Rose This Spring: Climbing and Rambling

Early Bloomers

Aside from the Rugosa roses that bloom early, some of our climbing and rambling roses are also blooming.  The sad part is most of them bloom only once a year.  All of the ‘once blooming’ roses in the garden are ones that I planted very early on when I had no idea that some of the roses in this climate bloom only once a year (I grew up in the subtropics where they bloom all year round).  I select more carefully now.

The once blooming rambling rose that’s worth growing is the ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk.’  When it’s in full bloom, aside from a sea of small pink flowers, the honey scent is lovely.  It can grow around five to six feet a season and can grow more than thirty feet in length.  This rose and it’s cousin – Himalayan Alba- are the ones that give me grief every spring.  Pruning rambling rose is not an easy task.  I gave both of them a crew cut this spring and they have already filled up the empty spaces.

Both of us attempted to dig out the Blaze many times because all of the leaves drop off after it finishes blooming, mostly from black spots and in some years, mildew as well.  But it manages to change our mind every spring when its branches are cover with bright red flowers.  It is another of the roses that I originally planted.  One of these days, either I figure out how to deal with the black spots or I’ll just dig it out and plant a different rose that will bloom all season.  It’s a heart wrenching decision.

Zephirine Drouhin is an Old Garden climbing rose that will bloom throughout the season and is highly fragrant as well.  The deer ate most of its new shoots last year but this year I managed to discourage them so it bloomed profusely in gratitude.

We grow climbing and rambling roses to cover the unsightly pool fence.  This is where Paul's Himalayan Musk and Blaze meet.
We grow climbing and rambling roses to cover the unsightly pool fence. This is where Paul’s Himalayan Musk and Blaze meet.
Blaze has been loading its branches with bright red flowers every late spring but its leaves drop afterward, caused by black spots.  How can we dig it up when it manages to do this every spring.
Blaze has been loading its branches with bright red flowers every late spring but its leaves drop afterward, caused by black spots. How can we dig it up when it manages to do this every spring.
Blaze, close up
Blaze, close up
Paul's Himalayan Musk covers one side of the fence
Paul’s Himalayan Musk covers one side of the fence
Loaded with small pink flowers having a honey scent
Loaded with small pink flowers having a honey scent
Paul's Himalayan Musk, close up. Various stages of flower-from pink when first blooming to almost white before the petals drop
Paul’s Himalayan Musk, close up. Various stages of flower-from pink when first blooming to almost white before the petals drop
Zephirine Drouhin is a re-blooming climbing rose with very strong fragrance
Zephirine Drouhin is a re-blooming climbing rose with very strong fragrance
Zephirine Drouhin with Knockout rose in the background
Zephirine Drouhin with Knockout rose in the background


A Living Umbrella

I still remember the arresting scene of Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) that made me want to grow one.  That was when I walked under the Wisteria Pergola in Central Park when it was in full bloom.  A sea of lilac pealike flowers cascaded down over my head and a powerful sweet perfume filled the air.  I promised myself then and there that I would grow one when next I have a garden.

When I moved from New York City to the current address, I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who had them growing on her property.  She offered  me a runner years ago and I promptly planted it by our pool fence.  It proved to be a mistake since it grows several feet a season, too fast for such a small spot.  I dug it up and replanted it by a dead tree stump and put up a supporting pole to keep it straight up.  I also prune it every year to keep it in an umbrella shape.  It’s still too low to walk or sit under but it’s a lovely shape and it will continue to grow upward.  I think it loves where it is judging by the way it blooms so profusely and twice last year too.  The second time didn’t produce that many flowers though.  Aside from the lovely flowers, the fragrance perfumes our garden from morning to evening.  I guess it’s eye catching enough when the handsome young man who supervised a crew of men topping our trees asked me what it was and commented that “it’s stunning”.

One problem with growing Wisteria is that it produces a lot of runners.  I have to cut them off every year.  I also had to dig another one out from the original planting spot.  This year I have to dig one more out from the same spot and I hope it’s the last.  This one will be relocated to the front lawn.  It’s almost like the Day Lily, if you leave even a just a small section underground it will grow back.  But it’s still worth growing.

Wisteria Bud coming out.
Wisteria Bud coming out.
Using Birch branches as supports
Using Birch branches as supports
Close up.  They look very much like pea flowers
Close up. They look very much like pea flowers
We used a rope to hold it straight for a year.  It climbed up the rope to the Maple tree and produced a flowering string this year.
We used a rope to hold it straight for a year. It climbed up the rope to the Maple tree and produced a flowering string this year.
Flanked by Japanese Maples, with two bee hives in the back and a nest box currently occupied by a Blue bird family with two chicks.
Flanked by Japanese Maples, with two bee hives in the back and a nest box currently occupied by a Blue bird family with two chicks.

Poet Jasmine

The Poet

Yes, someone named this jasmine ‘Poet’ or ‘French Perfume’ (Jasminum grandiflorum).  I’m not sure I like the name or the scent best.  I can see why it get this name.  One whiff of its scent and you can write a few lovely lines of  poetry.  If you keep sniffing it, you may be able to pull a Robert Frost act.

It’s a lovely vine with very dark green leaves and 1.5 inch white flowers.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the Jasminum sambac and  seems to do well when the weather gets a little colder.  The temperature has been hovering around 50 degrees or lower at night and gone up to 60 or 70 during the day here.   It started to bloom as soon as the temperature dropped and blooms profusely now while the  Jasminum sambac like Maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany are producing less and smaller flowers than in the heat of summer.  The Poet flowers also last longer than a day, but are not as fragrant when picked and taken into the house.  So, using it as an air-freshener like the Jasminum sambac is out.  Well, at this time of year we can sit and enjoy it outside longer since it is too cold for mosquitoes to fly around.  Maybe that was nature’s intent.

Pure white 1.5 inch flowers with a sweet fragrance
The blossom close up

Bitter Melon

Bitterness Can Be Really Good

This year is a great year for Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia).  They cover three quarters of the vegetable garden fence.  The thickness of the leaves and the bright yellow flowers spotted among them look very pleasant.  The sweet scent of the flowers is a plus, especially in the morning when it seems to be strongest.  Cutting leaves and fruits for friends and neighbors has been a pleasure as well.  One good thing about cutting the leaves more often is that the plants will sprout more side shoots which is great for stir-fry or blanching and topping with coconut milk.  More new shoots also mean more flowers and fruits, if I let the shoots grow.

Bright fragrant yellow flowers

The only down side for the Bitter Melon this year are the Stink bugs.  We have more Stink Bugs this year than any past year.   A lot of the young melons turn yellow prematurely because the bugs feed on them.   There is no other pest in this area that is destructive for Bitter Melon, as far as I know.  The deer haven’t touched them.  The chipmunks have chewed one or two of them at the base but mostly left them alone.  I guess the bitterness in every part of the plants provides a good defense.

In the tropics, it grows as a short lived vegetable that provides fruit for a year or two.  It’s grown as an annual in the Northern hemisphere.  I’ve been growing it every summer because I love the distinctive bitter taste and the fragrant flowers.  It grows pretty much the same way as beans do.  I usually start the seedlings inside near the end of March and plant them when the weather is warm enough, but the seeds can be planted directly in the soil.  Soaking the seeds for a couple of hours before planting helps soften the hard shell, making it easier for them to germinate.

It is one vegetable that has great medicinal benefits.  For those who are diabetic, it helps to regulate blood sugar since it promotes insulin production in the body.  Eat the fruit, cooked of course.  Drink the tea made from its leaves or fruit.  Or, if you’re tough, have a shot of fresh juice extracted from the fruit and leaves with a juicer.  Those who have no problem with blood sugar levels and consume too much of this melon may have a problem with their sugar level dropping too low.  I’m living proof.  I love eating it but have to remind myself to stop if I don’t want to faint.

Don’t eat the ripe one either.  It’s a beautiful bright yellow with bright red seeds and has a vicious laxative propensity.

It’s an ‘acquired taste’ as my neighbor put it.  She loves it now and grew it this year for the first time.  If not for the fruit, the fragrance alone makes it worth growing.  Well, according to the book ‘Flowers and Herbs of Early America‘ by Lawrence D. Griffith, the plant came to Europe from the tropics in the 1500’s and later to the US in the early years of the Republic.  Nothing new.

Here are some recipes.

Cover the whole fence with spotted of flowers
Female flower

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’

Snow in Fall

I’ve been doing my best to create a garden that have flowers from early spring to late fall, both day and night.  It’s getting there but I don’t know when I’ll finish.  I’m not going to beat myself up for it since a true garden will never be done anyway; it just evolves.  I don’t remember who proclaimed that but it’s a comfort to know that someone out there has the same mentality.

Flowering plants for late spring to early summer are the easiest to find, but there are not that many choices for early spring and late fall.  There are even less selections when it comes to vines.  A few years ago I looked for vines or rambling roses to cover our less than attractive, chain link pool fence, hoping to give us some privacy.  I found Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) in one of the catalogues and ordered two of them.  One of them turned out to be something that I didn’t expect…a Clematis ‘Montana’ (Clematis montana var. rubens).  This is one rare moment I don’t regret getting the wrong merchandise in the mail.

The Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ really lives up to its name.  When it blooms it is flooded with small, lightly fragrant white flowers as soon as the temperature drops in September.  We have it climbing up to the patio roof so it looks like there is snow covering that corner of the roof.  It can grow to 30 feet in a season.  I prune it down to the main branch every spring but it grows right back up the roof by mid summer.  Here how it looks by early September…..

Plenty of flowers, hardly see leaves
Climbs right to the corner of the patio roof
With dewey petals in early morning

Little Orange Jasmine

Never Too Many

We have two Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) that have never stopped blooming.  It doesn’t matter where they are, under artificial light in the basement, in the bay window or on the pool deck in summer, they bloom.  They deliver that delicious scent reminiscent of the tropics in the middle of winter.  I let the flowers set fruit that look a little like small oranges and take a while to mature to a bright red.

Abundant flowers, lovely scent

I didn’t think the seeds would sprout, but I put each one of them in individual pots anyway.  I took a chance since air-layering on tropical plants is hard to do because of the very short summer in my area.  If the seeds sprout, great.  If not, I have nothing to loose.   Surprisingly enough, four of them came up.   Even more surprising to me was that when they reached an inch and a half tall, they flowered.  A little white flower perched on the top of each plant.  I expected them to take a year or two before flowering.  I guess growing in mostly compost helps.

This summer, I let the fruits fall in the parents pots and let nature do the work.  I have a couple more seedlings now.  I only wish I could grow them outside so I could have a whole hedge of Orange Jasmine that would perfume the garden year round.

Their fruit looks a little bit like tiny limes or oranges for that matter.
These are little flowering seedlings. They are only a little bit over an inch tall.

Flowers For Bees in Late Summer

Still A Lot More

Autumn will be here in a week; September 22nd is the first day to be exact.  I don’t really go by the date when I think of autumn.  I depend on the temperature and plants in the garden to tell me that fall is coming.  The same goes for spring when I’m prompted to start sowing seeds by the sprouting of weeds.

I know I have a few flowers that bloom until the first frost, but haven’t been concerned until this year when I acquired honey bees.  I want to make sure that they have enough natural food to last the winter.   The temperature has been down below 50F in the last couple of nights, but has gone up between 70F and 80F during the day.  The honey bees won’t come out foraging until the temperature is above 50F, but the resident Bumblebees have been very busy from early morning until last light.  There doesn’t seem to be any competition between them.  They seem to co-exist pretty well, unlike the wasps.

There are still plenty of flowers in the garden, Garden phlox, Coreopsis as well as herbs and vegetables flowers.   I let the Goldenrod (Solidago) grow and set seeds.  I know it is a weed but what constitutes a ‘weed’ anyway.  On the other side of the globe, Goldenrod is a cut flower and being sold in the market.  Farmers Markets in NYC also sell them.  I guess the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still rings true.  I like them for the bright yellow flowers when there is not much else blooming, and for how much the insects and birds love them.  Our resident honey bees can also forage on them from mid-summer to fall.

Honey bee and wasp sharing the Goldenrod for a moment, before the bee was bullied out.

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) really has a perfect name.  As soon as the temperature cools down, it starts to blossom.  It is a sign of autumn approaching.  They create a cluster of small white flowers so dense that they look like snow from afar and they are lightly but beautifully fragrant.  A plus side?  Bees love them.  A minus side?  It can grow to 30 feet in one season.  I cut everything down to a couple of feet off the main branch in spring; it grows right back on to our roof by the end of summer.

This bee has a lot of pollen to carry back, but still adding more to her load from Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’.

Another autumn flower is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  It’s great for full sun and dry areas, and it’s hard to kill.  As soon as the flower blossoms, the whole mop head will fill with all types of insects.  I’ve never really liked it much, but it came with the house so I keep it.  I keep dividing them and replanting them in an area that doesn’t need much care.  I may look for a different variety next year since I want to provide a variety of food for my resident bees in fall.

Taking nectar from Sedum

Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) is another staple for mid-summer to frost blooming.  This compact shrub with dark green leaves provides little white cluster flowers with a light fragrance.  I don’t have to do much aside from cutting some old stems off at the base in spring so it doesn’t get too crowded.  Mulching with compost once a year keeps it in good health.

No bees on this one, but Bumblebees and day-flying moths are frequent visitors on this Abelia.

I can’t leave this last one out, Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).  This lovely shrub can be very invasive if I let the flowers set seeds.  But it makes up for the down side by providing a lot of beautiful and fragrant flowers.  They are still blooming in our garden in September, though less than a month or so ago, but still providing scent for the garden and food for the insects.

Honey bee taking nectar from a Butterfly bush. Notice the little, pink tongue.

Garden Phlox

A Tough Native (or phloxing around for fun)

Heat and rainstorm can’t do very much damage to this native perennial.  Once they’re established I merely prune them in spring so they won’t grow too tall and ‘dead-head’ them once the flower’s spent.

I started growing Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) with just a couple of them.  Within a few years they proliferated all over the garden.  They readily self-sow.  If you don’t want too many of them, just don’t let them set seeds.  My problem is I have a soft heart with seedlings.  I think if it has a will to live why not let it live.   This mentality can be a problem for the garden; it can become overcrowded very quickly.   So I promise myself I’ll pull out some seedlings that are still “very young”.  This method works pretty well with population control and I feel less guilty too, but I probably miss a few good surprises from Mother Nature.

Seedlings don’t always look exactly like their parents, especially given open pollination.  I let the Garden Phlox grow wherever they come up, if not too close to any established plants. I tag them, according to color, once they flower.    Later, I either remove them if I already have too many of that color or if they have an interesting color, I move them to a better spot.    If I want more of the same color, I’ll just divide them.

Why is Garden Phlox good to grow?  Because they perform well in the heat of summer when most plants, aside from cactus, don’t.  If they’re not too tall, they’ll flop a little under a rain storm but will perk right up once dry.  They readily self-sow, so they can be invasive, but with a little discipline in the gardener, they’re easy to control.   The only disease that bothers them is mildew, but if they’re dry and not too crowded mildew shouldn’t be a problem.  They work beautifully as cut flowers.

And, most of all, they’re fragrant.  Their scent welcomes you from morning to evening.  Butterflies and bees love them.  Deer love them too, especially the tips.

Here are some that have weathered the heat and rain

In spring I prune the row along the walkway once they grow up to my waist.  This pruning makes them bushier and delays the flowering a little bit.  I let the ones on the left, squeezed in with Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), grow to their normal height (around 4 to 5 feet) to balance with other plants in the same row and to cover the pool fence.

Lavender pink with a darker colored eyelet
Pale pink with a darker shade around the eyelet.
“David” produces pure white flowers. This is the only one that I know the name of.
This fuchsia color first showed up two years ago and since then I have nurtured three new plants from this one.
A little bit darker pink with dark eyelet among lavender pink flowers
White petals with streaks of pink
Orange-red. This one really stands out in the plot.

More Jasmine

Never Have Enough

After a flood of “Maid of Orleans” jasmine (Jasminum sambac) a couple of weeks ago, there are still some flowers to pick for the house everyday but not as many, not until the second wave of flowers bloom.   They are forming new flower buds again and won’t slow down until they are back in the basement wintering over.

Now it’s the time other jasmine give their performance.  The “Belle of India” jasmine (Jasminum sambac)blooms next.  Yes, they are “sambac” as well.  The delicate white flowers are bigger than the “Maid of Orleans”, around an inch in diameter, with longer petals, and they smell just as sweet.  Some of the flowers are even double-layer petals.

The “Grand Duke of Tuscany” jasmines (Jasminum sambac) also start to bloom.  They are really grand when they bloom.  Each flower has one inch diameter with multi layers of petals and strong jasmine scent.  I have this vision of them in a small delicate vase on a dresser or on a jacket lapel.  I did cut some flowers and brought them in the house, their fragrance got even stronger in the evening.  The good thing about them is that unlike other jasmine, the flowers will last a couple of days instead of blooming for only one night.  They are too big to just pick the flowers off the plants so cutting them with their stem attached is a perfect way to bring them in the house.

Next to bloom is the “Azores Jasmine” (Jasminum azoricum).  This jasmine will wind up a small trellis very well and produces flowers in clusters.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the “sambac”.  It’s also a fast grower and can stay in a small pot as long as you feed it well.

I’m not done with the jasmine yet, still have a couple more to go.  Yes, I collect as many varieties as I can find.  I’m still looking for one particular jasmine, English name unknown to me.  I’ve seen them in Thailand but nowhere else I’ve been.  It has very small flowers that like stacked up stars.

I also wish I could capture their fragrance as well because the photographs alone just can’t do them justice.

Maid of Orleans blooming.
Belle of India produces larger flowers and smells as sweet.
Grand Duke of Tuscany is pretty “grand” when flowering.
Azores jasmine has more delicate petals but a sweeter fragrant.
This is the mysterious jasmine I’ve been looking for. Have you seen it?

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