Garden News Blog

Run for the Roses

Now’s the time to visit the Cranford Rose Garden.The whole collection is in bloom, including the species and old roses (pre-1900 hybrids), most of which only bloom once a season. The repeat-bloomers that make up the rest of the collection are also at their best. “They’ll stay in bloom for about three or four more weeks, though. Then the whole garden will take bit of a rest in July and August, and then the repeaters will bloom once more in September,” says Sarah Owens, curator. “That second flush won’t be quite like this, though it will still be pretty nice.”

It’s also a good time to see the latest stage of the Cranford’s restoration and push toward ever-more sustainable practices, says Owens. She’s used only organic sprays since 2009, but wants to minimize even those treatments moving forward. “Even organic sprays end up killing insects that you’d like to have around, so the less, the better,” she says. This year, she’ll try to identify the rose varieties most susceptible to disease so she can replace many of them with more resistant ones. Some historic cultivars will be preserved, but with careful placement, Owens hopes to keep reducing the total spraying needed.

That will allow beneficial insects like aphid-eating lady beetles and predatory mites (which attack pest mites) to thrive. Microbes, bacteria, and fungi that contribute to healthy soil will also flourish, as will earthworms, which convert organic matter to humus and aerate the soil. BBG is also in the process of installing a new drip irrigation system in the Cranford. “That’ll reduce overall water use since we’ll loose less to evaporation and run-off. It will also help keep foliage dry, which will go a long way toward keeping funguses like black spot in check. So again—less spraying.”

Interplanting with annuals and perennials like catmint (Nepeta) and red catchfly (Silene dioica) also makes the garden more hospitable to helpful bugs by providing nectar and shelter so they can complete their life cycles and reproduce. “There’s a big web of life involved in a healthy rose garden. We want to find just the right balance then let nature take its course,” says Owens.

Sarah Schmidt edits BBG's Garden News Blog and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

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