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Garden Questions

Lilacs and Roses
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski


Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.

May 11, 2008

Q.- We planted a row of lilacs as a windbreak at our cottage 2 years ago. They did bloom the last 2 springs but the tips are not growing and seem to be dying back rather than showing new growth. The stems are ok and the leaves seemed fine just the tips were dying and the lilacs are not growing at all. The plants get lots of light and are not overwatered. We laid down landscape fabric and put down a layer of rock mulch when they were planted. Any ideas as to what may be wrong?

A.- The problem might be the rock mulch. Rock mulches sometimes create an anaerobic situation. This means that air is not circulating under the rock. This would certainly account for the lack of growth and dieback of the tips. I would try removing the mulch and using an organic one such as shredded bark instead. Organic mulches are safer to use than rock or stone. Adding a little mulch each year will ensure that the level is maintained as the original mulch settles and breaks down naturally.

Q.- My husband and I really enjoy your Second Homes column. It has given us many ideas for out home in the Okanagan. I have a question for you about roses. We would love to have some climbing roses growing up the south wall of the home. Our problem is that we don't know which varieties would be reliably hardy. We planted some hybrid tea climbers a few years ago and they did not survive the winter. Can you give names of some varieties that are hardy over winter?

A.- The Explorer rose series are the most reliably hardy roses in Canada. There are 3 in the series that will work very well as climbing roses. The first is a variety named 'William Baffin'. This rose will grow to 8-10 ft tall and has very vibrant semi-double deep pink blossoms. The blooms are held in large clusters. They are slightly fragrant and bloom all summer long. This variety is highly disease resistant.

The next variety is 'Henry Kelsey'. This climber grows to 10 ft tall and has semi-double deep red flowers. The fragrance is a little stringer than 'Wlliam Baffin' but is still moderate. It is also a continuous bloomer. It is highly resistant to powdery mildew and is very vigorous. The last variety worthy of mention is 'John Cabot'. This variety grows 8-10 ft tall and has clusters of pink-red blooms that are moderately fragrant. This rose also blooms from summer to frost. Good disease resistance as well.

I am a huge fan of the Explorer roses. I love their hardiness and disease resistance and yet they are amongst the most beautiful roses. I also love the fact that they will bloom the entire growing season. It is unusual to find a shrubs that is this hardy that gives you bloom all season. I highly recommend the climbers and the other varieties of Explorer roses.

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