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March 2009

Lady Banks Rose (Banksia Lutea)


     The lady is a force to reckon with, but she is accommodating.


Our next door neighbor planted five Banksia Lutea shrubs, in a 30-ft strip, along our property line. Only one shrub would have produced the same effect! This is a view from our side of the fence, underplanted with white camellias. Rigorous pruning, twice a year, is required.


At the Sacramento Old City Cemetery they let her rip. What a joy to see a rose like this reach its full potential.




Lady-Banks-water-piks Again, she is one flexible gal. No thorns, and pliable canes easily allow forming a basket handle like this. The cane ends are inserted in water vials.

If you're having a special event, during bloomtime, don't be afraid to cut those long canes and place them in a large container. I harvested the bouquet, below, in a 5-gallon bucket, then lifted the whole thing, all at once, into the vase. Presto- no arranging.


Fun with Bloom Clusters


Harvesting the short clusters for small vases is always fun, and a good project for children.


In the examples, above, the clusters were cut with 5 or 6-inches of cane left on. In the bouquet at the top of the post,  a chunk of oasis (lower right) allows many stems to form a fancy pouf.

The base for the pillow, on the grass, is a cake pan filled with plastic cups of water. I took this to a spring party, where everyone brought flowers for children to fill little baskets with.



B-is-for-Banksia-Lutea  There are four forms of Rosa Banksiae, two singles (5 petals per bloom) and two doubles (more than 21 petals per bloom). They come from China where they flourish along roadsides and edge plated fields. From 1796 to 1824, plant collectors sailing the globe for unusual specimens brought three of the four roses to England. William Kerr discovered the double white form growing in Canton in 1807, and named it Lady Banks. The name honored the wife of his benefactor, Sir Joseph Banks, who helped establish the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London.

Banks roses are once bloomers that are not recommended for areas colder than USDA Zone 8.

Prints of my rose alphabet are available for sale in my etsy shop.


After a photo session, the refuse is often too pretty not to take a picture.

Rose of the Week – 'Snowbird'


I’ve always enjoyed “Rose of the Month” articles in various media, and I’ve even fantasized about writing my own. Now seems like a good time to give it a whirl.

I’m so eager, I want to start out with “Rose of the Week." Not only will there be close-up portraits, but you’ll also see the shrub in the garden, and blooms in the vase.

Bush'Snowbird' is underplanted with parahebe and geranium 'Biokovo'. The polyantha to the left is 'Paquerette'.

'Snowbird' is my first choice. Not only do I love it, but every time I look at 'Snowbird' in admiration, I’m amazed that it’s not a stellar staple in the rose market place. It’s as good as, if not better than, 'Iceberg'. And powdery mildew does not claim tender buds.


'Snowbird' is a Hybrid Tea bred by Hatton in 1936.  The shrub grew in a lineup of roses, against a low stonewall, in front of a little cottage our family rented in the early 70’s. I mothered two baby girls there, and learned about roses. Someone told me it was a very rare rose, but did not know its name. When we moved, my husband took cuttings.


I treasured the rose for years. Then one shopping day at Vintage Gardens, my beautiful mystery rose stared at me from a gallon-can. What a delight to learn its name.


Snowbird’s buds always fascinate me––they look like propellers as the petals begin to unfurl. It’s very fragrant, and has an old-fashioned, ruffled, packed-with-petals look about it. The shrub is clean, and the stems are fairly thin, which is good for arranging. Repeat is quick and it’s easy to propagate.

A great white rose!

Rose Petals


Rose petals can sometimes be more fun than the blooms they come from. They certainly have many uses.

A recent inquiry, about how to prep rose petals for a wedding, inspired me to pull out my petal pictures, and give you a few tips.


I fill a plastic garbage bag with  petals as I walk amongst the roses. Full and almost spent blooms are preferable, for they release easily into my hand. When my bag is either full or I’ve de-petaled all available roses, I squirt them with water from a spray bottle, then lightly close the bag and place it in the fridge. The petals stay fresh for several days, which means this can be done well in advance of the special day.



There have been times when I’ve supplied rose bouquets for large dining areas that require a daily sprucing for a week or more. Many blooms, which are too spent for another day’s service, are still beautiful. I’ve taken to simply heaping the petals into a large bowl. The bowl becomes a gorgeous, if fleeting, arrangement.



Floating rose petals become a greeting when placed in an English birdbath. This one used to be outside the entrance of our home.


On the day of my first book signing party, I was scurrying around with last minute details when I realized I had no arrangement for the living room. The party was outside, but I certainly needed something inside. With no time to make an arrangement, I grabbed a large glass bowl and filled it with water and added a few rose petals. Placed on a plexiglass stand in our living room window, it became a stunning welcome.

Sorry to tempt you with rose petals when there are no roses in most of the world, as I write in early spring. All the above applies to florist roses as well. When your purchased roses look tired and energy bereft, pluck the petals on several and float them in a pretty bowl.