in Colorado spring and summer thunderstorms. The white pebbles missed us in central Denver, but we're not out of the woods for next time - that goes for all of us. 

In case you're wondering about planting after the rain, check your soil first. It's important to wait until soils dry out to give your new plants the ideal conditions for their new home in your garden. Here's another one of my Denver Post videos from spring of 2015 about this very subject.

Click HERE if embed video doesn't open.