A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Just A Handful Of Magnesium Sulphate
Sunday, March 07, 2010

I don’t particularly like VanDusen manure Saturdays. It happens once a year and it happened yesterday. I drove over to pick up 12 bags of well rotted manure (it hardly smells) and brought it home. It was a nice enough day that I went at distributing it among my roses immediately using my large orange/red wheelbarrow. I mix the manure with last year’s fall VanDusen compost (another day I don’t particularly like). To this mixture I add handfuls of Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) and generous amounts of alfalfa meal. The magnesium salts in early spring help the rose bushes absorb the nutrients that may be present in the soil. The alfalfa meal (which I buy at the Otter Co-Op in Langley) is supposed to induce roses to send up basal shoots (Nice thick and vigorous ones that grow to be healthy canes. These come up from the base root of the plant).

When Rebecca showed up at noon I told her that today Sunday we would to the same with her roses and that we would also prune them. And we would also transfer root-bound roses to bigger pots. I was going to bring a back of compost and a bag of manure plus my Epsom salt/alfalfa meal mixture.

I showed up at two and it was drizzling. Rebecca was dressed to the teeth and had a nice scarf draped around her neck and shoulders. “Do we really have to do this today?” she asked as she looked in the direction of a friend. It was obvious that I had interrupted a pleasant and lazy Sunday afternoon in which anybody with an attorney would be recommended to do nothing. I stuck to my guns, “We knew about it since yesterday. Let’s do it.” She accompanied me outside with her beautiful silver flats. I pointed out that she would have to change as she would be on her knees potting and mixing manure with compost. She relented and when she returned she was all enthusiasm.

We worked at her roses which all look very healthy in their pots even though most roses do not like to be in pots. Rebecca’s back yard is a concrete driveway so the pots are her only choice if she is going to have a garden. Her friend said, “You have a lovely garden.” Rebecca agreed even though her friend added, “Balfour owns this property and they don’t want to spend any money in landscaping; besides the home owners here want the space for their cars.”

While Rebecca’s garden is not big it makes up for it with an unusual collection of old roses and rare hostas. In May/June her backyard is a feast for the eyes and delight to the nose.

Her sister Lauren began her gardening a couple of years ago with my gift of some blue/yellow winter pansies. They are indestructible and they keep blooming every year. She also has a miniature hosta called ‘Peanut’.

Rebecca’s father predicted that Rebecca’s roses would all die this year, “She doesn’t take care of them.” I sort of beg to differ but I told Rebecca that this would be her challenge for the year by proving him wrong.

One of my loveliest rose in my garden is a Gallica of unknown origin called Charles de Mills. It blooms only once as Gallicas are old roses and this is their pattern. The blooms are complex with a myriad of petals. The flower itself seems as if someone went at the front of it with a sharp razor. The scent is heavenly and the flowers are a blue/crimson that defies description.

There is another attribute of this plant that is not generally known. It is one of the few roses that send underground runners (some go under wood fences) that grow to be little clones of the parent. After two years I severe the relationship with a sharp knife and re-pot the plant. This year Rebecca and my friend Paul Leisz are getting one. Paul’s is from last year while Rebecca’s is from two years ago. Last year her Charles de Mills (still in my garden) had at least 40 flowers!

I have placed many a picture of Rebecca with a rose in this blog. This particular one, taken last May/June, shows Rebecca, 11, more as a teenager looking to her adulthood. Her hair is adorned by a splendid example of Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’.

While Rebecca and I happily worked on her roses, her friend (in the drizzle) was busy texting with her thumbs. When I pointed this out to Rebecca’s father he said, “She is in high school. They all do that.”

Will Rebecca be like the rest? Will her love for roses and gardening continue? Will her roses die? Only time will tell. Meanwhile I just wish that treating would-be teenagers were as simple as throwing in a handful of magnesium sulphate and alfalfa meal on our beloved roses.


Previous Posts
The Carrot & The Stick

Man Eats Dog

An Apology For My Rosy Past

El Santo De La Trompeta

Throwing Dishes & Blueberry Cream Pies

Noble-Winged Seraphs Envied

Lady Fey by Ben Metcalfe

My Passion For Fashion

Dilations Into A Runcible Cat

Four Men Of Impecable Good Taste

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