City Guides » Green

Roses vs. Rhodies

Correct pronunciation, current political affiliation and more


Roses and rhododendrons should be blooming right now, and I'd love to wax all sentimental about it, but there is something we must clear up first. You may never plant a rhodie, and you can piss your lives away and wake up dead every morning as far as I'm concerned. But you do have to learn to pronounce "RHODODENDRONS." Note, please, there is nary a "dee" or "drum" as in the contemptible row-dee-den-drums. It is, ahem, row-doe-DEN-DRUNN. Now, let's all practice "NUCLEAR." New-klee-urr. Now stop saying new-cue-lerr or I will come over to have my dog pee on your lawn.

It should be as obvious as Mayor Dave's grin that roses are liberal and rhodies are conservative. Roses figure prominently in Irish songs, Catholic symbolism and in front of the teachers' union building. They ramble along country roads as disorganized as a herd of Democrats, believe in the necessity feeding and bug control programs, and come back year after year only to get their heads chopped off. Rhodies, on the other hand, grow in unenlightened shade, have a smooth, well-organized exterior, and suck nutrients away from neighboring plants, especially if the other plants join unions.

Some people refuse to grow roses on the mistaken belief that they need too much attention and care, but that's mostly only true of sissy-assed hybrid tea roses with names like "Princess Di" or "Angel Wings." There are tougher tea roses-it's awfully hard to kill the classic red "Mr. Lincoln"-but in general, fussy hybrid teas produce fewer blooms and are less resistant to disease than other varieties. I like to grow a few hybird teas for cut flowers, but if the tag says, "mild tendency to blackspot and mildew," what it really means is "will die a hideous, oozing death by next Tuesday."

Shrub, hedge and floribunda roses are easier and mighty satisfying, with their repeat flowering and showy clumps of blooms. "Carefree Wonder" and "Ballerina" are two pink hedges that will stay hearty through new-klee-err holocaust. Grandifloras (which get to about the size of, oh, Mayor Dave) are terrific backdrops for shorter roses and perennials. Climbing roses can soften a blank wall or sharp corner with great charm. Two local favorites, "Blaze" and "Golden Showers," are among the least attractive climbers. Look for "Zephirine Drouhin," "America" or "Eden," all of which have much nicer flowers. Now let's talk to Mrs. Rose:

Q. What do I do about those filthy soul-sucking aphids?

A. Knock the nasty things off with a hard stream of water, or buy aphid-eating ladybugs at your local Zamzows ($10 for a bag of 1,500 ladies) or online at:

Q. When I hear the word "prune," all I can think of is Mom coming at me with a glass of ...

A. You know, you might be too emotionally stunted to have roses. Do you think you could manage to make it to

Q. Oh, for crying out loud.

A. We have plenty of rose vendors in Boise: Edwards Greenhouses in the North End (see the legendary Anju for advice and laughs); Far West on State Street (see the walking, talking encyclopedia named Cricket); Barber Hills in southeast Boise (see the aptly named Sunnie); as well as Zamzows, Franz Witte and several others. For unusual roses, I like or

Rhododendrons are even easier than roses, with gigantic late-spring blooms that only last a few weeks, but it's a great show and there's a pretty, lush shrub when the flowers are gone. I've had great luck using this method: 1) Buy plant; 2) Dig hole in shady spot; 3) Stick plant in hole; 4) Pour in plant-starter liquid; 5) Put dirt back in hole; 6) A week later, use an acidic fertilizer especially for rhodies and azaleas. Try to resist the urge to use orthene to kill the leaf-munching root

weasels, erroneously called root weevils by many authorities. Orthene is an organo-phosphate and has an evil side to it that can deform your dog, blur your vision and make Larry Craig start telling the truth. It's powerful stuff. Some varieties resistant to root weasels are: "Lady Clementine Mitford," a pink which gets huge; "Graf Zeppelin," a shorter pink; and "Rainbow Carmine," a dark pink of medium height.

There's a party here somewhere. Break out the beer, lawn chairs and have the guys over to watch Ladybugs vs. Aphids. Assign that one guy, the dork who always brings Oreos and doesn't share, to watch the grass grow and keep an eye on the drainage around the roses and rhodies. What more could a gardener want to bliss out on a summer evening in Boise?

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