Sunday, June 24, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
What’s blooming in my garden, looking north: Miniature rose, red hot poker, golden spur columbine, coral beardtongue, hartwegii, perky Sue, fern-leaf yarrow, chocolate flower, blanket flower, coreopsis, Mexican hat; buds on butterfly weed; sour cherries turning red
Looking east: Dr. Huey rose, coral bells, thrift, pinks, small-leaf soapwort, snow-in-summer, creeping baby’s breath, catchfly, bouncing Bess, pink evening primrose, pink salvia, rockrose, winecup, hollyhock, California and shirley poppies, Kellerer yarrow.
Looking south: Iris, sweet pea, rugosa, floribunda and Blaze roses.
Looking west: Flax, catmint, Rumanian salvia, purple and white beardtongues, purple ice plant, sea lavender, Valerie Finnis artemisia; buds on lilies.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragons, petunia, Dahlberg daisy, marigold.
Inside: Aptenia, kalanchoë, zonal geranium.
Animal sightings: Hummingbird at coral beardtongue, bumble bees on blue ones; smaller bees on coreopsis, blanket flowers and catmint; ants on peach; aphids on roses; black butterfly on thrift seed ball; small grasshoppers bouncing everywhere; young male rabbit in drive.
Weather: Attempted showers during week, temperatures warmer; high winds yesterday, but little water reached the ground; strong manure smells along back road of village.
Weekly update: Roses are ablaze in the village, both pastel and florescent. Once again, I’m envious.
When I told a friend last year that my last tea rose from the year before had been killed by spring winds, he said, "oh, my wife, doesn’t plant stuff like that; she only uses xeroscapic plants." Apart from aesthetics and snobbery, her preference is probably derived from the perception that roses, especially those descended from the first Chinese teas, are too tender to survive without pampering.
As soon as roses entered the China trade in 1752, men studied them in their gardens. Around 1802, John Champneys discovered Rosa chinensis had yoked itself with Rosa moschata on his Charleston area plantation. His neighbor, Philippe Noisette, experimented with the seedlings, and sent his fledglings to his brother in Paris, whose nursery introduced the first tender Noisette in 1814.
Rose multiflora arrived in Europe from the newly opened Japan in 1860. Scmitt tried it with different hybrids before releasing Aglaia in 1896 from a Noisette. He sold the yellow rambler through the Rhineland’s Peter Lambert, who promoted an Aglaia seedling as Trier in 1904.
Wilhelm Kordes opened his nursery in Holstein in 1887, and soon after sold Lambert’s roses. His son, Wilhelm II, united Trier with a polyantha to produce a hybrid musk. While invigorating the Mediterranean moschata, he fortuitously intensified the multiflora heritage because polyanthas had evolved from Jean-Baptiste Guillot’s attempts to combine the flower clusters of multiflora with the repeat blooming and bush habit of chinensis.
Meanwhile, Svend Poulsen was commingling polyanthas with hybrid teas to increase flower size. When Jackson and Perkins hired the son of a French cotton mill owner to establish their breeding program in 1930, Jean Henri Nicolas not only extended the Dane’s experiments with polyanthas, which he called floribundas, but also negotiated exclusive marketing rights for Kordes roses in this country.
His assistant, Eugene Boerner, had become a close friend of Wilhelm II by the time he removed 10,000 seedlings from Europe in 1939. Later, Bourner crossed a Kordes tea rose, Crimson Glory, with a Kordes floribunda, Pinocchio, to beget Fashion in 1949. In 1952, he marketed one of Fashion’s children as Ma Perkins. A Ma Perkins scion was introduced as Gene Boerner in 1968, two years after his death.
The only rose I have that has survived drought, cold winters, high winds and grasshoppers is a coral pink Fashion I bought in 2000. The only rose I added last spring that’s blooming is a pale pink Gene Boerner. Both are large flowered, clustered headed floribundas.
Apparently, I owe my ability to grow my own roses to one Wisconsin born grandson of Saxon immigrants who absorbed continental breeding ideas. When Americans encountered Rosa multiflora in 1866, they saw utilitarian graft stock for the preferred tenderer roses.
In the 1930's, the government promoted multiflora for erosion control, because it grows on bad soils, including claypan, sand and gravel, to naturalize by seeds, suckers and rooted branches. More importantly, it tolerates dry conditions.
Fortunately, germplasm, even in the most refined tea, diffuses men’s ideas of the possible so that when I go to the local store to buy cheap roses, it offers floribundas, polyanthas and climbers amongst the hybrid teas because they all bear large bright flowers in black pots. I’m anxious to know if the ones that survive this year, if any, are the ones with the indefatigable multiflora ancestors, or if the floribunda is yet one more chimera in my quest for roses on my windswept prairie.
Photograph: Gene Boerner, floribunda rose, 10 June 2007.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sunday, June 03, 2007
What’s blooming in my garden, looking north: Miniature rose, iris, golden spur columbine, hartwegii, perky Sue, fern-leaf yarrow, chocolate flower, blanket flower, coreopsis; buds on coral beardtongue; nasturtium seeds emerge.
Looking east: Dr. Huey rose, coral bells, thrift, pinks, small-leaf soapwort peaked, snow-in-summer, creeping baby’s breath, pink evening primrose, pink salvia, rockrose, winecup, California poppy, Mount Atlas daisy, Kellerer yarrow; one budded hollyhock reaches above my shoulder; squash seeds have first leaves.
Looking south: Weigela, beauty bush, spirea; rugosa and floribunda roses; buds on Blaze and daylily; raspberry forming fruit.
Looking west: Flax, catmint, baptista, purple beardtongue; buds on sea lavender, Valerie Finnis artemisia and Husker beardtongue.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragons, petunia, Dahlberg daisy, marigold, sweet 100 tomato.
Inside: Aptenia, kalanchoë, zonal geranium; buds on coral honeysuckle.
Animal sightings: Quail, hummingbird, small insects hovered around flowers at dusk and dawn; bees in beauty bush in afternoons; grasshoppers getting to be a problem; horse was eating a volunteer cottonwood in field last Sunday.
Weather: Temperatures warmed, and some weak plants died; whatever rain was in the area dropped only enough water to pattern sidewalks and feed air roots and thorns. Last actual rain, May 25.
Weekly update: My bearded iris taunt me with how little I know about how they are bred and mass produced.
Normally, I would only care if I heard something unethical was being done, like overharvesting from the wild. But, in 1996, I bought some Superstition rhizomes from a mass market catalog that were dark indigo in the shade and luminescent in the sun in the spring. The year after the petals were greenish brown.
My curiosity was quite natural. I wanted to know if my plants were diseased. I moved them to an isolated area where the color was less discordant and they’ve colonized the slope. This year the flowers were more coffee than dirty brass.
Now I have another puzzle. A white iris started blooming across the ditch from them last Saturday. These are the first flowers since the sword-shaped leaves showed in the area a few years ago.
The plant should be the untrue child of a nearby cheap yellow hybrid, but more likely is the offspring of my only surviving white iris, an Immortality growing some 25' to the northeast behind a spirea, which normally is upwind.
Long ago, nature advertized it would inbreed Iridaceae species and permit recessive traits like white coloring to self-select until stable varieties emerged. J. C. Wister determined Iris germanica, my bearded iris, developed from natural matings between blue Iris pallida and yellow Iris variegata. The bluish-white Iris florentina is now recognized as a spontaneous creation of germanica.
It took a Cambridge biologist to make the next logical step: Around 1889, Michael Foster began experimenting with pollen from new species discovered by the expanding British Empire Over time, shorter bearded iris and remontants appeared, as well as more varied colors. Now, Richard Ernst at Cooley’s Gardens is asking Oregon State molecular biologists to go farther, and introduce genes from different genera into Iris germanica.
All of which may explain my white iris. Lloyd Zurbrigg released it in 1982 as a descendant of Gibson Girl, a two-season pink iris introduced by Jim Gibson in 1946. He, in turn, was inspired by Hans Sass who experimented with dwarf species to produce shorter stalks for Nebraska winds and, incidentally, developed the reblooming purple Autumn King in 1924. Sometime during those years when ideas were diffusing from scientists and techniques were spreading among breeders, the innovation of florentina was duplicated.
I still don’t know what transformed my fifteen Superstition into greenish brown interlopers, but I can sympathize with growers who were testing new techniques to mass produce the 1977 cultivar from Schreiner’s Gardens. After all, I’ve just spotted another unexpected set of leaves, and have to wait at least three years to see if they represent another discardable experiment by nature or something nearer Immortality.
If anyone does know what methods grower used that would cause an advertised iris to metamorphose into something else, please let me know.
Oregon State University and Cooley’s Gardens. Zoran Jeknic, Richard C. Ernst and Tony H. H. Chen, Iris Transformation Method, patent granted 2002.
Wister, John C. The Iris, 1927, cited by Flora of North America Association. "Iris germanica Linnaeus."
Photograph: White iris, probably Immortality, 28 May 2007 around 6:15 am.