Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Gardener's Resolution

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living."
—Gail Sheehy

Whether wisely, pointlessly or foolishly, all the time in 2008 has been spent.
Time to tuck the memories of the past into the bed of proper perspective.

Time to get moving on 2009. This year I am investing time, energy and whatever funds I can to make this the Year of the Rose. The bouquet above was given to my mother. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than taking her flowers from my garden. She has dementia- but the sight and scent of flowers extends her ability to feel joy.
My favorite of this year's class of roses graduating from the greenhouse to the market is the enchanting 'Cinco de Mayo'. If I could only buy one rose this year- this 2009 AARS winner is it.
The changes I am making are to be the final evolution of my garden. To take all the experiments of the past decades and pull the vision together in a cohesive whole. It will be my wordless autobiography as a gardener. That could be why I was so drawn to Debra Prinzing's December 30th post where she explained her take on the 7 Habits of the Highly Successful Gardener.
Habit one: Hone Your Powers of Observation.

With each turn of the shovel, my love of gardening has grown. Much of what I have done is intuitive, but as the seasons come and go, each year I come to appreciate the nuance of nature's response to my hand. I grow curious as to why.
According to Google Earth, my little Eden in Diamond Bar is located at Latitude33.59 N and longitude117.49 West. At an elevation of 966 feet above sea level, my garden sits closer to the hilltops than the valley floor. This location is fortunate, as our placement within the geography spares us damage from the worst winds, hottest summer heat and winter frost. Only rarely have we had hail- it has only snowed twice in 30 years- once appropriately- on April Fools Day- neither time was it enough to last more than a few minutes before melting away. The typical city in Florida probably gets more thunder in a week than Diamond Bar will get in a decade. Since 1966- a grand total of two class 11 tornadoes have occurred within 25 miles of here.
Knowing the USDA zone is okay for shipping dates information- however it is pretty useless for planning in this climate. The Sunset climate zone ratings is far more useful. Zone 20 is the zone best used for predicting a plant's success in my garden. However, I find that every time I plant, the micro-climate of that area is slightly changed. Also- sun exposure really varies during the seasons. So the climate zone is a reliable guide- however it isn't the Bible.

These are my biggest challenges- roses like sun- after twenty years of planting trees- shade is a more plentiful commodity- some adjustments need to be considered. The topography- we are situated on a hillside. The street in front is an 11.5% grade. To put that in perspective- the grade on the Cajon Pass is listed as 6%. This means I have great drainage- however, when it comes to maintenance- I am not a mountain goat. We back up to a chaparral- so the challenges and wonderment of living with nature must be dealt with.
The Rose 'Judy Garland' (left) used to be non-stop blooming. But the old girl is slowing down in production, and the older she gets, the more predominant the orange is. So she will be moved to a less prominent place in the garden and be replaced with 'Julia Child'.
This 2006 AARS winner is more English in form, blooms with abandon and has a light licorice scent. Being a shorter bush than my towering Graham Thomas- Julia will be welcomed into the garden where her charm will add romance to the view .

For color- nothing beats Lillian Austen- which captures the Maui sunset in her flowers. I had this brilliant idea to use 2 five foot tree specimens in pots for a focal statement to lead the eye out into the garden without ever intruding in the view.
The practical issue became that the flowers sit a high crown on the bush- which unless we grew 3 foot taller- we couldn't enjoy.
So these were transferred to the ground- where their neon blossoms can be appreciated at eye level.
The pots now hold Weeping 'Renae'- whose flowers will drape into the view shed as they cascade in clusters. If you want a 5 foot tree rose- you better act quickly. Weeks Roses has taken the tall tree roses out of production. Once what is on the market is gone- there are no more sources on the horizon. One Ventura resource is banking on a couple specific species becoming especially valuable. A couple varieties are listed at $250 to $300. Shop around locally- you might get lucky like I did and find what I wanted on close-out for $40.

'Betty Boop' is a continuous bloomer, even in a spot which is more shade than sun. The only draw back-is that it is hard to work up the motivation to cut her back because she is always in bloom.

Debra Prinzing's blog can be linked at

Click your address into Google Earth for specific Longitude, Latitude and elevation information.
Cinco de Mayo, Julia Child and Betty Boop are all creations of Rosarian Tom Carruth for Weeks Roses as well as being AARS winners.
Photograph of 'Julia Child' is from AARS website.
'Renae' is from Grow Quest web catalog.


  1. What absolutely luscious roses, Lydia !

    Have you just cut yours back for winter ? Are any of your icebergs still blooming ?

    My favorites are double-delights... Just fertilized them...

    Thank goodness for gardens and the beauty they bring us :)

    Happy New Year 2009, from one garden fairy to another !

  2. Greetings, Annie! I will start the serious cutting back in about a week.
    I don't have icebergs in my garden- but one of the very lovely thing the City has done is to generously feature them in public plantings- I don't ever recall them being out of bloom.

  3. You astound me with the depth of your feelings for your garden. What an amazing person you are. It amost makes me want to root around in the earth - but alas - I may find a bug or worm and that is not good for my psyche. Your knowledge of your land's whereabouts is phenomenal. I wouldn't even care - could have less interest in it - but am so impressed with you. Fabulous writer.

    Friend, Lolly

  4. Thank you for the compliments- I am blushing.
    My curious nature led me to see if it was easy to find the geographic information- it was unbelievably easy.


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