Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back from Exile

I guess I have been in Limbo for a while. My roses were getting the best of me and I wasn't giving them the attention they wanted so I donated a couple hundred to the Los Angeles Rose Society, and more to St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Ridna Shkola, the local Ukrainian school.

I'm down to about 200 roses and life is much better for every one.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Blue Rose On The Horizon

One of our advertisers, Growquest Nursery recently ran a story on their website about Professor Peter Guengerich and Dr. Elizabeth Gillam at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who discovered an enzyme that turns plants blue. They have implanted the gene that produces the enzyme into bacteria. Now they are hoping to implant the same gene into roses to produce, ta da... a blue rose.

They will be releasing their finding in the "next" issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The article also quotes a skeptical Dr. Peter Beales, noted author of Botanica's Roses: The Encyclopedia of Roses and president of the Royal National Rose Society, "It might be a novelty for a year or two then it will probably disappear into oblivion."

Meanwhile, those wily Japanese (or is it the wily OZzies?) have been doing some breeding of their own. According to the Japan Times, the brewer and distiller, Suntory Ltd., and Florigene Ltd., an Australian biotech firm 98.5% owned by Suntory, have successfully implanted the gene that produces delphinidin, the blue pigment in pansies into a rose. They claim the pigment in the petals of their blue rose is nearly 100% delphinidin. This duplicates their feat of producing a blue carnation in 1995 that they market under the name Moondust. Read the story in The Japan Times Online

Well, your intrepid reporter had to check this out. There is a carnation called Moondust, but it's mauve, not blue. In 1997 Florigene introduced a darker purplish carnation called Moonshadow (does that name sound familiar, rose lovers?) In 2001 they introduced carnations in a variety of colors from lavender to almost black and names like Moonaqua, Moonlight and Moonvista. I couldn't find anyone offering these for sale in the US as living plants but Steve White of Tessealaar Flowers says he sells as many blue carnation cut flowers as all the other colors combined.

Now, some of you may thinking, "But this isn't new, I've seen blue carnations since I was a kid." The blue carnations that have previously been available were created by placing white carnations in water colored deep blue with food coloring. The flower sucks up the blue dye and gradually turns blue. But it doesn't grow that way.

Making it grow blue has been a dream for Mike Dalling, who founded a biotechnology company called Calgene Pacific in Australia in 1986. By 1991 they had isolated the delphinidin-producing gene from petunias and began injecting it into carnations. By 1995 they had developed Moondust and had failed repeatedly to duplicate that feat with roses. After Calgene patented their blue carnation they bankrupted a Dutch firm called Florigene that had also been trying to develop a blue carnation. Calgene bought their assets and changed its name to Florigene. So now Florigene is taking over the world, right?

Not hardly. According to this article in The Age life has been tough for bio-engineers. According to Mike Dalling, "Like a lot of start-up companies, we were always broke. There was relentless financial pressure. We thought that once we had a blue carnation the world would be at our feet. But instead, we lurched on." In 1994 Dalling left Calgene to join rival biotechers Nufarm. By 2000 Calgene, now called Florigene was on the brink of bankruptcy and was taken over by Nufarm. Then they skidded downhill until the Florigene division was sold to Suntory in December, 2003.

It's hard to import genetically manipulated plants so that leaves an opening for American Guengerich and his research partner Gillam (surprise, Gillam is also from OZ!). Their problem right now seems to be to contain the blue color to the petals. So far they have seen blue stems, blue thorns and blue leaves according to this article in The Tennessean. Anyway, it looks like a real blue rose is on the horizon. This could be the event that revitalizes interest in rose growing, which has been on the wane in recent years.

Useless Carnation Trivia: The carnation is the national symbol of Slovenia. Koreans put three carnations in a young girl's hair to tell her fortune. If the bottom bloom dies first the girl will have a hard time her whole life. If the top flower dies first only the end of her life will be hard. If the middle then she will have trouble in her youth but then life will improve.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Have a Rosy Karaoke Party

I gathered up a couple dozen rose songs. They're all instrumentals so I hope you know the words. The easiest way to listen to them is to download them. They are all midi files and are pretty small. You could fit them all on a floppy disk.

To download them right-click on the link and choose "Save Target As" in the little pop-up box. Then click 'save'. A tip of the hat to Captain Dave of Fresno, CA who compiled these songs. The ole captain even paid the BMI license fees for you. Can't say how long Dave's generosity will last so get 'em while you can. If you have Quick Time or Windows Media Player you should be able to listen to 'em but ol' Dave recommends Crescendo.

  • A Ring to The Name of Rose

  • After the Roses Have Faded Away

  • China Roses

  • Eighteen Wheels and A Dozen Roses

  • La Vie En Rose

  • Lollipops and Roses

  • A Little Gift of Roses

  • Meet Me Tonight Mid The Roses

  • My Rose of Waikiki

  • My Wild Irish Rose

  • I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

  • Paper Rose

  • Red River Rosie

  • Red Roses For A Blue Lady

  • Room Full of Roses

  • Rose Bud

  • Rose Garden

  • San Antonio Rose

  • The Rose

  • There Is A Rose in Old Erin

  • The Rose of Tralee

  • Yellow Rose of Texas
  • Bareroot Roses are Back at 99 Cents Stores

    They arrived last week. I didn't see them in their ad so I think they'll have more for the next couple of weeks, maybe into July. In the past they were from Jackson & Perkins. I'm not sure where they're from now. The tags (when they exist) say vague stuff like "red hybrid tea". At the price you can't beat it, I guess. I bought them years ago but I could almost never figure out what variety they are so I gave them away to people who don't care.

    Unfortunately, I don't have time now to grow roses I don't care about, and these are going to take some care to get them going. If you want to try them I recommend planting them in a 5-gallon or larger pot with decent potting soil (decent means the cheapstuff at Home Depot, like Super Soil or Earth-Gro) after soaking them for 24 hours. Set them out in the shade of a tree where they'll get a very small amount of sun. Another possibility is to put a plastic grocery bag over the potted rose to hold in the moisture until they get roots established. 99 Cents stores don't take very good care of them once they open the box so you need to take the extra step. Even with my best efforts I only got an 80% survival rate.

    I dunno. Every year they sell them and they have plenty of buyers. I always see people with bareroots in the checkout line when they are selling them. I've seen people plant them in their garden plots at Wattles Garden and it seems like they usually die. It's late here in LA for bareroots. J&P won't ship them to California after May. Feel like gambling? They have a store locator on their 99 Cents Only website.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    "Why Don't You Eat Your Roses?"

    That's what my dear wife said to me recently when I inquired about the availability of a meal in our house. I took her literally of course, nerd that I am, and began speculating about the possibilities. I've eaten flowers before. Courgette blossoms and pasta is an Italian delicacy I have enjoyed on a few occasions. Artichokes are large thistle flowers that are eaten in the bud stage. I grow both in my garden.

    Once upon a time tea parties in the rose garden were the only socially acceptable way for 'decent' women to meet men. Combining the rose garden into the tea seems like a 21st century speedup. Lots of websites offer rose tea recipes: A Summer Rose Tea (with Rose Jelly and Rose Scones), Annie's Rose Petal Tea, Middle Eastern Rose Petal Tea, and Nate's Flower Tea. However, man cannot live on tea alone, and I'm also pretty sure my wife doesn't want me speculating about meeting women at tea parties.

    How about a substantial breakfast of pancakes with Rose Petal Syrup? Or maybe a nice summer brunch consisting of Rose Petal Brulee with Berry Compote and Rose Petal Ice Cream with Mint Swirls for dessert?

    Then for lunch I could take it easy with some soup and a sandwich ... make that some Rose Petal Soup and a Pound Cake Sandwich and Rose-Scented Vanilla Custard, with some Rose Petal Fritters on the side.

    That ought to hold me until dinner when I could be having Quail in Rose Petal Sauce following a salad with oil and Nelsons Rose Vinegar dressing, followed by some more of that rose petal ice cream left over from brunch. Probably I would substitute squab, game hen, chicken, or some other bird available at the local Piggly-Wiggly for the quail. (Yes! I know Piggly-Wiggly is gone and Yes! I have been to the market much more recently.)

    I still haven't sprayed any of my roses yet so they are all safe to eat. Sorry, can't blog now, gotta go collect some roses...

    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    I sent for a Messenger but no one came

    Messenger is a new miracle plant vaccine that was approved by the EPA in 2000 and is endorsed by the ARS. It's called Messenger because when you inoculate a plant it sends a "message" to wake up the plants immune system and make it fight disease. It's biodegradable and non-toxic. You can spray it on vegetables.

    So far the product isn't selling as well as the producer, Eden Bioscience, had hoped, but they are still gradually expanding, despite losing money. California now (as of October, 2003) allows it to be used on citrus crops but has not approved it for home use yet. Read it for yourself at EDEN Bioscience Messenger - News and Events

    I have been checking up on the Messenger situation every now and then since I first heard about it. My main frustration is that it is not sold or delivered to California so I can’t get any to try. If Messenger is really as good as it seems based on the reports from scientific trials it’s a shame it’s not sold here. I haven’t seen many comments by rosarians. A few have said it works, a few have said it doesn’t, the rest said they were going to try it. Then nothing.

    I saw an objection that it seemed pretty expensive. By my computation this isn’t true. You can buy it on the ARS Mall for $36.35 for 9 packets or $4.04/packet for ARS members. Each packet makes 3 gallons which covers 1500-3000 sq.ft. The typical residential lot is 50x150 or 7500 sq ft. If half of it is covered with roses (typical rose nut) you get 3750 sq ft. I have about 600 roses in about 4000 sq ft. If I use 2 packets I’m near the higher end of the recommended usage rate and it costs me $8.08. The recommended frequency is about every 15 days. If I spray Compass I need 30 gallons to spray my roses. The reason is that with Compass I need to have full coverage of all leaf surfaces.

    Messenger supposedly inoculates the plant with just a small portion of it sprayed (according to the manufacturer.) I’m about out of Compass at the old price I paid over a year ago. Currently Rosemania sells Compass for $210 for 8 oz, which at ¼ tsp/gallon makes 192 gallons or $1.10/gal or $33 every two weeks. For me Compass is over four times as much as Messenger. Plus I can spray 3 gallons in almost one tenth the time I spray 30. That’s really nice!

    On the other hand, Compass works very well on mildew. If Messenger doesn’t work then I’m not buying it, but even if it’s only 80% as good I’d switch to Messenger because of the ecological factor. That would be true even if I had to spray 30 gallons of Messenger. It only costs $40 vs $33 for Compass. And if ARS has a sale…

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    When does a rose smell best?

    The Shiseido Company's Story of the Rose, tells of Shiseido researchers who discovered that rose fragrance peaks during the second of four stages of blooming, the 'early half-bloom' stage, but its beauty is greatest during the third 'late half-bloom' stage. In the bud stage there are high levels of dimethoxymethylbenzine, which gives a green fresh scent. This rapidly dissipates as the bloom opens leaving only the sweeter scent from the rose oils.

    There are many other bits of scent trivia on the site if you click around. You know the rose is the Queen of flowers, but what is the King? It's jasmine. And did you know that modern roses contain a moist green scent with a "phenolic spicy/powdery" odor that is not present in ancient roses?

    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    The New Thing is Roses in a Cup

    While surfing around for material on rose arranging to illustrate a story for the LARS Rose Parade I came across this article in Home & Garden Television about arranging roses in a cup instead of a vase. Seems like a great idea for all the short-stemmed beauties I seem to be growing lately.

    Monday, April 12, 2004

    Gives "Flower Pot" New Meaning.

    Thirty-five years after Hair and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, designer Meijke van Schijndle gives us "Good Morning Sunshine!" the flower pot. No, you don't smoke it. It's more like a compost pit, except you can flush it. It almost seems a shame to put it indoors.

    The same firm offers "Kisses" a lip-shaped urinal that caused a sensation when Virgin Airlines put them in their first class lounge.

    The flower could be a red rose with five petals and golden stamens, but the leaves aren't very rosy. Oh well...

    Friday, April 09, 2004

    Revealed! Regan Nursery's Dr. Leda Horticulture

    Regan Nursery, will send you their email newsletter, written by Ecru Woman the Tanless Wonder, aka Dr. Leda Horticulture, O.R. (Obsessive Roseologist), aka Elizabeth Churchill, former Bay Area nursery worker, now retired in Louisiana. It's pretty funny and doesn't clutter up your mailbox since it only comes out about once a month. The current issue tells you how to plant a rose, "the harder it is to dig, the bigger the hole should be," and has some nifty rose wallpaper for your computer.

    There is usually some information about events sposored by Regan Nursery, like their sales and their upcoming tour of Filoli Gardens on April 29. Regan is located in Fremont, CA about halfway between San Jose and San Francisco. Recommended.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    There Really is a Blue Rose...Online

    Rose lovers seeking the unusual and (so far) unattainable will not get satisfaction from this zine, the Blue Rose Bouquet but they may get a few laughs from it. Check out the essay on the Psychedelic Rose in the Archives.

    If I offered you a sip of this flower
    would you
    let the colors roll down your tongue?

    -RJ Corradino

    Friday, April 02, 2004

    Tomato Mania

    What's a rose guy like me doing talking about tomatoes? Well, I grow 'em and I eat 'em and I like 'em. My wife reminded me that today is the start of Tomato Mania so we went over to Encino to check it out.

    Frenzy set in. They had a Ukrainian variety named Olena, our daughter's name. We took two. Then there was Black Krim, a striped kind we like very much. And Stupice, a Czech variety that is very prolific. I saw a lady in the checkout line with a large number of something called Mortgage Lifter. She said it was very prolific. Supposedly the hybridizer sold the whole crop and paid off his mortgage. I had to have it. I can't remember all the rest but I remember a check for $33 at $3/plant so we must have got eleven plants. You still have two more days to go crazy over tomatoes.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2004

    Whew! Gotta Get my Automated Irrigation Going.

    The recent heat wave we had has really toasted the new growth on some of roses. I missed a day of regular hand watering and there was some serious wilting going on. I checked last night after they had some time to absorb the drink I gave them and most of them seemed to be perking up. I'm going to go to daily watering on the 5 gallon and smaller pots. I was getting by with every three days when it was cool.

    I lost two bare roots, Dr. Dick and Picture. These were late season (end of January) Home Depot purchase, grade 1 1/2, with fairly long sprouts already showing. I was surprised to see them go because they looked pretty good throughout February. The ones I was most worried about, Charles Aznavour, Sally Holmes and Bronze Masterpiece are all hanging in there. Sally Homes and Bronze Masterpiece both had damaged bud unions and a full-length split of the understock from the bud union to the roots. I coated the damaged areas with tree sealer and planted them in my rooted medium, 50% peat and 50% perlite. They look pretty good.

    The Charles Aznavour is down to one cane and some spindly growth that wilted in the heat. He was another late season HD purchase. The other sick child is Marechal Neil. He was a huge Grade #1 I got from Ashdown that was a little slow to break dormancy. A lot of the canes atrophied but I got sprouts on two of them. The recent heat killed one so I'm down to one cane.

    My real trooper is Pascali. All the canes broke off when it fell from its shelf. It grew a basal from the bud union but I accidently broke it in half when I was watering. I propped it back and splinted it and it seemed to be recovering. It sprouted two more basals. Then the wind broke my splint and the main shoot died, but the two remaining shoots are going strong and survived the heat wave better than many larger plants. No burning at all. It was next to the Dr. Dick and 18" from the Picture that both died.

    On the other hand, there's no substitute for hand watering to get rid of aphids. I can blast most of them off with my shower wand, and the ladybugs get the rest.

    I saw a few saw fly larvae. I had hoped they were gone for good after I sprayed for them last year. They really destroyed the leaves on my roses while I was trying to control them with squishing. I just don't have enough fingers.

    Thursday, March 25, 2004

    Not just roses, tomatoes too!

    It's official! April 2, right after April Fool's Day, you can buy over 325 varieties of heirloom tomatoes at Tomato Mania Learn more at, official site of Tomato Mania at Tapia Brothers farm (on Hayvenhurst just off the 101 freeway) in the San Fernando Valley.

    Marilyn L. Chambers, purveyor of fine fungus

    Last Sunday, Marilyn Chambers, proprietor of Marilyn's Own - Products for Natural SOILutions spoke at the LARS meeting at Descanso Gardens. Definitely not the Marilyn Chambers I remember from my youth, heh heh.

    After her presentation on mycorrhizae (which I knew little about) she offered some of her samples for sale. Talk about flashbacks, the stuff is grown in Thailand, imported in bales and cut up and put into little plastic baggies for sale. I slipped her some bills and hid the baggie in my pocket. Now if I can only remember to take it out of my pocket before they go in the laundry.

    This stuff sounds interesting and I intend to investigate it more. The price is around $240/kilo wholesale but you only need to apply maybe 70 g/acre. Sounds like I need a digital scale, too.

    The King of Mycorrhizae

    This is the home of the King of Mycorrhizea, Dr. Mike Anoranthus, proprietor of Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc. and expert on root fungus. On his website is a FAQ, where you will find answers to burning questions like "What Are Mycorrhizae?"

    Here's a sample answer:
    "The word "mycorrhizae" literally means "fungus-roots" and defines the close mutually beneficial relationship between specialized soil fungi (mycorrhizal fungi) and plant roots.About 95% of the world’s land plants form the mycorrhizal relationship in their native habitats. It is estimated that mycorrhizal fungal filaments explore hundreds to thousands more soil volume compared to roots alone."

    Mycorrhizae are supposed to improve nutrientient and water uptake, root growth,plant growth and yield. Plus you get more disease resistance, less transplant shock, less drought stress.

    "Improved nutrient and water uptake" basically means you can water and fertilize less and still get the benefits.