Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

Member Articles


The membership of our Club includes gardeners from all walks of life, and with many different gardening experiences.  

In this space, we invite anyone, from master gardeners to folks who just like to garden, to submit articles to share with the membership of our Club.

To find out more, or to post your article, contact the webmaster.
  • January 09, 2017 7:15 PM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    Taking An Unremarkable Row House Garden


    To An Urban Oasis



    In the fall of 2015, I moved to Washington DC to embrace a recently renovated 1908 Rowhouse that was originally a 4 unit brick apartment building with what was left of a grass backyard, bricked front yard and a fenced alley.  After a gutted renovation, the Builder left us with a tall order of reworking 18 boxwoods, 2 hydrangeas, 10 laurels and only one water spigot.  I did benefit from an open palette to transform an unremarkable space into an urban oasis with a focus on: color, native plants & pollinators, movement, interest in all seasons & low water requirements.


    Planning began with the rigor of any new landscape to start with a soil test (from Virginia Extension-Virginia Tech), installation of additional water spigot and a diagram of the space—know what you have and design what you want before you buy what you need.  Tapping into local resources from the Capital Hill Garden Club (Pat Hanrehan & Carol Edwards) as well as co-opting local nurseries & the Arboretum, I began to pull together a diagram that relied heavily on unique plants, pollinators, flowing grasses and anchored specimens, with a color scheme of yellows and blues, white and bright green.


    Timing was everything due to a late Spring and after several months of research, consultation and plant/design negotiation, thankfully I was ready with direction from a local landscaper to install the plants and irrigation (June 1, 2016), which included significant mending of the soil since clay is King in Capitol Hill and no friend of pollinators.  As you can see from the pictures, the anchor specimen plants range from a Pom-Pom Juniper Topiary to a Coral Bark Maple, Hollywood Juniper & Rising Sun Redbud, which anchors each corner of the house.   One surprise feature that has really towered & keeps performing is the yellow Golden Showers climbing rose next to the front door (thanks to idea from Garden Club member Carol E).  Recycling and reusing most of the pre-existing boxwoods & laurels, the landscape was warmed with azaleas, camellias, fothergilla gardenia, baptisia, thermopsis chinesis, caryopteris, sanvitalia, salvia, blue fescue & Mexican feather grasses and Bloomstruck Hydrangeas, including a Limelight tree (Paniculata) Hydrangea, while ringing the fence with abelias, euphorbia & coreopsis.  To create a bit of privacy, I rimmed the patio with Schip Laurels, which creates a screen but not a barrier for neighborly conversation.  And, to punctuate the sunset west corner, a Rising Sun Redbud surrounded by red-tipped Panicum Grasses and Dee Runk Boxwoods on the alley perimeter.


    Throughout the floor of the garden are scattered partial shade plants, including hosta, coral bells, hellebores and a variety of ferns to name just a few.   Herbs are scattered near the patio, close to the kitchen.   Mazus reptans, (a steppable) creates a fun, walkable pathway to traverse the new environs.


    Many thanks to Gardens for All Seasons, Ginko Gardens & Hampton Nursery, Behnke & Valley View Farms and (hole-digger/plant mover) husband Joe+



















  • January 09, 2017 7:00 PM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    Gardening In Buffalo, NY


              By Stephen Bauer


    I lived most of my life in the suburbs of Buffalo NY. A surprise to many, Buffalo is a very interesting place - wonderful garden culture; gilded age, ordinance protected housing; smart, creative, free thinking, well educated people (hippies); many excellent theaters and cultural events.<< We expected to relocate to Washington DC and I wanted to experience Buffalo before moving. In September 2013, I rented an inexpensive apartment in a duplex home built in 1920 (367 Pennsylvania Ave) across from Kleinhan's Music Hall. I left behind a very mature, very lovely garden built over 20 years and well loved.


    The apartment was located near the heart of the city. The green space about the apartment was depressing however. The backyard was covered by thatch, weeds, an 11' by 31' deck of broken asphalt, piles of debris, and garbage cans. The yard was a little more than 40' deep. Former occupants had planted gardens and trees, now long dead and abandoned. The soil was thin or none on top of clay, rusting pipes, and buried bricks and glass. It turns out that in the early 1900's, a farrier shop was located at the rear of the property. All of the junk associated with decades of business,<< human garbage such as bottles and cans, and eventually the building itself including bricks, foundation stones, lintels, wooden beams, nails, etc were buried in the yard that I viewed out of the back window of my apartment.


    No matter what else Buffalo gave to me, I was heart broken every time I recalled the garden I left behind. Linda, knowing what I felt, urged me to build a garden if possible. I approached the owner in February 2014 and proposed to build the garden with my own funds and efforts. I showed them pictures of my former garden and they told me I could do whatever I wanted (!). I took their permission literally and designed and built the garden for both of us.


    In March. April 2013 I bought a shovel, mattock, garden fork, lightweight plastic wheelbarrow, and a few hand tools. I cleaned up and disposed of the above ground debris piles. The asphalt was stripped off, piled, and disposed into the large trash cans to one-quarter full over two months. With asphalt removed, beneath another foot of crushed blue stone I found the farrier shop foundation, stones, bricks, lintels and debris piles. I dug up and piled the blue stone and bricks, foundation stones, and lintels. The glass, cans, nails, rotted wood, broken bricks, rusty pipes, and similar... I dug up and trashed.


    In May, June 2013 I purchased organic fertilizers, crushed pine bark mulch, cow manure and compost. With a little patience, you can save money by obtaining composted manure from farms and stables and composted grass and leaves from municipal sources. I hand dug and amended beds on the left and right sides of the yard. This included breaking up and reburying several large root systems. Where the root systems were broken up and mulch added, the soil was wonderfully improved. I eventually unearthed three or four cubic yards of blue stone and a little less of bricks. The blue stone was used to construct a sitting area and path. Some bricks were used to unobtrusively 'fence' invasive plants such as Japanese anemone.


    The rear or the yard faced west and had large trees behind. The yard left was south and edged by broken canopy mid-sized trees and the yard right was north and edged by shrubs and again mid-sized trees. The yard had a few patches of shade but was predominantly in part sun to full sun. Average annual rainfall in Buffalo and Washington DC is about 41' but Washington's planting zone (7a) is a little warmer than Buffalo's (6a). The overall garden design would be informal but reflect Japanese garden concepts.

    The foundation stones and entrance lintel from the farriers shop were quite large with the lintel weighing upwards of 600 pounds. The smaller foundation stones became step stones on the winding path designed by Linda. I managed to place the larger foundation stones as features throughout the garden. However, the best we could do for the lintel was to push it with pry bars into the middle of our blue stone 'sitting area'. Aspirationally, we purchased two concrete bench legs from Home Depot for $25 (the bench seat was broken!) upon which the lintel would sit. A few days later, I visited a neighborhood party and enjoyed a few beers in company perhaps mentioning our lintel dilemma. Later that day, I came home to find that six young men had roped and lifted the lintel into place. A very nice act on their part!


    In order to populate the garden, I needed lots of somewhat mature plants. I found about a dozen 'mowed perennials' growing in the yard (bachelor buttons, dragons blood sedum, Kamchatka sedum, day lilies, Irish moss, dew berries, raspberries, prairie malva, morning glory). I contacted my plant friends and obtained divisions for about twenty perennials (hostas, lilies, sweet woodruff, rhubarb, Japanese anemone, Solomon seal), shrubs and vines (mountain laurel, a sprig of Chinese wisteria). I watched for sales (tiarella, fern leaf bleeding heart, St Johns Wort x2) and distressed plants (clematis) at Lowes and Home Depot. At Aldis and Kmart I found wonderful, very inexpensive woody plants (redbud, sand cherry, pussy willow, rose bushes x3, Nishiki willow). Different woody plants were carried by Aldis for a few weeks at a time throughout the Spring and Summer, so we needed to check in regularly.


    I'm a long time member of Buffalo's Urban Roots Garden Club. From Urban Roots, I purchased a few favorites at large discount (nine bark, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, corydalis) with additional discounts for end of year sales (Japanese thread leaf maple). Several perennials cane from construction sites (achellia, hardy geraniums, Irish moss,...). I added a few annuals (most notably amaranth 'love lies bleeding', marigolds, portulaca) were added. Finally, I sprinkled a annual / perennial (1st year flowering) seed mix in a 4' by 4' space I wasn't initially sure about. The following year, I pulled out a few plants and kept plants that fit. Overall, the garden eventually had about 50 perennials, 12 shrubs, two vines, and three trees plus the annuals and <<< was pretty much developed during the May-August 2013 interval.


    I didn't spend a lot of money on this project - about $700 over two years. I also wanted the garden to require little maintenance. I moved to Washington DC mid-May 2014. However, I showed in the Buffalo Garden Walk at the end of July 2014. I flew up to Buffalo before the Walk to water and primp for two days. I also added labels to all of the plants with common and scientific names. Our friends and neighbors had been very generous to share plants and help us build the garden. As we were moving to Washington DC, we decided to return this generosity. Some plants, especially woody shrubs and trees, were labelled to remain. A few plants were promised to friends. The other plants could be and were dug up and taken to new homes during the Garden Walk. About 150 people visited our garden over two days and the entire experience was lovely and deeply rewarding




    2013, Beginning




    2013, Early Work




    2013, Basic Layout




    2013, Midsummer Evening




    2013, Late Summer



  • December 23, 2016 7:54 AM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    The Meyer Lemon Tree Story


                         by Barbara Marks


    First I should say that I fell in love with the fragrance of citrus blossoms when as a teenager I visited my aunt on Long Island. She had a true orangerie, so that even in winter we could sit in the humid warmth of the place surrounded by the wonderful smell of the flowering trees. Skip ahead 50 to 60 years, my husband and I were in Alabama and there was a small Meyer lemon tree for sale at a farm stand. It already had some lemons growing on it. I bought it and put it in the back seat of the car for the long drive home. 


    I knew that Washington was not the ideal climate and living in a townhouse on the Hill, I would have to move it inside in winter. The tree seemed to be doing well, blossoms appeared in December. But soon they dropped without forming the nubs that grow into fruit. I complained to someone who said citrus trees need a lot of sun. So I put the tree back outside in the summer where it thrived- lots of green leaves. Where to put this little tree for the coming winter? My sunniest room in winter is the kitchen. So last winter the tree sat on the kitchen floor right next to the door to the back yard. I had to move it to get into the large pantry cabinet and walk carefully around it going in and out. And every day that was warm and sunny, I lugged the tree out to the deck for an even better dose of sun. Ta dah! This time the blossoms didn’t drop, the nubs formed and this summer on the deck they turned into respectable lemons, green at first, taking along time, (months) to become yellow. I got a total of 12 lemons! 


    The tree is now back in the kitchen and some little white buds are appearing, next to the 6 lemons still on the tree. It makes a great meringue pie and a wonderful lemon custard. 


    So I am back to sharing my small kitchen with my small tree. It is only 3 feet tall, but 3 ½ feet wide. It takes up important space, but I am so proud of it, so happy with the blossoms and lemons. There is a certain amount of inconvenience incurred because of the placement of the tree in winter. It was a lot better for traffic when it occupied a north facing window in my living room. Kate, my cat, scuttles under it to get out the door. Humans have to walk around it and I have to move it from the front of my pantry cabinet whenever I need a roasting pan or serving platter, but hey, small potatoes. My little tree is producing and giving me that delicious smell. So what if its in the kitchen and not the living room as I had hoped. Plants are a little like children. They insist on doing it their way.



  • March 04, 2016 12:30 AM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    Two National Gardens in our Neighborhood


    The United States Botanic Garden at Maryland and First St S.W. is familiar to most of us and an easy walk or bus ride from anywhere on the Hill. Consisting of the Conservatory, the National Garden and Bartholdi Park, the Botanic Garden offers educational and cultural programs and special exhibits as well as being a museum of plant life.  On a cold day, the Conservatory offers the opportunity to visit a hot dry desert or a moist hot jungle. Among the upcoming programs are the Botanic Garden Production Facility Open House on March 12, a lecture March 19th, Creating Stunning Plant Communities, and for brewers on April 8, the Science of Fermentation.  For more information www.usbg.gov.  

          

    Special seasonal exhibits this year include the “Flora of the National Parks”, with lectures and art work in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System through October 2nd and Orchids in Focus through April 16th.


    The National Garden is “conceived as a laboratory for gardening in harmony with natural ecosystems”. Notable features include a rose garden featuring roses that thrive in the Mid-Atlantic region using organic methods; another feature is the set of regional gardens featuring the plants native to the regions of the Mid-Atlantic including piedmont and coastal plain soils. The Bartholdi Park is currently undergoing renovation into a “sustainable site: (www.sustainablesites.org) with the intent of demonstrating sustainable gardens for the home. The Bartholdi Park central feature is the Bartholdi Fountain created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the Statue of Liberty.


    The National Arboretum just off Bladensburg Road at 24th and R is for most of us easily accessible as a short drive. This urban oasis is multi-faceted institution with missions of research, education, the cultivation of display gardens and a museum of living plant life. It is also an arena for walkers and byclists.


    While the iconic feature is the National Capitol Columns, for the garden oriented visitor the heart and soul of the Arboretum are the plant focused collections, including the National Herb Garden, and the National Bonsai and Penjinng Museum and the many varieties of trees including nearly forty varieties of cherries. Walk or drive in peace to see these in bloom soon.


    Moonlight full moon walks are filled nearly as soon as the walks are posted. A number of plant oriented societies hold seminars at the Arboretum. A current feature is a link to a web cam tracking the nesting of two eagleshttp://www.eagles.org/dceaglecam/


    While access to the Arboretum by public transportation is not quite as easy as to the Botanic Garden from the Hill, the Arboretum is accessible by bus from Stadium Armory every day and by the X6 Metro from Union Station and Maryland and 8th on weekends at 45 minute intervals. A bike trail from NOMA to the Arboretum is in the DC Bike Master Plan.


    For further information on the Arboretum see: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Education/events.html


    Arboretum photos from the Arboretum web site.



  • January 15, 2016 9:09 PM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    A Few Observations from an Organic Rose Grower


    When I began growing roses in my Washington D.C. garden, I decided not to use synthetic chemicals to battle diseases and pests, a real challenge in a hot, humid climate that attracts pests and diseases from both the northeast and southeast. Over the past sixteen years I have learned a few things about organic rose growing. It’s not that difficult if you are curious, observant, ruthless, open to experimentation, and patient. Of course these are useful attributes for all gardeners.


    One key practice is selecting the right roses to grow. With careful selection, organic rose growers can help their chances for success, spend their rose budget wisely, and learn about many fine roses, especially those hidden gems. My selection criteria include the usual—appearance of the blooms and foliage, growth habit, mature size, fragrance, zone hardiness—but most importantly, evidence of disease and pest resistance. “Shovel pruning,” the practice of giving away or discarding poor performers, is an accepted expectation of organic rose growing, but my goal is to minimize the amount to close to zero. I realize that with the tens of thousands of roses in active cultivation, a large number of new hybrids added to the market annually, and the temptation buy impulsively, that this goal is one of those impossible dreams, but I am trying my best.


    Here is how. The information I want, an accurate prediction of how a rose will perform in my garden, is wishful thinking, but I practice a little leg and Internet work to make myself a smarter consumer.


    The Leg Work—We are fortunate in the Washington area to have a couple public gardens that grow roses without the use of synthetic chemicals. The U.S. Botanic Garden is a primary source for me on how organically grown roses perform in our local growing conditions. I visit this garden several times through each growing season to note which roses do well over several years. The rose garden has both antique and modern roses. Go there with a notebook and a camera and find a rose you would like to add to your garden. For example, the hybrid rugosas perform well season after season.


    Another area public rose garden features old garden roses. The U.S. National Arboretum rose garden’s care practices include minimal spraying with synthetic chemicals. The limited staff can give the beds only periodic weeding and deadheading. The garden, which is under renovation, has been replanted during the last few years with albas, damasks, bourbons, gallicas, chinas, noisettes, mosses, species roses, Bermudas, teas, portlands, hybrid perpetuals, rugosas and polyanthas. I visited this garden twice in the late summer of 2016, after a wet spring and long spell of dry hot weather. It was interesting to see that the roses in fairly good shape were the tea (e.g. General Schabliki, Spice, Archiduc Joseph), tea-noisette (Rêve d’Or, Alistellar Gray, Elie Beauvilain) and china (Napoleon, Louis Phillippe, Mutabilis) roses. They had good leaf retention, little black spot, and some blooms. Others were pretty sad looking, including the bourbons, noisettes, albas, portlands, gallicas, polyanthas, and several species roses. The moss and Bermuda roses were somewhere in between. I returned to the garden three weeks later after a few days of rain, and the noisettes (particularly Natchitoches) had perked up, and the tea and tea-noisette rose were lovely. These rose varieties are available through mail order.


    When you visit any rose garden, ask garden staff whether they use synthetic chemicals and if they have a trial bed where chemicals are not used. For example, although it is not located in the mid-Atlantic, the New York Botanical Garden has beds with organic roses, some of which will grow well here. Take a notebook and camera with you. Photograph the roses you like and their labels. Look to see if the roses you covet are well established or newly planted because you want those roses that have performed acceptably over multiple years.


    The Internet Work—The Internet is a useful tool for identifying roses that grow well without synthetic chemicals. Unfortunately, most of the available information is not specific to our growing region, and roses that grow beautifully in Sacramento, for example, may be feeble in the District of Columbia. Internet data may be less reliable than first hand observation, so triangulate and look for “preponderance of evidence” (lots of people independently reaching the same conclusion). Note the source of information. Data from research institutions or non-profit affinity groups sites like rose societies is more likely to be reliable than information from vendors.


    Another tip is to look for rose breeders located in countries like Germany with long existing stringent laws regulating the use of pesticides and fungicides. Their roses may perform better under organic growing conditions than those bred in nations with less regulation. Again the proof of performance can only occur in your garden. I have had to shovel prune roses with a solid reputations for disease resistance.


    Finally, in my experience, the most important practice in organic rose growing is to build the quality of your soil—constantly! I work to know what is in my soil and how I should amend it. I observe how the amendments affect my roses. These practices are now habitual. I never skip a year of building good soil. I add organic matter to my beds semi-annually. The specifics of soil quality and amendments are another article, though, so I’ll close with two requests.


    First, if you volunteer with a local public garden that grows roses, please encourage the director to establish a bed or two of roses that are grown without synthetic chemicals. As more casual gardeners commit to actively protecting the environment, locally gathered data on how specific roses perform with organic practices will be of increasing interest to visitors.


    Second, as you grow roses with organic practices, please record and share your observations with other rose growers interested in organic practices. You can start by posting to the garden club’s Members’ Discussion Forum. Over time, perhaps we can gather enough information to eliminate shovel pruning. Of course should we succeed, we will have less fun when those annual rose catalogs arrive!


  • May 13, 2015 12:00 PM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)
    A Few Of Carol's Favorites

    Capitol Hill is a wonderful place to grow roses. Our small, street facing gardens provide the perfect frame for these elegant show-offs. Planted by the sidewalk, neighbors can stop to savor their perfume. We even have few Japanese beetles compared to our suburban friends. Our greatest challenges are time and, possibly, the quest for perfection. But for those brave souls willing to take the plunge, growing roses is very rewarding.
    There are so many roses, how do you choose? In this article I will share some of my personal favorites.
    When deciding which roses to try, do your homework. Look through catalogs. Go to garden centers in May, when most of the roses are stocked. Browse the web. Ask your neighbors. Attend rose exhibitions in our area.

    To discover which roses do well in the mid-Atlantic, check out rose displays in public gardens several times over the growing season. We are fortunate to have three rose gardens almost within spitting distance, the Smithsonian rose display near the Arts and Industry Building, the U.S. Botanic National Garden, and the U.S. National Arboretum. There are also several more in and around Washington.
    Of course all the usual steps for selecting the “right plant for the right place” apply. Know how much sunlight you receive at the planting site. (Roses like to sunbathe.) Improve your soil. Improve it again. (Roses are heavy feeders.) Make sure that water is accessible. Drip irrigation is helpful. (Roses are heavy drinkers.) Acquire good pruners, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and stout gloves.

    Take note of your preferences. What colors do you like? How important is fragrance to you? Do you want lots of blooms? Do you want roses primarily for cut flowers? Do you like the flower forms of old garden roses? How ruthless are you willing to be? (With the amount of deadheading, pruning, and plant removal required, rose cultivation is not for the faint of heart!)
    Although I may not always choose the perfect roses for our climate, I try to make selections that will do well on Capitol Hill without heroic effort. I use organic fertilizer and practice integrated pest management, which means I tolerate some black spot and partially munched foliage. I must sometimes cut off buds or young blooms that are malformed by rose pests. All of that goes with the territory. (If you demand exhibition quality roses, you will need to use toxic chemicals.) I like fragrance, although I am willing to choose beauty over fragrance on occasion. My taste in form is eclectic. I adore the high-centered, ovoid buds of some hybrid teas and grandifloras, but I also love the cupped, quartered, and expanded forms of old garden rose blooms. I like both single and double flowers.

    When it comes to color, I favor pale shadesundefinedlight pink, mauve, and pale yellow. I also like strong colorsundefinedcopper, red/yellow, and dark purple. I prefer dark green, glossy foliage with red-tipped new growth but, truthfully, if the flowers are spectacular and the foliage is ugly, I’ll still take the plant. Although I fancy recurrent (repeat blooming) roses, I find myself charmed by several old garden roses that bloom only once a year. I do not like miniature or mini-flora roses, although they are appropriate for row houses and patio gardens. Space limitations have guided me away from climbers and ramblers, and, indeed, vigorous growers in general. (Again, do your homework, before you purchase.)

    As I name my favorites, I will include a bit of a primer on how roses are classified. To prevent boring you, I will only include enough information to help my rose selections make sense. If you want further background, information abounds on the Internet and in print.
    There are three major categories of roses: species, modern, and old garden roses. My roses fall in the latter two categories.

    Old garden roses are those that were know to gardeners prior to 1867. Among the old garden roses I grow are Bourbons, and Gallicas, but there are an additional thirteen major classes. Most old garden roses only bloom once a year and many are vigorous growers. Old garden roses are among the most fragrant. Many are pest resistant. Their blooms have more variety in shape but are generally smaller than modern roses. Their color palette tends to vary from white to many shades of pink.
    The modern roses in my garden, four of the eight major classes, include hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and shrubs. My shrub roses are a hybrid musk and several English roses, often called David Austin™ roses for their primary breeder. The latter are repeat bloomers that mimic the old garden roses in form, fragrance, and disease resistanceundefinedsome, more successfully than others in my experience.
    Hybrid teas are distinguished by large flowers that grow individually on long stems. Grandifloras have a similar growth habit, but their blooms may be smaller and tend more toward sprays. Floribunda roses often have smaller flowers and stems than hybrid teas and their flowers grow in clusters. In general, floribunda roses will flower more prolifically season long than hybrid tea roses, but hybrid tea blooms will be more spectacularundefinedcloser to roses we find in florist shops as cut flowers. In rose competitions, a hybrid tea bloom is almost always selected as queen of the show, the highest honor. Breeding may have altered modern roses’ growth habits, but it has also increased susceptibility to pests and diseases and, in many instances, diminished fragrance.

    With that background, I’ll cut to the chase. If I had to select my absolute favorite rose, well, I just couldn’t. I could probably pick my favorite five. One would be Granada (hybrid tea). This neon pink and orange bi-color is beautiful, fragrant, and very showy. Another favorite hybrid tea is Brandy, a fragrant, cognac-colored rose. Sheer Bliss (light pink), Moonstone™ (white withpale pink picotee), and Elina® (pale yellow) are more hybrid teas I grow fondly. Dainty Bess (hybrid tea) is a beautiful pale pink single rose with dark pink and yellow stamens. I find its flowers fragileundefinedone good rain or stiff breeze can denude it of petals, but it’s so endearing that I overlook its ephemeral nature.

    If you are looking for a red rose, try Legends™ (hybrid tea), or the classic Olympiad (hybrid tea). Of course, Mister Lincoln’s (hybrid tea) large fragrant crimson flowers are hard to beat. My only red is Veterans’ Honor®, a hybrid tea that begins as a true red and matures to a dark fuchsia.

    Hybrid teas may command the lion’s share of the attention, but I find that floribundas definitely have their charms. When properly tended, they provide consistent blooming during the height of the summer. My favorite is the lavender Blueberry Hill™. Apricot Nectar (light apricot) is fragrant and attractive. If you are after unusual colors that thrive in the mid-Atlantic, you will find them among the floribundas. Try Hot Cocoa™ (brown), Cinco de Mayo™ (orangey ocher), or Ebb Tide™ (deep royal purple). I do not grow any of the three, but see them happy in public gardens around town.

    When last July’s heat and humidity caused my roses to take a vacation, Scarborough Fair®, an English rose, bloomed like a champ. This small bush with its sweet light pink cupped flowers is perfect for row house frontage. Try it on a townhouse patio in a large pot. Dead-heading by occasional sheering is an almost effortless way to keep it blooming all season.
    Some of you are familiar with the spectacular show that my Pat Austin™ (copper) puts on every May. Wow! Unfortunately, it is not a prolific bloomer at any other time. Sharifa Asma™® (light pink) is a favorite English rose. If you like dark maroon and need a small bush, check out Munstead Wood. I have never grown it, but could easily be tempted. I do grow Dark Lady (dark fuchsia), which beautifies my vegetable patch admirably while occupying little of its precious real estate. One note of cautionundefinedI find that David Austin™ roses grow larger than forecasted, so plan your spacing accordingly.

    For me, no garden would be complete without at least one old garden rose. My love of these roses goes back to childhood, and they were the first roses I planted in my own garden. One of my favorite old roses is planted smack in the middle of my perennial bed. Souvenir de la Malmaison, a light pink Bourbon that looks and smells great repeats well. If you prefer a darker pink try another Bourbon, Rose de Rescht. Both of these varieties will grace relatively small spaces. Next to Souvenir de la Malmaison, I grow the hybrid musk rose, Penelope. It has large clusters of small pale pinkish-yellow flowers. I find the two roses lovely in combination.

    My Gallica roses bloom only once, but glorify the month of June and, thankfully, tolerate a bit of shade. They include the sublimely fragrant Belle Isis (light pink) and the temperamental Cardinal Richelieu (which I plan to replace with Tuscany Superb, another purple rose). If you want that quintessential old rose fragrance, try the Apothecary’s rose or one of cabbage roses (rosa centifolia).

    For 2012, I’ve ordered two new roses to try. (Alas, one of the ways rose cultivation is for the ruthless, especially in a small garden, is that established loves must be yanked to accommodate new infatuations. Is this what they call progress?) A well established grandiflora, Love (hot pink and white bicolor), is taking a final bow so I can try the recently introduced Sugar Moon (white hybrid tea) and Ketchup and Mustard (red and yellow floribunda).
    So there you have itundefinedmy favorite roses, at least for now. There are always more roses to discover and new introductions to consider. With a bit of diligence and luck, the reward will be worth the effort.

    One final note, local garden centers have a limited variety of roses, particularly of old garden roses. Many of the roses in my garden were ordered through catalogs. Do not be afraid to order bare root roses for fall or early spring planting. I have been quite successful with them.
    For more information on roses, contact the Potomac Rose Society, http://www.potomacrose.org/ and Arlington Rose Foundation, http://www.arlingtonrose.org/. These organizations offer a wealth of expertise through their meetings, consulting rosarians, field trips, and annual rose exhibitions.

    I hope at least a few of you will be inspired to explore the charms of growing roses, beyond the popular Knockout™ cultivars. If so, please share information about your discoveries by posting comments on http://capitolhillgardenclub.blogspot.com/. Happy planting!


  • September 19, 2014 1:35 PM | Joseph Purdy (Administrator)

    Rose Rosette Disease, A Modern Scourge


    As I have walked near my home recently, I have seen diseased roses in several nearby gardens. This has caused me to be afraid, very afraid!  


    Rose Rosette Disease is a fatal affliction for roses. It is generally easy to recognize. New growth is deformedundefinedtwisted, perhaps with excess thorns, and often with dark reddish tips. It resembles a “witches broom”.  You can see images of Rose Rosette Disease on the Internet, http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/rose_gardeners_should_learn_the_symptoms_of_rose_rosette_virus.  


    Rose Rosette Disease is carried by microscopic mites that drift via the wind (eriophyid) from infected plants to healthy ones. Once it is well established, Rose Rosette Disease has no effective treatment. The diseased plant must be removed.  Examine your rose bushes often.  If you find the disease very early, you may be able to save the plant.  Here’s what to do:


    Step 1) If you see a cane (rose branch) with deformed growth, look for others.  


    Step 2)  If you find only one diseased cane, you may be able to save the plant.  Place a plastic bag over the infected cane so that the mites do not move to other branches during removal. Prune the entire cane from the bush and discard the plastic bag. Also remove fallen debris and surface soil around the base of the plant. Do not add any matter from that plant to your compost. Clean your tools with alcohol before reusing. Continue to monitor the plant closely for further signs of disease.  If deformed growth reappears, remove the entire plant immediately.


    Step 3) If more than one cane on your plant is deformed, it is too late to save the plant.  The disease generally starts on one cane, travels slowly down to its base, and up adjoining canes.  If two or more canes are affected, the entire plant must go!  (Yes, boohoo, it’s really sad.)  The plant will eventually die anyway.  Meanwhile, it’s mites will spread the disease to other roses in your garden and to neighboring gardens.  All gardeners must be ruthless at times. This is one of them.


    Step 4) When you remove the plant, cut up as much as possible covered with a plastic bag.  Dig out the roots. Clean the soil around the planting hole, including any fallen debris.  Do not plant a new rose in that spot immediately. Wait a season, dig out the old soil and replace it with new. Mites can over winter in the ground.


    It is very important to be careful when you purchase roses.  Some roses are being infected in commercial growing yards and sold to the public.  This may be especially true for popular shrub roses sold in big box stores.  Buy your plants only from a trusted source.  Before purchase, carefully examine your selection, as well as the roses for sale surrounding it. If you see any signs of Rose Rosette Disease, walk away. If you receive a mail ordered rose during the growing season, examine it upon arrival.  If it is received dormant and small, a band or one gallon, you may want to grow it in a pot the first year, away from your established roses.


    Sometimes what at first glance can appear to be Rose Rosette, is not.  If you have used Round Up near your roses, especially on a windy day, you may see some disfigured growth on your plants.  Round Up drift, as it is called, does not cause the excess thorn growth or the reddish coloring of Rose Rosette Disease. The rate of plant growth is normal.  If you have a plant with stunted tips, which you think may have been caused by Round Up drift, take a sample to a garden center information desk or Master Gardener clinic for diagnosis. 


    Did I say, examine your rose plants, all of them, often? Gardeners unite. It would be ashamed to see Capitol Hill loose all of its beautiful roses. 



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