Garden Notes : A rosy discussion
I hear much general agreement that this season has been exceptionally rewarding for many different ornamental garden plants, from narcissi to rhododendrons, and now including roses. My own garden has proved this to be the case, joining others in more highly visible locations where roses tumble over fences and walls in dreamy abundance. The pelting rainstorms that assist the growth come along in due course, shattering the blossoms and leaving carpets of petals. Fears that Martha's Vineyard would again lie beyond the magic Rain Line have not been borne out, so far, this summer.
Gardeners are busily at work all over the Island. There is so much to do and so much to enjoy. Mental note: Bt., Bt., and Bt. - every week. Yesterday my cabbages were gorgeous and perfect; today they display cabbageworm damage - the cabbage white butterfly has not been idle. Look for products with names like Dipel, Thuricide, or Bacillus thuringiensis. Apply it to all cole crops (plants in the Brassicaceae: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and Asian greens like pak choi) and plants like tomatoes and peppers that host tomato hornworm caterpillars.
There are as many different systems for training tomatoes as there are gardeners. No one system is right or wrong, but everyone individually needs to find what works and then do it. I have, at last count, 49 assorted tomato vines in my garden that are tied in to steel trellises made of concrete reinforcement mesh. Most of the kinds I like to grow are indeterminate tomatoes, which means that the vines continue to grow until cut down by frost.
To induce the plant to pour its energies into on-going fruit production instead of forests of green growth, I remove the auxiliary shoots from the vines and tie in the main leader or weave it in and out of the steel mesh. (Some gardeners, however, prefer more shade for their growing tomatoes and do not pinch.) When I have helpers doing this I shorthand it to, "Look for the 'armpit growth' and pinch it out." The plants can surprise one, however; just when one thinks the job is complete on all 49 plants, one finds a honking long shoot that rivals the main stem in size!
On the other hand, there are varieties of tomato, called determinate, that ripen their fruit all at once, an obvious advantage in tomato processing. These are often better grown inside a large cage support, with all the shoots allowed to grow and produce, to maximize the yield. After harvest, the plants are ripped out and a fall crop is planted in their place.
below the graft union, or die and leave the rootstock to bloom in their place. The
glowing salmon rose 'America,' above, was planted grafted onto the rootstock of the burgundy "Dr. Huey," at left, which has sprouted from below the graft union. Prune off the rootstock shoots before they overwhelm the original plant.
Photos by Susan Safford
The steel mesh trellis in my system, intended for reinforcing concrete, is handy for many other kinds of crops, not only tomatoes, and is a more or less permanent garden fixture, wired onto stakes of rebar. I first saw similar structures in the vegetable patch at Hedgleigh Spring, Charles Cresson's garden in Swarthmore. They are versatile: we can use them for peas, beans, cucumbers, dahlias, peppers, and eggplant, or any other crop where one would want to drape covers for frost protection or insect protection. The shade cast on the soil by the crop that is tied in to the trellis makes a better environment for cool-loving plants; for instance, I plant rows of lettuce and cabbage between two trellises.
Rosa "Dr. Huey"
Not all years are so good for roses as this one. When there are losses, there is often a clue left behind: telltale sprays of dark reddish purple "Dr. Huey," the ubiquitous rootstock rose. It survives and is left behind to carry on, revealing the death of the grafted rose scion. As "Nevadagdn" put it on a garden website:
"This rose is frequently used as a rootstock, or at least used to be in our area. As a result, if the less-hardy hybrid tea grafted to it succumbs to a bad winter, Dr. Huey emerges. It's not a bad rose - but it is silent testament to a lot of poor rose variety choices in our area."
There is more to know about rootstock roses. The link coolroses.com/rootstock.html has additional information concerning recent developments is Rosa fortuniana rootstocks, which is useful to everyone who takes a serious interest in roses.
I have never heard of anyone going out and intentionally buying "Dr. Huey," at least not since the 1920s when the rose won an award; so this is probably what the presence of the rose signifies, should you have one in your garden. But many people who have one feel affection for these champion survivors, perhaps out of gratitude for even a muddy-colored blossom and recognition of the tenacity they show, in a genus thought to be so finicky.
"Dr. Huey" blooms once a year on whippy canes well supplied with thorns and carrying mid-green foliage. There are about fifteen dark red petals that age to a blackish burgundy, and little scent. The plant's main virtue is its indestructibility and ability to weather garden vicissitudes, something all of life's also-rans can identify with.
Human interactions with wildlife
The recent shooting of the feral turkey in Chilmark has created quite a hoo-hah - what was the correct response, the role of firearms, whose fault was it, and so on. While many Island residents are lovers of wildlife and everyone has an opinion, some insights into human interactions with wildlife and the ethology of real wild turkeys can be gained from a profound little book, "Illumination in the Flatwoods" (Joe Hutto, copyright 1995, originally published by The Lyons Press, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press.) Beautifully written, with illustrations by the author, "Illumination in the Flatwoods" is a page-turner and can be read inside of a day.
An important consideration I gained from "Illumination in the Flatwoods" is that animal/human interactions are an enormous responsibility on our part, because they so often result in the animal's death. Whether it is backyard feeding or esoteric electronic GPS tracking to study migratory patterns in the interests of science, too often it is the animal that is put at risk and loses its life. I would emphasize that warning with respect to Island animal/human interactions, and indeed, to lovers of wildlife everywhere.