Prepping for Tours: The Rose Garden

HERE AT A GARDEN FOR THE HOUSE, I’m working daily to prepare my “garden rooms” for a number of scheduled tours which begin (gasp!) early in June. Last week, I focused on the Rose Garden (above). This involved trimming the boxwood,  turning on the fountains (I ran into a snag with these), and crying over the sorry appearance of the roses themselves.

No doubt about it — my boxwood needed a haircut. It had grown to an height of nearly 36 inches, which meant you could barely see the roses. I’m not handy with a hedge trimmer, so I hired the job out to a professional…

…who managed to reduce their stature to about 24 inches. And he did it all in 3 hours’ time.

It is my policy to save a number of the box clippings, and turn them into new plants. That’s how I  achieved most of my boxwood in the first place.

I can’t sing the praises of boxwood loudly enough. Beyond an annual pruning, it requires virtually no care. Mine has endured both winter ice storms and summer droughts. What a durable shrub!

With the  boxwood clipped and trimmings picked up, the next goal was to turn on the fountains. But when I flipped the switch, nothing happened. And this has been a problem every spring that I’ve flipped that switch for the past 8 years.

See the clay pots located beside each fountain? These for years have covered big, boxy,  electrical outlets that an electrician insisted on mounting (against my loud protests) right smack against the each fountain’s basin. Not only were the boxes aesthetically unappealing, but they would shut themselves off at the slightest hint of moisture. Moisture beside a splashing fountain…who would have guessed!? Certainly not the electrician.

So last week, I solved the ugly-outlet-problem once and for all. I cut off the boxes and capped their cables.  Then I ran the pump cord for each fountain under the brick path. The cord now emerges, out of view, behind the boxwood hedge. To provide electricity to the pumps, I buried an outdoor-grade extension cord in the lawn.  No more eyesores! Now the only cringe-element is my memory of what the electrician was paid.

As for the roses, well, they are nothing to sing about this spring. I attribute this  to the weird, 90-degree heatwaves we experienced  in March and April. Each heatwave was followed  by freezing temperatures. The early warmth caused early leaf-break on stems, while the cold caused severe die-back. For the sake of appearance, I planned to buy a few new roses. But even those I’ve seen at high-end garden centers look no better than mine.  Meanwhile, I’m keeping my roses well-watered and fed.   And I’m hoping for the best.

How’s your own garden shaping up this year?  I’d love to hear from you.

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Related Posts:
From Parking Lot to Rose Garden
From Hellish Hill to Serpentine Garden
Creating a Raised Bed Garden


  1. Don’t worry about the roses. The boxwood and the fountains are beautiful enough!

  2. I agree with Alan. Maybe you should call this “The Boxwood Garden” instead of the “Rose Garden”!

  3. Noelle Imparato says:

    Hi Kevin, We bought our house last summer, so this spring we are just looking to see what’s there. And we have roses, or we would have roses if the deer were not eating all the buds.
    What do you do to prevent deer from eating the new tender growth of so many plants?

  4. Glenda Berman says:

    I thought that you might be interested in this article on Rose Rosette disease. While it still seems to be just affecting Multiflora Roses we should be aware of it and look for any signs in other cultivated roses. I have seen a lot of Multiflora Roses in various stages of the disease around the fields in Ghent.

  5. I have spent so many hours weeding, weeding, weeding – and it’s almost done. Trying to work on one section of a time. I opened up several new garden areas last year and wonder if that, and all the oak helicopters, have attributed to the increase.

    Now I see the “lay of the land” I’m starting to shift and divide plants. I have some absolutely huge plants that I plan to divide when they are first coming up next year.

    I’m overjoyed watching the seeds I planted using your over-winter method become established and grow beautifully. I feel a special happiness with them because I’ve not been able to grow seeds successfully prior to your method.

    Kevin, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm.

  6. I seem to be dueling with poison ivy this year. Either it’s more abundant, or I’ve learned to recognize it before touching it.

  7. Linda Totten says:

    Your yard is simply spectacular.. I love the boxwoods..

  8. Kevin-
    My garden looks spectacular! My antique roses are healthy, the vegetables growing by the minute, the hosta garden is coming together and the front lawn is being transformed into a garden. My “risky” early planting (and protecting) has given me a garden in fine shape before Memorial Day.

  9. Lily Hill is ‘prepping’ for our first officially scheduled tour…and I’m determined not to stress out. The whole point (I hope) is to share your love of gardening…

  10. Leta Mae says:

    Here in Springfield, OR every season brings a ‘new story’ – actually every WEEK brings a new story! We just have to roll with the punches and enjoy what happens in our gardens. Spring seems to be finally here – but after a glorious week of sun we are now looking at a glorious week of rain. But the rain is what makes our beautiful Pacific Northwest so green and beautiful!!!!!!!!

  11. Margp Craven says:

    Cleaning out the flowerbeds is a tedious job,with loads of leaves taken out of each. Hosta’s are my favorite flower with over 120 plants set about every corner of our yard. This year the deer have found my place and are reaking havoic on the Hostas. My sister recommended a deer repellent from the locall Mill. What an odor!! My husband closed up the windows of the house, it was so strong! I hope it is as potent to the deer and they run the other way! Our rhodadendrons are in full bloom, bringing a special glow to the yard midst all the green. This is a wonderful time of the year in Western Pennsylvania!

  12. Donna B. says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, our strange New England starter weather meant for some crazy die-backs!
    I do not grow roses [very well…] but the one that I do have has died back at least three times in the four years I’ve had it… I’m not successful at them whatsoever, but I do appreciate the one or two blooms I *do* get in a year!
    [dried roses are possibly my most favorite decoration for the house.]
    I am definitely taking advantage of this wet weather we’re scheduled to have though! I did a lot of transplanting and dividing and planting… with the weather being partially cloudy with rain I think it’s the best time to do so! [although I am a little worried about the Castor Bean plants I just set out… will this be a little TOO wet for them??]

    Garden tours?! Hm, I may have to see if I can sneak in a visit… You’re not that far from me…

  13. Here in zone 5b of NE Ohio I have had to cut a lot of dead and withered areas from the roses and hydrangeas. The frost took almost all my pear tree blossoms but the blueberry bush is loaded with berries and the Chester Thornless blackberry is full of blooms. A few nights ago it was very cold and damaged my Torenis hanging baskets. It was a crazy winter – but i loved the warm weather!

  14. Beverly says:

    My 1/3 acre property in SE Pennsylvania is bursting forth with color, texture and aroma. The glorious sights and scents are so gratifying, plus there are food crops coming in. It has taken 22 years to get this organic garden just the way I want it, although of course improvements always come to mind. Most of the plant material was traded, swapped, given to me or started from seeds. Very little expense at the nursery. It’s a source of pride, an avenue of therapy and good exercise. The hottest of 7 compost heaps is currently at 135 degrees with an infusion of fresh grass clippings, its PVC pipe chimney steaming away on this cool day like The LIttle Engine That Could.

    Thanks, Kevin, for giving readers a chance to weigh in!

    I always smile when your newsletter bounces into my mailbox.

  15. secondhandlibrarian on Cape Cod says:

    I live for spring! And most years we don’t have one.. We get winter then summer! So this has been a real treat! I am feeding my fish after a winter off and everything is popping including weeds! I have just planted a new David Austin Rose and dug up one that needed a better compost bed. I have begun adding to my boxwoods by your method. Where have you been all my life! The hedges make a garden pop. And the rest of the comments are correct.. forget the roses your gardens look lovely.

  16. How exciting! Do let us know how the tour(s) go. Will you be taking pictures of your visitors? And if you’re featured in any media please be sure to post about it. I LOVE the garden tours we have in our little town.

    Cindy Sue

  17. Cindy Sue – In which town do you live?

  18. At 7,600 feet above sea level, our Valley floor is….. cold, short growing season, etc. BUT, I found some boxwood (the label says this variety can withstand -30, which we get in January) and so I’ll plant the 3 today in a somewhat protected area and hope they make it thru the winter. Also for a new deciduous Azalea, also suppose to be good to -30. Hope it survives too. Bought a “Kentucky Wisteria” last year. It stayed alive next to my arbor last summer but did nothing else, now growth. However, it survived the winter, and this spring takes these amazing Growth Spurts. I’ve the only Wisteria plant in this 100 X 80 mile valley.
    Thanks for the photos Kevin. It’s not like I can just fly back East, rent a car, and drive to your gardens, although I would like to do so. So thanks for posting photos.

  19. Miki Holden says:

    Do you have an archived article on compost, or could you recommend a good set of directions, or maybe feature composting in one of your newsletters? My efforts are discouraging, with some recognizable vegetable matter after months. Thanks for all the good tips and wonderful pictures!


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