Monday, November 28, 2011

November Rain Can Be Beautiful

Curly willow in the rain

It's November in Chicagoland. The days are shorter, They're often grey with clouds, cold and just plain depressing. It has been excellent weather to hang out on the couch with a pot of tea, a book, and a cat. However, there's something magical about November rain. When the temperature is right - cold, but not freezing - rain seems to crystallize on branches. The drops remain suspended like a bead necklace. Evergreens are covered in a sheet of diamonds. So, even if the weather is crummy, Mother Nature still can be beautiful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Autumn Gold

One of my favorite trees are ginkgos. I love their geisha-fan leaves, their upright stature, and their shimmering gold fall color. I am spoiled by having ginkgos generously planted in the parkways in my neighborhood. These tough, tolerant trees are perhaps at their best in fall. Those golden leaves will linger on the tree until a deep frost. Overnight, the tree drops almost all to form a liquid yellow carpet at its feet. It reminds me of an elegant lady stepping out of her party dress.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roses are Good for You

Rosa glauca or red-leaved rose hips.
As they mature and darken they look like Milk Duds.

Roses. The classic flower, the pinnacle of elegance, the expression of love. We fuss over them, nurture them, and sometimes kill them.

I've talked to many people who feel that roses are impossible to grow and that they are one of the delicate darlings of the plant world. I beg to differ.  Of course, you have the prima donna - the tea rose. Yes, tea roses can be a major hassle.  There are clubs and societies to help you with that addiction.

The roses that live in my yard need to be tough buggers. I yanked out the tea roses that came with the house years ago in favor of low maintenance, easy going shrub roses. I have a love affair with my New Dawn climbers and Stanwell Perpetual shrubs. My Nearly Wild is toughing it out despite the bunnies and occasional Japanese beetle. My Sea Foam is thriving and grew, er, six FEET despite being cut back to six inches this spring. My cute little white Meidiland and dark pink Hansa rugosa are getting established. Have I killed roses? You betcha. Par for the course. I keep planting them anyway.

Now that November has descended in all its grey misery, one thing lighting up my life are rose hips. I don't generally dead head mine. They don't need it, and I like having happy little rose hips for winter interest. Eventually the wildlife will eat them, so everyone wins! You can even make a refreshing tea with them if you are so inclined. Rugosa roses are a favorite for their large hips, but pretty much any of the varieties will work. Not every rose will form hips, but many of them do. You do have to let the flowers fade and the ovaries mature, so back off with the pruners. Try a rose! You just might like it.