The gardening continues. We're still working on clearing the new bed in the front yard. It's going well; we're almost done except for the stump of doom. Which is frankly scaring me. At the rate we're going, we could spend all winter chipping away at it and still not be rid of it. Today I broke down and bought a chemical stump destroyer. You drill holes in the stump, pour in these pellets, and add hot water. My friend Jason suggested I should blow the stump up. Mmm, I don't think so!
So over the weekend I had the brilliant idea to plant a climbing rose on the south side of the house. I've always avoided roses because they seem like so much work. Like temperamental babies which need constant pampering with chemical fungicides to survive. But I've heard that there are hardy & healthy varieties which don't require constant maintenance. And I've been looking at pictures of cottage gardens, and am totally smitten with all those pictures of climbing roses rambling over cottage walls.
When dipping my toe into a new hobby, I like to research it to death. (Overthink things? Who, me?) And with roses, there's a scary amount of information out there to obsess about. I typed "low maintenance climbing roses" into Google and went from there. The best resource was the GardenWeb forum, where people from all over the country post their experience with all different varieties. From that group I figured out pretty quickly that no one rose is going to be absolutely everything we want, & we'd have to figure out what was most important. These were my priorities:
- No spraying. I'm willing to spray an organic like Neem or dormant oil once or twice a year, but that's it. The thing where you spray horrible chemicals every week all summer long? Right out.
- Size. The space will look best with a 12-15 foot climber. Big enough train up the side of the wall and over the awning above the window, but not aggressive enough to overwhelm the building.
- Repeat bloomer. I'd rather have some flowers throughout the warm season than an outstanding display for two weeks, then plain green vines the rest of the year.
- Color. The house is white, so white flowers wouldn't stand out enough. And Georg isn't fond of pink. So we settled on yellow, orange or red.
- Fragrance. Would be nice, but less important than the items above.
I have to say, after spending a few days reading obsessively about roses, I can understand why people get so obsessive about growing them. We thought we had found a nearly perfect rose, an orange climber called Royal Sunset, and I almost ordered it yesterday. But then I did more research and found out that hybrid teas are really susceptible to black spot, and that's what Royal Sunset is. I even stopped by Witherspoon (did you know that we have a major mail order rose retailer right here in Durham?) and asked them, and they told me that if I didn't want to spray, I should definitely not plant a hybrid tea. So much for that. They also told me I'd do better by growing the rose on a trellis a foot away from the house, so it gets good air circulation.
Unfortunately the English roses, which seem very popular with the GardenWeb people, are also reportedly hard to grow here. It's too bad as they're beautiful, but I'm not surprised that roses bred for the English climate wouldn't like a sticky North Carolina summer.
After that disappointment I decided that I should narrow my research by variety. So I focused on an antique variety called "noisettes," which are supposed to do really well in this part of the country. They are really beautiful. The colors tend to be a bit lighter than what I was hoping for, but not unattractive, and color wasn't the top priority anyway. Enough GardenWeb people from this region talked about growing noisettes without ever spraying to convince me. One person even mentioned finding one thriving in an abandoned park, with no maintenance at all!
We settled on Crepuscule, a soft yellow/apricot noisette. This rose guy says it appears to be completely disease free, plus the name sounds like a disease. A creepy pustule! That's the rose for me. I ordered it tonight, to be delivered the first week in March.
I guess I may have been bitten by the rose bug. While looking at all these beautiful roses, I had another idea for how to deal with that steep bank by the road: we could plant climbing roses at the top of the slope, and let them tumble down the bank. They won't get as good air circulation there as on a trellis, but hanging down the bank (full sun pretty much all day long) they'll be drier than if they were lying on the ground. If we can keep them healthy, it will look really nice as they grow big enough to spread and fill the bank.
When I placed the order for Crepuscule, I ordered a few noisettes and also an antique tea (not a hybrid tea!) in a range of pastels: white, pale pink and pale yellow. Here's what I ordered:
Mme. Alfred Carriere
I don't expect them all to thrive. It would be nice of course, but I'm generally not that lucky in the garden. I'm hoping to treat it as an experiment: we'll try them out and see what works. Even sad, droopy roses will look better than the rampant weeds and wild brambles we have now.