Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rose Report: At Last™ Rose from Proven Winners®

Let's just get this out of the way right now: I am not a big fan of roses. But it hasn't always been that way. I've grown lots of them over the years and in the past, have staunchly defended them. I've grown hybrid teas, climbers, floribundas, miniatures, David Austins, Knock Outs®, and other types that I can't remember.

My pink mini.
My first roses were miniatures. I'd won one at a dinner I attended and that little pink blooming machine performed beautifully for lots and lots of years. No disease, no real pests, just oodles of little pink blooms. It was my gateway drug to roses.

Then came hybrid teas and floribundas. 'Hot Cocoa' and 'Chihuly' were the rose stars of my garden. 'Disneyland' gave me gorgeous clusters of orangey-pink Kool-Aid® blooms. I reveled in the fragrance of my David Austin beauties. The uniqueness of a new Decorator Rose® wowed me.

I'd hear people wail about aphids and Japanese beetles. They'd curse black spot, powdery mildew, and fungus. They were losing roses to this or that. And while they were ranting away, I was wondering what was "wrong" with my roses, because I had none of these problems.

Until I did.

It was like the universe was taunting me. I had bragged about the beauty and nobility of roses and poo-pooed the disrespect that roses are often the targets of. If I could grow disease-free and pest-free roses, anyone could, right? Ha.

I hung in there for a few years, taking advice from my rose-growing friends and seeking help by way of googling rose problems to death. One by one, my roses failed to live up to my expectations until one day last year, I'd had enough. One by one, I began taking them out. I couldn't stand to look at them anymore.

Now I didn't remove all of them. And not all of them that I did remove ended up being destroyed. Those that still weren't affected by the aforementioned afflictions found new homes, or received a reprieve (for another year or two, anyway). But you'll only find a fraction of the number of roses that used to call Our Little Acre home.

Those that got to stay include 'Gourmet Popcorn' miniature rose, floribundas 'Ebb Tide', 'Hot Cocoa', 'Chihuly' and 'Disneyland', and 'Morning Magic' climber. But half of those will be disappearing by next year too. I may keep 'Morning Magic' just for its Japanese beetle attracting character. It's a master at it and I rarely see the beetles anywhere else.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention my beloved wingthorn rose - Rosa sericea var. ptericantha - but that is in a class by itself. No pests, and it's been disease-free ever since I planted it in 2011. I hope it continues to behave, because I'd be really sad to lose that one. It's something special.

Aren't those thorns delicious?

So there's my history of roses. When Proven Winners® ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs told me they wanted to send me one of their new roses, I had to think twice about it. I read its description and decided to give it a shot. It was the color and the fragrance that were the tipping points. Fragrance! Imagine that! A rose that smelled like a rose...

I don't usually do a plant review until it's been in my garden for at least an entire season, meaning it's survived our often brutal winter. The plants usually arrive here in decent shape but there's often transplant shock and an adjustment period to our climate and soil to contend with. I'm not a gardening expert, I'm just an average backyard gardener, and sometimes my trial plants don't make it because of gardener error. Sometimes they thrive in spite of the gardener.

Rosa x At Last™

I received three At Last™ roses at the end of June. They've been in the ground for just a month, but oh what a difficult month that has been. Very little rain and extremely hot temperatures have made it hard for even some of my well-established plants.

The roses arrived with one bloom and a few buds. The color - apricot - was just as lovely as the photos. They didn't pout at all once I had them in the ground and in fact, have been throwing out new buds and blooms ever since. And then there is that fragrance. They smell like...ROSES.

Rosa x At Last™

So far, the Japanese beetles have not found them. I don't have a huge beetle problem here, but they're around. It's too soon to say if they will be bothered by disease or other pests.

It's too soon to say much of anything about them. But for now, I'm loving these roses. I hope I can say the same thing next year and for many years after.

Read more about this new rose here.

*I received these roses gratis from Proven Winners, with no request to say a single word about them. But I'm duly impressed (so far) and wanted to share my experience.

Monday, July 25, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Love in a Jar

I was walking through my garden last night and saw something blooming that I knew would make a great "In a Vase on Monday" candidate. This something was something I don't grow much of, in fact, there are only two stalks of blooms of this something in my garden at present and that may likely be all I get for this year. This something is also something that I think really does look better in a vase than in a garden and I can't think of much of any other somethings that I can say something like that about.

So this morning, I took my pruners to the garden and of course, you know what happened... I saw something else that needed pruning, so I pruned it. And then I remembered I was going to tip out my milkweed to stimulate some new growth for the monarchs that are not laying eggs on it. (Okay, we've found two eggs, but it should be many more.)

So I pruned that milkweed and inspected it for eggs and caterpillars and found none. :-(
I got rid of that and then remembered the something that I was going to prune for my vase and knew if I waited much longer, the somethings weren't going to be anything because each bloom doesn't last very long anyway.

I cut them and then I cut something else to go with them and went in the house and arranged my bouquet. I'm not a very good bouquet arranger, but flowers are pretty no matter what you do with them, so it looked okay to me. That's what mattered.

I photographed the bouquet from this angle and that and got ready to do my blog post for the meme, "In a Vase on Monday, " hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. But the photos of the arrangement I did today will have to wait until next Monday. Because there's an even better arrangement already in my house.

You may recognize these as Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota). They can be seen with such frequency around here right now that they seem downright invasive. In fact, they are not only on Ohio's Invasive Species list, they're on the Well-Established Invasive Species list.

They're pretty, in their own right. But this bouquet is the most beautiful one I've ever seen or had the pleasure of having in my home. It was a gift, you see...

If you've ever received a floral bouquet picked by a child, you know what I mean.

Thank you, Hannah.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Chicks and Uh-oh . . .

Last fall, after giving our hens another year to start laying more, when they didn't, we decided to give them up to a local family, who's raising them on their farm. We're told that one of the Buff Orpingtons has turned out to be a good little mother hen, sitting on eggs that later hatched. That makes me happy.

On Easter Sunday this year, we got new chicks, eight of them again. Two Black Australorps, two Americaunas, one Buff Orpington, one Leghorn, one Rhode Island Red, and one ISA Brown. I just wanted a variety.

We took two of the grandkids with us to Rural King, which is where we got our last ones. We had great success with them, with virtually no problems, and we're hoping that will be the case with these too.

I thought the chicks looked older when we got them and I questioned the sales associate. She assured me they were just a few days old, that they'd just gotten them in.


The first clue was that several of them were quick to use their wings to jump up on the side of the container we started them out in. Within the week, they were hopping up there. Time to put them in the coop.

Owl, the white Leghorn on the lower left, was larger right from the start.

And then one of the Black Australorps started crowing. Crow. Ing.

When my husband first told me, I just went into denial. I researched to see if hens ever crowed. Oh yes they do! Yay for crowing hens!  With no signs of spurs growing on their legs, I remained hopeful. The Australorp kept crowing.

This photo, when posted to Facebook, yielded a number of opinions as to whether
or not one of them (or possibly both) was a rooster.

The Australorp grew beautiful iridescent tail feathers. My hope was fading.

And then I heard a crow IN STEREO.

Nooooooooooo...  NO ROOS.

If you're receiving this post via email, to view the embedded video,
click here.

So now what do we do with two roosters, who most assuredly will not lay eggs? We could eat them, but there's no way I'm going to butcher them. And no one wants roosters. Do they? I wouldn't mind having one, just for the novelty of it, because I actually do love hearing them crow. But not two.

We didn't get them for pets, we got them for eggs. Feeding two roosters who will not hold up our end of the bargain just doesn't work. Doesn't SOMEONE want a rooster? Or two? They're really quite handsome.

The one thing that saved the day that we discovered we had two roosters was this:

Owl, the Leghorn, was the first to lay an egg! How do we know it was her?
She's the only white-egg layer we have.

I just KNEW those chicks were older...

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tart Cherry Crumble Recipe - Yum!

This year, we had our first cherry harvest from the two 'Carmine Jewel' dwarf cherry shrubs we have. I'd gotten two seedlings from Gurney's at a regional GWA (Garden Writers Association) meeting in 2011, and after being gnawed to the ground one winter by rabbits, they came back like gangbusters.

I had my first experience at pitting cherries and I can tell you it was more fun than shelling peas. I don't enjoy shelling peas, which is why I no longer grow them, but pitting the cherries was another one of those tasks that you can do without thinking. Or you can think about the pie or cobbler or liqueur that those cherries will become.

There are several ways to pit cherries if you don't have a proper cherry pitter. I opted to use a straw - a stainless steel straw, which I knew would hold up well. I simply put the end of the straw at the stem end and pushed the pit out the other end. Don't wear a white shirt while doing this, although it doesn't seem to cause a permanent stain if you wash it right away.

The harvest yielded 207 cherries, which was about a pint of cherries, weighing ¾ of a pound after pitting. That wasn't quite as many as the recipe I used them in called for, but it was enough. And it was good.

I pretty much followed this recipe found on The Kitchn:

Tart Cherry Crumble

For the cherries:

1 pound tart cherries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger, optional (I didn't use this)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

For the crumble:

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten well

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spread the cherries in an ungreased 9x9-inch baking dish, deep pie pan, or similar-sized dish. Toss the cherries with the sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Cut the butter into several pieces and melt over low heat in a small saucepan. Raise the heat slightly after it has melted, and cook, swirling frequently, until the butter has turned nutty brown. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the beaten egg and use your hands to combine the dry ingredients and egg. As you work the egg into the flour, it will form small moist crumbs. Sprinkle these over the cherries, then drizzle the browned butter over the topping.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is browned and the cherries are bubbling. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream.

I'd make it again.

Dwarf Sour Cherry 
(Prunus cerasus 'Carmine Jewel')

This is a dwarf shrub-type of tart or sour cherry. It is suitable for growing in Zones 3a to 8b, in sun to part-shade. It prefers neutral to alkaline soil, but is adaptable to most soil types, including heavy clay.

Developed at The University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and introduced in 1999, this black cherry is consistently highly productive, with a high fruit-to-pit ratio.

Field notes on 'Carmine Jewel'

*I received these cherry plants as seedlings from Gurney's in 2011, free of charge. I have not received any other compensation for writing about them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Gilmour Spray Nozzle and Flexogen® Hose Review and Giveaway

When the 4th of July happens around here, it seems like summer is half over. Of course, this isn’t true, except for the school kids and that was a long, long time ago for us. There’s a lot of summer left in the garden too, and one thing that we’re sure to be doing in the hottest and driest part of summer for us here in NW Ohio, is some watering.

Recently, the Fiskars people contacted me about trying some of their products. I’ve always been a fan of Fiskars and somehow missed the fact that they acquired Gilmour, maker of garden watering products, back in 2014.

Among the things they sent me to try were these Gilmour products: 

Of all the things I received to try, the Super Duty Thumb Control Watering Nozzle was my favorite. In their description, they talk about a nozzle having “the right heft” to it, and I have to wholeheartedly agree. This just feels right in your hand. And it’s really easy to control with that thumb lever.

The nozzle head itself has eight spray patterns: Flower, Sweep, Garden, Shrub, Clean, Soft Wash, Rinse, and Jet.

It has stainless steel connectors so it doesn’t corrode and get hard to disconnect from your hose. They also sent me some Quick Connect components though, so I don’t even have to unscrew the nozzle to remove it. I just pop it off.

The Quick Connect set makes it easy to take the nozzle off and on from the hose.

Oh, and it comes with a lifetime warranty, too. I. Love. This. Nozzle.

They also sent me a Flexogen® Super Duty Hose. If there’s one thing that I hear gardeners complain about, it’s hoses. First of all, they don’t like heavy ones and secondly, they hate how they kink. I’ve complained about these very things myself.

The Flexogen® IS lightweight AND it honest-to-goodness DOES NOT KINK. I can't believe it, but it's true. Now this is saying something, because we have really low water pressure. I've had hoses that are supposed to resist kinking under pressure, but when you've got low water pressure, it's hard to make a product that simply won't kink. But Gilmour has done it.

The other thing is, this Flexogen® hose really is pretty lightweight. As someone who suffers from degenerative disc disease in my neck (as so many my age do), I appreciate how much lighter in weight this hose is than some. There's nothing I hate worse about water hoses than dragging one around that behaves like it was a 50-lb. boa constrictor.

Flexogen® hoses have eight layers and have been tested and proven to be the strongest and longest-lasting hose in its class. It's made with heavy-duty brass couplings to hold up well under use.

Also, the polished exterior resists dirt collection, unlike some other hoses I’ve tried. Of course, it’s gray, so it wouldn’t show much dirt anyway, but still. It's my new favorite hose!


Now, the folks at Fiskars and Gilmour have been so kind to offer both the Super Duty Thumb Control Watering Nozzle AND a Flexogen® hose to one of my readers. If enough people enter, they’ve said they might give away two sets! So enter now and tell all your friends and neighbors. The more people that enter, the greater chance there will be two sets to give away! (And no, I do not know what the tipping point will be. LOL)

This giveaway will end with a random drawing on Saturday evening, July 9th, at midnight EDT. All you need to do to enter is to fill out the Rafflecopter form. That’s it. But if you want bonus entries, check out the extra options when you fill out the Rafflecopter form. There are lots of ways to get a bonus entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*I received these products from Fiskars/Gilmour for the purposes of reviewing them and hosting a giveaway. As always, I won't say anything about a product that isn't the truth from my own personal experience with it. I have received no other form of compensation for writing about these products.   

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