Sunday, June 30, 2019

100,000 Roses!

"100,000 roses are in bloom!" exclaimed the email from the Antique Rose Emporium (ARE), and as a bonus, owner Mike Shoup would be conducting tours of their greenhouses and growing fields near Brenham, Texas, on the last weekend in April.  How could I miss that?  And since June is National Rose Month, sharing our tour is the best way to close out the month.

I invited my youngest sister, and the serious rose lover in the family, to join me at the appointed time.  She lives in East Texas where roses are popular and easy to grow.

We were met by owner and rose expert Mike Shoup.  First stop was a talk on propagating roses.  We were invited to take one of the Katrina roses as we left.

The highlight of the tour was a visit to the greenhouse where they develop new rose varieties.  

Mike described how they use their own roses and commercially purchased roses to breed new roses for market.

Each rose is tagged with a color and tags added as they are cross pollinated.

Some of these tiny rose plants are blooming already.

The challenge is to breed roses that are disease resistant with marketable characteristics such as color and scent.  This recent article in the Houston Chronicle details more about the program.

Mike gave us plenty of time to smell all the roses!  He discussed dominant and recessive genes and other fascinating details about his craft.

A few closeups of roses used in the program.  One surprise was how many commonly available retail roses they use to breed their stock.

Hundreds of rose plants selected and ready outside the shipping shed.

Mike demonstrates their specialized boxes for shipping roses.

Ginger the dog was taking it all in too.  If she's heard it all before she didn't let on.

After the guided tour we were invited to take our own driving tour of the fields.  Ginger decided she would be our guide.

Roses are blooming all the way up the hill in the distance.

They weren't kidding about the number of rose blooms either!

We don't see these types of ponds around San Antonio.

Happy to be surrounded with roses!

Next stop is around the corner at the retail nursery for some plant shopping.

Thank you Mike and The Antique Rose Emporium for a fun and informative day.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

End of Spring Tour

As spring turns to summer tomorrow and the weather becomes too hot to spend much time in the garden I enjoy taking a tour to review recent projects and changes.

A cooler wetter spring brought more flowers than usual and bright green foliage which are giving way to the tawny tones of summer.  Silvery agaves and yuccas now become the main focal points.

Flag-like chartreuse blooms are forming on Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' grasses.

The colors work in nicely with yuccas in the front bed.

Yucca gloriosa variegata is thriving where many other plants failed in the hottest spot of our property.

I gave up trying to grow flowers in front of the tilted flower pot and planted low-growing Agave leopoldi which will be much easier to manage.

Three Agave cornelius along the drive were spruced up with a rock planter and new coat of gravel.  We mound agaves, yuccas and cacti to allow drainage after major rain events.

Finally got a good photo of this area.  It looks so good in person but has always been hard to convey on the blog.  Woolly Stemodia with a backdrop of white Plumbago and silvery estafiate.  Plumbago usually takes much longer to reappear after a cold winter so this year I tried covering it during freezes.  Not the prettiest technique since I used cheap bedsheets from garage sales but the results are worth it.

Carex 'Evergold' (lower right) has been added to the collection of greenery in white pots.

White Caladiums and Aztec Grass carry the theme of white accents across the walk.

Sparkler Sedge (spiky variegated, front right) gets in the picture too.  I added five more this spring for a total of nine in this bed.  That might be enough, for now.

Solid white Caladiums brighten new window boxes.

We trimmed the hedge down and replaced low wood boxes with taller crib-style planters which show up well from the driveway.

After years of experiments with container plantings that turned out boring after a few weeks I stuck Agave vilmoriniana or Octopus Agave in the pot by the tree to fill it in for a visit by my garden club.  It was a hit so it stays unless the deer begin to bother it.

Agave stricta is blooming again for the second year in a row.  Unlike most agaves it does not die after blooming. 

It may act more like a yucca, but the small lily-like flowers are definitely agave.

Along the front fence I replaced boring green plants in the small tank with new Yucca filimentosa 'Golden Sword'.  This more upright version of Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard" works better in containers.

Sweet Autumn Clematis will soon cover the new trellis we built using salvaged fencing pieces.

Grapes are quickly climbing over the arbor in the fenced garden.

Blanc du Bois, I might need a few more to make wine.  They are there for the birds to enjoy.

The circle garden has bloomed out so the ornamental grasses take over adding texture and movement for the next two months.

One bright spot by the herb garden.

It's Moy Grande Hibiscus developed at The San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

Happy Summer!  Beautiful hibiscus for our climate which should bloom all summer with little care.

We'll end our tour as usual with a peek over the back gate as spring fades into the sunset.

And that's the tour as my garden and the gardener will weather the next few weeks in our own way.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Visiting Windmill Meadow Farm in Fredericksburg

When my friend Paula in Fredericksburg invited me up to meet Nancy and Paul Person of Windmill Meadow Farm I quickly accepted.  Nancy and Paul greeted us in the workshop where they were preparing artistic arrangements of flowers from their farm to sell at the weekly Farmer's Market held at the Marktplatz from 4-7pm each Thursday.

Fredericksburg is a beautiful, historic town and a popular getaway destination so there's a built-in demand for specialty services like locally grown flowers.  Windmill Meadow Farm sells by subscription primarily to the Bed and Breakfast trade, wineries, shops, and florists in the surrounding area.  Some clients even arrive with buckets to fill for their own special occasion arrangements.  

Paul learned the flower business early by spending his after-school hours in his grandmother's florist shop in Gonzales, Texas.  Now retired from a career with the Union Pacific railroad he made the move from suburban San Antonio life to commercial flower farming in Fredericksburg.  Windmill Meadow Farm is named after their striking antique 1886 Standard Windmill which appears as their logo.  They had it carefully restored in Nebraska.

Our tour begins where Paul and Nancy began, with a relatively small plot of raised beds near their workshop.

Sweet Peas!  Cool weather annuals are a challenge in Central Texas and I was surprised over and over by the flowers they chose to grow in our climate.

Cosmos and more Sweet Peas on the fence.

Vintage galvanized watering cans make a fun fence decoration.

Abundance of gold flowers just waiting to be cut.

I could enjoy sitting here for a while but there's a larger flower farm to explore.

In just two years they've expanded their commercial growing business from the small garden to a sizable farm.  More than 40 truckloads of top soil were brought in.

Windmill Meadow Farm supplies local chefs with Calendula flowers (shown below) for salads and apple mint goes into Mojitos at a bar in town.

Lisianthus is a spectacular Southern native I had no idea would grow here.

Bells of Ireland is good for color and structure.

Nigella appears to be spent....

....but the seed pods are popular to add texture and color to arrangements.

As each flower goes out of season rows are turned under and prepared for the next crop.  Flowers are irrigated with well water or rain water.

Succession planting keeps a steady supply of in-season flowers.

The same varieties are planted in different parts of the plot to guard against loss by pests or other problems.

Ammi Dara from the same family as Queen Anne's Lace.

Bachelor Buttons are so bright!

Upright Liatris is a European variety.

Statice is another import which grows surprisingly well here.

Rudbeckia, these wowed me with their color variations.

Off to the side a stand of Cowpen Daisy and other wildflowers help attract pollinators.  Nancy is a member of Native Plant Society of Texas.

Bird House gourds grown by request of a local group will soon climb the fence.  I was interested to learn that Oak Wilt evident on adjacent property was stopped by trenching.

Seeds are a must with so many flowers to grow.  Seedlings are set on warming mats and lighted racks in the barn.

Paul also uses a hand-held press to make soil blocks for seeds.

After stepping the seedlings up to 4" pots, plants are set outside to harden off before planting in rows.  Paula and Nancy taking refuge in the shade as it gets hot out here.

Looks like plenty of work ahead!

Back in the workshop I admired Nancy's favorite Dahlias while Paul expertly put together bouquets for us to take home.

Flowers at the ready, a small windmill prop for their Farmer's Market table, Nancy collects vintage vases for special arrangements.

Smiles all around!  Paula is on the left with Paul and Nancy.

Garden companion Stella was a star!  Every time I pointed the camera her way she posed like a pro.

Another view of the vintage windmill from the shop.

Back home I took photos of my sweet bouquet and noticed something special.

Looking closely, I spotted a piece of wheat tucked in there!  During our tour Paul pointed out a patch of wheat he grows for texture in arrangements and I mentioned that my late father-in-law once cut a large shock of wheat from his farm for our house.  We still have it.

What a thoughtful touch!

It's fun to visit gardeners so passionate about their work.  It's a good thing they love what they do because the amount of planning and work that goes into producing a steady supply of cut flowers is amazing.  I came away impressed with how much they have accomplished in a short time and an appreciation for what it takes to run a commercial specialty flower operation.

You can find Paul and Nancy at the Farmer's Market in Fredericksburg every Thursday from 4-7 or at other events throughout the year.  To learn more, sign up for email updates on their website and follow on Instagram.