From hedging our bets to betting our hedges

Low-input, low-maintenance, low-cost solutions to managing Seven Trees Farm are always under development, and security is on the list. While we’ve ticked off the more obvious measures, such as cameras, fences and lighting, it never hurts to have extra layers of protection when times get tough.

The hedgerows we started back in 2006 are maturing nicely, providing shade for pets and livestock, food for wildlife, and summer privacy for people. Now we’re extending the project to include deterring 2 and 4 legged varmints from the house yard, while adding bee/hummingbird food, medicinal plants and lovely, fragrant flowers.

Our robust rugosa rose inspired the first pick for the new hedge – Marie Bugnet. High Country Roses describes it as “A lovely rose with elegant pointed buds that open to fragrant, snow-white double blooms. One of the earliest to bloom in spring, repeating well into fall. The shrub is compact, reaching 3 feet tall and wide. Canes are a rich red in winter.”

Marie Bugnet:
From High Country Roses

Rugosa roses are generally hardier and require less fussing than ‘fancy’ roses, and the smaller size hopefully means less pruning too. We like this variety for a variety of reasons – fragrance, manageable size, long bloom time, and wicked thorns.

From Wikimedia Commons

There are some good lists and articles on defensive plantings, like this one, but each home and microclimate are unique, so not all plants listed work for everyone. We’ll add some evergreen shrubs for winter privacy (this hedgerow will screen the house from road view) and encourage previously planted herbs, like lemon balm, field mint, and catnip, to fill in the gaps. One top contender for evergreen addition is California lilac (genus Ceanothus) as it draws pollinators like bees to honey 🙂 It may not be hardy in our Fraser-outflow impacted microclimate, but it’s too pretty not to try.

Image result for california lilac
From Wikimedia Commons

 

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Coming up roses

One year after we started the batch, we decanted our rose petal wine for a taste test. The original recipe called for sliced lemons to add acid necessary for the yeast to work, with the petals and dissolved sugar . So there is a hint of citrus in the wine, but mostly it tastes like a lightly carbonated flower champagne.

The wine might be a little better with more aging. Not that it’s bad now, but I can see another 6 months or so mellowing out the sugar/alcohol taste. It would also be amazing with some strawberries late in the fermentation, or even just poured over sliced fresh strawberries.  We’ve never made straight strawberry wine before, but have read that the color & flavor can fade in the bottle over time. The color of the rose petals faded fast in primary fermentation, but seemed to hold enough to look pretty in a glass.

Here’s a view of some rose petal jelly we made last summer, with the bountiful rugosa rose bush in the back ground. We planted the bush before we knew that would be prime garden space, but we like it too much to move it now. This year it got chopped back pretty hard so as not to shade the row beneath it, and it looked like we might not get flowers to harvest for another batch of wine. But there are buds a-plenty forming up now, late blooming so to speak, and we’re planning to try a batch of rose petal mead, substituting a gallon of honey for the sugar in the original recipe. I think we’ll also try bottling a batch carbonated. So much better than store-bought ‘fruit beers’.

Rugosas are great roses for low-maintenance beauty, fragrance and utility. We have another row in the front yard that aren’t as strong-smelling as the garden one, but they make giant hips in fall that we transform into rosehip crabapple jelly. Rugosas are also cold-hardy, disease-resistant, and don’t require any fussy pruning.

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Bismarck is settling in nicely still. He’s learned to relax and smile, showing off his disproportionately-large fangs when being pet.