1/30/2009

Confused Cactus

photo by wa1ti
When my husband's aunt gave me cuttings, she said it was a "Thanksgiving Cactus." The first year it flowered, the peach color reminded me of autumn, but the timing was off a bit. Was it really a "Christmas Cactus"? This year, it decided to be a Martin Luther King Jr. cactus, just like my other seasonally-confused cactus. Will I end up with a "Valentine's Day Cactus" next year?
I was surprised to learn today that the Thanksgiving Cactus and Christmas Cactus are two different species! If exposed to natural light, the Thanksgiving Cactus should bloom a month earlier than the Christmas Cactus.
BUT...I keep my plants under artificial light in our semi-heated garage. The cold nights are good for setting buds, but since the day length is always set at an artificial 12 hrs, my cacti never know what time of year it is! (By the way, this is the same way trees know it's time to drop their leaves; they detect the longer nights in autumn.)
Mystery solved! For further reading, the Clemson Extension has an excellent page about the seasonal cacti.

1/12/2009

KnockOut Roses: a rose for the rest of us?


A Knockout Rose in Texas (photo by ladybugbkt)


I've vented in quite a few posts here about my struggles with roses. I'm engaged in an on-going battle with blackspot, and the Japanese beetles also do their part to aggravate me every summer. In the past year I've been on the brink of giving up on roses entirely. Then I started to hear the buzz about the new knockout roses .
The knockout rose is advertised to be extremely disease-resistant, cold-resistant, and long-blooming. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?!?

From what I've read in the gardening forums, however, the knockout rose appears to live up to these claims. The knockout rose was especially bred to be resistant to my arch nemesis, the black spot, by William Radler. He actually would take leaves from diseased rose plants, grind them up in a blender, and spread the slurry of spores on his test plants. Then he went even further and watered his test plants with a sprinkler from above to make sure the leaves were nice and moist. (As you probably know, these conditions are a rose gardener's nightmare since it's the perfect environment for the growth of fungi, like those that cause black spot.) From this rigorous selection process, the black-spot resistant knockout rose was born.
Since William Radler developed the knockout rose in Wisconsin, the cold-resistance trait was obviously selected for from the very beginning. The knockout roses are advertised to be hardy in zone 4. They are also advertised to do well in the hotter climates, however, up to zone 10.

I've personally seen the knockout rose survive the hot summers in a friend’s yard here in 7b. And the knockout roses have proved to be neglect-resistant for her, also. She has two young boys and works full time as a nurse, so needless to say she doesn't have much time to pamper her plants. In fact, her knockout roses were conspicuously surrounded by weeds the last time I visited her house, and she admitted she hadn't done anything to them since her father-in-law planted them. And they were still blooming aware cheerfully!
Maybe roses aren’t just for retirement after all!

I tend to think of the knockout rose as more of a landscape rose, but the new double knockout roses might make for some nice cut flowers. Unfortunately, I hear they do not have much fragrance. Well, you can't have it all!

Double Knockout Roses (photo by Amy the Nurse)


Of course, Japanese beetles will still also pose a problem for the knockout rose, as several readers pointed out in a previous post. I'm looking for some ways to deal with these pests without the typical toxins. I'm trying to go as organic as possible, since insecticides also kill the good insects, like butterflies. Oh, and I also have a kid, and another on the way, and poisons are not so great for kids. I've heard that a soapy solution of water can work well to suffocate Japanese beetles- has this worked for you?