Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Random Thoughts. Rambling on roses.

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In the previous entries on global warming, I commented about how gardening influences our attitudes about nature, and the importance of feeling connected to the rhythms of nature by gardening. The thoughts today will be about working with the local climate and growing conditions. The example will be roses (because that is where my rambling mind drifted).

When we first started gardening here, we planted a series of rose bushes in the front yard. The soil was compacted, rock-hard clay. The roses were big-box store Hybrid Teas. It was summer. We dug big holes, soaking the ground, digging, soaking, digging. We mixed compost into the clay and added it back around the roses. The roses were watered frequently, and given some rose-food granules. They grew rapidly. Blossoms, black-spot and aphids ensued.

More watering, more fertilizers, more aphids and black spot, more sprays. Not a lot of flowers, although some were big, classic Hybrid Tea blossoms. Ultimately, it didn't seem worth the trouble, and other gardening priorities took over.

I became uncomfortable with this methodology. First, it wasn't very rewarding. The blossoms were not that spectacular, not that many, and they faded quickly. Second, I wanted to grow more edible items, and the idea of eating rose-poisons in my tomatoes wasn't appealing. Third, it seemed too much like work, and not enough like fun.

The roses started to take then 'back burner' as the rest of the yard filled with kitchen-garden plants, trees, and shrubs. Other ornamentals were added. We experimented with David Austin roses and other varieties that were thought to be less chemical-intensive. We started cuttings from rose bushes that seemed to do well locally. We quit the chemicals, went organic, started mulcing and composting, and drastically cut back on the watering. Some varieties died and were not replaced. Others looked so bad, or performed so poorly, that I dug them up.

Others have persisted, and they actually looked better than they did with the fertilizers and chemicals. The blossoms were not as big, but they seemed to last longer. There was less black spot, and fewer aphids. They have been much less work.

I think, that what happened, was an evolution, both for the roses, and for me, in adapting to the local conditions and the inherent capablities of each plant. The ones that were better adapted to this climate and growing conditions, remained. They used less resources, including watering. They required no chemicals, because the chemical-requiring ones either died or were removed.

The result now is a less picture-perfect, but better adapted rose bed. There are still quite a few rose bushes, and I enjoy them more.

This entry is the result of rambling. The photo is a retaining wall, built from a pile of broken-up driveway down the street 2 years ago. I was going to write about reusing local materials, and using locally adapted plants, like the mosses on the stones. I rambled instead into the roses, but left the photo anyway.

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