The Rose Whisperer: Summer surprises

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    Blooms of the rose Julia Child are a midsummer delicacy.
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We had a surprisingly wet spring and early summer this year, which led me to become overconfident about the state of my garden. Everything from my roses to my husband’s tomato seedlings looked lush and healthy. I even bragged that our grass resembled the luxurious lawns pictured in home beautification magazines.

Now that we are about to turn the calendar from July to August, the once impressive grass is brown and crunchy. The roses are listless from the humidity and fighting Japanese beetles. The catmints desperately need a haircut. And a few of my newly planted shrubs and perennials suddenly turned black and expired without notice.

Still, there are bright spots, the unexpected little surprises that keep gardeners from throwing in the trowel at this time of year.

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First and foremost is the floribunda rose, Julia Child. (See photo above.) It was one of four All-America Rose Selections in 2006 and was chosen by the American-born "French chef" herself.  According to the A.A.R.S description, the rose combines old-fashioned style with a delicious fragrance rarely found in a free-flowering plant. It is also said to exude a “sweet licorice perfume.”

I surely couldn’t testify that it smells like licorice. In fact, it doesn’t have much of a fragrance at all as far as I am concerned. But the foliage is bright green and unblemished. The perky yellow flowers apparently don’t appeal to the dreaded beetles. And it is sporting 29 buds (I counted them!) as of this morning – pretty impressive for a first-year bush.

I’ve read that a friend of the award-winning chef reported that Julia thought the blooms smelled like butter. The color definitely looks like butter, even in 90-plus-degree weather. Perhaps the combination of aroma and eye appeal is what she found so delectable.

My Baby Blanket tree roses (second photo above) have also been an unexpected treat. All three have glossy foliage that seems to laugh at blackspot, and they are, by far, the most dependable bloomers in the garden. I can cut a spray or two to bring in the house just about any day of the week.

I’m always looking for a good pair of sturdy, durable garden gloves and seldom find anything to write home about. This summer though, I can rave about the Bionic Gloves I purchased from Wendy of  The Rose Gardener at a recent American Rose Society convention. They are triple layered goatskin gauntlet gloves designed by a hand surgeon that protect my arms up to the elbows.

I’m particularly grateful that the gloves feature reinforced padding on the palm, thumb, and fingers. Last week I was digging out some alfalfa pellets from a bag I’d purchased at the local feed and seed when I encountered a black widow spider.

Now that’s surprise I can do without any time of the year.

PSSSSST: Believe it not, we should be thinking about our final rose feeding of the year, which for most areas of the country will be in late August. As Julia would say, bon appétit!

Find more posts from The Rose Whisperer, Lynn Hunt, at our blog archive.

More Monitor gardening: The main Monitor gardening page. Our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it's free), you can upload your garden photos and possibly win a prize. This month's photo contest is veggies. Feel free to join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.

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