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Saturday, April 19, 2014

It’s not crazy to love the early blooms

By Annie Calovich
The Wichita Eagle

Throw roses into the Easter baskets of yards we’ve been enjoying for a few weeks now.

I’ve never before seen tulips and roses blooming on the same day, extension agent Bob Neier said earlier this week. “Roses and peonies are coming along. It’s kind of crazy.”

It is kind of crazy. Like the wisteria that is looking gorgeous around town. Not every year produces such a flower show on those woody vines.

“They do have a reputation, and I think it’s kind of well-deserved,” said Bob, who doesn’t claim any personal success with wisteria and its reputedly difficult nature. “After stress, they tend to bloom better. And they got stressed last year.”

This is actually a plant we humans should relate to. Blooming better after stress. Good times in the form of sufficient water produce lots of lush green growth, but not flowers. And what’s life without the flowers?

Geraldine Steiner called me about the wisteria growing the full length of her carport in southeast Wichita. People have been stopping to look. I had to see it, too, the flowers hanging like lavender grapes from the vine.

“Last year it was frozen about half out,” Geraldine said. A-ha, more stress! And the result? “It’s never been as full of blossoms as it has been this year.”

Geraldine doesn’t claim any effort in taking care of the wisteria. “We trim it up a lot in the middle of summer because you would not be able to walk under it” otherwise. That’s about it. Wisteria does take a long time to get established, and Geraldine’s is “20-some years old.” Kind of sounds like humans, too.

“Give them full sun and stress,” Bob said. Sounds like I could safely change my name to Wisteria.

Katrina Stockton also has wisteria growing wild at her house on North Woodlawn. It’s even climbing the wire to the telephone poll. She replanted it from another part of the yard five years ago and weaves it in and out of fences to get it to spread. She also took a wisteria seedling that came up and trained to be a tree.

“Every other year they seem to bloom more, but this year” the flowers are heavier than ever, she said. Sure enough, she didn’t water the wisteria much last year, and, of course, it took the heat.

Along with the bounteous growth of our super-early spring — still no frosts in sight, knock on wood — is coming lots of bugs, both the good kind and the bad kind. Aphids — the bad — are thick on the new growth of some roses, Bob said. But so too are ladybug larvae — the good – which look like little black alligators with orange markings. If you see ladybugs or ladybug larvae on a plant, your insecticide is built-in, because they eat aphids. On plants with aphids and no sign of the ladies, use an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil or just a strong blast of water from a hose, Bob said.

For more, the Wichita Rose Society meeting on Tuesday will feature a program entitled “Crazy Weather and Roses” about what to do with your roses in this unusual spring weather. There’s that word “crazy” again. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Botanica, 701 N. Amidon, with refreshments and social hour at 6:30 p.m.. It’s free and open to the public.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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