Rose Petal Count: from 5 to 100 or more

Among rose lovers, petal count is a big deal. One of the items included in the evaluation of any rose variety is the number of petals in each bloom, which generally ranges from 20 to more than 100, depending on the type of rose. Hybrid teas, David Austins and floribundas show the most petals per bloom.
Graham Thomas, a fragrant, lemon yellow David Austin rose, may have as many as 100 petals in each bloom, and the floribunda ‘Wedding Cake’ is said to have 150 petals per flower. Yet some of the most mesmerizing rose varieties have only five petals per flower. I know this for a fact since I saw two of them this spring in Jerusalem, whose climate approximates that of Southern California, and each stopped me in my tracks.
Roses with five petals are sometimes referred to as single petalled roses, which means there is one flat set of petals and nothing more. This designation is meant to distinguish them from two-petalled or double roses, with two tiers or layers of petals, and triples, and quadruples, and on and on, to where some roses may have six or seven layers of petals, or more. But anyone who has observed roses closely will agree that the more petals per bloom on any particular rose variety, the fewer the number of flowers there will be overall. Single petalled roses, in full bloom, may be virtual balls of color, with foliage obscured by the glut of flowers. Single petalled Meidliland roses are an excellent example of this.
Single petalled roses are typically borne on short bushes, usually under four feet tall.
Besides single petalled Meidlands, you will find single petalled floribundas such as ‘Eye Paint’, noted for its scarlet petals with white eyes or centers, as well as many single petalled miniature roses. Miniature roses are both small in stature, usually around two to three feet tall, and possessed of roses that are around two inches in size. Ballerina is a single-petalled shrub rose that produces unique clusters of small pink flowers, also with white eyes. From a distance, Ballerina rose clusters resemble hydrangea pom pom flowers.
One of the advantages of cultivating Meidiland, miniature, and shrub roses is that they can be reproduced through clonal propagation without sacrificing vigor or disease resistance, for which all three types are famous. Other roses, such as hybrid teas, are grafted plants and develop into weak and spindly plants when clonally propagated on their own roots. You will want to detach four to six inch shoot tip (terminal) cuttings for propagation during late spring or in the summer. Utilize hardened green growth, neither so flimsy that it lacks elasticity nor so hard that it is woody.
Root hormone powder, available at any nursery, will speed root development. Remove bottom leaves and make your bottom cut no more than 1/2″ below a node (where leaf was joined to stem). Cut diagonally to increase surface area for new roots to develop.
A fast draining soil medium that contains at least 50 per cent sand or perlite should be used for this propagation procedure. Make holes in the soil medium with a pencil so that, when cuttings are inserted, root hormone will not come off through contact with the sides of the hole. It is worth noting that roses grown on their own roots are quite cold hardy and should be able to withstand the coldest winters that the Antelope Valley, for example, has to offer.
Q. I would like to try and grow a sweet potato but cannot find out how to get one started. I want to be able to eat it eventually, not just have it as a vine in water. I had hoped to find a small one in a pot, at a nursery, that I could just transplant. No such luck. So how do I grow a sweet potato?
-Nancy Wilson, Woodland Hills
A. Learning how to grow sweet potatoes is an excellent idea. You never know what twists and turns the economy will take. Even our food supply might some day be in doubt. However, with a sound patch of sweet potatoes, you will always have something to eat.
And here’s the best part: sweet potatoes are easy to grow. Although they are frost sensitive. The quickest way to get started is to place a sweet potato on the ground and cover it with soil. Shoots called slips will soon start poking up through the soil. Cut the slips with a small piece of the potato attached to each and plant them in your garden. By the way, you can also get slips from sweet potatoes planted in water.
Cut them off before they start to vine. The slips will speedily form roots and begin to send their vines along the ground. Give them full to partial sun.
Sweet potatoes do not need much to prosper but a fast draining soil, improved with compost, is preferred. Ideally, you would create raised beds or hills for planting. That way, you will not have to dig so far down to harvest your potatoes, which may develop as deep as 18 inches below where they are planted.
Some growers use black plastic mulch, in sheets, punching holes in the plastic where slips are planted and here and there over the expanse of the sheets. The reason for doing so is that wherever sweet potato vines touch the soil surface they will strike roots and eventually, wherever there are roots, a sweet potato will develop.
However, without the plastic mulch, you will have hundreds of spots where vines touch earth and sweet potatoes grow. The problem with such a scenario is that having so many sweet potatoes will mean that each is no bigger than a finger. With plastic sheeting, you can control how many sweet potatoes will develop and increase their size in the process.
It is best to purchase sweet potatoes for growing at a farmer’s market since some commercial growers and markets spray sweet potatoes with a chemical that inhibits sprouting. However, supermarket sweet potatoes often do sprout as well. Make sure you know the difference between a sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), a yam (Dioscorea spp.) and a regular potato (Solanum tuberosum). Sweet potato leaves are edible whereas leaves of yam and regular potato are toxic.
Now is the time to enjoy garland flowers (Clarkia unguiculata). Garland flowers are the most satisfying California native annuals a gardener can grow. They sprout and are barely noticed until suddenly, within days, they are three or four feet tall.
They have received the appellation elegant clarkia because of their simple, symmetrical beauty, each flower with four, delicately crafted, silky, spade-shaped petals. Colors include pink, magenta and purple and stems are a pleasant maroon. I highly recommend broadcasting a packet or two of elegant clarkia seeds this fall for a memorable garden flower show next spring.
Blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora) is another native of note. It has orange daisy petals tipped with yellow, a design that reminds you of Indian blankets, and thus its name. However, there is also a seldom seen double yellow hybrid variety that is worth planting.
Tip of the Week
Trailing princess flower (Centradenia grandiflora) is the most carefree flowering perennial for partial sun that I have ever seen and easily the most rewarding. It is related to the common princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana), a pompous disappointment, by contrast, since it looks so glamorous in a container but, by its second year in the garden, is all used up. Trailing princess flower, on the other hand, is nothing special in the nursery but once it is planted in the garden or in a container, nothing can stop it from flowering. Flower buds are fascinating cherry red cones and flowers are either soft violet or blushing pink, depending on variety. It will last for years and years, even when ruthlessly pruned, and is easily propagated from cuttings.

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