Sunday, October 27, 2013

Preparing a Rose Bed for Winter in Zones 4 and 5

It has been a disappointing year for the roses in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. The 'Bonica' roses opened in mid-June as usual but the blossoms were not nearly as abundant as previous years. From the second week in July until the beginning of October, there were only a few buds on these normally gorgeous pink-flowered plants. The red 'Knockout' roses which are intermixed with the 'Bonica' in the center two beds were also fairly sparse. Only the yellow 'Knockout' roses in another flower bed were very prolific and wonderfully fragrant.

The difference I believe between the two pink and red rose beds and the yellow bed is the previous winter's treatment. In recent years I have not been protecting the roses from the winter elements, and last year the deer found the first two rose beds. The deer did not find the yellow bed of roses so they abundantly flourished. The deer first ate the leaves on the pink and red roses, and then progressed down the plants to where only 6" stubs were left.

Ten years ago when we first planted the roses, they were pruned in November to 12-18" and then heavily mulched so that only a few stems were visible. This worked well to keep out the deer, but in the third and fourth years, the voles (I thought they were moles but have since been corrected) girdled some of the plants. Also the plants did not reach their maximum potential size – the 'Bonica' roses were never taller than twenty-four inches tall.

On the advice of a local nursery, we stopped pruning and mulching the roses; they suggested that the shrub roses did not require the same finicky care that tea and floribunda roses demand. The damage from the voles was much less and the deer that regularly pass through the garden had for some reason stayed away. But not last winter!

Today I came across an article prepared by a member of the American Rose Society named Jack Falker. His blog entry offers hope that these tiny Pacman-style creatures will be brought under control while using traditional pruning and mulching techniques. He recommends a treatment of castor oil on the roses! I'll be giving that a try. (Jack also offers a blog article on winter protection: Based on Jack's advice and my previous experience, we will cut the roses back to 12-18" when the first hard freeze arrives (usually in November) and then mound them with mulch.

There is some debate as to when to stop dead heading: some years we stopped in September and other years we stopped in late October. My sense is that if we are cutting the roses back to 12-18", then we can continue to optimize flower production; but if the drastic pruning was not part of our plans, we should have stopped our pruning much earlier so that the plant naturally prepares itself for winter.

This summer, rather than the normally prolific 'Bonica' and 'Knockout' roses, we had a vigorous production of "blind shoots." A blind shoot is a cane that produces lots of leaves but no flower buds – hence it is blind. I had been attributing the blind shoots to the very unusual weather patterns: sometimes very rainy and sometimes very hot. I also suspected that we may have over-fertilized the plants which released too much nitrogen. Possibly both of these reasons contributed, yet that does not explain why the yellow 'Knockout' roses were so vigorous.

I now suspect that the blind shoot problem had three contributing factors: the deer from last winter, the extra application of fertilizer to compensate for the severe damage, and the irregular weather. I pruned the canes in September that had no buds, finding the first branch with five leaves. Now we finally are getting some gorgeous flowers once again.

And Lord willing, we hope to have better results next year.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The 'Pool of Siloam' is a Place to Reflect on What Our Lord Has Done

This is a follow-up to my earlier blog entry from August 13th entitled Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Will Provide, and He Did. At that time, the Pool of Siloam was under construction in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. The pond is now complete.

9/14/2013 photo of the Pool of Siloam in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden, Syracuse, NY

Since the above photograph was taken, some rockery around the dam has been added and the soil around the pond was planted with grass seed.

Why the name 'Pool of Siloam'? While it is true that the Pool of Siloam is located in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem, not too far from the Garden of Gethsemane, that is not the reason. Rather, it is because of the encounter that the blind man had with Jesus at that location, based on John 9:1-39.

This should be a familiar story to many: after Jesus miraculously gave eyesight to a man who had been blind since birth, the man told the Pharisees during a series of questioning, "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25 NASB). On one level, this brief story is an example of how Jesus is the healer. Many people today seem to be looking for a healing – I hope they do not wash themselves in these waters with the hope that they will receive a healing.

9/14/2013 photo of the pool's reflective qualities

In several different ways, the man told the Pharisees that Jesus opened his blind eyes. However, the man was not able to state the authority that Jesus manifested for he did not know him. He had received a significant healing, he was able to state who performed the miracle, but he could not reflect on where that power came from – he had not received a personal encounter with Christ.

Jesus asked the man, "Do you believe in the Son of God?", to which the man stated, "Who is he?" Jesus then explained that he is that Son of God, to which the man's spiritual eyes were opened. "Lord, I believe," he exclaimed.

When asked by the Pharisees, the man had been unable to identify the source of the miraculous power. After his encounter with Christ, the man was able to reflect properly. By itself, healing does not lead to knowledge of Christ – it takes an awakening or revelation to begin that personal relationship.

Therefore, the Pool of Siloam is dedicated as a place of reflection: what Christ has done, is doing, and is going to do.