The Rose Whisperer: Eye candy to hide eyesores

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    A tightly planted bed of roses is useful for masking landscape blemishes.
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Can you see a wellhead pipe in the accompanying picture?

If not, I’ve succeeded after several years of trying to disguise an unsightly but necessary thingy in my garden.

You see, when you live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, as I do, you need a well to provide water. That’s fine, but a 2-1/2-foot white pipe sticking up in the middle of the backyard tends to distract the eye.

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So a few years ago, I decided to plant a new bed around the pipe in hopes that eventually we’d see posies from the porch instead of plastic. It meant lots of work, first digging up the grass, then preparing the bed. But it also gave me an excellent excuse to buy more roses. So rev up the tiller!

We dug a circle four feet in diameter from the pipe, being careful not to crush the line transporting water from the well to the house (my husband’s No. 1 fear and objection to the project).

By spring I’d planted 18 roses, including hybrid teas, shrubs, miniatures, a floribunda, and a polyantha. I also sprinkled in six catmints between the roses. Annual moonflower vines were added to climb up the obelisk in late summer.

Each year the new bed grew thicker and prettier despite bunny raids, some severe summer storms, and Mrs. Mallard, who wishes to make her nest on top of a catmint each year.

One thing that surprised us was how well the exposed bed stood up to biting winter winds that whip across the garden off the creek behind the house. Surprisingly, the bushes that take the brunt of the winds, including the sometimes-tender Pristine, have done better than those on the leeward side. Go figure.

After the success of the "well bed," we decided to better define the space separating our side yard from our neighbor’s. The lots are long and narrow, and there is very little elbow room in between.

So I fashioned a floral mural with freestanding trellis panels that created a living wall of blooms and a natural pathway between the two houses.

By mixing climbing roses [see second photo above], climbing miniatures, clematis, and hollyhocks, we can enjoy a bit of privacy as well as a parade of colorful flowers that lasts all season.

One word of caution on the trellis panels: Make sure whatever you choose is sturdy and long lasting. The first ones we purchased were “cheap and cheerful” painted wooden ones, and they deteriorated quickly.

The same advice would go for an obelisk, arbor, or any other garden structure you add to the landscape. Inferior structures can ruin everything you hope to accomplish.

Speaking of ruining things, I’m sure many of you are thinking my little circular garden will be destroyed should anything go wrong with the well or pump. Actually, we had to replace the pump (just after the warranty expired) a couple of years ago, and the roses were hardly disturbed at all.

And since I have a half-decade left on the new warranty, I figure I can enjoy the blooms without worry for at least another five years … and 10 days.

Psssst: When selecting roses for a trellis, consider some of the taller English roses, like Graham Thomas, James Galway, or Teasing Georgia. They're just as easily trained as climbing favorites such as New Dawn and Eden.

Note: You have two more weeks to enter the Monitor's first monthly garden photo contest. At the Gardening With the Monitor community site on Flickr, you can enjoy photos, start conversations about gardening, or ask gardening questions.

Read more from the Rose Whisperer here, here, here, and here.

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