While we're still basking in the aftermath of cool, rainy, London-like days, ahead of a streak of sunny days solidly in the 80s, let's drink of the flower cups of beauty that are ours.
Roses and peonies — that traditional flower of Memorial Day — have been in gorgeous bloom this spring, more at home in this weather than we have been.
"Everybody's roses have been good," Wichita rosarian Norma Kemp told me earlier in the week.
"I worked on the roses up at the Extension yesterday and oh my goodness, I picked off a five-gallon bucket of spent blooms. It was just awesome. And there were still a lot of blooms. I think this weekend" — sparked by sun —"they're going to be showing more blooms."
That's good, because master gardeners including Norma (she's one of those, too) will be among the roses bushes at the Extension Education Center this morning, showing off the flowers and answering questions about their care.
The emphasis will be on the Earth-Kind, shrub, low-maintenance roses, but Norma's favorites are hybrid teas, so that will be covered, too. The center is at 21st and Ridge Road. The hybrid teas are on the east side of the back of the building, off the Demonstration Garden, and the shrub rose garden is off the gravel parking lot in the southeast corner of the center. (The farmers market also will be taking place in the parking lot.) The master gardeners will be there from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
I love to see the roses that I planted as bare roots very early in the spring open up for the first time like Christmas presents. The buds of one that is just about to pop are deep red, appearing like tubes of lipstick above the fresh foliage. Once the presents are opened, the color isn't the only surprise. There's also the burying of the nose inside the blooms for a breath of fragrance.
Walks these days have been heavenly, honeysuckle mixing with rose perfume on the air. One grouping of roses at a neighbor's house is particularly enchanting, so that I had to trespass all the way up to the house: a hot pink small-flowered shrub rose tangling up through open-flat golden hybrid tea blooms. The thing that moved the scene into bliss was a blush on the golden flowers that echoed the pink shrub roses.
Everybody's roses may be good, as Norma says, but not all rose stories have been happy. I have a friend whose husband's beloved pale-pink hybrid teas have been attacked by thrips, eating right inside the flower cups. Norma suggests that if you have this problem and only a few roses, buy a pre-mixed can of Orthinex. Spray the blooms and the top new growth. Or if you have a lot of roses with the problem, use Orthene or a similar insecticide that you mix yourself for volume.
I've seen aphids on at least one of my roses, and ladybugs nearby. This is good, because ladybugs eat aphids. Otherwise, strong blasts of water from the hose are your main method of attack.
Of course, we fans of hybrid teas are holding our breath for the first sign of black spot. It's only inevitable, right?
"I have my sprayer charged up," Norma confirmed. "I'm ready to go. ... I have sprayed all the roses that I care for one time" as a prevention.
She has fertilized her roses once this spring, "and I probably won't be fertilizing again till the middle of June." If you have not fertilized, get on it, with a fertilizer labeled for roses. "Especially with all this rain," Norma said.
Her yard in west Wichita has become more and more shady, which is what happens when landscapes mature and trees grow.
"In fact, I put in a new bed," Norma said. "I'm getting so much shade I'm having to go to hostas and heucheras and just love it."
So, naturally, Norma told me to check out the hostas at the Extension Center, too. Take a look at the trees on the grounds, and the Demonstration Garden with its vegetables and herbs and fruits, and with a good dose of much-anticipated sun and heat, we finally just might meet May today.