When you read of a certain rose that it is "particularly fine in the fall," it means it's a mess in the spring.

Oh, I exaggerate, a slight bit. This year 'Dr. J.H. Nicolas' was going to be spectacular, I thought, since I had whacked on it to make it an upstanding six-foot-high plant covered with huge fat flower buds. I have never seen such a plant promising to put on quite such a show.

In any event, the buds balled, the petals stuck together in the humid heat and only about one in 10 opened properly. In the drier air of October it will be superb, probably. Anyway, that's what is meant by a rose being particularly fine in the fall. Good big double roses often fail to open properly in damp air -- damp air will damage them as well as rainy weather.

'Mme. Isaac Pereire' and 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' are notable offenders, but almost any rose with a million petals will misbehave on occasion. In general, today's hybrid tea roses that have few petals do not have trouble opening, but this year even such a reliable workhorse as 'Pink Favorite' managed to get itself all stuck together.

Turning to less disgusting topics, I think we shall have a superb season for moon vines, cardinal creepers, trumpet vines, fleece vines and all others that love sun and heat. Soon we shall experience viciously hot days, no doubt, and gardeners will start whimpering about for their delphiniums and things that like the weather cool.

This may be the place to say some plants are quite difficult, simply because they come from very different climates. My wife is trying to raise some protaeas from seed. These are from South Africa, where the whole pattern of climate is different from ours. Of 10 seeds, five sprouted, and two of these died after they reached an inch and a half in height and had maybe six sets of tiny leaves. I potted the three survivors for her, and will report later when they died. A plant only an inch high has a fragile tap root six inches long (I did not actually measure) without noticeable feeder roots. Such a seedling is very difficult to transplant.

In any case, protaeas should be grown outdoors in pots with a glass over them to keep the rain off. I suspect this, not know it from experience. The same is true of the gorgeous Australian Sturt pea, with waxy vermilion black-blotched flowers like a lobster claw. If we are going to try difficult plants, we should expect heavy failure rates, even when we try to give them the conditions they require.

This year the mountain laurel, such a glory of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has been even more floriferous than usual, I think. My small plant inhabits a sun-baked dry bank on which any self-respecting evergreen would die outright, but every year it rewards adversity by flowering well. In the country they call the mountain laurel "ivy," and this is one of the few cases of rural usage I dislike. It is just dumb. What do they call ivy? Usually country people have very good names for flowers. Which reminds me of snapdragons (there is no better floral name, surely) and the modern ones that don't look like snapdragons. They have altered the shape of the bloom, ruining it. Fortunately you can still get the old ones; but I dislike the double forms and the ones that don't face you properly. Why anybody would tamper with a flawless flower I cannot say.

Sometimes gardeners with fish pools complain the water is not clear. Usually it helps to have plenty of water weed (Elodaea or Anacharis or Cabomba) growing in the pool, and the surface covered at least 30 percent by leaves of water lilies. But even then the water may be vaguely murky, instead of like a black crystal, and often the cause of this is an accumulation of detritus on the pool floor, which the fish stir up. Another source of general murk is tubs of water lilies in which the fish disport -- you can see them rooting about in the mud. Keeping the floor reasonably clean and the lily tubs covered with a very thin layer of gravel will sometimes do wonders for the clarity of the water.

I used to top the tubs with gravel or sand or brick chips, but the fish seem to enjoy poking about in the mud so much that I no longer prevent it. I have heard it said that putting a bale of hay in the pool will greatly clarify the water, but know nothing of this.

Of course, if you use rotted cow manure (I don't care how rotted) you are likely to have not only murky depths but actual green water. Which is fine for the fish, but not pretty. Do not use manure. That is my verdict after having tried it twice with poor results.