Monday, June 26, 2006

Moss Rose Meanderings

By Christina VanGinkel

Moss roses are usually a very prominent part of one structure in our garden. Being an annual, when we first planted some years ago, being new to gardening, we assumed that we would have to replant them each year. We went so far as to discarding them come fall, when they were looking like they had well outlived their days. Then a friend who gardens told us that if we left the plants in the ground, and let them become very dry (in our part of the country, dry equals frozen!), we could then just trim off some of the growth, leaving much of it to become a sort of mulch back into the garden bed. She swore that come the following summer, this annual would grow back on its own, much like a perennial. Surprisingly, this worked, and for several years in a row, we would be treated to moss roses from one planting.

Last year, my husband treated this garden with a weed spray that was used just between the larger flowering plants. We rarely use any products such as it, but chose to do so, on this particular raised garden, because it was difficult for either of us to weed it continually, without having to actually step into the bottom layers. We noticed immediately that it seemed to be killing off the moss roses right along with the weeds, even though he never came close to the root structure with any of it.

Now, a year later, when our moss roses should be coming up as they have for years, we noticed that not a single moss rose was growing. We have since discarded the empty bottle of the weed product we used, and cannot remember the name. What we have come to believe though, is that the weed product attacked the root structure of the potential weeds, and in doing so, leached across the garden killing off all the roots save for the very large plants, which all seem to be doing fine.

Not content to have this garden without moss roses, we headed out yesterday to shop for replacement plants. Our first stop netted us not a single moss rose. The young girls working clearly did not know what we were looking for, so we ended up walking through several greenhouses in search of some, but came up empty handed. We then stopped at another smaller greenhouse, and while the person working knew what we wanted, she did not have any. Wal-Mart was actually our next stop. We figured they would have at least some flats of smaller ones. They also did not, and an older woman that I know was working and she replied that they had had several people in asking for moss roses, but for some reason, they had yet to get any in, and she did not think they were.

At this point, we had all but given up hope of finding any, when I suggested we stop at Home Depot. This proposal was more out of a last ditch effort type of commiseration for my husband than anything. We had been to Home Depot over the last few weeks for several other unrelated shopping trips, and I recalled that they had a large greenhouse in the parking lot, set up next to their regular garden center.

We did find some at Home Depot, but not a large selection, nor a healthy one. We came away with two eight-inch pots that I separated several large moss rose plants out of, and one small eight piece flat of tiny, but healthy moss roses. The remaining plants looked like they had been frostbit, and were dry to the pint that even a moss rose could not thrive, and they like sun and dry conditions.

We went home, where my husband removed much of the soil in the garden where he had used the weed killer, avoiding the areas around the larger plants that were growing. We planted the moss roses we found, and I hope that in a few weeks I will be able to report to you that they are thriving, growing, and spreading out, as they should.

If we have learned anything from all of this, it is that if you are not use to using weed killing products, as we are not, then I would suggest that you be very cautious when doing so, reading all of the attached labels. If not, you might end up killing more than just weeds, just the same as we apparently did.

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