Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bibi Maizoon just made one of her occasional appearances, each one of which is most welcome. In case you don’t know who Bibi Maizoon is, she is (perhaps was) a member of the royal family of Oman. However, she is not the Bibi Mazoon making occasional appearances in my garden. That Bibi Maizoon is a rose, bred by renowned British rose breeder David Austin.

I consider Bibi Maizoon blooms to be as close to perfection as any rose bloom might ever be. The cup-shaped pink blossoms are filled with loosely defined row upon row pastel pink petals, nothing like the pointed, stiff blossoms of hybrid tea roses. Completing the old-fashioned feel of Bibi Maizoon blossoms is the flowers’ strong, fruity fragrance.

The bush itself is as imperfect as the blossom is perfect. Where to begin? For starters, the thin stems can hardly support the corpulent blossoms. Can’t, in fact, so the blossoms usually dangle upside down. Upside down blossoms are not that bad because I consider Bibi best when cut for vases indoors to better appreciate her rare appearances and fragrance.

Bibi Maizoon is also only borderline cold hardy in my garden. She frequently needs weeks to recover from cold winter weather before she can finally blossom.

And finally, Bibi Maizoon is a very weak grower. After years and years of bemoaning the desolate appearance of her part of the garden, I planted a polyantha rose within a few inches of Bibi to fill in with foliage and small, pink blossoms while Bibi rests. Weak growth means fewer blossoms, which is why it’s so exciting when one of Bibi’s pale green shoots topped by a pink bud pokes up through the finer polyantha foliage. It means another royal visit is on its way.


Ellison’s Orange is as unknown to most people as is Bibi Maizoon. Ellison’s Orange is an apple, an old and very delicious apple, and, oddly enough, it’s ripening right now. Everywhere else I read that this apple is supposed to ripen later in September and on into October, yet every year my Ellison’s Orange fruits ripen about this time of year.

Like Bibi Maizoon, Ellison’s Orange has its good and bad sides. On the plus side, it bears very well and at a young age. It also seems to be somewhat resistant to scab and cedar apple rust diseases, contradicting other sources on this point also. And what a beauty the fruit is, with its orange blush over a yellow background.

For me, the downside of this variety is the absolute necessity to pick it at just the right moment. One day an apple seems puckery underripe; the next day it might be sleepy and soft. If I harvest very carefully, I catch an apple at its delectable best, which is sprightly with an intense flavor that hints of anise seed.

I made my tree from a piece of stem whose cells trace back about a hundred years, to the garden of a Reverend Ellison in Lincolnshire in the east of England. The parents of reverend’s new apple weren’t lightweights. One parent, Cox’s Orange Pippin, the king of British apples, has an intense flavor that sometimes hints of anise seed. The other parent, Calville Blanc, an old French apple popular in the court of King Louis XIII, has a spicy flavor with just a hint of banana. No wonder Ellison’s Orange tastes so good – as long as I catch it at the right moment.


Everyone knows and loves sunflowers. Could there be a flower with a more cheerful face? Sunflowers are not only cheerful, but also seem funny to me with their oversized heads.

Because of their cheery countenance, and perhaps also because they are American natives, sunflowers have been “in” for the past few years. With that popularity came the introduction of many new varieties. There are tall ones, short ones, ones with deep orange, white, or maroon petals, branching ones, and those that don’t have pollen so that cut flowers don’t shed their “pixie dust” on furniture and tables.

I sowed a few different varieties indoors last April, then planted them out in May. Sunflowers also self-seed, and I dug up some of those self-seedlings to transplant around the garden. The long and the short of it is that sunflowers are now blooming all over the place. What fun!

For anyone who can make to New York's Hudson Valley on October 4th and is interested in growing fruits: BACKYARD FRUIT TASTING AND WORKSHOP, with me, in my garden from 2-5 pm. This workshop will cover what fruits are best and easiest to grow, and how to grow them. Participants will also taste delectable fruits such as pawpaws, persimmons, and hardy kiwifruit. The cost is $30 per person with pre-registration before October 2nd, $40 otherwise. For further information, contact me at

1 comment:

  1. Bibi Maizoon was the mother of the present Sultan of Oman. This rose was requested by my mother in remembrance of the great lady and created by David Austin. I am glad that she is still around and yes like the lady herself who made rare appearances but when she did it was to make remember her. Thank you for your comments, my mother will be happy to hear that the rose is appreciated around the world.