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Peter Kukielski and the Sustainable Rose

Peter Kukielski

The April 2014 issue of Fine Gardening magazine has an article by Peter Kukielski, former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden titled Easy Picture Perfect Roses.  Peter knows all about ‘Easy’ roses because during his tenure at that garden he ripped out 200 or so of the roses in the garden that needed pesticides and fungicides to survive and then replaced them with 693 roses that did not need that kind of care and pampering.

I met Peter in early November 2009 when he gave me a tour of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. Even at that time of the year many roses were in bloom and a number of  volunteers were busy making evaluations of each rose to decide whether it was worthy of remaining in the garden. There is a great article in the NYTimes here that describes that process. I wrote about my visit with Peter Kukielski  here and here. He is not only a brilliant rosarian, he is the most charming and good humored of men.

Since we met Peter, along with Pat Shanley and Gene Waering edited a fascinating book The Sustainable Rose Garden which covers many aspects of rose growing by 40 contributors, including Peter himself, and Stephen Scanniello of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and president of the  Heritage Rose Society. He is now working on his own book Roses Without Chemicals. I can’t wait for it to become available.

‘Applejack’ a Griffith Buck hybrid

My Rose Walk  began with hardy roses which include the Griffith Buck hybrids. It also includes rugosas, albas, another roses that can tolerate the winds and winter of our Heath hill. Many of them also turn out to be disease and pest resistant.  ‘The Fairy,’ a polyantha, is on the Earth Kind rose list, which is something Peter taught me about. I have added other Earth Kind roses like ‘Belinda’s Dream’ and Double Knock Outs. In his Fine Gardening article Peter lists other easy care roses like the luscious ‘Cinderella Fairy Tale’ and the rich golden ‘Tequila.’ Do you think I will be able to resist adding a new rose to the garden this year?  I don’t think so either.

‘The Fairy’ Earth Kind rose closeup

I will be talking about The Sustainable Rose at the little e at the Franklin County Fairgrounds on April 26 and 27. I’ll only be there one day – not sure which yet. Lots of rose photos. I hope to see you there. I’ll be channeling Peter Kukielski, my hero.

Kindle Edition of The Roses at the End of the Road Now Available

The Roses at the End of the Road

We continue to move into the 21st Century. The Kindle edition of The Roses at the End of the Road is now available at I even have a new description.

“By the time Pat and Henry Leuchtman unloaded the third U-Haul truck at their new old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road, Henry declared that this was it. He was never moving again. He had reached the end of his road. These lively essays chronicle the beginning of their adventures with neighbors like Mabel, who at 83 was still game to help corral escaped heifers, Elsa and Mike who took a unique approach to the predators among the delphiniums, a daughter’s wedding witnessed by the roses and broccoli and a rain storm, and the destruction of the barn hit by lightning. End of the Road Farm also saw the growth of a Rose Walk and the institution of the Annual Rose Viewing, and even a tour in Beijing where they learned some gardens were more about stone and water than flowers.” I love the idea that passengers in airports and planes carrying their Kindles will be able to transport themselves to our hill and enjoy an hour or two among the roses.

Can Roses Kill?

Knock Out Double Red Rose

Can roses, Knock Out Roses kill butterflies? That is the question asked by a reader in Colrain. Knock Outs are a fairly new hybrid family of roses bred to be disease and insect resistant.

I had never heard that Knock-Outs had this potential for killing butterflies  so I set out to do some research. I was quickly reminded that butterflies are not much interested in roses of any sort because they supply nothing they need, not a site for their eggs, food for their larvae (caterpillars), a place for their chrysalis or nectar.

Those of us who wish to attract butterflies to our gardens, and hummingbirds who like many of the same flowers, need to keep the needs of these lovely flowers of the air in mind.

Butterfly gardens have become popular and I think this is because we have all become more sensitive to the interconnectedness of all things. Butterflies and other living creatures depend on us with gardens, even small gardens, to help provide them with the necessaries of life. One way to begin is by not using any pesticides in our gardens. It is possible that the idea of poisonous Knock-Outs arose because Knock-Outs have been bred to be insect resistant, but the insects in question are aphids in particular, not insects in general.

Then we can come up with a list of plants native to our area that support butterflies. One of my favorite books, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas Tallamy, has an excellent appendix listing host plants for butterflies and showy moths. He organizes his list connecting host plants required by specific butterflies for laying their eggs and providing their larvae with the proper food. I was surprised by the number of trees that are important to butterflies. In our region dogwwods, birches, maples, poplars, willows, cherries, white pine, oaks, basswood, and shrubs like viburnams and blueberries, are all common in the general landscape as well as our gardens.

Vines like grapes and Virginia creeper also support butterflies. Grasses, herbs and even weeds also have their place. We all know that Monarch butterflies need milkweed but I didn’t know that jewelweed is also an important host plant. How many of us have had our dill and parsley decimated by swallowtail caterpillars? I may grind my teeth, but I am happy to make that sacrifice.

It is flowers for nectar that people usually think about when they think of creating a butterfly garden. We should remember that butterflies are attracted to red, pink, purple and yellow flowers, often with a trumpet form. When I look at my own ornamental plantings I count bee balm, garden phlox, purple coneflowers (Echninacea), coral bells, foxglove, lantana, New England aster, zinnias, agastache (hyssop) violets, and sedums as butterfly plants. I bought butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) seeds, but I haven’t quite managed to get them planted yet.

We used to have clouds of Monarchs visit us settling on what has become a field of mint. I never realized that mint was an important nectar plant, but the proof was right in front of our eyes when hundreds of Monarchs flitted around the field. Unfortunately, the mint thrives, but the past two years have brought us only small numbers of Monarchs. This does have me worried.

If we are trying to attract butterflies to our domestic landscape there are other simple things we can do besides provide the plants they need. Butterflies like the sun, and they get tired. They need to have landing places where they can open their wings and rest. All it takes is a clear space and a few flat basking stones to act as their landing field.

Like any living creature, butterflies need water. A puddling space is easy to set up. A small bird bath or any shallow container that can be filled with very wet sand or mud (and it must be kept wet) will provide drinking water for butterflies. A container with a fairly broad diameter will make it easier for the butterfly to find it – maybe near the basking stone.

Even if you don’t have a flower garden you can attract butterflies by setting out a plate of cut up ripe or rotting fruit. You will also attract other insects like wasps, but the butterflies won’t care. You will probably want to locate such an attraction where you will not be bothered by those freeloaders. The fruit should be kept moist. You can use water, of course, but a slurp or two of beer will also do the job nicely.

Knock Outs Double Red

Between the Rows   June 24, 2012

Griffith Buck and His Hardy Roses


Applejack is the first Griffith Buck hybrid I planted and it has thrived, greeting visitors at the top of our hill as they turn  to our house. It is a large graceful shrub.

Hawkeye Belle

Griffith Buck became a student at Iowa State College in 1946 after serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was in the horticulture program and after graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in 1948 and his Master’s in 1949, he went on to his Ph.D. in 1953. He spent his teaching career at Iowa State, and it is there that he began hybridizing roses.  He was determined to create cold hardy roses. You can find out about his career by clicking here.  Hawkeye Belle is now growing on our Rose Bank.

I have so few yellow roses, that I chose this Buck hybrid, Prairie Harvest, last spring. It came through the winter beautifully.

Carefree Beauty

Buck said it all when he named this large flowered rose Carefree Beauty.

My garden as well as other beautiful gardens and unique farms will be open for visitors on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour this weekend. Click here for full ticket information.

Franklin Land Trust Tour – Here


Culinary Sage blooming in the Herb Bed

What is a garden for?

It depends on the garden, of course.Vegetable gardens are for feeding us. Herb gardens are for bringing us extra savor and health. Meditation gardens are to give us moments of serenity. Ornamental gardens are to give us pleasure. But all gardens can be shared — doubling their pleasure and utility, of whatever sort.

Sometimes sharing our gardens can also support a noble project.  That is what will be happening in Heath and Charlemont on June 25 and 26 when the Franklin Land Trust holds its Annual Farm and Garden Tour.

The Franklin Land Trust is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help landowners and communities protect the farms, forests and other natural resources significant to the environmental quality, economy and rural character of our region. They do not own land, but work with farmers and residents to help them put their property into conservation or agricultural protection.

Woodslawn Pink Rose

This year End of the Road Farm is being included on the tour, along with other beautiful, historic and productive properties in Heath and Charlemont. Fortunately for us the tour is being held on the last weekend in June which is when we would ordinarily hold our Annual Rose Viewing. This is the brief time of year our roses are in bloom and when our country garden is at its best.

We have been busy as can be weeding the flower and vegetable beds and mowing the lawns. I am a big supporter of less lawn, but unless you measure the amount of lawn against our 60 acres of field and woodland, we still have too much lawn to mow. We have been using various strategies to eliminate lawn beginning with planting groundcovers on unusable sections of lawn. We have also planted common thyme on the dryer, poorer sections of lawn where it thrives. A thyme lawn is a very British conceit that does not need frequent mowing. It’s very pretty when it’s blooming, but it doesn’t mind being mowed down whenever that is necessary or desired.

Rugosa 'Therese Bugnet'

We are using daylilies on the steep bank in front of the house to eliminate mowing, but our newest project is the Rose Bank, adjacent to the Daylily Bank. The Rose Bank was begun in the spring of 2009 after a major rebuilding of our foundation. It is not totally covered with roses yet, but I have been amazed by the growth of “Pink Grootendorst,” “Therese Bugnet” and “Dart’s Dash”, three vigorous rugosas. Rugosas are tough disease-resistant roses with a variety of flower forms. The fragrant single blossoms of the familiar beach rose are just the beginning.

A delicate pink rose that was growing, but hidden in undergrowth, at the corner of the house when we arrived in 1979 continues to thrive, as do the double red Knockout roses, two old roses given to me by the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm in Colrain, “Hawkeye Belle,” a hardy pink Buck hybrid, and “Goldbusch” a spreading disease resistant yellow that promises repeat bloom.

Rugosas tend to spread, not always in predictable ways. When they spread it is possible to dig up some of the shoots as I have “Scabrosa” and “Linda Campbell” who also live on the Rose Bank now.

I’m honored to share my garden with visitors, and the Franklin Land Trust this year. It feels wonderful to be in the company of other skilled and enthusiastic gardeners. The witty Elsa Bakalar, our most famous gardener, is no longer with us, but the noted artist Scott Prior and his wife Nanny Vonnegut have maintained her gardens so that they remain lovely and welcoming. Prior will be at the garden on Sunday to take questions about gardens and art. His “Heath inspired” prints will be on sale with a portion of sales going to the FLT. The video Elsa Bakalar: Portrait of a Gardener, made by Ginny Sullivan some years ago, has been converted to a limited edition DVD, with all proceeds going to FLT.

Prior’s session is just one of several special events that have been added to this year’s tour schedule. Glass blowing demonstrations (with a portion of sales supporting FLT), walking tours of a blueberry farm with its own artistic connections, a talk by the distinguished Dr. Michael Coe about the history of Heath’s Fort Shirley and talks describing new approaches to maple farming are scheduled. The two Historical Society Museums in Heath Center will also be open.

A lunch buffet will be served in a beautiful barn in the midst of vegetable and flower gardens both days. Lunch must be reserved ahead of time, and will benefit the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library.

The Franklin Land Trust tour is always a special event with a chance to visit private gardens, each expressing the individuality and interests of the gardeners, and to gain new insights into the productivity of our land and the richness of our local history.  For full information about the tour and how to buy tickets logon to or call 413-625-9151.

Between the Rows   June 11, 2011


Rose Season Begins

Dart's Dash

June is the most important month in my garden, especially this year.   The last Sunday in June is traditionally The Annual Rose Viewing, my version of Garden Open Today.  I send out an open invitation to anyone who wants to stop and smell the roses, visit with friends and have a glass of lemonade and some cookies in the comfort of the Cottage Ornee.

Madame Hardy

This year is different. This year our garden is part of the Franklin Land Trust’s Farm and Garden Tour which has been an important event in the gardener’s year for 22 years. Since this tour is not only about roses, I am thinking about what else might be in bloom that weekend.  So many plants, astilbe, cheddar pinks, heucherella, snow in summer, and Connecticut Yankee Delphiniums have fat buds or are beginning to bloom.  I am hoping that there will be other bloomers in addition to the roses, and the herbaceous peonies most of which are still blooming.  I’m going to pay close attention to the bloom progression this year. And I am going to record it clearly, week by week.

The rugosas, always the first to bloom have just begun.  Dart’s Dash and Rugosa alba are beginning to perfume the air. Madame Hardy is a replacement, and I should have pinched off the bud, but I really wanted to see that flower with its green velvet eye.

Also in bloom right now, besides the plants I mentioned before, is a pale pink columbine, Joan Elliott campanula, wisteria – and my new Pagoda dogwood, a native variety with unusual flowers. I bought this at Nasami Farm, a nursery operated by the New England Wildflower Society.

Native Pagoda Dogwood

History of the Rose Walk



We moved from Manhattan to the End of the Road with our three daughters the day after Thanksgiving in 1979. Winter arrived in Heath that night.

            It was a long cold Heath winter in our uninsulated house. We spent a lot of time dreaming and planning for the spring when we could be warm – and make a garden. After having just read  Katherine White’s book, Onward and Upward in the Garden I was determined to have hardy, romantic old fashioned roses as well as vegetables.

            I began on May  8 by planting Passionate Nymph’s Thigh next to the front door. She blooms there still in spite of the ice falling off the roof and right onto her for nearly 30 years. Two other roses died so quickly I’m not sure where they were planted, but the Comtesse de Murinais bloomed in pale splendor in what was the beginning of the Rose Walk before she succumbed.

            In 1981 I planted Applejack at the top of the drive and it still greets visitors to the End of the Road.  Alchemist didn’t make it through the winter.

That’s the way it has gone over the years. If I compare all the roses I have ever planted with the roses that are blooming this year, I have to admit to losing almost half.  I would also estimate that half those fatalities are due to poor planting. I think I did not plant the failures deeply enough.  The other fatalities are caused by the tenderness of the rose, or a mystery. I don’t know why I cannot keep the beautiful Roserie de l’Hay rugosa alive. It is tough, but not in my garden.

            In 1987, on Midsummer’s Eve, we held our first Annual Rose Viewing. Of the roses blooming that day Camaieux, Constance Spry, Common moss rose, Amiga Mia, Maytime, Hawkeye Belle, and Prairie Star are all the haziest memory. However, daughter Kate walked the Rose Walk with me, sighed, and said ‘This is where I want to be married.’ Kate was only 23 at the time, with no serious romance on hand so I paid little attention.

            We added three or four roses each year, including what I have come to call my Farmgirls, roses that I have been given by neighbors in town. Terri Pettingill even brought me roses from Maine from her mother’s house.

            In 1990, when we had just returned from a year in Beijing, we worked to put the Rose Walk in order after a year of neglect. Visitors to the Rose Viewing had to be even more forgiving of weeds than usual.

            Then on the Fourth of July, after an incredibly hot and humid day, Henry and I were awakened at 2 in the morning by three house-shaking  claps of thunder. Henry said, “Do you smell ozone?” 

            I sniffed and said, “No, I smell smoke.”

            Henry dashed to the window and saw that the old barn across from the house had been hit by lightning and was on fire.

            The phone line was also knocked out by the lightning so Henry drove down to our neighbor’s house blaring the horn all the way to call the volunteer fire department. The first truck was there in only 10 minutes and kept our house from burning down.

            Fortunately we had no livestock in the barn, and nothing of major importance was lost. However several of the roses were so damaged by the heat of the fire that they did not recover.

 What we gained was the beginning of the Sunken Garden, built inside the barn’s three stone foundation walls.

            By 1994 Kate announced that I better start special preparations on the Rose Walk. Instead of a Rose Viewing she wanted a Rose wedding.

            The whole family worked to make the gardens and the house look their best. We planted David Austin roses in Sunken Garden thinking they would be protected from the wind. They looked promising on the wedding day; all but Felicite Parmentier and Fantin Latour, non-Austins, are gone.

            Kate was confident that an outdoor wedding would be safe because it had never rained on the Rose Viewing. We did think a tent was the better part of valor, but the week before the wedding was so rainy that the tent couldn’t be put up until Thursday, and even then it was misting.

            On Saturday morning the sky was black and threatening. But no rain, Until the bride stepped inside the tent. The skies opened.

            Then a miracle. As Kate and Greg prepared to say their vows the rain stopped and a brilliant sun came out, spangling the flowery but dripping wedding arch with diamonds. Along with the minister they stepped out into the sunshine to promise love and honor.

            Breezes blew mist across our hill and although people got a bit damp admiring the roses, it was as romantic a landscape as any bride could have wished.

            The following day, the last Sunday in June when the Rose Viewing would have been held, was beautiful. Sunny, dry, warm and breezy.  Our neighbors came over to help us eat the wedding leftovers and enjoy a private viewing. No rain. As usual.

            There are more stories and you are invited to join us in stopping to smell the roses at the 2009 Annual Rose Viewing on June 28 from 1-4 pm.  Cookies and lemonade will be served in the Cottage Ornee.

            Come up 8A North from Charlemont for about 4.7 miles. When you get just past the Berkshire Gold Maple syrup stand look for a sign on the left pointing towards the roses. The weather man predicts sun.   ###



             June 27, 2009

The Sun Shone on The Rose Viewing

There was so much sun at the Annual Rose Viewing that many Viewers were happy to come into the Cottage Ornee for lemonade, cookies and cool conversation.  Of course, at this point in the afternoon you will notice that the cookie plate is empty.  My daughter Diane who came to enjoy the roses was hard put to keep the punchbowl and cookie plate filled. Not to mention the strawberry bowl.  Fortunately, Cheryl, far right, brought one of her famous pound cakes. Delicious!


I think it was the busiest Rose Viewing we have ever had which was a surprise. The weather had been wet all week, making the mowing and weeding very difficult. It continued unpromising right up until 1 o’clock . We thought no one  except my daughter and granddaughters would come. There was a little spritz of rain to start us off, but then the sun came out and the traffic jams at the End of the Road began.

Friends, and neighbors from our Greenfield past, and neighbors we had never met,  joined us, but one of the great treats of the Rose Viewing is my opportunity to meet some of my readers, and to hear about their gardens.  I even got invitations to visit other gardens and Larraine Brennan’s daylily farm in Northfield. You’ll be hearing more about that.

We had some visitors from afar. Mary Essert from Arizona, who was visiting a friend nearby, brought me a special blessing – a marble beach stone streaked with green from the holy isle of Iona, off the coast of Scotland.  I am now committed to returning the stone to the beach. Henry and I are already planning our pilgrimmage there.

The sunshine was possibly the greatest topic of conversation. We were all so glad to see it, and think of the good it was doing all our gardens.  Our good friends, Christoper and Andrea, enjoyed strolling in the sun and showing off the new blossom on their family tree, young Ursula.  No blooming rose was more beautiful.

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh – Rose of the Day

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh has been delighting gardeners, and possibly lovers, ever since the 15th century. Possibly longer. The color made the French think of  a passionate nymph’s thigh and called it Cuisse de Nymphe, but the English found that excessive and vulgar. Maiden’s Blush was their reading.  This is a perfect alba rose, blushing pink, a delicious perfume and slightly blue grey leaves. She has amazing vigor and stamina, having survived under the roof line of our New England house where ice has crashed down on her for nearly 30 years .

She will be enjoyed at today’s Annual Rose Viewing, OR you can click on the Virtual Rose Viewing page.

Applejack – Rose of the Day



Applejack was one of Dr. Griffith Buck’s first successes at hybridizing hardy roses at Iowa State University. By the time he retired at 70 in 1986 he had created about 90 hybrids, many of which are still available.  I planted my Applejack in 1981. Other Buck hybrids I planted did die, but I think it was probably improper planting on my part. Last year I planted Carefree Beauty and it has just bloomed.



At first I thought it had quite a different flower form from the old fashioned roses in the Rose Walk.  The opening buds promised a rose much more like the florist’s roses. But then, the rose fully opened –

and the blossom was flatter, like the old fashioneds, but fully  four inches across.  It seems espcially big right now because the bush intself in not even two feet tall.

There should be several blooms by Sunday, June 28, at The Annual  Rose Viewing.