Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kitchen Garden Recipes: Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is not something I'd had much experience with either in my garden or my kitchen until a few years ago.  Although I have always been a fan of licorice, it was hard for me to conceive of a way to use an herb that has a mild anise flavor reminiscent of licorice candy in savory cooking.  And since I'm allergic to seafood, one of the more common pairings with this herb, it just never made my top twenty herb list.  On the rare occasions when I needed fennel seed for a recipe, I used seed that I purchased in small amounts at a local specialty foods market.

Several years ago we added the Copper Leaf variety of  it to our herb garden - more for it's beautiful foliage than for any plans to actually use it in cooking - but it never performed well, and when it failed to sprout one spring after having struggled for several years, we didn't replant.  

Fennel bulbs - in the supermarket the roots are removed.
I'd seen fennel bulbs in the supermarket and had watched Chef Ann Burrell prepare it on television. But I still struggled with the idea of a licorice-flavored vegetable as a side dish.  I had little interest in working with fennel as a vegetable until we received several large bulbs in our organic vegetable farm share.  After researching ways to prepare it, I combined several suggestions from other chefs into my own personal version of caramelized fennel.  Overnight I became a fennel devotee, as did everyone in the family after I served this wonderful vegetable as a side dish.

Learning to properly cut fennel was Job One.  The instructions I found ran the gamut from using the entire bulb and lower portions of the stalk to cutting out the core of the bulb and using only the "best" part of the plant.  I read several articles that suggested the stalks and core could be tough and opted to go with a more drastic approach to the bulb.

Fennel from the farm came with the root still attached.  We had had a cold and rainy summer so when it was harvested, the bulbs were smaller than what I'd seen at the local market.  

The first time I prepared it, I used only the bulbs in the farm share. I was experimenting and didn't know how much cooked vegetable they would yield, nor how receptive my usually vegetable-avoidant husband and son would be to this new addition to our menu. 

I was not prepared for how warmly received this "new" (to us) vegetable was.  When I prepared it again, I added store-bought bulbs to those we received with our farm share.

Cutting the fennel requires a very sharp knife.  I personally favor a boning knife that I sharpen with each use.  It allows me to easily carve out the core at the base of the bulb, trim stalks, and slice the bulb.

The first thing I generally do is cut off the stalks and roots.  I reserve some of the best branches of the fine, feathery foliage to add to the bulb during cooking.  

The core can comprise a large portion of a small bulb so choose the widest ones available
Next, I trim the sides where the stalks were cut close to the bulb.  I've tried it both ways and find the stalks to be tough and not as flavorful and sweet as the bulb.  If I've left a stub of the stalk, I trim it away.

Once I've trimmed the sides, I remove any significantly damaged or discolored outer layers.  Older bulbs may show some rust along the edges of the layers.  You can this in the bulbs in the above photograph.  This can be sliced away;  it usually only requires removing a very shallow sliver of the edge of that layer. Then I rinse the bulb in cold water just to remove any dirt that might still be present and to clean it before slicing and cooking.

Once the bulb is trimmed, clean, and ready to be sliced, I cut the bulbs in half through the middle from front to back (the long way) to expose the core.

Bulbs trimmed and cored and ready to be sliced.
The core is removed by cutting a V-shaped wedge along it's length to remove the innermost part of it.  It's not necessary to remove the entire core.  I leave enough to hold the bulb intact and make it easier to slice the bulb into thin strips for cooking.

Although many cooking sources say that it can be left intact and sliced and cooked with the rest of the bulb, I find it tough and fibrous and so I always trim it out.

The bulb halves are now ready to live.  I turn each half flat side down on the cutting board and thinly slice them from the bottom of the bulb to the top.  The cut slices almost resemble celery in texture.

I cook fennel in a 50/50 mixture of olive oil and butter.   I use just enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan and lightly coat the slices.  Even when I am making a large batch, usually no more than a quarter cup of each is needed for a medium-large pan of fennel (roughly 6 cups of sliced fennel bulbs).  If I find I need more, I add more butter, a tablespoon at a time.

Adding fresh fennel leaves and dried fennel seed increases the flavor
Heat the pan, oil and butter and when the butter is completely melted, add the fennel and saute on medium heat.  You want the vegetable to slowly brown and carmelize, not quickly brown and turn to mush.

Rinse some of the lacy green fronds and roll them in a paper towel to dry them.  With kitchen shears snip the fronds into pieces 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length and add to the pan.  This enhances the flavor of the fennel.  I also add a tablespoon or two of dried fennel seed to add another layer of flavor to the dish as well.  Agenerous pinch of sea salt rounds out the flavor profile. 

With a large spatula or silicon spoon, turn the fennel until the oil and butter are evenly distributed, then add a small amount of sugar (not artificial sweetener) to help the fennel caramelize.   I add one or two tablespoons for 3-4 cups of raw fennel and two or three tablespoons for a large batch - more than 5-6 cups of raw fennel.  Even though the fennel is sweet in and of itself, the sugar helps the fennel to caramelize.

Ready to serve, the cooked fennel is a light golden brown and fork tender.
Continue to turn the fennel in the pan occasionally and let it slowly cook to a light golden brown.  When it's ready to serve, it should be tender but not crunchy.  A large pan (4-5 cups) takes about 20 minutes to cook through on medium or medium-low heat.

Although my family and I love the sweetness of caramelized fennel, I found several recipes that mentioned adding a small amount of  lemon juice to cut the sweetness and brighten the flavor.

It's important when selecting fennel bulbs to choose the widest ones (laterally, from side to side) that you can find, since the core makes up a considerable amount of the bulb.   I look for the freshest bulbs with the least amount of rust.   And for those time when you wish you had an extra fennel bulb and need to stretch the recipe, add sweet white onions.  Vidalia onions work exceptionally well but I have also used generic white onions with a tasty result.  In fact, my family said they could not tell the difference.  Peel and quarter one or two large onions and slice in the same manner as the fennel.  Add to the raw fennel and cook as above.  The onions will acquire the anise flavor during cooking.

I've used this as a side dish with chicken, pork and lamb.  Although my favorite herb references indicate that it's often paired with seafood, my seafood allergy has prevented me from experimenting with fish dishes flavored with fennel. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Invasion of the Garden Snatchers: The Perennial Problem of Invasive Plants

Kudzu on trees in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA, from Wikipedia
The introduction of non-native plants in any ecosystem can be a mixed blessing.  While many of the old garden and hybrid roses are an example of a blessing, the same cannot be said for kudzu (Pueraria lobata), for example, whose growth rate is best described as meteoric.

Originally introduced into this country  by the Soil Erosion Service and Civilian Conservation Corp in 1876 to help control soil erosion problems in Pennsylvania, its rapid growth and luscious foliage made it a favorite to cover shade porches and pergolas in the southern states.  It soon became a favorite cover crop because of its rapid growth rate but when left to its own devices and allowed to grow unchecked, it became a veritable menace, destroying everything in its path.

Kudzu has overtaken more than 7.5 million acres in the southern states where it has smothered all low growing plants in its path and covered, broke branches from, and even uprooted trees.  Growing up to a foot a day, it doesn't take long to cover an abandoned barn and overtake and damage electrical and phone lines.

Tall reeds mid left of the photograph, 2009, Ipswich River
Kudzu has been identified as far north as New York City but fortunately, it can't survive New England winters.  Still, we have our own predatory weeds that more than make up for it.

Here in Massachusetts and along the coast extending into southern New Hampshire, a major and pressing problem is the common reed phragmites (Phragmites australis) which has been rapidly and relentlessly overtaking both salt marshes and freshwater tidal basins alike.  Its rapid proliferation has caused serious problems along the entire Atlantic coast but it is of particular concern to us as it now poses a major threat to the survival of the 18,000 acre Great Marsh here in Essex County, a critical part of our local ecosystem and marine culture.

There is a subspecies of phragmites that is native to North America, however the subspecies (P. australis subs. Americanus) is a much less vigorous and more easily controlled plant than Phragmites australis subs. Australis, the non-native variety that is now considered a serious environmental threat.
Phragmites have changed the landscape along the river's edge.
Phragmites reeds grow in dense swaths that can spread as much as 16 linear feet in a year.  Mature plants of the non-native variety can reach 15-20 feet in height and are easily identified because except for trees, they are the tallest things you'll find.  The subspecies Americanus is much shorter, growing to a maximum height of 6-12 feet. 

Phragmites spread and multiply both by seeds (less so) and thick rhizomes (most commonly and aggressively) that are thick, notoriously difficult to kill, and can extend up to 20 inches in depth where they send out innumerable runners.  Chopping back the top of the plant does not affect the rhizome which will continue to extend runners and then send up new, denser, more vigorous growth the next growing season.  Most importantly, phragmites  choke out the other native species which are a critical part of the food chain for local fish and fowl and there is concern about the survival of wildlife and the Marsh if the proliferation continues unchecked.

Normal plant growth is gradually being overtaken by phragmites along the rivers.
Phragmites have been used as a grazing crop (albeit nutritionally incomplete) for livestock, but grazing (and mowing) only increases the vigor of the plants, so cutting down the massive stands only makes the problem worse.  And livestock don't graze in the Great Marsh.  Extensive burning over the course of multiple seasons appears to be the best chance of achieving control of a plant that tolerates sand, mud, and clay, is highly salt-tolerant, and can also thrive in a wide range of pH.

I first noticed phragmites in 2009 while canoeing on the Ipswich River.  (They were certainly here long before that, but had escaped my awareness until then.)  I noticed the changing landscape along the river's edge -- the wildflowers and indigenous plants and shrubs were being replaced by a tall grass that formed a dense wall that obstructed the beautiful landscape.

Over the course of two years, large swaths of this noxious weed replaced the natural river habitat in many areas and have completely obliterated the view of the coastal marshes (and everything that used to grow there) along local route US-1.

Even more frustrating is that it found it's way into our own garden this past summer.  I went out to weed one of the perennial beds and to my horror,several tall fronds had sprouted in the midst of our Montauk daisies and coneflowers.  Digging them out was a major chore and we could not have done it without our spearhead spade shovel.  

We abut a meadow that is marshy in the spring and I have seen phragmites growing there, although they are usually mowed down during the twice yearly mowing for hay.  Digging them out was a tremendous chore and we ended up digging up and sacrificing several daisies and coneflowers in the process.

Loosestrife sprouted in a rose bed.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is another lovely but aggressively invasive plant that has been an increasing and problematic presence over the past several decades.  It was introduced into the east coast of the US in the early 1800's and since then, it has spread along waterways and roadways to virtually everywhere in the continental United States save Florida.

A common sight along highway medians, roadsides, waterways, ponds, swamps, and meadows, it's pretty lavender color brightens the roadside.  But like phragmites, it overtakes wetlands and marshes and has become a major threat to the ecosystem.  Also like phragmites, the root system is exceedingly vigorous and once the plants are established, it can be difficult to dig out even with a spade shovel.

Loosestrife spreads primarily by seed which it produdes in voluminous amounts.  Easily carried on the wind or by birds, volunteers have been finding their way into our yard from the adjacent meadow for several years.
Loosestrife popped up unexpectedly in a shade garden

If you find it blooming in your garden, cut the plant back before it blooms and then dig as much of the root system as you can find.  If you miss a substantial part of the root, it will re-grow the following season, so keep an eye out early in the growing season and if you see it sprouting, dig early and dig wide.

Loosestrife has popped up in our shaded cottage bed and among our blueberry shrubs.  It also has appeared in our sunny rose beds and along the edge of our property where it abuts the meadow.  Since there are large clumps of it in the meadow that will continue to shed seed, all we can do is be vigilant and dig it up as soon as we notice it.

In the case of loosestrife, mowing does help, and when we see it sprouting near the property line, we try to keep it mowed to prevent it from blooming and setting seed.
Brilliant fall foliage

The ubiquitous burning bush, Euonymus alatus, can be found dotting the landscape throughout New England.

For decades, its brilliant red autumn foliage and hardy growth habit made it a favorite of landscapers who were designing low maintenance plantings for shopping malls, office buildings, and other places where pollution and drought tolerant shrubs would thrive.   The stunning scarlet fall foliage became a favorite of home gardeners as well.

 Unfortunately, the burning bush has become a bane of green space and woods alike and many states, Massachusetts included, now restrict its importation, propagation, and sale. 

The tendency toward being invasive is primarily a problem where the shrubs have been allowed to naturalize along highways or in pastures and woodlands where they out-compete and eventually replace native plants.   When they are planted in urban areas as ornamentals, there doesn't seem to be as much of an issue with them growing out of control, although birds have been credited with spreading the seeds contained in the fall berries.

Three of our four burning bush shrubs showing vivd green foliage in spring.
There were four mature burning bushes already planted in front of our suburban home when Steve originally purchased the property and in the twelve years that we've resided here, we've not had a single seedling develop from any of them.

Many of the problems with the burning bush developed when homes were abandoned and previously tended gardens were left to their own devices.  Burning bush berries spread the seed into the woods, likely with the help of birds, and when they sprouted, the rapidly growing plants thrived and began to out-compete the native shrubs for space.

I've long been very concerned about well-intended but sometimes misguided planting of non-native plants in areas where they will be left to their own devices and not cultivated or kept in line.  They're kind of like teenagers... you need to set firm limits and if you don't, you end up with a teen (or a burning bush) that is totally out of control. Not a good thing.

We've been asked many times why we, as responsible home owners and stewards of the land, don't simply dig them up.  My feelings about doing so are complicated.  The reality is that any robust plant, native or not, can become invasive if not properly monitored and controlled.  We saw this first hand when a tall and vigorous cultivar of Mondara (bee balm) overtook one of our cottage beds.  It took six years for us to completely eradicate it from our property and reclaim the bed.

While I doubt that I would ever plant another burning bush (or any more bee balm) even in a locale that allowed them (I've never been particularly fond of burning bushes, their status as invasive aside), I see no value to disrupting the existing garden beds and destroying healthy plants that have to date not caused a problem in their present location, especially since they have historically provided nesting places for birds.

Moreover, at least half of the homes and two shopping malls within three quarters of a mile of our home are prominently planted with them.  Destroying these four shrubs might make a statement, but to what outcome? 

A large burning bush growing in the cottage garden (2009)
Were the Commonwealth to mandate that all shrubs currently growing in our locale be destroyed, we would comply, but that is not the current recommendation.  It seems to us that a more appropriate tact for us to take is to continue what we have been doing for the past several years and that is to exercise a firm hand over those plants that were planted as ornamentals when it was legal and permissible to do so. 

What we have found very effective and at the same time uniquely attractive is to drastically prune the shrubs in spring, just as the rather inconspicuous blooms are opening.  This prevents all but a rare few berries from developing and virtually eliminates the primary way that the burning bush self propagates.  

Exposing the inner, larger branches gives the shrub a completely new look and most people who see the shrubs after pruning don't recognize them.  

The same shrub (2012) after we began drastic pruning.  Opening up the lower 2/3 of the shrub lightens the visual weight of it in the garden and in so doing, we remove all of the blossoms that eventually would develop into berries and seed.
We leave a generous canopy but shape the top.  This shrub was formally thickly branched and as wide as the canopy all hte way down to its base.


List of Invasive Plants - Massachusetts

Newburyport Daily News Article - Phragmites

Wikipedia Entry: Phragmites

USDA Profile:  PhragmitesFact Sheet (pdf document)

National Gardening Association's Weed Library

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Share Your Time and Talent with a Commnity or Public Rose Garden

If you are looking for a fun, productive, and different way to spend part of your vacation, consider volunteering at a botanical garden.  Most publicly funded gardens are short of funds and staff and many will welcome the assistance of experienced gardeners who have time to lend a hand.

For the past two years, Steve and I have volunteered for three days at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Cranford Rose Garden assisting Sara Owens to prepare the garden for "Rose Night".  It's a joy and a labor of love to be able to work among the roses. Best of all, as members of the BBG, we get to attend the members only event and listen to the other patrons enthusiastic comments about the garden. 

During our volunteer stint this past summer, I had an amazing experience.  I was sitting on my garden stool hunched over a shrub rose that needed some serious deadheading when I heard beautiful, melodic chanting behind me.  I turned around to find seven people standing in a semi-circle around me, bowing and chanting.  The one man who spoke English explained that they were tourists from mainland China who were visiting the garden that day and they were singing a song of praise for everyone who was working in the garden to make it so beautiful.  They so warmed my heart!

Sarah Owens, Curator, Cranford Rose Garden
How to volunteer:

First, get to know the garden.  We visited the Cranford several times and I attended a class that the rose curator, Sara Owens was teaching, before we offered to volunteer our time there.

Become a member.  Community and public gardens rely on donations and membership fees to cover their operating costs.

Early in the year, well before the rose gardens will be waking up (we live in New England and our roses are still under more than a foot of snow!), send a letter of introduction to the rose curator (or other garden manager if your interest lies outside the rose garden), explain your experience and credentials (are you a rosarian or master gardener; how many roses do you grow in your own garden), and your willingness to volunteer.  When we first began communicating with Sara, we sent photographs of our rose garden; some things speak for themselves.  At that time, we had more than 230 roses with every rose group represented.

Ask what you might possibly do to help and when in the gardening season help is needed.   Be prepared to be flexible.  Your volunteer time will be most appreciated if you can be there at a time that meets their most pressing needs.  We knew months in advance that she needed help preparing the garden for Rose Night so we committed to the days that she said she needed help.  We arranged for vacation time and made reservations at a hotel near the garden.  Do not expect your travel and lodging to be reimbursed. If they could afford it, they would hire more staff.  Consider it a gift from the heart for the privilege of being allowed to assist. 

Deadheading along the edge of one of the main central beds.
Bring your favorite pruners and prepare to thoroughly enjoy yourself.  We bring sharp snips for detail work as well as good quality by-pass pruners and a weeding tool.  Dress in layers and wear a hat.  Don't forget sunscreen and bottled water. 

Follow all of the rose curator's instructions to the letter.  Regardless of how much training and experience you may have, every rose "expert" has their own way of doing things and while you are in their garden, you need to adapt what you do to their way.  The rose curator is the expert and the boss.  He or she has priorities and a plan for what has to be accomplished in a given time frame and they generally have their own preferred way of doing certain things. 

My husband likes to prune and deadhead.  I like to weed and rake out the beds.  He hates the clean-up.  To me, a bed isn't "finished" until the debris has been cleaned out, the last weed pulled (with a weeder, so you get the root),  and the mulch raked.  Even if it isn't the job you really wanted to be doing, whatever you are assigned to do is the most important thing that needs to be done at that moment.  We've trimmed grassy borders and wayward perennials, weeded, raked, pruned, and learned different and better ways of doing things.  And honestly, we've enjoyed every minute of it.

Gauntlets are standard gardening attire.
Every time we volunteer, we stroll with her along our assigned bed and show her where and how we would make a cut.  Most of the time it's exactly what she would do.  But if she is preparing the garden for a major public event, she may want you to leave blooms you would ordinarily cut in your own yard  so that the beds are full of color. 

Most of the time, we don't touch the old garden roses, not even to deadhead them, since she wants them to develop hips for color and visual interest later in the summer.  In that regard, you really need to know your roses.

This year she asked me to gently prune and shape one of the old garden gals that was growing on one of the many pillars in the garden.  I was honored that she trusted me with this delicate task.

The rose curator may also have procedures for doing things that are different from what you're used to doing at home.  At the Cranford, for examples, the staff does not walk into the beds to tend to the roses in the middle of the large beds.  Long boards are laid down on the beds to stand on so the mulch doesn't get packed down.  It did take some getting used to, especially for me, since my balance is so poor, but it's a practice we took home to our own garden.

Sanitize your tools!  Before we packed our garden tools for the trip to New York, we sanitized everything.  You don't want to bring a garden pest from home.  Likewise, when we were working in the botanic garden, we sanitized our pruners frequently and before moving from bed to bed.  And when we got home, I repeated the cleaning.

We each have garden totes that open into low seats with places for tools and gloves along the sides and underneath the seat where there is a handy place to store extra gloves, bottles of water, and sunscreen.  They have handy straps for toting them around. We only brought what we knew we would absolutely need for the job and everything was washed with soap and water and sanitized with bleach.  Even our gardening aprons, shoes and gloves were cleaned before and after the trip.

Learn as you go.  If you see something different or unusual, ask a question.  Our time in the rose garden was both rewarding and educational for us and for many of the garden visitors as well. 

The photograph at right shows a split in a cane, something we had seen in our own garden last spring and which I was coming across quite frequently in the Cranford.  I had no idea what caused it and had been concerned about it.   I showed it to Sarah and she reassured me that it was simply the effect of all the rain that we had been having.  I was relieved to know that I didn't have something attacking my own roses. It had indeed been an unusually we spring.  And it certainly had not affected the rose's ability to bloom.

Many visitors stopped to ask us questions, often such simple things as how to prune a particular kind of rose, or what would be a good rose for their garden near the beach or in the shade.  It took only a few seconds to demonstrate the typical angled cut and explain how spring pruning is done.  And we made sure to explain the difference in how to plant roses in the Northeast compared to how they are planted in warmer climates.  Others wanted to know where in the garden they could find a particular rose.  This is where our knowledge of the garden and how it's laid out came in handy.   Most of the time, we were asked questions we could easily answer but when we couldn't, we could point them in Sarah's direction. 

One thing I did learn -- the love of roses is contagious and many people who insisted they couldn't grow roses as beautiful as the ones in the rose garden were pleasantly surprised when we reassured them that if they chose the correct shrub for their yard, indeed they could. 

The pink rose behind me on the right is Abraham Darby.
Our volunteer work culminated with Rose Night, an annual evening with music, dancing, and picnicking allowed on the esplanade next to the rose garden.  It's one of the rare times during the year that garden visitors are allowed to have food in the garden itself.  Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner and wear fancy hats. 

Sarah asked us to dress in period attire as we have done in the past.  This year, we dressed in the era in which the garden was actually opened.  Steve wore his seersucker suit and boater and I wore what was commonly known as "summer whites" with lace gloves, lace trimmed saddle shoes, a picture hat, and fan.

The Cranford Rose Garden opened in 1928.  Funded with a generous gift from Walter V. Cranford the year before, the garden was designed by landscape architect Harold Caparn and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's horticulturist Montague Free. 

Many of the original rose shrubs are still growing in the garden today. The garden is home to over 5,000 rose bushes and over 1,500 unique varieties.

The blooms in the rose garden peaked the day before Rose Night.  Could anything have been more perfect!
The rose arches and reflecting pool.
Throughout the garden, perennials such as this catmint are paired with roses.  I love the effect of the catmint so much, I've incorporated into many of our own rose beds.
Stunning roses in every color filled every corner of the garden.  The garden was the most beautiful we had ever seen it.
Sarah was stunning in her colorful outfit but after a full day of working to get the garden ready, she couldn't just relax and enjoy the evening.  She spent most of the evening in the main garden, accepting visitor compliments and answering visitor's questions, and then served as a judge for the "best hat" contest..  This was also an opportunity for us to help.  The garden was full of visitors with questions and Steve and I were able to answer queries about the identify of some of the perennials planted among the roses as well as direct them to a particular rose they asked for.
With Sarah and her mother, who volunteered with us in the beds as well. It was a pleasure to work with them both.
Live music added so much to the event.  People were dancing all through the esplanade.
Every year, the esplanade is lined with tables dressed with (what else) rose pink table cloths that are shared by some of the visitors while others picnic on blankets on the vast lawn.  The garden staff sell "rosetinis"... specially made martinis with rose petals floating in them.  Hats are encourage, but each year we see an increasing number of attendees dressed in period attire as well. Such fun!
The weather was perfect and the esplanade was sitting room only.
We were so happy to see another couple dressed in the attire of the 1920's and enjoying rosetinis.
The number of young children and young adults in attendance was phenomenal. 
This was the third "Rose Night" I've attended.  You can read about the other events and see more photographs of this magnificent garden at the links below.

This was a wonderful course taught in the rose garden by Sarah Owens in 2011

Rose Night 2011

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Lovely Blog Award: And the Winner ... Graciously Declines

I wrote this post almost a year ago and promptly forgot to post it!  So I am posting it now, as much to introduce everyone to one of our favorite blogs to visit as well as to explain our philosophy about blog awards.

One Sunday morning early last summer, Steve and I we were surprised and delighted to learn that Kevin, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Man and one of our fellow bloggers at Blotanical had nominated us for the "One Lovely Blog" award for our blog.

This was the very first (and to date, the only) blog award nomination that we've ever received and we thanked Kevin privately for recognizing us in this most unique and special way. 

Recipients of this award are required to pay it forward by following three Rules of Acceptance. Then one is allowed to post one of the "lovely" blog badges on their blog.

The "Rules" of the game are:

Thank the nominator and link to his/her site.   (Done, thank you again, Kevin.)

Share seven things about yourself.  (This we can do.....)

Nominate 10 other bloggers, let them know, and then link to their sites from your own.  (Yikes!)

The first was easy.  The second, not so much, but we took a stab at it. Here goes:

1.  Steve's Jewish name (Judah, or Yehudah in Hebrew) and mine (Judith, or Yehudit in Hebrew) are the same.

2.  After we started dating, we discovered that we each had sets of vintage cobalt china that were companion sets for each other.  (They aren't identical, in fact they were designed by two different china houses in two different countries.  His was specifically designed and created to be a companion to mine.)

3.  And it wasn't until we started dating that we realized that my rose Murano crystal matches both of our sets of china and his (now our) rose chandelier.

4.  We have four dogs, all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. The breed features four possible colors and we have one dog of each color (more by luck than by design). Their names are Emily Rose (9 year old ruby), Elizabeth Rebecca (almost 16 year old black and tan), Spencer Tracy (AKA Tough Nut or just plain Toughie,  7 year old tricolor), and Katherine Hepburn (AKA Katie or Cuddles,  4 year old Blenheim).
Toughie and Katie are pictured here at left, and yes, Katie stole Tough's ball from him and gentleman that he is, he is allowing her to play with it.

5.  On our first date, after dinner, while Steve and I were walking to a small Italian bakery for dessert, he broke into song, singing to me as we walked along one of the main streets in the city.  All of the other women walking along smiled and some even stopped to watch as he sang "Moon River" to me in his beautiful baritone voice.

6.  Since we've added roses to some of our perennial beds, we now have about 250 roses in our gardens.

7.  We are members of Soldiers Angels.  We have "adopted" many US servicemen who had little or no family support stateside during deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.  We turned one of our garden beds into a Memorial to nine soldiers who we were supporting and who died in combat.

The third rule proved very problematic for us.  After much thought, gnashing of teeth, and intense consideration, we find that the third rule is next to impossible for us to fulfill.  How do we pick just ten blogs out of all the blogs we each love to read on a regular basis?   And how do we do that without hurting the feelings of some other truly fabulous bloggers -- the ones we didn't pick?

We have fifty-six followers of our blog, most of them bloggers in their own right.  How do we pick only ten?  What do we say to the ones who weren't chosen?  We like you a lot, BUT....??  That doesn't work for us.  In fact, it ranks right up there (just my humble opinion) with how you cut favorite cousins and family friends off the invitation list when you need to keep the number of guests at a wedding below a certain cap.  It's painful for everyone.

We have an answer.  We aren't going to.  We know that not following all of the rules means that we can't post the award on our blog, that we have to decline it, and we're okay with that.  So for several days,  we reveled in the joy of having been nominated in the first place and we decided to leave it at that.  We think our blog is pretty special, but no, you won't see a badge saying so posted in the margin.

When all is said and done, we value all of the bloggers who follow us and all of the blogs we read on a regular basis.  We aren't going to choose some at the expense of others and at the risk of hurting the feelings of any bloggers that we truly admire and care about.  For that same reason, we don't rank our faved blogs on Blotanical either.   You all should know that we handled our wedding the same way.  We couldn't afford a huge sit-down, catered meal with a small orchestra, thousands of dollars of flowers, and a fancy [Translation: Expensive] venue so we rented a huge tent and had a buffet in our back yard with a friend of a friend serving as DJ.  It was a wonderful wedding.

So thank you, Kevin, for the wonderful honor of having been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award.  You absolutely made our day.  But we'll let it end here, and as the sun sets over our garden, we will go back to reading and appreciating all of our favorite blogs, including yours!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Peggy Martin Rose Journal

Peggy Martin Rose, 2012, Newburyport, MA
Welcome to our Peggy Martin Rose Journal.  For the next few  years, we will follow the growth of our Peggy Martin Rose, documenting her bloom cycles as well as how she fares throughout the year and especially over the winter.

Unlike the way we usually post updates in which we include links to previous posts on the same topic, this post will contain every previous entry in journal format, dated and in chronological order.  The current year's updates will always appear at the top and we'll try to update the diary at least once each season. 

If you are new to this Diary, please scroll down to read the inspiring story of the remarkable woman for whom this rose is named and who has shared this incredible "found" rose for the benefit of the Heritage Rose Society and the American Rose Society.

Latest Updates - June - July, 2013  
(Scroll down to see the rose in full bloom at the end of June.)

June 7, 2013:  Completely Budded and Soon to Bloom

One of our considerations when we pruned the roses to switch out the trellises was that we would interfere with Peggy's bloom cycle.
We need not have worried.

May 27th was The Big Move, and then on June 2nd, we departed for New York for our spring volunteer work at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Cranford Rose Garden.

The day we left, I was happy to see that Peggy had started to sprout a few buds and I breathed a sigh of relief.   My thought was that while the buds that I could see were pretty sparse, at least she would bloom.  My only regret was that with the warm humid weather, the buds might open while we were away and I'd miss their 2013 debut.

We returned home and in less than four short days, she had exploded in a halo of buds.  many are ready to burst open but so far, they are still very tightly held buds, clustered on every branch and twig.

I can hardly wait for them to open! 

June 8, 2012:  Once again, every branch promises to be a gorgeous pink bouquet.

June 26, 2013:  In Full Bloom!

Despite having been heavily pruned in order to install the new trellis, Peggy has rewarded us with a spectacular bloom.  The blossoms began opening on June 11th and blooming in earnest a week later.  By June 26th, the bloom was at peak.
June 16th, blooming in earnest.
June 26th:  Sharing the trellis with New Dawn
June 26th:  Sharing the trellis with New Dawn; the lavender hedges are in full bloom as well.
June 26th:  A stunning entrance to the formal garden.

See the Rest of the 2013 Diary, Below

January 1, 2013:  Happy New Year, Peggy Martin

January 1, 2013: Happy New Year,  Peggy Martin.  So far the winter has been cold and wet but not frigid.  We had snow over Christmas week but it quickly melted away revealing a still very green Peggy.
January 16, 2013:  One of many snowfalls.  Peggy spent much of the rest of the winter nestled under a blanket of snow or enjoying the warm sun when the weather warmed up and the snow melted.
January 28, 2013:  We hung a bird-feeder from the trellis and tossed seed on the walk for the mourning doves, although the sparrows and juncos enjoyed it there as well.  Much of the snow from the previous storm has melted, revealing Peggy's still green leaves.
 May 13, 2013

Over the winter, Peggy's trellis home deteriorated significantly.   It first begun to twist under her weight last summer.  We were able to stabilize it after pruning but when we noticed problems developing in the late fall, we felt it was too late in the season to change the trellises over and opted to wait until spring.

The trellis twisted so much over the winter that the top separated from the side, which is now leaning back at a significant angle, the metal actually bending where it inserts into the cement.  (The posts are cemented into sauna tubes which remain firmly in place.)

We had known that the trellis would need to be changed out this spring and in anticipation, we had already purchased, assembled and stained a lovely cedar trellis.  Hopefully, we will have it installed as Peggy's new home this weekend.  Her weight will be supported by eight large re-bar poles inserted along the inside and outside of each panel at each corner.

The photograph below shows the disarticulation of the trellis and the degree to which it leans most dramatically.  Peggy has already been pruned once this spring and her growth continues unabated. (We aren't complaining, however.)

Significant pruning will again be required to remove the existing metal unit and replace it with long pieces of re-bar and the decorative wooden trellis.  I hope that doesn't affect her bloom cycle, although my guess is that we are doing this early enough not to interfere.  She has not set any buds that I can see and she is still a full month away from blooming.

Pruned only a month ago, Peggy has  overtaken the existing trellis once again. Note the clematis just starting to grow and twine again around her feet and climb along her canes and up the inside of the trellis once again.  I actually pruned back all of the old growth (of the clematis) when I pruned Peggy the first time as we had been planning to switch the trellis out much sooner than this.  This should make an impressive display once again when first Peggy and then the clematis bloom again this summer.

May 27, 2013:  Peggy's New Home

It has taken considerable time and effort, but we finally were able to prune back Peggy Martin, New Dawn, and the Sweet Autumn clematis that shared a trellis in order to replace the trellis with a sturdier, decorative cedar one.

Pruning everything back took much of the afternoon.  We filled two garden wagons twice, piled high, with clippings.  I was amazed at the enormous amount of growth we had to cut away.

Now, I expected that from New Dawn, and to a certain extent, Sweet Autumn,  but Peggy had already been cut back once this spring.  So while I expected to do a little bit of pruning, I didn't expect that everything I'd already cut would have grown  back and then some,  and in less than a month.

However, she had once again crested the top of the trellis and was climbing back down through New Dawn. Long canes arched down from the top of the trellis, almost to the ground.

We pruned away three wheelbarrows-full from both roses in order to be able to dismantle and remove the old trellis.  Then we moved the new trellis into place and secured it with four foot lengths of re-bar and 5 foot fence posts.  Living so close to the ocean, our yard often resembles a wind tunnel and our  trellises have been known to take flight in gale force winds, with sauna tubes attached!

May 27, 2013:    With the new trellis finally in place, we tied the canes with twine to support them until they were able to grab and intertwine around the trellis. 
Look at the size of this cane -- and it is not one of the older canes, either.  The growth rate on this rose is startling.  For a rose that arrived as a bare root, this Jack-in-the-Beanstalk has far exceeded our expectations.

The Peggy Martin Rose Journal

Spring, 2011:  A Bit of History ~ Why We Even Bought This Rose

In the spring of 2011, Manny Mendes, then president of the New England Rose Society, encouraged us to purchase the Peggy Martin Rose.  After calling and repeatedly badgering me, he mailed me a catalog from the Antique Rose EmporiumThe Peggy Martin Rose was featured on the cover.  It doesn't get more in your face than that. We had been slowly adding heritage roses to our garden and there isn't a more comprehensive source around than this one anyway, so I went through the catalog and sent in an order.

That late in the spring, most of the roses I was interested in acquiring were already sold out and the pickings were slim.  Along with Conrad Ferdinand Meyer and Clothilde Soupert, we ordered the Peggy Martin Rose.

Marketed as a vigorous but "mannerly" grower, the photograph on Antique Rose Emporium's catalog cover showed an enormous, mature climber with a profusion of bloom-covered canes cascading over the top of an immense conical support.  The presentation was so dramatic, I couldn't imagine that this fairly young rose (hey, I did the math; the hurricane only happened in 2005!) could have grown that much, and I wondered at the time if the image had been photo-shopped.  We planted our Peggy Martin on the rose arbor at the entrance to our formal English garden where it would share an arch with New Dawn.

The side of the arbor where Peggy Martin was planted had previously been occupied by a gorgeous Sweet Autumn Clematis which had been the perfect trellis mate for New Dawn. Unfortunately, for the second time in recent years, voles had destroyed the clematis over the winter, gnawing at both the root ball and its main trunks.  It looked as though the clematis was a total loss.  (NOT!, we found out a month or so later!) We decided to try something else.  Since they had ignored New Dawn in favor of the clematis, maybe a rose would be a better choice. 

June 2011, the bare root rose leafed out fully within a month
That said, I wasn't convinced that this particular rose was the rose.  After all, this was a southern rose and we live in northeastern Massachusetts in a miro-climate famous for ice storms. However, when I sent in the order, I had broken one of our cardinal rules: I had ordered a rose without any plan for where I was going to put it in the garden.  So when the order arrived, I was faced with a bare root rose that needed to be planted immediately and the most obvious place to put it was the glaring "hole" on the trellis at the entrance to our formal English garden. 

Despite the dramatic picture on the cover of that year's print catalog, this is not a rose I would ordinarily have ever chosen for our garden.  In fact, the more I had read about the rose itself, the less interested in it I was.   But after reading the history of this particular rose, the only reason I decided to add it to our order was to support the real Peggy Martin's efforts to restore the historic gardens in New Orleans, not out of a personal interest in this particular rose variety.

June 15, 2011 She has big shoes to fill!
Described as a climber without fragrance or hips, and hardy only to zone 6  (and even that was still questionable at this point in my mind, as it didn't have a long history of success to fall back on), as far as I was concerned, the Peggy Martin Rose had 3 strikes against her at the outset.  For us, a rose without fragrance holds little appeal, and a scentless rose that doesn't produce hips doesn't usually make the cut when we are choosing roses.  Rose hips help feed our wild bird population over the winter.

With 225 roses already and little room to add more, unless it's a species rose we have been hunting for or a historically important Old Garden Rose we have been trying to add to our collection, any new rose we acquire has to have a major physical attribute - incredible fragrance or over-the-top, unusual or gorgeous bloom, for example - for us to even give it a second look. What Peggy Martin had was a story that both broke my heart and inspired me at the same time.  I bought both the rose and signed on for membership in the Heritage Rose Foundation to support the "real" Peggy Martin.  

The biggest concern for me in planting this rose at all was that our zone 6b winters can be wildly variable and in our micro-climate, located as we are on the northernmost point of Cape Ann, what we don't get in sub-zero temperatures we more than make up for in brisk, drying wind and ice storms over the winter.  Gale force winds are a regular occurrence here and they take a tremendous toll on climbers that are harder to protect from the ravages of winter.  I have learned the hard way to stick with roses that are rated for zone 5 or colder.  So despite what I read, I was far from convinced that this Southern belle could handle one of our winters on the North Atlantic coast and I wasn't completely sold on the idea of spending an entire growing season to find out.  Coincidentally, we discovered that our Sweet Autumn had seeded itself everywhere, including the spot where Peggy was now planted.  So I consoled myself with the thought that if Peggy didn't survive, there was another young clematis growing as well.  Oh me of little faith; I definitely should have had more in a rose that survived being submerged under salt water for two weeks!

June, 2011

July, 2011, First Blooms.  Note the tall cane heading up the trellis at left

In May of 2011, a bright green bare root rose arrived and within days of being set in the ground, she began to sprout canes that quickly leafed out.  I wouldn't have called her growth at that point vigorous.  I wouldn't have even called it enthusiastic. I would have called it scary. Once it started to grow, it was straight out of   Jack in the Beanstalk.

What do you call a rose that grows so fast, you can almost watch the leaves sprout as you're standing there?


Within a month canes were snaking up the side of the arbor.

She bloomed for us her very first summer, barely 5 weeks after being set in the ground.  It wasn't an exciting bloom since the shrub itself was still very young and still quite small, but when you consider that I didn't plant her until late in May and she's known as a spring bloomer, we weren't expecting a bloom at all.   

In contrast, Conrad never bloomed that first year and Clothilde set her first buds at the end of the summer when Peggy was giving us her second flowery show.

August 15, 2011:  Canes stretched nearly to the top of the trellis

October, 2011

October 16, 2011
When October rolled around, to our amazement, Peggy bloomed again.  As I recall, it was a single spray of perhaps five blossoms in all, but when you consider that historically, this rose is known to take a couple of years before it gives a second bloom, Peggy Martin had more than caught my attention.   The last of her fading flowers still had color when an unseasonably early snowstorm fell over Halloween weekend.

When the surprise snowstorm hit, we had been talking about winter protection for Peggy.  We never got the chance to follow through.  Then again, we didn't need to.

January,1, 2012 ~ Happy New Year, Peggy Martin

January 1, 2012:  The only rose showing leaves and active growth in our garden. Note the Sweet Autumn sprouting as well.
Admittedly, the winter of 2011-2012 was unusually mild.  We had just over 2 feet of snow in aggregate - well below normal - and temperatures were above the average for winter in this area most of the winter.  No one complained that we were experiencing more rain than snow;  you don't have to shovel rain.

Still, this is New England, temperatures were often well below freezing, especially at night, and all of our roses were dormant.  All, that is, except for Peggy.  Not only did Peggy remain vividly green all winter, but whenever temperatures rose into the 40's, she would sprout fresh leaves.and her canes would inch higher on the arbor. Even when it snowed, her canes remained a bright, vibrant green beneath the white cloak.

I had wondered about the image on the cover of the Antique Rose Emporium's cover but I had my answer.  In less than 6 months, our Peggy had sent more than a half dozen strong canes up the side of our trellis. And when she bloomed in the spring of 2012, any doubts about this rose vaporized completely.

February 4, 2012:  Most of the leaves have fallen and Peggy appears dormant.  The sheer number of canes is amazing on this 9 month old rose.  Her dormant period was short-lived, however.  Despite freezing temperatures and snow, within days, she began to sprout fresh green leaves!

During a snowstorm, early morning, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012:  The snow ended by mid morning and the day was warm and sunny - well into the 40's.  After the snow melted, I was shocked to discover fresh, new growth sprouting on many of her canes.
Buried in snow again, March 4, 2012.  The leaves stayed green even under the snow.
March 9, 2012 ~ Sprouting more leaves, weeks ahead of the other still dormant rose.  Note the flat break in the cane;  we had had 40-50 mph winds and several of the longest canes snapped off.  We were trying more for damage control than careful pruning when this cane was lopped. Peggy, however, was very forgiving.
March 28, 2012 ~ In less than three weeks, canes have taken over the arbor, growing over the top and cascading back down over the walkway.  While I originally thought that the first photograph I'd seen on the cover of the ARE catalog might have been, well, an exaggeration, I was now certain that it showed a rose that had already been heavily pruned!  This is Peggy at 10 months of age, and winter is scarcely over.
April 4, 2012 ~ On her way to take over the trellis

Spring - Summer, 2012

May 7, 2012
Manny had promised me that I would love this rose.  My one over-riding thought when I purchased it was that even if it didn't survive (and I didn't expect it to), the proceeds were going to support a very worthwhile cause so I would at least give it a try.  And I did have the newly sprouted clematis to fall back on.

A year later, I am in awe of this rose every single day.  She does not disappoint.

After a very mild winter, spring arrived weeks earlier than usual.  By the beginning of March, the garden was waking up and growth and blooms we typically see in April were appearing everywhere. We started to prune the roses as they slowly awakened, snipping a twig here, an inch or two there.  Not so for Peggy.

By the first of March, her newest canes were more than six feet high, and the older eight to ten foot canes crossed both over and under the arch of the arbor,  teasing the still dormant New Dawn and bending back down to the walkway.

By the middle of April, as the other roses were just starting to leaf out, we were already reining in Peggy, trimming her back to keep her under some measure of control.

The Antique Rose Emporium catalog had described her growth as "mannerly".  In less than a month, her new growth almost completely filled the entire space under the arch, making the walkway impassable and she showed no signs of slowing down. (I'm trying to figure out how an UN-mannerly rose grows -- and what Emily Post would think of our Peggy, completely gobbling up every available space and refusing to share her trellis!)

By the end of April, Peggy was fully leafed out with mature leaves, and sprouting new shoots and canes with wild abandon.
By mid-May, she was covered with a dense mat of tight buds.  Every twig, it seemed, contained a bouquet's worth. We were traveling to New York in June and I was anxious to see her first blooms of the year.  But when we left on June 1st, although we could see hints of color, the first buds had yet to open and I was afraid that I would miss our first "real" spring bloom altogether. I need not have worried.

Masses of buds were just beginning to open when we returned, and while the other roses had caught up over the month of May (a couple even graced us with blooms before Memorial Day, weeks ahead of schedule), nothing in our garden compared to Peggy when she started to bloom on June 11th.

June 11, 2012 ~ Despite two assertive prunings, Peggy has completely crested and covered the top of the arbor and the canes are covered with clusters of blooms.
The canes and branches completely enveloped the side of the trellis in blossoms. Sweet Autumn is also growing up along the trellis, intertwining with Peggy.  I can hardly wait to see the blooms in August.
June 11, 2012 ~ The longest canes crested the center of the arch  of the arbor and curled down along the far side where New Dawn was also in bloom.
The first blossoms open, June 11, 2012. Peggy has been growing for barely a year.  And this followed two substantial prunings.
The same trellis one week later, June 19, 2012  Note the blooms on the cane that has arched down on the New Dawn side.
July 16, 2012 ~ Still blooming, although beginning to wind down.  Note the Sweet Autumn Clematis growing up through and intertwining with the canes. Also note, the trellis is beginning to bend on Peggy's side under the weight of her prolific growth.
July 18, 2012:  Fading clusters of flowers after almost six weeks in bloom.
August 7, 2012 ~ A rare blossom is still visible.  Even after being pruned yet again to rein in the wild tangle of canes that filled the arch, the shrub continues to grow and thrive. You can see new growth on the underside of the the top of the arch and on the inside on the left (New Dawn) side.  That is all Peggy.  She has been pruned back twice now since her first early pruning after having completely filled the space under the arch with her canes.
July 23, 2012, assembled and stained and ready to be moved into place
Hardly a year after planting a bare root rose, Peggy Martin has completely overtaken the trellis.  Her canes grew up over the arch, completely obscuring the beautiful Victorian points and peak, and trailed down the other side.  This was after she completely filled the path over the walk and under the arch with long trailing canes for a second time since May, which we trimmed back again about a week ago.

We heavily pruned the New Dawn that shares the other side of her "duplex" and admittedly, we allowed self-seeded seedlings of the Sweet Autumn clematis to sublet, since the clematis blooms when both roses tend to slow down.  (Our favorite garden combinations are clematis and climbing roses.)

Despite that, Peggy Martin's growth has been nothing short of astounding.  However, on Peggy's side, the existing metal trellis (which is not the sturdy wrought iron that it was styled to resemble) is beginning to twist under her weight (one of the reasons we so aggressively pruned again).  I think the only reason it didn't topple is because it is cemented into the ground.  It was clear to us that we needed to find a sturdier structure to support her.

After numerous discussions with our favorite nurseryman, we settled on a cedar trellis that will be supported inside and outside along all four posts with tall re-bar spikes.  The wood will be more decorative, the re-bar will actually support her weight (not that she is, well, overweight.....).

My friend Blaine (visiting from Texas) helped me to assemble and stain the trellis when it coincidentally arrived the same day that she did.  I should have guessed that a trellis this size would arrive in, well, too many pieces!  Thank goodness Blaine and I are equally proficient with a drill!

By the time we purchased, assembled, and stained the new trellis, the clematis was about to bloom so we'll hold off switching them out for now, since much of the clematis and both roses will have to be extensively pruned in order to accomplish this.  Still, the new trellis (pictured above, set in front of the trellis it will replace), isn't as much larger as it will be sturdier. 

August, 2012

Although regarded as highly disease resistant, we discovered that downy mildew really can be a problem for Peggy Martin.  We noticed a small touch of it in the summer of 2011 and immediately sprayed with a baking soda solution.  The infestation did not spread to other leaves or roses and we pruned away the affected branches. 

August, 2012: Downy mildew and possibly a touch of black spot appeared during extremely hot and humid weather.

This August, after several days of hot, humid, rainy weather, fungus appeared once again and as before, spraying with a baking soda solution completely contained it.  Since we discovered this mid- to late August, when we were experiencing extremely hot, humid weather and late afternoon thunderstorms, we added some canola oil and clear soap to the spray, and sprayed every couple of days while we were actively experiencing rain.  The shrub was now enormous and the infection was widespread.  Spraying every 2-3 days over a two week period completely contained it, however, and while New Dawn also showed signs of mildew (and was sprayed as well), it didn't spread to the roses in the adjacent beds.

It's important to note that the baking soda solution stopped the infection in it's tracks.  It never progressed and the rose never defoliated. We were careful to dispose of leaf litter, however, when the rose went dormant over winter.

When the Sweet Autumn Clematis finally bloomed in August, it made a spectacular showing.  The spicy fragrance was intense and with the clematis completely entwined through New Dawn and Peggy Martin, the effect was stunning.  New Dawn and Peggy Martin also both blessed us with a scant flush of blooms in early October.

September, 2012:  The spent blossoms of Sweet Autumn create a white veil completely covering the arbor. Peggy had stopped blooming completely by the end of July, although she continues to send out fresh shoots and leaves.  New Dawn is still blooming in occasional spray of blooms. A month later, Peggy did bloom again for us.
November, 2012:  This 18 month old toddler has totally overtaken this metal trellis, which is now bending significantly under the weight and strength of its canes. We've got the new trellis but will wait until spring to replace it.  Note that the new growth is completely mildew free.  We pruned away as much of the mildew-affected canes as was reasonable and the disease did not spread to the new growth.  She showed us a very light flush of her trademark blossoms again in early October - 6 or 8 clusters.
November, 2012:  Despite many freezing nights, Peggy Martin continues to send out new growth. Residual infection with downy mildew is still present on the older growth but has neither advanced in affected areas nor spread to new growth.

December 24, 2012:  Peggy Martin has definitely slowed down and is heading for dormancy, but her canes and leaves are still a vivid, lettuce green, with new leaves apparent after the most recent snow melt.  The residual signs of mildew are still present, and we carefully disposed of leaf litter.  We don't prune here in the fall, but will carefully clean up in spring as well.  The Sweet Autumn Clematis is also green, although much of it has already died back over the past few weeks since we have had numerous heavy frosts and several inches of snow.
December 26, 2012:  New Dawn is completely dormant as is much of the clematis.  The rest of the roses in the garden are also dormant as is the lavender.  Not so, Peggy Martin, who still has a vivid green showing. It amazes me that her leaves are still healthy and supple even after numerous freezes.  Even our mint and parsley have gone dormant this year (last year we harvested mint and parsley all winter after providing only minimal protection).
The Story of the Peggy Martin Rose

Peggy Martin in front of her namesake rose.
For those of you who are not rose aficionados, let me tell you about this amazing rose and introduce you to the "real" Peggy Martin, the woman behind the Peggy Martin Rose. (You can read the entire story of the Peggy Martin Rose HERE.)

Peggy Martin, for whom this rose is named, has been a tour de force behind the Restoration Fund for the four Historical Gardens in New Orleans as well as several other historic rose gardens in the Gulf Coast area that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  An active member of both the American Rose Society and the Heritage Rose Foundation, she is perhaps best known for her dedication to and leadership of the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society.  Over the course of the past several decades, Peggy's name has become virtually synonymous with old garden roses and heritage roses.

The exact genetics of the Peggy Martin Rose are unknown.  A thornless rambler that grows vigorously and is covered with literally an explosion of blooms both spring and fall and occasionally in between, it came to the "real" Peggy as a cutting given to her by a friend who had acquired cuttings from her mother.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which claimed not only Peggy's and her husband's home and fishing business but  the lives of her beloved parents as well, Peggy returned to where her home had previously stood.  After twenty feet of salt water finally receded, this rose remained as the only rose and one of only two plants from her extensive garden to survive, a reflection of Peggy's own tenacity in the face of extreme adversity and incomprehensible loss and tragedy.

Since that time, Peggy has spearheaded the restoration of the historic gardens and old garden rose collections that were destroyed by Katrina.  The funds for these projects have come in large part from the sale of roses propagated from cuttings of the original Peggy Martin Rose that Peggy had kindly shared with Dr. William C. Welch, a professor at Texas A&M University.

From the rose grown from those original cuttings, Dr. Welch was able to provide cuttings so that the rose could be made available commercially to other rose lovers and in so doing, support efforts to restore the historic collections of gardens across the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Texas.  Rose lovers can support the restoration efforts by acquiring the Peggy Martin Rose from the Antique Rose Emporium or one of the other nurseries listed HERE.  If you don't have a place for this prolific rambler in a garden of your own, please consider making an outright donation to the Heritage Rose Foundation or the the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society.

Additional links to Information about the Peggy Martin Rose:

The Official Peggy Martin Rose Web Site

A History of the Peggy Martin Rose bt Dr. William C. Welch

Dr. Welch's Update on the Status of the Peggy Martin Rose

Photograph of Mrs. Peggy Martin used with permission, courtesy of  Mrs. Peggy Martin.