Ropin’ Roses

'Above and Beyond' after its roped up!


‘Above and Beyond’ is an apricot large-flowered-climber. It’s as big as a baby elephant! So I wanted you to see it get corralled. Securing it was like tying up a bucking bronco with thorns! Isn’t it simply amazing? hybridized by Dr. David Zlesak, its:

  1. Winter hardy
  2. Fragrant
  3. Easy-to-grow
  4. Organic, no-spray


  5. AB2_051016
  6. After

    'Above and Beyond' after its roped up!
    ‘Above and Beyond’ roped up! next to Proven Winners ‘Oso Easy’ ‘Fragrant Spreader’ and ‘Paprika’

What A Cool Spring!

Geese Family Welcomes Spring

Geese Family Welcomes Spring

What a cool spring! Weather now fascinates me. Did you ever see the Saturday Night Live skit She Turned Into Her Mother? Summary: In a horror movie spoof, a man (Tom Hanks) watches idly as his wife (Julia Sweeney) makes the full transformation into her mother. That’s now me. Here’s how it happened. I used to travel all the time, my mother would watch the weather channel alerting me to weather perils and appropriate garb to pack. And yes, she watched Murder She Wrote, with Angela Lansbury. One time when she was visiting me in Texas she was booked on a flight back to Chicago that had a connection on the eastern seaboard.

Gander | Goose | Spring Goslings
Gander | Goose | Spring Goslings
Mr. Gander protests as he chased me and gave me a good pinch as I walked away for getting too close to his family 😉

On the sound advice of the weather channel she said to me “the worst snow storm is predicted to hit the eastern seaboard today” and perhaps I should change my flight.” I scoffed and said, “Mother that’s absurd, no one changes their flight based on the weather channel.” We arrived at DFW and practically all the other carriers had cancelled flights heading into the east coast except her carrier and frankly the ticket agent seemed a little worried. I put her on the plane trusting the airlines to make the best decision about cancelling the flight. Later that day she was on the evening news. Her plane skidded off the runway due to icy conditions. She had to slide down the inflatable emergency exit! No one was able to find her for the entire week-end due to the fact that all communications were down for the entire week-end! Can you imagine the hilarity and her vindication of seeing that skit on SNL the first time?

Now it appears I have turned into my mother,

Tots Ready for A Storm
Tots Ready for A Storm


I watch the weather channel and call my kids and tell them to put helmets on the grand-babies and get in the inside room with no windows when there are tornado warnings in Texas. It seems I share a weather fascination with lots of folks. If you love to dig deep into weather charts, graphs and studies visit Jack Falker, The Minnesota Rose Gardener’s site. He talks about  all sorts of weather trends here.


Tot Tornado Preparedness
Tot Tornado Preparedness

It seems based on weather channel predictions my plant hardiness zone 6b will be a longer, cooler spring due to the polar vortex dipping and lingering lower within the Northern Hemisphere. The Doppler radar then showed a beautiful blue polar dip including my zone. So be it. Remember, my mother, the general’s proclamation upon leaving west Texas for Northern Illinois, “its easier to get warm than to cool off.”
After the last few droughts and a couple of summers that I lost count of days over 100 and without rain in Texas I discovered I just may be a natural born Yankee. There I’ve said it. I like cool weather better than hot weather. What a cool spring!



Bonica, Shrub | This is Bonica when I first planted it in my Texas rose garden outside the bay window.
Bonica, Shrub | This is Bonica when I first planted it in my Texas rose garden outside the bay window. That’s a Strawberry Marguerita I have in my hand for the Wine & Rose Tour of the day

Also I was reminded that the first rose that bloomed in Texas was on St. Patrick’s Day and it was always Bonica. Sometimes we might have to wait as late as Father’s Day for the first rose to bloom in Northern Illinois.  

Bonica, Shrub rose always the first to bloom in the spring
Bonica, Shrub rose always the first to bloom in the spring in my Texas rose garden

Rose Garden Easter Snowmageddon

Happy Easter from Gaga's Garden Geese Family
Happy Easter from Gaga's Garden Geese Family
Happy Easter from Gaga’s Garden Geese Family

Hallelujah! The geese family is all decked out in their Easter Regalia.  It was touch and “snow” due to snowmageddon. Readers of Gaga’s Garden will remember when the Geese Girls were kidnapped from their Plano, Texas home one Easter never to be seen again. Everyone was saddened by their disappearance. They were loved by neighborhood children and adults alike. Touched by my dismay over their disappearance friends rallied and located another family of geese and adopted them for me when I moved from Texas to Illinois.  Much to my enchantment they were here in the yard when I arrived from Texas. Since we had 15″ of snow last week and temperatures in the 20’s in S. Central Illinois I was wondering whether the proud Geese Family would still be buried in a snow bank.

It's Too Deep, I Can't Waddle Through
It’s Too Deep, I Can’t Waddle Through

Now I shall remind you how I preach about pruning too early. I hate to say I told you so but…I told you so. My story of Pruning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPTSD) has been validated once again. Here’s the drill. There’s always some local lore, such as the last day for a hard frost is Presidents Day so you can prune your roses, or prune your roses on Valentine’s Day. Sounds romantic, right? We have some warm days and get the pruning fever; go out and feel ahead of the game. Here’s the dilemma we face. A hard blast of winter can come back with a vengeance so its best to err on the side of caution. When it is time to go out and prune we often feel like we have to do it all at once. One year pruning 200 roses over the course of a couple of days I developed a severe case of acute tendonitis, or tennis elbow. Getting tennis elbow from playing tennis sounds a bit more glamorous than getting tennis elbow from pruning 200 roses I think. I had to wear a brace for a long time since tendons are a bear to heal and every time I picked up the clippers they would just release without that brace on. So here are a few way ways we can take care not to over due it and be sure to not have pruning take a bite out of us. 🙂

Rose Garden in Snow
Rose Garden in Snow

Stretch before starting to garden

Use good body mechanics, warm up muscles

Sit when you can or invest in a good rolling cart

Lift with your legs and keep your back straight

Use the big muscles in your legs to perform lifting bending shoveling

When pruning or weeding be sure you are stable to avoid tipping backward

Try to maintain a good posture to avoid back strain by not hunching over

Always use a kneeling pad

Well maintained pruners make for easier cuts

Practice gentle strength- have the best tools in top condition and don’t try to do everything at once

Garden Lion Snow Gauge
Garden Lion Snow Gauge

A friend said to me once “what a lovely hobby you have” referring to rose gardening. I remember I was taken aback by the word hobby because growing roses is so much more to me than a hobby. I feel gardening is good for the body, mind and soul. There is a spiritual element to being one with nature, digging in the dirt and watching a garden become a creation. There are quiet, reflective and meditative times alone in the garden that are some of the most intensely satisfying moments one can imagine. You can truly be present in a moment in your rose garden. It can be even better if you take care of yourself, so you can continue working in your garden and it will reward you far more than you can imagine.

Easter Snow Cross 2013
Easter Snow Cross 2013

Signs of Spring and How To Plant A Bare Root Rose

Signs of Spring Daffodils

“It seems that Canadian Geese are one of the most followed bird groups in the US. Their overhead migrations are a sure sign of the changing of the seasons.”  ~ Lisa Shea

Canadian Honker in Flight
Canadian Honker in Flight

Nothing can lull us into thinking we have plenty of time to get ready for spring quicker than the heater running full blast and a few snow flurries swirling around outside the window like it is today in zone 6b, Central Illinois; however I heard the Canadian Honkers flying north overhead on Sunday. I was idly starring out the window when what to my wandering eyes should appear? Not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but hundreds if not thousands of majestic Canadian Honkers flying in their classic V-shaped formation due north signaling the transition from winter to spring. Their haunting sound echoing across the cold, brown corn fields of Illinois gave me a jolt! Guess what can hurl me out of my winter doldrums faster than a jet propelled water slide? That’s right! Canadian honkers on their way back to what we are thinking is still the frozen tundra. Images of those American Eagles floating on little ice rafts appeared in my mind and I think “what’s the deal with these geese?”

Give Us A Sign

Don’t these wayward geese know its still winter? It was 19º the other day. Do they know something I don’t? Obviously they do. They know spring is just around the corner and they don’t want to be caught in the wrong zone at the wrong time of year. What are three sure signs that spring is not far off in northern climates?

  • Canadian Honkers heading north;
  • the first robin;
  • crocuses peaking out of melting snow.
Signs of Spring Daffodils
Signs of Spring Daffodils in The Little Ranch Across The Street

Here’s How To Get The Varieties of The Roses You Want If You Act Quickly

The buyers for Independent Garden Centers (IGC) often only order what they feel is the ‘safe bet’ choosing what they think will sell. And then they only carry a limited number of popular varieties like ‘Mr. Lincoln’, ‘Peace’, and of course KnockOuts®. Lovely as they are, what if you want ‘Dr. Jane Goodall’, ‘Kimberlina’ and ‘Soft Whisper’, or ‘Sugar Plum’ that I showed you last year and everyone swooned over? Most varieties I show you photos of you will need to order now online, because most big box stores and IGC retailers just don’t carry them. At most IGC’s If the person ordering roses, as they say, “doesn’t know roses” which 9 times out of ten is the case, sometimes they just go down their ordering sheets and choose roses based on names they like. I know this for a fact based on my investigations. So to remedy this situation if you want to have ready for spring planting varieties in hand my suggestion is that you go to the search bar on this Web site and to my Instagram page and find roses you like and then order them now online. If you have any questions send question to this Web site and I’ll answer you immediately. If you are a member of the American Rose Society you can also look up the rose you want in the American Rose Society’s Handbook for Selecting Roses rating system.

Your plant shipper will send your roses based on your below so your last hard freeze for your USDA plant hardiness zone.

Hard To Find Varieties Can Be Ordered Online

Have you been dreaming and planning from the selection of what you see in the magnificent Jackson & Perkins online catalog? Then you better get used to the ease of ordering and planting a bare root rose. Because the roses you want may only be available from the mail order suppliers. Jackson & Perkins is one of my favorites because I found some hard to find varieties there like ‘Black Cherry’. Several of the catalog sellers of roses are offering free shipping if you order through the end of February.

Here’s how to enhance your rose shopping experience, you could go to the online wholesale catalogs to identify the roses you want then locate a supplier who has the rose you have identified then order it if you cannot locate it your garden center. You need to get a move on. As of the first week in April I was still receiving email offers for free shipping last year etc. on orders over $100.00, etc. so you can call to see if there are special offers going on.

Planting A Bare Root Rose

I want you to feel confident planting a bare root rose so I am going to go over planting and care of a bare root rose. First identify your Plant Hardiness Zone. I am in planting zone 5b according to PlantMaps and  according to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map I am in zone 6a. Most shippers of plants will ask you your zip code and identify your plant hardiness zone so they will ship to you in after the last possible chance of a hard freeze. If you receive your plants early you can plant them in pots.

Some of our savvy rose friends plant them in pots and let them harden by placing them in their green houses. I have bought potted roses and hardened them by taking them inside the warmer garage each night and taken them out in the sunshine until they acclimate to cooler temperatures than the greenhouses they just came from. However, let’s talk about what I did with the bare root roses I received early.

Unpacking Bare Root Roses

  • It’s key that you unpack them immediately
  • Most shippers include very good instructions with their roses
  • Your new bare root rose should never be allowed to become dry.
  • Immediately place your roses in a large bucket of water
  • I used Haven Brands Moo-Poo Tea to soak my roses
  • Look for and expect grade 1 roses:


  •  Before planting, broken or dead roots and stems may be gently pruned.
  • Now dig a hole large enough and properly shaped for each rose on 2 ½ to 3-foot centers.
  • Minor pruning of long roots is fine as well.
  • Prepare the mound in the bottom of the hole that allows the roots to be draped around it. This provides a firm base for the plant and minimizes captured air. The mound should be a height that would allow the bud union to set at ground level. While no fertilizer is used in the planting process, a cup of bone meal can be mixed in the bottom of the hole and in the mounded cone as well and I add plenty of Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss.

After arranging the roots around the cone, cover the roots with a small amount of soil and check the plant position of the plant. Fill the hole with water and let the dirt settle, repeat until ground level. With proper drainage, the water will settle in a few minutes. Firm the soil with your hands, do not stamp in. Mound loose soil or mulch around the bud union. Then after the possibility of freezing temperatures pass slowly remove the mulch until the bud union is completely exposed to the warmth of the sun.

Sunsprite Planted as A Bare Root Rose
Sunsprite Planted as A Bare Root Rose

Planting Bare Root Roses Is Easy

Many folks simply do not know that the lovely potted 3-5 gallon roses you see at the nursery and garden centers are arriving now and earlier from my favorite growers as bare root and they are planting them in 3-5 gallon pots to leaf out and grow strong and for you to buy in a matter of a few weeks later.

There is no reason for you to be afraid of planting your own bare root roses and if you want the kinds of roses you see and can only dream of in the Catalogs then let’s become one with the bare root planting process. It’s easy, fun and rewarding.





10 Things To Get Ready for Spring Gardening

Hybrid Tea Rosie O'Donnell Fading
Hybrid Tea Rosie O'Donnell Fading
Hybrid Tea Rosie O’Donnell Fading

January is inventory month. It’s time to reflect and take stock of things. We anxiously wait for the first robin, a sign that spring is here in the north. I know growing up in northern Illinois was brutal. I can tell you stories of snow so high it covered the patio windows. The first sign of life was a cardinal perched on top of the snow tsunami that blocked out all light until the snow began to melt. I can still see the blazing red of his wings against the white of the snow and his little feet skittering across the snow back and forth dreaming of a day when I could see more than a slit of light at the top of the window and a slash of red from a beautiful cardinal.

It's Too Deep, I Can't Waddle Through
It’s Too Deep, I Can’t Waddle Through


The snow was so high across Beach road one year that the snow plow piled it stories high across the road and I can’t remember how long before anyone could get through. Sounds like stories of  “when I was a kid we had to walk to school, barefoot, in a sand storm, with no coat, 10 miles, uphill, both ways.” But, it’s true.



Sunset in The Snow
Sunset in The Snow

January and February seem very long to people who live to be out in the garden. So to cheer you up I am here to tell you that you really don’t have that much time to get things in order for spring. I was thinking the other day that your garden planning calendar is very much the same as the calendar I went by when I was a retail buyer. January is inventory month. It’s time to take inventory of all of your tools, supplies, and organic soil amendments. So I am going to give you a simple 10 things to get ready for spring. Another idea that I am going to toss out there is that you start a garden diary. In retail we kept a calendar year journal. It was a comparative week to week journal so we knew any event that had an impact on sales when we were analyzing data that would impact buys and projections. Let me give you an example. Last year in Central Illinois we had a 100 year drought, my first year garden was impacted by tunneling moles, voles and gophers. By starting a weekly calendar year journal I can see what was going on and the impact it had on the garden. I can record temperatures, drought conditions, problems I encountered and ways I dealt with them. Think of it as your own personal Farmer’s Almanac. So get a garden historical journal started and here’s your 10 things.


10 Things To Get Ready For Spring

1. Locate All Your Gardening Tools | Identify your favorite tools. Sharpen your clippers. Order new clippers or rose shears if you have been planning to get some. I have a favorite tool that I cannot be without Corona Pruning Saw. Put all your tools in the location you have identified as the place you can find them easiest. I once placed my clippers on top of the lawn clipping bags as well as my sunglasses. Guess what? I no longer have either of them. They went to Plano recycling.

2. Clean Out Your Gardening Shed | Be merciless. If you have items that you don’t know what it is get rid of it and label items clearly. If you don’t have a gardening shed now is a good time to look for a good bargain and get it set-up.

3. Do A Gardening, Landscape Budget | Just like anything else we can plan better with an allocated budget. My garden planning includes costs for landscaping improvements, plants, fertilizers, engraved plant names, tools, even travel to shows if you plan on attending. It really adds up.

4. Identify your organic soil amendments such as Alfalfa meal, corn meal, kelp, Annie Haven’s Moo-Poo | Decide on your particular soil amendment formula and see if you have the ingredients. Order them now. Last year I could not get all of my amendments at the feed store. I used to use bat guano and it was difficult to come by, so if you use it identify your supplier.

5. Order Rose Catalogs | Most catalogs are now online. You can go to all of the rose hybridizers and download their catalogs. Remember at one point I had in my Texas garden every rose in the Week’s Roses catalog however you cannot order directly from Week’s Roses it is where you go to dream. My favorite catalog are Week’s Roses, Star Roses,  Heirloom Roses, Edmunds Roses, and of course  Jackson & Perkins. As Chris Van Cleave @RedneckRosarian and Teresa of A Garden Diary I mention quite often, if you are a member of your local rose society chapter many times you can get roses from your local ARS rose society

6. Check your winter protection. Brooke Kroeger, Creative Country Mom called yesterday to say she was expecting 18 inches of snow in Indiana and that the warming and cooling trends were causing her concern about the heaving of her winter protection. So be sure to keep an eye on your winter protection.

7. Design | Plan | Draw designs for new gardens | In Plano when the trees grew to shade the front yard I had to transition the plants from sun to shade. I was able to have a landscape architect do a drawing for me for $350.00. I laminated the drawing and took it with me to all the nurseries to buy shade plants. To implement the company was going to charge an additional $15,000. I felt perhaps I could buy the plants and plant them in stages which I did. Then I had a stone patio put in. It all took planning and a budget. Now is a good time to see if a landscape architect might be able to assist with some design elements.

8. Set up all your Garden Files | I have an excel spreadsheet with all the names of plants. Maybe it’s just me but when people ask me what is that called I like to be able to tell them. I also include on the excel file whether it’s a shade plant and how to take care of it.

9. Set up a Show Kit | I have a fish tackle box that I completely set-up as an exhibitors box for attending and showing at rose shows. It is an amazingly useful  tool kit.

10. OUI Theory. Learn it | Live it| Practice it | Now if you don’t know it you better learn it right now. Two people can get a lot more done than one.

OUI Moved Heaven & Earth for A Rose Garden
OUI Moved Heaven & Earth for A Rose Garden