Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Rose Care and Bird-Watching

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This was our first two-hour edition of "Homegrown" on Sirius 112, and throughout the gardening season we'll be on live not one but two hours each week, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Eastern each Tuesday (repeated at various other times listed in the radio program guide.

Happy Valentine's Day! Though roses are the traditional symbol of love, as they have been through the ages in many cultures, a fitting Valentine's bouquet might also be made of tulips (which have stood for something precious since the Dutch made them a form of currency centuries ago during the craze in the 1600s called Tulipomania); or daisies (for innocence), or best of all, perhaps, a bough from an orange tree. The latter is rich in symbolism, because fruit, flowers and evergreen leaves appear at the same time on one branch (just as love, one hopes, bears fruit, is sweet and also lasting).

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Speaking of roses, we visited with Stephen Scanniello, former rosarian at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the author of various rose books, including "A Year of Roses" and the "Jackson & Perkins Rose Companions". It's pruning time in parts of the country already, said Stephen. Here's how to tell if it's the case in your area: Prune starting in mid-January in Southern California and Florida; at Valentine's Day in Texas, the Gulf Coat and even South Carolina, Georgia and the Pacific Northwest; around St. Patrick's Day into April in the northern and other cooler states.

The goal in pruning, said Stephen, with hybrid tea roses in particular, is to open up the center of each bush to light and air, so you'd be able to put a hand inside the shrub without getting stuck by thorns. Remove dead, damaged or diseased canes at any time at they appear; also cut out those thinner than a pencil (except in roses that make lots of growth that way naturally) and any that cross inward.

We talked a bit about climbers (which often get their major pruning after bloom and just a quick cleanup at winter's end), and how lamentably few choices there are for the coldest states. Stephen turned Andrew and me on to one tough one we hadn't heard of, discovered in Nashua, N.H., called 'Autumn Sunset'. And we talked about "found" roses collected from church graveyards and roadsides by "rose rustlers" (of which he is one!). These "finds" were planted long ago and are now without their original names but often very garden-worthy, like 'Highway 290' (also known as 'Pink Buttons', a variety found in Texas), and many others.

Browse through our selection of roses, with detailed care information, in the Encyclopedia of Plants, or get profiles of all of Martha's favorites from her incredible East Hampton, Long Island, rose garden.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is set for the weekend (starting Feb. 17), and information can be had at www.birdsource.org/gbbc. Your participation helps the organizers at Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY (birds.cornell.edu) to get a snapshot of where the birds are in North American each year at this given time, said our guest Paul Green of Audubon (www.audubon.org). We talked with Paul about ways to provide food, water and shelter in our gardens, and Paul reminded us how two dangers exist for songbirds in the home landscape that we homeowners can do something about. Those are housecats, who kill countless songbirds each year and should be kept indoors, and the danger of birds becoming confused by the reflection in window glass and hitting it in flight. On the latter, Paul recommends we place feeders either right near a window (so the birds don't get much speed up between the feeder and the glass if they do get confused) or very far away (so birds don't see a confusing visual signal).

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