ROSES: Half of my life, I thought roses were for old ladies, why is that? I didn't like the smell, thought they were lots of work and you would get all cut up when you pick them. It wasn't until we lived in Nevada City and I was creating my own landscaping and cut flower gardens, did I re-visit my notion about roses. I liked antiques and many of my friends lived in historic houses in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley. With old houses, they had old fashioned gardens with lots of roses and they convinced me they weren't that much work and worth it anyways. As I smelled the smells in their gardens and saw the varied beauty of roses
AND saw the fabulous cut arrangements my friends had I became a believer. So started my life with roses in my yards. When we moved to Gridley, there were only 1-2 roses so each occasion such as birthdays or anniversaries, I added roses to the landscaping. One year, Rite Aid was having a big close out sale of their plants and most were roses, so I filled my car up with the plants. Each year since, especially in the spring, they just give back more than they take in efforts to keep them trimmed, fertilized, aphid clean. Frank and I recently stood in front of our huge Cecile Brunner rose and marveled at the wonderful sweet smell and magic of all the blooms that (actually I planted next to where we keep the garbage cans) you can not even see the picket fence where its' life began in a one gallon can. From the road looking into our place it is as large as a tree with thousands of buds and blooms. I feel you just can't have too many roses in a yard.
PEONIES: Just take a large cabbage rose and double the size and now you have a peony blossom. Again, my love of peonies started in my friend's yards. One friend had a 1870 Victorian house and all around the foundation were these gorgeous peonies. Problem with them is that you don't know they are even there until the leaves start unraveling; then these buds start; then the ants come; then the spectacular blooms; then the blooms all fall from their own weight or late spring rains.
But don't be discouraged. There are support wires that you can put in the center of the plants; the ants are part of the plant life. Peonies give off so much nectar, the ants are naturally drawn to them. Peonies have few predators or diseases so very easy to grow. Because ants are so protective of their food sources, they do get aggressive whenever any other pest wants to also enjoy the sweet nectar. Ants do not harm or hurt the plants so just let nature do what it does pest, left alone. You will get some ants on your counter when you cut and bring the blossoms into the house. I read the other day that peony farms cut the blossoms when they are just buds and ship to the flower markets or florists. I always thought I would love to raise roses and peonies as a farmer, instead of fruits and vegetables but because of the cost per each peony, it would take me many years to get a good stock going. You can divide the bulbs, oh did you know peonies are bulbs? Yes they are and can be divided like iris. That is how I got hooked, my friend divided up the peonies in that yard that she believes had been there for over 100 years and when I left our house in Nevada City, I had many, many clusters of the most fabulous blossoms you have ever seen!!! I have a few now but you can never have too many.
SNOWBALL BUSH: This is another shrub every garden needs to have in it. It looks like a nothing kind of green shrub, sometimes a little wild and gangly until it starts to show their beauty. I gave a dogwood tree and a snowball bush to my mother-in-law when she moved to Nevada City after retiring from Bay Area. It always bugged me because I had the same two items in my yard and planted them several years before I gave them to her. Well her snowball bush got to be the biggest and most spectacular (only word I can keep describing the beauty) when it bloomed. The secret was that it was planted near the septic tank and near a hose bib that leaked so it just kept growing and growing. The dogwood tree was a pink one and bloomed next to it and the combination was a like having a natural arrangement. I don't have a photo of it but it looking like this.
Add these three very special plants in your yard and you will never be sorry. Oh, and did I mention I love hydrageas too!!!
Happy Gardening from Windmill Farm.