The enduring appeal of the versatile rose
By Richard Wright
Friday, May 11, 2012
Rosa lady of the dawn.
ROSES are so well established in this country it is easy to forget different varieties are grown all over the world.
Countries around the globe hold festivals in honour of the rose too — it is not just when Lancashire play Yorkshire.
In Morocco, the Valley of the Roses festival takes place in the Dades Valley where the streets are strewn with petals and tons of them are crushed to produce just a few litres of precious rose oil.
In this country, the essential oil is popular as a treatment for conditions as diverse as asthma, depression, hangovers, headaches, insomnia, pregnancy problems and skin care.
My wife had a better use for roses — and more therapeutic, in its way.
From my mother’s old rose garden planted by my father, 20 years before, Anya used to make the most beautiful rose petal wine, blending the scented flavour of white and Peace blooms with blood-red blossom to produce a delicate ‘rose’ — definitely a rose with a perfumed ‘nose’.
In addition to the blooms, the perfume and the numerous health and wellbeing benefits, you can add to the list the rose hip.
Although many cultivars do not produce hips, some species, in particular the older roses, do. Most notable are the dog rose (rosa canina) and rosa rugosa.
Among the richest sources of vitamin C, they are a good source of food for birds and other wildlife. We can use them too for rose hip tea, syrup and jam.
I can also remember as a horrid youth the seeds scooped from within the hip made an unpleasant irritant down the back of schoolchums’ shirts.
In the garden, there is a rose for every situation in this country, whether it be climber, rambler, dwarf, shrub or ground cover, and within those groups there are so many colours and flower forms.
Best bought as bare-rooted stock, when dormant, roses are more expensive when bought in a pot. But that approach does have the advantage of being able to be planted in the garden at any stage of the season — and in the next few weeks you can see, and smell, just what you are getting too.
The wet weather has given roses a flying start this year and it is a good idea to give them a good feed now and apply a generous layer of mulch to preserve the precious moisture around the roots.
BEES are regular visitors to Phyll Fender’s Wellow garden.
But these are mining bees, which appear, as regular as clockwork, early in the year and dig in for the summer.
Phyll puts up with them, which she probably would not do if they were prone to stinging, but mining bees do not have the swarm instinct and their sting is pretty feeble and little used.
The bees are an occasional pest of the lawn, especially dry areas with sparse cover.
Their name accurately describes their underground nesting habit.
Phyll is moderately keen to dig up a square of her lawn and find out what is happening beneath.
What she would find is bees in cylindrical tunnels dug by the females.
A large group of bees frequently nests in a small area of the lawn, entrances to their tunnels marked with small piles of soil.
Mining bees are not considered to be a serious pest — entrances to their tunnels are disruptive to the lawn but not especially damaging.
Mining bees are highly useful pollinators, and I, like Phyll, would be inclined to let them go about their business.
But, the best method of eradication would be to take off the thin grass cover, rotovate over and re-turf. Thick grass cover will deter fresh excavation.
Deep cultivation should also destroy the underground nest structure and, depending on the time of year, kill the bees.
The female mining bee will have stocked each ‘cell’ with pollen and nectar she collects from flowers. She then deposits an egg on the food mass.
The larva hatches and consumes the stored pollen and nectar. When mature, it becomes a pupa and, finally, an adult bee, which overwinters below ground. During the next spring or early summer the adults emerge, mate, and the females begin burrow excavation all over again.
So how do you stop carrot fly?
I HAVE had a couple of enquiries about the menace of carrot fly and what to do about them.
One gardener who was in touch recently employed a tent of micromesh, which effectively kept the perishers at bay but the reduction in light levels ‘drew’ his plants and reduced yield.
He wondered if just a low-level surround of fine mesh would do the trick because carrot fly usually only migrate to new food sources by flying a few inches off the ground, but we both reckoned they would find their way over the top.
An ideal solution would appear to be a micromesh surround with a clear plastic top, like a sort of aerated greenhouse, but I have not been able to find such a thing or any other device to defeat the flies.
I would be delighted to hear of deterrents that work better than planting near garlic.
The fly is now so prevalent, it appears to be able to sniff out a carrot, even amid pungent companion planting.
The vanished trees of Easter Island
THIS is not strictly gardening but my piece about the Chilean mimosa sophoro toromiro generated a fascinating e-mail.
Ian Campbell was a regular visitor to Chile and in the mid-90s he spent a lengthy period on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to give it its Micronesian name.
Therefore, it was with great interest he read my little piece about Ventnor Botanic Garden’s efforts to be part of the project to return sophoro toromiro to its native island after it was all but wiped out by the native population and, finally, polished off by a grazing goat.
When Ian was on the island, it was administered by the Chilean navy as a ‘territorio maritimo’.
Half the size of the IW, it also has a major international airport scheduled as one of the emergency landing stations in the NASA Space Shuttle programme.
“I spent most of my spare time there researching the archaeology rather than the flora and fauna,” said Ian.
“The island is believed to have been first populated during the Micronesian maritime expansion of the 13th century.
“However, with the passage of time, the inhabitants divided into two communities, the Long Ears and the Short Ears and hostilities broke out between them.
“A trench was supposed to have been dug across the Island, which was filled with burning wood to keep the warring factions apart, and that is where all the island’s timber went.
“The only ‘trees’ there then were the palms planted at Anakena by cadets of the Chilean navy sail training vessel, Esmarelda, during one of its cruises.
“The history of Easter Island is fascinating but there is no mystery about it. I used to lecture on it — I found my associated box of slides just a couple of weeks ago.”