Recently, I received a message from our fearless Editor Extraordinaire, Ana Maria;

A:  “Are you up for another garden article, for the upcoming Spring edition?”
E:  “Sure! No prob. Sounds good!”
A:  “In under 1,000 words or less???....”

“A 1,000 words or less??!!”,  I thought to myself.  My haikus come in “Cliff’s Notes”!!  Even my grocery lists contain long, rambling multi-paged prefaces!!  But not to be outdone by the challenge, I replied…

E:  “Not only that, but this article covers roses, container gardening, companion planting, a story about three sisters, and lastly, but not leastly (”leastly”??),  I will conclude by revealing the mystery of the well-guarded, ancient, “Grand Secret to Successful Gardening”!

*(swallowing hard through the long, pregnant pause, in reply….)

A:  “Here is a link to an on-line ”word-counter”.
E:  “Great!”

“Great”??!!  “A 1,000 words or less’??!!  “Word counters??!!”….. I’m doomed. After dope-slapping myself through the 5 Stages of ”Good Grief!” and some nervous crying, I bring you…


er, I mean…..

“ROSE & Co.”

In this article, we will be discussing how to create an easy, eye-catching, healthy, low-maintenance, self-sustaining, pest & disease resistant, organic ROSE CONTAINER GARDEN DESIGN!!!

Growing “the perfect rose plant” is a long cherished hobby & art form, among many a generation of gardening enthusiast.  Why ROSES, one of the most notoriously fussy, high-maintenance, disease and pest prone plants??  Don’t ask. I got enough aggravation.  But what of the “newly sprouted green thumbed” beginner, just looking for an easy and yet hugely rewarding intro DIY garden project?  And what of the seemingly endless list of chemical fertilizers, amendments, diseases & pest spray killers, etc. that so many garden articles seem to promote?? 

In short, the ONLY thing chemical ANYTHING in gardening is good for is selling you more chemicals to address the issues precipitating from the previous chemicals, until there is a total collapse of your soil biological ecosystem and the soil is so toxic & acidic that nothing will grow.  For the “deep dive” into this subject, see my article “The Lowdown on Low-Down Chemical Fertilizers”

Instead we will be taking our cues from the ANCIENT ART of POLY-CULTURE PLANTING. Otherwise known as…


This is the practice of pairing specific plants together, based on the mutually beneficial characteristics they afford one another.  For several thousands of years, this has been done for a range of reasons, from

  1. symbiotic health benefits 
  2. as a pest repellent 
  3. to attract pollinators and/or the predators of common plant pests 
  4. as a decoy or “trap plant” to draw pests to and away from a favored and prone crop or plant.  and as 
  5. a protector plant (as shade providers, weed blockers, wind breakers, soil moisture retainers, and more.)

Which brings me to the story of “The THREE SISTERS”.   The “Three Sisters” refers to CORN, SQUASH & BEANS and an ancient planting practice, developed over 6,000 years ago.   The story & practice originates in ancient “Mesoamerica” (Central America) and travels northward, far & wide, throughout the North American continent, appearing in the ancestral stories of indigenous cultures, from Hopi to Iroquois, to Oneidas.  The history of the “Three Sisters” story, itself,  is an EPIC TALE, whose…. (right…., ”1,000 words”)…… YET, I humbly digress.

Planting the three together, CORN provides a trellis for BEAN plants to climb, where it can gain maximum sun exposure, as well as kept off the ground, where it is more vulnerable to pest, disease & other damage. The leaves of the SQUASH help shade corn and bean roots, helping soil retain more water & stay cooler.  SQUASH also has prickly leaves that help warn off pests, as well, it’s flowers attract a number of beneficial predators of said pests.  In return, BEAN plants provide a good, steady supply of “fertilizer”, in the form of, for example, NITROGEN (an essential nutrient) that it accumulates from the air and fixes it into the soil, in a form her sister plants can access.

Okay, next….  ROSE CONTAINER GARDEN DESIGN!!!  Here is one of my favorite “COMPANION PLANTER” designs!  You will need:

  1.   5 – 7gallon (minimum) sized CONTAINER, with at least one drainage hole of no less than 1” diameter
  2.   DRAINAGE ROCK for the bottom 3” of the container
  3.   a 2:1 ratio mix of ORGANIC POTTING SOIL to COMPOST. and…
  4.   PLANTS!!!!!

Select a location for (in this case) maximum SUN EXPOSURE.  Next, make sure your plant selections are compatible in terms of elbow room, soil type & pH preferences, water & sun exposure requirements, etc.  For this design, each of my new “PLANTER COMPANIONS” share preferences for LOAM SOIL that retains moisture & yet well draining,  prefers soil pH of around 6.0 – 7.0.  Which reminds me of a funny story!

Here’s the list of PLANTS we will be pairing, with a brief summary of what makes them good COMPANIONS / CONTAINER-MATES:

  • Your favorite ROSE!!  (mini, climbing or bush varieties WON’T work for this particular design)
  • CHIVES:  1.) fixes sulfur (a natural fungicide) into the soil, boosts rose & other plants’ immune systems. 2.)  blooms attract pollinators  3.)  repels aphids, japanese beetles
  • MARIGOLDS:  1.) repels just about all manner of nefarious pest (aphids, bean beetles, leaf hoppers, nematodes, root-fly, etc.)  2.)  Everyone, except, bees, ladybugs, butterflies, & other pollinators 
  • CLOVER (trifolium):  1.)  fixes steady supply of nItrogen into the soil  2.)  popular among pollinators.  3.) improves soil aeration, water penetration & root growth. “SHAMROCK” (oxalis) can be used for all the same reasons.  My favorite combo is a mix of “Bronze Dutch Clover”, “Purple Shamrock”  and “Green Shamrock”.
  • CREEPING JENNY:  1.) a “trailing” plant  2.)  great for tormenting successfully thwarted container-climbing pests  3.) and, I guess looks cool.

There you have it!!  An easy, eye-catching, low-maintenance, self-sustaining, self-fertilizing, pest & disease resistant, organic ROSE CONTAINER GARDEN DESIGN!!!  One might call it a “CHUMMY COUSIN CONTAINER”.  Just don’t.

And finally…..The mysterious & elusive “GRAND SECRET to SUCCESSFUL GARDENING”???

A:  Stay tuned.

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