Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Rose for England's Rose

In case you’ve been vacationing on Mars this summer or simply haven’t noticed the flood of magazine covers and TV specials, Friday marks the 10th anniversary of Princess Di’s death. If you were an admirer of the People’s Princess, perhaps you’re already the proud owner of a commemorative plate or collectible coin, perhaps you’ve bought a copy of her tiara or a thimble featuring her likeness. Maybe you’ve snatched up one of the limited-edition resin figurines of Diana the fashionista striking a pose in a replica of the strapless blue silk chiffon gown she wore to the Cannes Film Festival in 1987.

Or maybe not.

If you’re a gardener and a Dianaphile, you don’t have to choose between crass and corny. You can choose a sweetly scented ivory rose blushed with pink. As you might expect, it’s called Diana, Princess of Wales. And it’s as graceful and elegant as the woman who was eulogized in song by Elton John as “England’s Rose.”

This rose is actually a re-introduction of a best-selling hybrid tea that Jackson & Perkins first came out with in 1998. Like the one-time princess it was named for, Diana the rose was a hit from the start, with sales of more than 475,000 in this country. And like its namesake, it has a purpose that goes beyond just looking good -- although it certainly is beautiful with full and fragrant 35-petaled flowers on stately stems lush with dark green foliage. Jackson & Perkins donates 10 percent of all sales -- more than half a million dollars so far -- to The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund to help finance charities that were dear to the People's Princess. Actually, the Jackson & Perkins Diana rose -- it's available in a one-gallon container for fall planting or bareroot for the spring -- is one of a only handful of licensed products approved by the fund.

So how do you honor the memory of a real-life princess whose beauty thrived among the thorns, and who reminds us even a decade after her death, that fairy tales don't always come true?

If you're a gardener, plant a rose.

(Photo courtesy of Jackson & Perkins)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What's Bigger Than A Honda CRX?

Answer: A mountain of mulch.

When 20 yards of gorgeous shredded bark mulch was dumped on my driveway awhile back, it all but swallowed my little 19-year-old CRX.

I love the look and smell and feel of new mulch. Of course, all this stuff is now where it should be -- in the beds and borders of my yard. When I was out weeding the other day, it reminded me of why mulch is the elixir of the garden.

Actually, there weren't that many weeds to pull -- mulch smothers what I think of as the dust bunnies of the garden. And when I grabbed a little locust seedling that was hiding among the dahlias, it's taproot gave with hardly a tug. Usually, I need a trowel to dig the pesky invaders out.

Mulch also helps your soil retain moisture so you don't have to wage a daily battle with hoses. And it cools the earth in summer. Which brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves -- over-zealous gardeners and especially landscapers who mulch in May. The plants are barely in the ground and they're up to their necks shivering in shredded bark or cocoa hulls. You want to let the soil warm up before you mulch. I'll remind you about it next spring.

My central air conditioning died just as the days of crushing heat arrived. I'll still waiting for the new system to be installed. I'm wilting. But my flowers and vegetables aren't. Maybe I should go sit in the mulch.