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From the Editor - May/June 2019


I never met a rose I didn’t like. Or almost never. Over the years I’ve amassed 20, and I would happily acquire 20 more if I only had the space. Most of them came into this world fairly recently, and I can confidently say that Lady Elsie Mae, ‘William Baffin’, Home Run Red and ‘Jens Munk’ are all superior plants. These are roses whose parentage is well known and documented. But there’s one rose whose origin is a bit of a mystery – ‘Harrison’s Yellow’, which seems to have arrived on its own in 1829 in the backyard of a lawyer in New York City named … Harrison.

‘Harrison’s Yellow’ is a behemoth, and if you have a deer problem, this is the rose for you. It shoots up 8 to 10 feet tall, spreads by suckers to 12 feet wide, and it is very, very thorny. The flowers are, of course, yellow, semi-double, slightly fragrant, and they appear around Memorial Day, only blooming once. The pioneers took it west with them since it was easy to move. Hack out a cane with a section of root, toss it in the covered wagon and off you go.

My rose has its own pioneer history. The 19th century ancestors of my neighbor across the street brought a division with them when they trekked westward from Ohio to Iowa where they settled down and became farmers. One day my neighbor, who grew up on this farm, took a piece of it back east to Chicago, and when she never got around to planting it in her own yard, ended up giving it to me. I feel honored by its presence.

But my little excursion into the world of roses pales in comparison to the rose garden that’s featured in this issue. William Radler, known as the breeder of the KnockOut roses, grows thousands of plants in his Greenfield, Wisc. backyard, although that word hardly does justice to the magnificent space where he trials his plants and does so much else besides. See the story by Melinda Myers on page 47.

Also magnificent is the northwest Indiana garden of Peggy and Mark Buffington, overflowing with colorful annuals as described by writer Beverly Thevenin. (Page 52). Our cover story features summer-blooming bulbs, including the red-flowering beauty on the cover. It’s a dwarf gladiolus called ‘Atom’, one of several summer-blooming fascinating plants we don’t grow as often as we might.

But this issue isn’t all about eye candy. Jeff Rugg tells us the nitty gritty of how to propagate amaryllis by slashing into the base of the bulbs. Who knew you could do this? (Hands On page 24). Always full of practical information, Jeff also writes about solving runoff and drainage problems in the Problem Solver story (Page 33)

And while we’re always advising you on what you should plant, Patrice Peltier steps in to lament her shopping mistakes in “Why, Oh Why, Did I Plant THIS”? (page 17) Some plants are too much of a good thing.

All good advice. But I swear, if I come across another rose that I can just possibly fit into my garden somewhere, by golly, I’m going to buy it.

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I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

I have lost four 12-15 foot tall white pine trees over the last year. All had the same symptoms, browning needles at the bottom that continued up to the top. Can you tell me what pest is killing the white pines? I am also losing an Austrian pine now. It is experiencing the same symptoms.

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