June 26, 2014

Roses. Who doesn’t love them? You only have to glance for a moment to see how beautiful they are. There’s something for every taste. Single huge blooms, sprays of smaller blooms. Thick “double” roses and simple single roses. Exotic colors and familiar favorites. Because these are perennial shrubs, a little pruning ensures you’ll have roses for many years.

My personal taste is to care less what they look like and more what they smell like. I love roses that perfume the room when you bring them inside. So what I have growing are Bolero (white, double rose), Auguste Renoir (magenta, standard rose), Dainty Bess (pink, single rose) and Folklore (yellow, standard rose). There’s also a very small Helen Hays rose (white with pink tips) that I thought had died but came back from a single root.

Because Spokane is so far north, our grafted roses tend to die over winter. Then the root stock comes back. At one time I had three identical red rose bushes that all had grown back from the root stock. To replace them, I went to a local nursery called Northland Rosarium, where they grow roses from cuttings rather than grafting them. I have yet to see any of their roses die over winter.

If you love roses, seek out a local nursery that grows own-root roses. The plants will be adapted to your climate and if you have a harsh winter your rose will come back as the variety you purchased rather than random root stock. It’s worth the extra effort.

PS — Just visiting a rose plantation like Northland is a gardener’s paradise!

Wouldn’t you know, this happens to be the weekend when Northland Rosarium is hosting the annual Spokane Rose Show. General viewing is open noon to 4 on June 28th, and it’s free. How can you beat that?

Have I mentioned how great the Spokane Public Libraries are? Not only do they have a seed library in my local branch, they’re hosting seminars on food preservation. This Saturday, June 28th, at 4 pm, I’ll be learning about making my own sauerkraut. I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, so I’m eager for this opportunity. You can also learn about making jams and jellies at the Downtown Branch, 1 pm on June 28th.

Some of my sunflowers are struggling along the fence where my new neighbors sprayed for weeds. I think there must have been some blow-over. Since they’re making a great effort to fix up the place, which was foreclosed and sat empty for two years, I’ll forgive them this once.

My tiger lilies are blooming in the bed they share with the miniature iris. These lilies are the classic orange with brown spots. A second wave of white with magenta spots are only just budding out.

I’ve thinning my lettuce to allow the corn that’s interplanted to thrive. So I gave some to a friend who’s recovering from cancer surgery. I also took a bulging produce bag to my local food bank last week. If you’ve never taken part in Plant a Row for the Hungry, it’s something to consider. We all know that our crops come in bursts — more than any one family could ever use. Why not donate where it’s needed most?

Speaking of everything coming in at once, I’ve harvested about 3 quarts from my Stella cherry tree. I sorted out the prime ones to share with friends, but so far I’ve frozen a quart to be made into jam later this summer, and I dried some, too. And the tree still has lots of fruit ripening.

My spearmint has been thriving, too. Just yesterday I packed six springs in with two cups of sugar. Next weekend, I’ll be making some mint syrup. Juleps can’t be far behind.

Something has been doing a number on my beet leaves. It’s bad enough that I was contemplating insecticide, which I almost never use. While I was looking under leaves, trying to identify the culprit, I noticed a little black wasp running around on top of the leaves. She appeared to be carrying something.

Looking closely, I saw she had a grub under her belly. It seems she’s a parasitic wasp who was searching for a good spot to stash her prey and lay eggs. Looks like I don’t have to spray after all. Mother Nature is on my side.


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