Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell Just as Sweet as if it Were Any Other Fragrance Other Than a Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Or something like that.  Roses have been on this planet since the dawn of time.  Maybe even longer.  Paleontologists have established that wild roses were growing during the Tertiary Period, which began over 70 million years ago.  Dinosaurs tromped on them.  Cave women ate them.  The oldest living rose bush still blooms on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.  It is thought to be over 1000 years old.

Roses, and images of roses have been found in Egyptian tombs.  Roses were hanging in the Gardens of Babylon and they were growing at King Soloman's Temple in Jerusalem.  Way back when.  Aphrodite, Venus, Cupid, Nero, Cleopatra, and Confucius, to name a few, all have history with roses.  So do Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

In the fifteenth century there was an actual War of Roses in England.  It was called that because of the rose colored "badges" the adversaries wore.  Kind of like our civil war, with the blue and grey.  Only theirs was with white and red roses.  What a civilized civil war.  This civil war lasted 32 years, finally ending when the winner, Henry Tudor, married into the house of York.  Who says conflict can't be won by conniving.   

Needless to say, the Rose is probably the most famous flower that ever bloomed.  It is always used at the most special and poignant of human occasions, like weddings, funerals, holidays, and many times a guy is trying to get lucky with a dame.  Happy or sad, a rose is never bad.
It is prized for its lovely blossoms and of course, for it's fabulous fragrance.  As a matter of fact, there's that wonderful little slow down saying that everybody's familiar with, "Stop and smell the roses."  It's because they smell good, which should make you feel good, especially since you slowed down.  To smell something fragrant, and good.

You wouldn't want to slow down to smell something bad, would you?  You don't hear people saying, "Stop and smell the cheese" very often, do you?  Could you imagine slowing down to catch a nose full of some Limburger?   You'd kick whoever suggested that to you.  Or shoot them.

Or, stop and smell the decomposing body.  You wouldn't want to do that though unless you were the Donner Party.  Then you'd be thinkin dinner. 

My lovely wife has loved roses since before she started loving me.  Which means she loved them as a kid, because she started loving me when we were 15.  High school sweethearts.  Still together and still crazy after all these years.  Even married twice.

That married twice thing probably begs further mention.  That's a whole nother story, and one that will be available later this fall on Amazon if the edit process all goes smoothly.  Stay tuned.

We have had some roses at every house we have ever owned together.  Such is her love of this flower that during our fairly recent four year, four house, two state walkabout tour we had several in large pots that I had to move many miles.  Big heavy pots.  Many, many miles.

Big pots.  Many miles.  Lots of roses.  Second marriage.  Still crazy. 

It must be love. 

Or insanity.

We have also had to protect these prized plants for a couple years due to those nasty plant predators, Bambi and her bombardiers.  A rose is like nectar to a deer, much like cookies are to me or spray paint vapor is to Nick Nolte.  It draws them like moths to a cashmere sweater, or white trash Wal-Mart groupies to a Kid Rock concert.  You can read all about my on going battle with deer here at Bambi Can Eat My Drawers.

Even though we are yet another year away from getting the remainder of this homestead deer proof through complete perimeter fencing, it was time to get the rose garden going.  Some things can wait, but the roses couldn't.

Roses are the main singular garden exercise my lovely wife loves.  It had been about eight years since she's had some roses to walk amongst.  Talk to, sure.  But you can only walk around a pot so many times before you get dizzy.  Plus roses don't talk as good in pots as they do in the ground.  When they're in the ground, they're stunning conversationalists.

Rose Land actually began with the rose arbor I built for my lovely wife for her birthday in 2012.  And while we're on the subject of favorite tunes, here's one of mine.  God bless Richard Betts.

I capped the arbor off with the purchase of three heirloom Cecil Brunner roses, circa 1881, which are lovely pink climbers.  I purchased them on E-Bay of all places.  Some old dude in Florida had taken a number of starts off his plant, had them rooted and sent them out priority mail.  You can buy just about anything on EBay.

I bought three, for less than five bucks each, including shipping.  That was a heck of a deal, have you priced roses lately?  The three-five inch starts arrived in a plastic bag with their roots wrapped in moist paper towel.  I immediately put them in small pots.  Two have now been deployed on each side of the arbor and the third has now graduated to a one quart container.  He'll find a permanent home someday.

In order to allow the newly planted roses to live and flourish I had to put some deer netting around the lower portions of the arbor.  Damn those pesky deer.

Not only do we have to be concerned about routine ground assaults to our plants by Bambi and her butcher buddies, for many select species of plant we also have to be concerned about the underground assault potential as well.

Two years ago my son and I ganged up on my lovely wife and bought her a half dozen climbing roses for her birthday.  These were strategically deployed along the fence of Chicken Fantasia Land, with appropriate above ground fencing so that there was no access for deer.  All the rose plants were dead within two weeks.

At first we thought maybe the soil was bad, or that we had fried them with some additives when they were first planted.  But after some soil tests, which came out great for plants by the way, we finally landed on gophers or voles as the culprits.  We have since planted lavender along the chicken fence, and they are all doing fine.

But in order for the lavender to grow and in order for the roses in Rose Land to flourish, it has been necessary to build gopher cages to keep those nasty little underground vermin OUT!

You can buy gopher cages ready made but you can also make them pretty easily for a lot less money.  I do have some thicker gauge wire underneath that standard chicken wire, a couple of layers of metal for those little bastards to try and gnaw through. 

To the right of the arbor, right in front of the picket fence, there have been two rose stubs for the past two years.  That's stubs, with a"T", not shrubs with an "H".  This year I decided to give them half a chance by putting up a little deer protection as you can see below.  We have been rewarded with some red climbers and quite possibly a Peace Rose, AARS Winner in 1946.  It's amazing what can happen to your plants when you stop the constant munching by that most predatory, foul, flea infested rodent, Bambi.

I think it's time for another tune.  God bless Jerry Garcia.

After you pass through the arbor, there is about a twenty foot long planter box on the left on the way to the front steps.  Then after the steps, there is another twenty foot planter box that sits right beneath our covered front porch.  These two areas were designated Rose Land from the get go, now it was merely time to get the roses in and protected.

I spray painted some simple T-Posts to dress them up and then posted them along the edge of the planter boxes.  Then I ran four foot fencing all along the front.  That has been more than enough to keep those rascally pests out, there's no way they'll jump into a narrow enclosed space.

Here's the first planter box on the way to the front steps:

And then the planter beneath the covered front porch:

The fence is a bit distracting, but completely necessary.   If that were not up there would be no roses.  Period.  I have also made a couple of gates that are very easy to remove and put back up to allow my lovely wife easy access to her roses.  Once the property perimeter fence and driveway gate are up, we will be able to remove the Rose Land fencing.  But in the meantime...

My lovely wife has done a tremendous amount of research on her most favorite of flowers.  There are books and then there are books.  Once again on EBay we found a fabulous tome on Roses, the American Rose Society's "Encyclopedia of Roses," a regular $40.00 book.  We paid $5.00, and $4.95 for shipping.   It even had its original cover!

Between that and the other 42 books on roses we already had and I'd almost say she's pernt near an expert.  Even if she never read a word some of the data would rub off on her just by osmosis. 

She decided to go primarily with Hybrid Tea Roses, which are a cross between hybrid perpetuals and an old fashioned tea rose.  They burst on the scene in 1867, and basically they grow a nice, robust flower on a long stem.  Her other requirement is that they all must be fragrant.

Here's her gang:
                                          Mr. Lincoln  AARS Winner 1965
                                          Francis Meilland AARS Winner 2013

                                          Girls Night Out
                                          Queen Mary II

And then on the other side, right now we only have one in the ground.  And she would be a
                                          Queen Elizabeth AARS Winner 1955

We currently have two other yellow roses in pots, Ch Ching and Gold Glow.

 We also have one other white one, Iceburg, that our daughter gave her mother for her birthday this year.

And we also have a tree rose, Julia Child, AARS Winner in 2006, with which I had to get somewhat creative with as far as deer protection goes.

You may notice a little ramshackle chicken wire underneath the bush.  I essentially made a chicken wire saucer about the size of an umbrella.  First I poked two-two foot long bamboo sticks through the bush.  Then I took some chicken wire and cut a circle to size, with a slit from side to center so that I could slip it in next to the trunk.  Then I used the ends of the sticks to hold up the saucer on the outside.  There's no way they can access the bush from the bottom, and there aren't very many eight foot deer that I've seen around here.  Julia's been out now for months and has not been molested by any deer.

Fels Naptha Soap

I first learned about Fels Naptha soap when I was a five year old kid running loose in the lovely and enchanting foothills of Saratoga, California, before all the silicon valley mega moguls started buying the land and building their blue chip mcmansions.

There was poison oak in them thar foothills, just like there is poison oak a plenty here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  It doesn't matter what foothill you might reside in, if you have poison oak in your neighborhood you want Fels Naptha soap in your laundry room.

I don't know what the magic ingredient is, but if you wash with Fels Naptha after you've been intimate with poison oak, chances are you won't get itchy.

I have been clearing the land here for almost three years now.  Intermixed with all the Manzanita has been a lot of poison oak.  A lot of it.  From your basic silly little bush to forty foot long vines with trunks over an inch thick.  Although I am generally prepared when I do the work, with long sleeves and work gloves, I know I have been violated.  My face has been brushed numerous times and it's tried to attack other bare skin spots when it can.

When I am done with the work, up to four hours later sometimes, I always shower with Fels Naptha.  I make sure all exposed areas of skin are lathered real good with the soap.  To date, I have only gotten one very small patch of poison oak on my wrist.  Probably on an occasion when I didn't expect it and hence, didn't lather.

If you have poison oak in your backyard, you want Fels Naptha in your laundry room.