Our fifth Annual Rose Walk begins this weekend

Pink Simplicity looks lovely in the rain

It is mid May and time for our Annual Rose Walk. Hard to believe that we are doing this already for the 5th time! It is definitely a tradition now. The labels are in place, the rose buds are getting big and some are already open. Only the weather does not want to cooperate. It has been raining on and off for several days and the forecast for the weekend is not great either. At least, we don’t have to worry about watering the garden, and this warm rain makes many plants grow happily and quickly. The garden looks very lush. Still, a bit of sunshine would be nice. Of course, the roses will be blooming for a few more weeks and this gloomy weather can’t last. Who wants to go on our Rose Walk may follow the guide below. Enjoy!


Guide to the fifth annual Rose Walk:

Enter the gate and look to your left. There is a collection of roses that include Alba White Meidiland, Stanwell Perpetual—an ancient cross between a Burnet rose (Rosa spinosissima) and a Damask rose—and Charles Mallerin.

Don Juan

Now, continue on the path and under the arbor covered with Don Juan. Through the arbor to your right is Phloxy Baby, a 2016 winner of the American Garden Rose Selections. Directly in front of you in the border, The Fairy is planted to the right of the large Rosa laxa. Please take a look at the other roses in this area to your left, which have yet to be identified.

Madame Hardy

Heading up the path, you will see Madame Hardy in the border, a Damask rose that is considered one of the most beautiful white roses ever bred (in 1832 by Alexander Hardy who named it after his wife Félicité). Next are several specimen of the Floribunda rose Pink Simplicity and the lavender colored Paradise that has been moved earlier this year and is still recovering from this shock.

Lavender Dream

Further down the path reveals Lavender Dream. Proudland is the red rose to your left. This area also contains several unidentified roses. Turning the corner, Dream Weaver appears and there is also Pretty Jessica. The next corner contains Chrysler Imperial, one of our oldest roses that was planted in a brick well 39 years ago. It won a Green Thumb contest and a wheelbarrow for the garden back in the ‘80’s.

Citrus Tease

Turning the tight corner, you will come to a large grove of tall red roses, Dr. Huey, frequently used as rootstock for hybrid roses. You will also see Senior Prom and Citrus Tease, and to your right is a rose which we still need to identify.

Following in the border is White Dawn. Look back into the garden to see Orange Honey Sunny Yellow Knockout and Oso Happy Smoothie Pink. There is also Baronne Prévost, an antique hybrid perpetual, and Green Ice, grown from a cutting a few years ago.

Livin’ Easy

Next is Livin’ Easy, and in the border, you will find French Lace, Eglantyne and Morden Blush. In the middle of the garden is one recently planted old garden rose Apple blossom, which was newly grown by the Heritage Rose Foundation and donated to a Green Thumb rose pruning event in Harlem three springs ago.

By now we are sure you are drawn to Zephirine Drouhin. This thornless beauty has been with us a long time. Happy Chappy and Peach Drift, which came to the garden from an AARS giveaway in Union Square years ago, are also here.

Kronprinzessin Viktoria

Please continue down the path, past the gate, and on your way to the patio. You will pass Love and Peace, which was planted in honor of two young neighborhood NYPD auxiliary officers, Nick Pekearo & Eugene Marshalik, who were gunned down on Sullivan street in 2007. Next is Chicago Peace. Follow your nose and be enthralled by the fragrance of Souvenir de la Malmaison, one of our Bourbon roses.

Pat Austin

The following section, next to the patio, is the most concentrated rose garden. Within this area, you will find two other Bourbon roses, Kronprinzessin Viktoria and Captaine Dyel de Graville. There are also a rare Canary Island Damask rose next to Munstead Wood and the hybrid Tea rose Leonie’s Appoline. Near the back fence is Pat Austin.

On the other side of the patio, you will find the Rosa rugosa cultivar Henry Hudson and the hybrid Musk rose The Ballerina. The Ballerina appears again with Dames de Chenonceau and a Pink Meidiland. The very last plot has The Fairy, Tropicana and Dan Poncet.

After leaving the garden, please also take a look at our small North Garden which contains a pink double Rosa rugosa variety and Pink Simplicity. You will also find The Prince behind a red rose, which we still need to identify. Finally, there are the European wild rose Rosa rubifolia and Maigold.

Thank you for coming! We hope this has been enjoyable and informative. We appreciate your ideas and input. If you think you can identify any of our mystery roses, please inform the guardian on duty or send us an e-mail: lgcgardens@gmail.com.

The Ballerina

A Swarm

Yesterday evening, while checking on the roses and chatting with a fellow gardener, I suddenly noticed a strange buzz. When I looked up, I saw an amazing sight: a large cluster of bees was hanging from a branch of our crab apple tree. I remembered from my high school biology class that a queen bee must be in the middle of this swarm.

The swarm

This was exciting and a little scary. What should we do? First, we asked our visitors to avoid the area and blocked it off. Bees in a swarm are not at all aggressive, but it was certainly better to be careful.

The two beekeepers of our garden were not available and it was getting late. What now? Fortunately, New York City’s fantastic bee keeping community is ready to help in such an emergency.

A phone call and 15 minutes later, Ray Sage came to the rescue. Ray has been keeping bees for the last 6 years on a rooftop in the East Village and is an experienced swarm capturer. He quickly assessed the situation. The swarm had chosen a low branch and was accessible by stepladder; good. Did we have a hive for them? We improvised one with two spare stackable boxes from our hive, a few empty honey frames and a piece of plywood for a bottom. But how could we get the bees into this contraption? Ray took a large plastic garbage bag and climbed onto the ladder. I helped him to hold the open bag under the swarm. Then, Ray shook the branch. Clumps of bees fell down. Another shake and most of them were “bagged”.

Ray is shaking the bees into a bag

Normally, a beekeeper would wear a protective suit, but here, we were in a hurry. Amazingly, Ray got stung just a couple of times and I didn’t get stung at all, even though there were plenty of bees all over us. These ladies were completely focused on their queen.

Ray brought the bag to our makeshift hive and poured the bees inside. He then quickly put an improvised lid on the box.

The bees are emptied into the box.

A few wooden sticks wedged under the lid generated a space for the bees to get in and out. Since we had not captured all bees from the apple tree, Ray took the bag back and collected a few more. By the time we were ready to put these bees into the box, the ones inside had markedly calmed down.

By now, excitement was growing in our regular hive. The arrival of the new colony had not escaped the attention of our resident bees. Workers were sitting near the entrance with their rear end up. They were guarding their hive against possible intruders. Ray checked for fights, but did not see any. Perhaps, it was too dark by now and the bees were getting cold and sleepy. A short time later, the buzz in the new hive got quieter, bees crawled into the box and not out, and when we checked the area around the apple tree, it was abandoned. The smell of their queen must have guided all bees into their temporary home.

Ray is adjusting the lid on the box to generate an entrance.

Where did these bees come from? We think that the swarm originated from our own hive. Swarming is a normal occurrence during spring. It serves to propagate the colony. Bees may decide that it is time to swarm when their hive becomes crowded. They nurse a new queen and the old queen moves out with about half of her workers. They all fly away, congregate at a temporary site (like our crab apple tree) and send out scout bees to find a suitable place for a new nest. When such a place is found, the bees will move in, build cells and forage, and the queen will begin to lay eggs. Exactly this happened 5 years ago when our first bee colony moved into a little Asian cabinet that decorated one of our garden plots. The colony stayed there all summer long and even survived the winter. Ray was the one who helped transferring these bees into a proper hive.

The cabinet that served as the home for our first colony. The bees flew in and out of a crack between the doors. They were moved to a proper hive the next year (fotos by Hubert Steed).

That year, we gained a colony of bees. Yesterday, we almost lost half of ours. It was lucky that the swarm had not yet left the garden and we found it in time. Ray offered to bring a new hive in a couple of days. Hopefully, the bees will like it and stay with us, our much anticipated honey harvest depends on it.

Almost over night…

… the tree peonies are in bloom! On Thursday evening, the buds were still tightly closed, Saturday afternoon, almost all of them were open.

The striped tree peony next to the gate drew many visitors into the garden

Tree peonies are a short lived wonder. The buds pop open, the flowers attract bees and get pollinated, drop their lovely petals and are done for the season.

Peonies attracted a carpenter bee. They are also visited by our honeybees

Tree peonies are native to Asia and have been cultivated since ancient times. During the Tang dynasty (618–907) people were particularly crazy about peonies. The flowers were viewed as symbols of royalty and virtue, wealth and honor and female beauty. They were extensively bred and cultivated in royal gardens. The capital of this empire Luoyang is still the peony capital of the world.

This peony reminds of a Chinese painting.

Centuries after the Chinese were crazy about peonies, Europe experienced tulip mania. During the 17th century, tulips became extremely popular not only as a beautiful flower, but also as an investment and object of financial speculation. This led to an economic bubble in the Dutch Republic, which burst in February of 1637 and financially ruined many investors. At the height of tulip mania, one single bulb sold for many times the annual income of a normal worker. The most expensive bulbs were those of flowers with white stripes on red or purple background. This color pattern is caused by a infection with the “tulip breaking virus”, which also weakens the bulb. It is only transferred through the bulb itself, which doubtless contributed to the extraordinary value of these tulips, since they cannot be grown from seeds. Striped tulips are still popular, but today, they are affordable. We have a few in our garden, too.

Some spectacular tulips. The right variety would have cost a fortune during tuljp mania.

Aside from peonies and late tulips, the earlier irises have opened. Particularly pretty right now are the dwarf bearded irises that are always first to bloom.

Two varieties of dwarf bearded irises. The garden has a few more kinds.

While we were working in the garden yesterday, we could literally watch the buds on the Camassia open. At this time of the year, everything happens so quickly, it is hard to catch up!

miniature daffodils and Camassia

What a difference a day makes

At this time of the year, the garden changes so quickly that it is difficult to catch up. Almost over night, the crap apple tree is in bloom. The tree peony buds are showing color and the first irises are about to open.

Apple blossoms on a perfect, cloudless afternoon. The bourbon roses have buds already.

The garden is now really colorful. One highlight of this time is the Japanese Kerria with its sunny yellow flowers. And then there are tulips.

Tulips and Kerria

These tulips are almost too red for the digital camera.

This color combination is really interesting.

Less bright but no less showy and also true Americans are trout lilies or dogtooth violets (Erythronium americanum). One of our garden plots has a very nice stand that grows thicker every year. I just learned that the wild trout lily colonies in forests can be hundreds of years old; these plants are here to stay!

Trout lilies

We will get summer-like weather on the next few days. Who can should visit now to see these flowers. Soon, they will be gone and replaced by iris and peonies.

Earth Day Week

Last Saturday was Earth Day. Like last year, first grade students from the Little Red Schoolhouse prepared some special art for Earth Day to be displayed on the fence of our garden. We hope that this will be tradition.

First graders are hanging their art

The paintings are delightful

Last weekend, the garden still looked like early spring. Daffodils are blooming of course and there are grape hyacinths anemones and tulips. But the trees had barely leaves and it became quite chilly in the evening.

Some of our many daffodils

Lung wort, grape hyacinths a species tulip and anemones

The trees are still bare but the rose bushes and raspberry plants have grown fresh green leaves. Gardeners keep warm by working the soil.

One other important thing happened this week: A delegation of the Parks Department visited the garden to discuss our new fence that was funded by Council Member Margaret Chin last year. It will still be a while until the fence can be installed. More planning, procurement and scheduling needs to happen. But this project is moving forward!

And we have a special guest or even resident in our garden: a robin with a very unusual plumage. This bird is leucistic, which means that some part of his body doesn’t make any pigment. He therefore has many perfectly white feathers.

The piebald robin

Over the week, it got a bit warmer. We’ll see how things changed during this time. Stay tuned.

Bleeding heart