Saturday, October 31, 2009

One Tough Betty

As we all know, this time of year the focus switches to fall color, that sensational last show taking over the northeast before we close down for the winter. But I have to interject here to show off a rose that is one tough cookie. I admit roses are not as special to me as they are to many people, but when one is so reliable and relatively so easy it obviously deserves attention.

Lynden Miller is a internationally known public garden designer and I am lucky to say a good friend. A week ago or so she was giving a presentation of her new book, Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape at the Museum of the City of New York. She has transformed so many urban landscapes into precious and appreciated parts of our lives, necessary parts of our lives, and her guts and determination are brilliantly inspiring. She was showing pictures of gardens she has overseen the rescue and renovation of, including the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, certainly one of my most favorite spots in Manhattan. Lynden shared images of the garden when she began her work with the Central Park Conservancy in the early 1980's. Many of the flower beds were overgrown with weeds and you couldn't make sense of the original design, or even what was left of it. The images showed the neglect and decline over the years. And then amazingly enough, one photograph of the Burnett Fountain showed these roses. Rosa 'Betty Prior' is a modern floribunda rose, and amidst the messy green hodge-podge they lit up the bleak landscape with their perky pink single blossoms. Today the same roses are easily 30 years old or so and with regular pruning in the spring and deadheading through the summer they keep producing these amazing carmine-pink flowers until frost. That's what I call one tough Betty!

Keep in full sun in rich soil with clean surroundings and prune back hard to 10"-18" in spring. As always prune your roses above the nodes with 45-degree angled cuts so that emerging buds are all facing outward from the center of the plant. Prune anything less than pencil thickness and focus on getting as much sun into the central crown of the plant for best growth and flower.

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