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In the Garden: Late Spring

May 28, 2013


It is Spring, soon to be Summer.  The temperature the past couple of weeks has been swinging down to the 50s and high up into the 80s, then back down and up again.  We’ve started putting new green things in the ground and watching some old friends re-awaken, all the while frantically trying to protect them on the nights we still occasionally have frost warnings.

Last year, on Mother’s Day, I planted a yellow rose bush.  This was the first bush of what is now four.  Though my darling husband may believe the current count is the extent of my rose gardening, I’m here to tell you there’s no denying that he is quite mistaken.  Patient man that he is, I have no doubt he’ll accept this with grace and humor.

I visit all of our green things each day, to monitor how they are coming along and try to think of ways we might encourage those that seem to be struggling.  I spend the majority of this time with the roses.  I prune them, give them a little extra nourishment from time to time, and absolutely delight in watching them come to life, blooming before my very eyes.  I also spend some of this time removing aphids.

Yep.  My dear roses have aphids on them.  I feel so conflicted about this.  On one hand, I wonder if nature may just take care of itself.  On the other hand, I’m a tad freaked out.  I’ve done a little spraying with garlic water spiked with eco-friendly dish soap, but mostly, I carefully, gently, and mindfully remove these little pests by hand, groups of eggs or adults, one by one.  Whatever must be done.  Although I’m not thrilled to have the little buggers (pun intended) feasting on my beloved blooms, I don’t resent the time spent removing them either.

Right now the bushes from last year (Sunshine Daydream & Strawberry Hill) are surrounded by a layer of mulch that once was quite thick and has by now thinned considerably.  The newer bushes (Mr. Kennedy & Mr. Lincoln) are still awaiting something to dress their feet.  My first inclination was, of course, more mulch.  Then, I started reading about cottage gardening and drooling over photos of Tasha Tudor’s Corgi Cottage Garden in Vermont, including photos of roses underplanted with all kinds of lovely flowers and ground cover.
Who needs mulch?

It occurs to me that surely some of these underplantlings would attract beneficial insects to my roses!  Companion planting, yes?  I couldn’t say with any certitude that neatly mulched rows of perfectly pruned specimens really suit our style anyway.  It certainly hasn’t done anything to protect us from aphids (or beetles last year).

Do any of you forgo the oh-so-often recommended mulch and underplant your roses instead?  Which plants do you choose to underplant with?  Why?
(It might also be helpful, if you don’t mind, to share which zone you’re living in.  We’re 5a here!)


PS  We went to our local greenhouse yesterday, as we have been weekly all through this month of May, and picked up some Munstead Lavender.  I think planting that along with the roses and then adding some mulch to the spaces in between is a nice compromise, for this year at least.  Besides, I hear lavender will help repel the aphids!  Hooray!

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