Posts Tagged ‘Roses’

Battle of the Rose Roots

I should have learned from experience. Years ago, I wondered why plants near a hedge in my Palo Alto garden weren’t doing so well, in spite of soil amendments, regular watering, and other tender loving care. Investigating closer, I found that below the soil surface was a dense mass of tiny white roots. The nourishment stealer was a Banksia rose that had flourished in the hedge for fifty years.

You would think I’d learn and remember. But no … As we designed a deer-fenced vegetable garden for our new home on the edge of the forest in Mendocino, we decided that a covered gate, an English lych-gate, would be a charming touch. And wouldn’t it be romantic to have a rose climbing over it? I’ve always been fond of “Mrs. Cecille Brunner” with its exquisite miniature pink buds.

“Mrs Cecille Brunner” pruned and tidy for the winter.

I planted a climbing “Mrs. B” in a half wine barrel just inside the gate, out of the deer’s reach. Years passed. At a friend’s house I admired another pink climber. She told me its name, “Seven Sisters,” and offered a cutting. The local legend, she told me, was that this rose was originally brought to the Northern California coast by a Russian princess in the early 1800s. Possibly she was the well-born wife of Ivan Kuskoff, commander of the Russian American Company fur trading post at Fort Ross, whose house is still standing, and is now a National Historic Landmark. According to the story, Madame Kuskoff gave cuttings of “Seven Sisters” to friends, who gave cuttings to friends, and so it moved up the coast. I see it everywhere in the gardens of old coast homes, and have met the woman who gave my friend her cutting.

But I digress. Needless to say, my cutting of “Seven Sisters” also found a home in a wine barrel inside my fenced garden. It became a yearly task to prune these enthusiastic climbers before they totally blocked the sun from the vegetables.

Seven Sisters tangle

“Seven Sisters” reaches for the sky.

This year “Seven Sisters” decided to bloom again just as I was getting out my pruning shears, so she’s still a wild tangle.

But tidy on top doesn’t mean disciplined underneath. This season I noticed that the vegetables in raised beds near the roses were stunted and sad. One scoop with the shovel showed the cause. Nothing for it but to dig out the entire bed.

Rose roots and shovel

Rose roots poke through the hardware cloth floor of the raised bed.

There’s a layer of hardware cloth on the bottom to keep out the gophers (that’s another story). I’m hoping a couple of layers of weed cloth will deter the rose roots, at least for a few years. My friend, a Master Gardener, laughed when I told her. “You’re the eternal optimist, aren’t you?” she said.

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