Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hydrangeas: Cape Cod and the Islands

I have been meaning to write this for a few weeks so I am glad I am finally doing it!  A few months ago I learned about what will most-definitely become my new favorite book, Hydrangeas:  Cape Cod and the Islands.  For a hydrangea lover, and a Cape and Islands lover, this book is, as I told my mother:  "THE book that I would write if I were to ever become a writer."  Thankfully I am not pursuing a writing career or I would be toast at the age of 20 years old.
The cover has me salivating.....

The book is set to be released to the public (in other words, published) on April 28, 2012.  Written and photographed by Joan Harrison, the President of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society (we have been in communication with each other for awhile now about all sorts of hydrangea stuff), this book will feature over 300 pictures of hydrangeas in myriad settings throughout the Cape Cod-Nantucket-Martha's Vineyard region:  in private gardens, public gardens, tucked-away corners, roadsides, waterfronts, and even in some Cape and Island weddings.

For the uninitiated, hydrangeas are essentially the unofficial flower of these Massachusetts coastal retreats.  For the arm, the boomerang, and the grapes--the hydrangea is akin to how maple trees or dandelions are to the rest of America; ingrained and integral to the landscape, almost as much as the dunes and lighthouses themselves.  Come July, these storybook coastal locales are literally bursting at the seams with beautiful hydrangea flowers at every sidewalk, patio, traffic light, golf course, bank, ferry terminal, and anywhere else with a spare patch of dirt.

The jaw-dropping "Hydrangea Walk" cottage on Shore Road in Chatham, perched at the Cape's elbow.
Memories on Clover Lane

I am most excited about having some of my very own handiwork featured in this book, including a project or two I worked with on The Faraway Island this past summer.

Needless to say, I eagerly await the opportunity to have so many memories spanning several summers rekindled on the pages of this very exciting, very unique book.  I am particularly enthused to see a multitude of photographs featuring the new CCHS-sponsored hydrangea collection at Heritage Gardens in Sandwich on the Upper Cape and, of course, the one-and-only Hydrangea Farm Nursery on Nantucket.

For those of you interested, the book is available via pre-order from, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The famous Knock Out roses

If you have ever walked into a plant nursery or the greenhouse section of Home Depot or Lowe's, you probably know about the famous Knock Out rose.  Released in the 1990s by the Conard-Pyle Co. and bred by renowned rose hybridizer William Radler, the Knock Out series of roses is, by a long mile, the most-commercially successful line of flowering plants in the history of the United States horticulture industry.  Millions of Knock Out roses are sold, planted, and admired each year.

Yours truly is one of the millions of gardeners who has come to appreciate the merits of the Knock Out roses.  For one, Knock Out roses are exceptional in their abilities to flower from May until Thanksgiving, essentially without interruption.  For an instant, high-impact dose of color that will return each year, Knock Outs are a hard lot to beat.  Unlike most other roses, Knock Outs are prized for their "iron-clad" disease resistance, relative drought tolerance, cold hardiness, and manageable size of approximately 4' x 4' at maturity.  If they have one fault, it is that they generally are lightly fragrant.  They also do not make great cut flowers since the blooms are, for the most part, smaller and less showy than your typical tea roses such as 'Chicago Peace' or 'John F. Kennedy'.
'The Original' Knock Out rose
Since the debut of the classic, red 'Original' Knock Out rose, the series has grown to encompass six other cultivars which give gardeners choices in terms of color and also, in certain cases, single vs. double blooms.  All cultivars exhibit the great flower power, excellent disease resistance, vigor, and cold hardiness found in 'The Original' red:
The 'Pink' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co.

The 'Sunny' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co.

The 'Double' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co.

The 'Blushing' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co.

The 'Rainbow' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co.

Rosa (The Pink Double Knock Out® Rose)
A beautiful shot of the 'Pink Double' Knock Out rose; image from Conard-Pyle Co. 
So are Knock Out roses worth the hype?  From my experiences, yes absolutely they are.  Over time, they are becoming increasingly affordable too, thanks to the sheer volume of plants produced each year.  I currently grow 'The Original' and 'Pink' Knock Out cultivars.  This year, I am hoping to add, at minimum, 'Rainbow' since it is considered the most floriferous of the bunch, which is saying a lot since they all flower very well!  I also will likely be adding a few more 'Pink' KOs, and may try out a Double too.

If you are interested in fragrance, you will want to seek out 'Sunny' for its good-quality, citrus-like fragrance which nicely matches its color and "sunny" disposition.  'The Original' is probably second best for its rather mild yet spicy-sweet scent.  From my experiences, all of the cultivars have some degree of scent but 'Sunny' and 'The Original' are the only ones that seem readily apparent.  As is the case with essentially all roses, the fragrance is strongest right before the petals fully open, just as they are transitioning from their more-columnar shapes to their wide, unfurled mature state.  

So if you are looking for a low-maintenance, high-impact landscape plant that may live longer than you do, head to the nursery this spring and pick up any one of the seven Knock Out roses:  you won't be disappointed!