Geraniums on the Porch (memoirs and present)

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We sit on the balcony each evening watching the clouds.  The Creator paints and creates as we watch and laugh and point out different animals and characters.  We see the same things in the clouds, and the illustrations dancing across the sky above the mountains from this third floor view helps us wind down.

The balcony is my respite.  No doubt done with the city and missing my feet on the earth but this little abode in the sky makes a lovely garden and peaceful place of thought and memory and gift.  The bare root roses bought for dollars create a lovely garden in their brightly colored pots.  The lavender flows over its spot and the Christmas poinsettia happily flaunts green.  The transplanted comfrey and horseradish root strongly and the gooseberry, mini roses from the grocery store, the rosemary that barely made it though the homeless trek, the mint, curry, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and chives all spread out, face the sun, and thrive.  The gay petunias beckon the hummingbird.

And the ones that have been with me the longest, the geraniums.  They are large and lush and have survived everything along side us, from house to house, and shop to balcony, their colors rich in the summer heat.  My great grandma would be impressed.  She always had geraniums on the porch.  I would pass them as I walked up the steps and to the door where I never knocked.  And there she would be in her chair in the corner.  Smiling, excited to see me, always wanting a kiss, her love for me so evident, her small frame hugging mine.

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We would walk along her row of roses, always taller than me, their fragrance rich with summer and future memories of past.  Her yard seemed so big.  Her house quaint and tidy filled with relics and memory and life.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last week.  She lives in Washington park, one of the places I grew up.  I rode my bike past her house a million times with my best friend, Susan, I bet.  The beautiful old cottages and bungalows all similar in their individual layouts.  I walked up the steps and noted the imaginary porch swing, knocked.  And through the door I entered and did face the fireplace and mantle, the two small windows above it with beveled glass, the couch, the corner where Great grandma’s chair stood.  The same floor plan as hers, situated just blocks away, and my breath was taken as my eyes moistened and there I stood eleven years old, gangly and tall in my all encompassing grandma’s house.  I saw her stand and squeal that I was there.  I saw us at the dining room table, plants behind us lining the south window, drinking sweet iced tea and enjoying hours of rummy, where I obtained my title of rummy queen.

How she would be thrilled with my roses and geraniums.  Now we sit watching a bear emerge from the depths of the sky and an old eagle flying by, our sights set on getting to a homestead respite of our own.  Soon.  Our feet firmly on the soil of earth and our spirits restored to freedom and homestead.  We breathe in the fumes of the city streets and post rain scent.  And look upon the roses and geraniums and flowers that Mother Earth has lent.

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How to Create a Rose Garden in Less than 30 Minutes

A beautiful rose garden in less than thirty minutes?  What about digging a bed?  Amending the soil?  What if the area is just straight prairie and nothing grows but yucca?  You can indeed start a rose garden anywhere.

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Here are the requirements:

Despite the common advice that roses love full sun, here in Colorado (and I bet in other places too) roses like a little reprieve from the harsh rays of summer.  Roses love east and west exposures.  Never north, not enough sun.  I just planted our new rose garden on the south side but the shed to its west will block some sun at the height of summer.

You need a water source.  Roses enjoy water.  Can’t stick them in the prairie and hope they can fend for themselves.  I give the roses two inches of water every other day.  If it rains, I skip the watering.  The  straw surrounding the rose allows six inches of space so not to suffocate the plant.  This creates a perfect hole to water into.  I just fill that hole and it filters into the ground.

I do not fertilize my roses with chemicals, not even “organic” ones.  My organic fertilizer consists of a good pile of chicken bedding on top of the rose bush in autumn to shield it from winter.  Every time it rains or snows the fertilizer seeps into the ground.  In mid-summer a mulch of goat bedding around the base helps contribute nitrogen to the roots every time it rains or gets watered.  If you don’t have farm animals, a bag of compost can be used.  Mushroom compost can be poured three inches from the base circling the plant.  Then topped with mulch.  This keeps the soil moist, the nutrients slowly seeping in, and we don’t accidentally burn the plant.

The only pruning I do on roses is to remove dead branches.

All roses available for purchase at the big box stores or local nurseries will grow here.  This time of year buy bare root, they are still sleeping.  During the growing season any rose bush can be planted, even the miniature ones in the grocery store in pots meant as gifts.

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Now, let’s get started.  You can use the porch as your boundary or if you are putting it in the middle of the yard like I did, you will want to contain your garden.  I gathered the thick pieces of wood that I found last summer.  One could use bricks, 2×4’s, or old gnarly branches to create any kind of artistic image you see fit.  Gardening is art.

Don’t hurt your back now by digging up the whole garden!  If you aren’t growing anything there why would you spend the energy and resources to amend the whole thing while exposing the place to sun so that the weeds have a lovely place of amended soil to grow in?  Just stick to the planting at hand.  Do remove any large weeds though.

Dig a hole about a foot across and down. Fill half way with water. Let it drain.  Place rose in hole.  Fill hole half way with organic garden soil. Fill the hole the rest of the way with the soil that was removed surrounding the neck to keep the new plant sturdy.

Anywhere you didn’t plant place thick layers of newspaper down and cover with four inches of straw.

Give the rose another drink.

Step back and take in your work!

To add things to this garden, simply remove a chunk of straw, add garden soil, plant.  Cover anywhere that is not a plant or seed.

A birdbath, comfy chair, and good book finish the space.