Biblitz delivers advise

ASK Biblitz about Roses.

'I wouldn't mind being a rose / in a field full of roses. /Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.'

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More of the Biblitz garden, including peonies, especially the Biblitz Krinkle White tree peony, which blooms well before the traditional harbinger of spring, lilacs. See also marijuana and farming.


Mary Rose (above and below) showing off at the back of south-exposed Biblitz manor.


Despite large, attractive double-cup blooms, Mary, when plundered for a vase, is quite fragile and not long for this world. Like Papa Leo, she is a fragile thing of beauty and quite careless of her thorns when confronted with weeding or the dreaded pruning tool. Be warned, garden lackeys!


Mary is flanked on one side by Pat Austin (above), which grows the most virulent, red thorns, capable of puncturing even the thickest garden glove. Here she is with Pacific blue delphiniums, which should be out shortly. They're certainly multiplying like billy-o, bless them! Biblitz placed some coneflowers in there somwehere, too, to prevent the roses from rose exhaustion, a condition not unlike the French and their tired feet. It's said to occur when roses are planted exclusively among their peers - the rationale behind the box hedge surrounding many of the better rose gardens. Alas, those who control the Biblitz purse strings will not release funds for such luxuries, so Mary and the rest will have to make do with butterfly bush, delphiniums and coneflowers.


Here's the gang in the back altogether, including the Dark Lady (see below), who has certainly come into her own this year. A nasty infection of black spot, the scourge of roses along with mildew and aphids, had her limping along rather sadly last summer. Happily, radical surgery proved effective and all has been forgiven. Good that because Biblitz relies on Lady's red flowers to inspire the rest of the garden to achieve full vigor.


Love Potions

Titania's Book of Romantic Elixirs

By Titania Hardie

Potent pourri for marriage

Mix this recipe for a pot pourri if you want to put gentle vibrations towards marriage into the air, or to continue the aphrodisiac element after a honeymoon. Place it in the bedroom, and stir each day with your ring finger.

You will need

1 cup each fresh scented rose petals (pink or dark red), tiny roses, rose buds, honeysuckle or jasmine flowers, lavender buds and dried verbena (from good herbalists); 2 tablespoons ground orris root (from good herbalists); 2 drops each rose, jasmine and lavender essential oils

In a pretty bowl, blend all the dry ingredients together, then the oils, and stir well. Cover for a few days with dark plastic to allow the secents to develop - but give the bowl an hour of fresh air each day to avoid the pot pourri turning moldy. This mixture will now keep for months, but can be replenished in fragrant potency by adding refresher doses of oils when required. (-- p. 65)

Peach-scented, apricot-colored Abraham Darby, a star performer among the many varieties of David Austin English Roses chez Biblitz


Unlike Graham Thomas (below) and Pat Austin (the orange rose below left), Darby's flowers maintain their lovely shape and freshness in a vase for several days to a week - if one remembers to change the water daily. The current roster of kitchen lackeys at the manor are rather negligent, I'm afraid. Below, Graham prepares for the year's first bloom in early June, 2010 - a doozy!

Graham Thomas, named for the great horticulturist, is the most vigorous of the Biblitz Manor roses. From April until late September- early October, he bursts himself daily in masses of giant, yellow flowers that smell like heaven. Like all roses, he is perennial and therefore low maintenance, requiring only dead-heading and occasional weeding. However, unlike annuals here today and gone tomorrow, roses take their nourishment like the Empress of Blandings! (See How to care for roses below).

Blue Iris

Poems and Essays

By Mary Oliver

Roses, Late Summer

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can't sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?
Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley.
So they never seem to vanish, they are always there
in the blossom of light
that stands every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

(-- pgs. 72-73)

How to plant a rose:


The back roses (Mary, Pat and Lady, above left) do especially well largely because Biblitz was able to compel other householders to take up spades and dig the 18-inch holes required for each plant. In addition, rich topsoil was raked and mixed in messily, boulders and smaller stones heaved to the hedgerows and each plant surrounded by a generous shovelful of lightly-packed steer manure, all of which seemed to cheer them considerably. Do this bit well, as David Austin and other rose experts advise, and the weeding, pruning and dead-heading will be as nothing or next to nothing


How to care for a rose:


Feed each with several shovels of steer manure forked into the soil and topped with well-rotted compost twice a year - first in February after pruning and again in late June after the first bloom. Onto this, Biblitz tosses a handful or two of bone meal when he douses the peonies - in early spring before bloom and sometimes in the fall if I think of it. For those that perform well, there will be a rewarding blast of Miracle Gro for Roses every third Sunday July through August. And, of course, plenty of water to the roots only before leaf edges begin to brown.

How to position and prune a rose:

David Austin himself has written excellent books about rose cultivation, which usually include helpful pruning guides and diagrams to indicate which branches should be lopped off at an angle with sharp, clean secateurs - usually about a third of the rose after the first year. The man knows his onions. His books also contain accurate report cards on the performance of individual English Roses along with suggested groupings, which should be followed to the letter. Biblitz dislikes dictators, but when a man is right, he's right. Biblitz, too, favors an arc-shaped design of three to five rose plants spaced 18 inches apart. This makes for magazine-quality displays! See below.
Here's Graham, now at five years of age, well over six feet, giving of his fragrant best. Graham is flanked at left by a peachy Princess Marguerite rose, and at right by a rather too closely planted yellow and white peony. Too close, maybe, although Biblitz has noticed that ants feasting on peony nectar often enjoy an unexpected side dish of self-destructive aphids, which regularly besiege Graham at their peril - less often at his. To please the many furry bees about the place, which allow themselves to be finger petted, Biblitz provides both French and Mediterranean lavender in abundance along with several strains of soil-nourishing, self-seeding sweet peas and honeysuckle front and back.

A COUNTRY LIFE guide to pruning:

If you grow bush roses (hybrid Teas and Floribundas), now (February) is the time to issue forth with leather gloves and secateurs to prune them. First, remove any dead wood. Then remove any diseased or spindly growth. Next, take out any badly placed shoots, especially those that face inwards and cross each other in the middle of the plant. You are then left with strong outward-facing shoots, typically three or four. Cut each of these back to about three buds, with the top bud facing outwards, so that the whole thing will form a wine-glass shape. Nod with satisfaction. SCD (From Horticultual aide memoire, No. 8: Prune bush roses, COUNTRY LIFE, an all-time favorite Bibitz escape hatch, Feb. 24/10, p. 76)