Annie Calovich

Everything’s coming up rosy

Between worrying about the effects of last summer’s drought and the prospect of new water restrictions, it was like a miracle to look up this past week and see roses blooming their hearts out all over town.

Whether spread out on an acreage or squeezed in between a storefront and a sidewalk, the roses didn’t mind. Nature was flagrantly — and fragrantly — generous. It is something we haven’t witnessed in a while, and something I didn’t expect after last summer’s scorcher.

But when you think of how roses thrive in the Northwest, you can see how our spring would have produced something similar.

“It hasn’t been hot. We’ve had a cool spring and lots of rain,” Norma Kemp, a Wichita rosarian and master gardener, said in explaining the rosy weather.

And not only the roses are benefiting. Trees are, too. “The rains are helping a lot,” arborist Brian Ernstmann said. “They look better overall. They’re showing a little more vitality.”

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While I see bare branches in trees here and there, I see many more thick canopies of leaves that are a joy to behold. Anything green or floriferous seems like a miracle after last year. And I can’t help luxuriating in the lushness on this first day of June, which I can’t really categorize as spring or summer. I’m just in a happy haze of post-drought.

When the rains pounded down Thursday morning, I was saying to myself, “Fill up, little Cheney Reservoir, fill up, fill up.” For my own yard, I was happy that I had mulched on Memorial Day (except for that patch where I ran out of mulch; you never do buy enough for the space you need to fill, do you?). Rainwater on a mulched garden — that’s a thought that allows you to sleep at night.

Rose expert Norma takes care of the roses at the Extension Center, and she said they’re looking better than she’s ever seen them. She attributes that not only to the weather this spring but to the wonderful compost that the master gardeners’ compost committee gave her last fall. Norma spread the compost under the roses and worked it into the soil.

But we don’t get to rest on our laurels, or beds of rose petals. Humidity from all the moisture is causing black spot to show up on rose leaves, and little light green aphids can be found on tender new growth, including the buds.

“People really need to clean up the beds and keep the black spot picked off,” Norma said. Dispose of the leaves with black spot from both the plants and the ground underneath so the disease does not spread.

Hose off roses to knock aphids off. Ladybugs, if they’re around, will feast on them, too, Norma said.

The soil also has warmed up enough to fertilize roses now, she said. Plan to fertilize in early June, early July and early August, and never after the middle of August.

Norma also can’t help but note that improved roses are coming on the market, including some hybrid teas that are supposed to be “no-spray.” Among them is the light pink Francis Meilland and the Kordes roses including Grand Amore, which Norma is growing at the Extension Center.

Celia Gorlich, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, also mentioned how spectacular this year’s roses are when she announced that her neighborhood will have its Architectural/Historical Garden Tour on June 15.

“So many College Hill houses have old roses that are particularly showy,” she said. The tour will be walkable, in the 200 and 300 blocks of South Clifton. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tickets will be $6 (free for children under 12), available at the houses on those blocks.

Speaking of proposed water restrictions, the Wichita City Council will take up the subject on Tuesday. It will look not only at the proposed $1,000-a-month fine for those who use more than 310 percent of their average winter water usage, but an alternative that would increase the rates for those who move into the third and highest tier of water use, raising the rates in that tier 500 percent, from $8.56 per 1,000 gallons to $51.36 per 1,000 gallons.

You can read more about the water situation, including answers to questions some of you have asked, in Sunday’s Eagle.

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