Saturday, July 28, 2012

Random Rose Reflections

I can't think of a plant, other than the rose, that so many gardeners are so passionate about.

Shön Ingeborg, a hybrid perpetual. Hybrid perpetuals are sometimes said to be more hybrid than perpetual, i.e. they are known more for complex genes rather than good rebloom. This cultivar, however, gives me three flushes a year and its foliage is always healthy.

It has many dedicated admirers and is grown in widely different climates and gardening styles.

Lyda Rose, a modern shrub. Single blooms are usually much more fleeting than more double ones, but there are many more of them too.

It is exhibited, collected and treasured, but also disdained (they all get sick) and avoided (they all are too much work).

Colette, a large-flowered climber

I am sometimes amazed at how many complaints are hurled at this or that rose.

'Hoag House Cream', a found rose. Found roses are usually discovered growing abandoned, and often their identity can no longer be determined.

Knock-Out roses are ubiquitous (and are therefore for the uninitiated), orange roses are gaudy, hybrid teas are vulgar, teas mildew, hybrid perpetuals rust, albas crisp in the heat, gallicas won't bloom without chill, climbers get out of control and as for those jolly green giants with octopus arms and occasional blooms, known to some as David Austin roses... well, I dare not even start on those :).

Fuzzy-Wuzzy Red, a miniature moss. Moss roses are called so because of fragrant moss-like glands covering the canes and buds.

Hearing such blanket condemnation always makes me sad.

A cane of Penelope, a hybrid musk, fell on some osteospermum daisies. I have two Penelopes and am trying to grow one as a shrub and the other as a short climber.

As the estimable Mr. Bingley said in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: "I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom!"

Elie Beauvilain, a tea-noisette

Here are a few rose portraits I have taken recently.

Magnificent Perfume, a modern shrub

My collection is small and has come together helter-skelter without a particular goal or purpose.

A stem of Queen Mary 2, a hybrid tea. It has a very stiff growth habit for which hybrid teas are often faulted. Its saving grace is superior health, generosity of bloom, and a very strong fragrance reminiscent of bananas. I grow it for cutting.

Despite a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and petal counts they are each lovely in their own way.

Sir Henry Segrave, an early hybrid tea. Not all of them have high centered blooms.

Mme Berkeley, a tea

And what about those indispensable whole bush shots? Surely a rose is more than just a pretty flower?

Félicité Parmentier, an alba

Well, yes, but this is where my photography skills fail me miserably. In the middle of summer, my whole garden is a mass of color and foliage, and I cannot make you see where the rose bush ends and other plants begin.

Basye's Purple Rose, a rugosa, is peeking out from a profusion of summer blooming perennials. My rugosas never get badly chlorotic, even though I don't usually bother to acidify their soil.

With so many other plants growing around and through my roses, even I don't always see the whole bush until winter, when the perennials are cut down and I am pruning.

Rosa californica, a species....

....and its beautiful, multi-colored hips 

For me, it is a good thing. I am much less picky about a rose's growth habit because I never grow roses as stand alone shrubs. Not even in pots.

Cynthia Brooke, a hybrid tea, in a 24" pot. Some canes of Zéphirine Drouhin are drooping behind it.

So, for me, a rose is a rose, whether it has five petals or two hundred, whether pink or orange, a ubiquitous Double Delight or an obscure antique treasure.

Pretty Jessica, a David Austin rose

They are all beautiful and they all give me much joy.

Devoniensis, a tea
However, I do not want to give the impression that I am completely indiscriminate in my selections.

Sweet Pea, a polyantha
My garden is small, and I have to restrict my rose choices pretty severely.

Prinzessin Marie von Arenberg, an early hybrid tea
So here are some of my criteria for buying a rose.

Jude the Obscure, one of my favorite David Austin roses. No other rose matches its unique and powerful fragrance.
 I will not grow a rose that doesn't bloom :) I don't grow many reds because they are not photogenic. And I don't grow roses whose foliage is so sick that it is not recognizably green. Fortunately, that still leaves me with plenty of choices.

April in Paris, a hybrid tea

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Una Grande Condesa

I have been admiring the latest flush of my Spanish beauty, Condesa de Sastago, a 1930 hybrid tea. It is one of a class of roses called Pernetianas in honor of the 19th century French rose breeder M. Pernet-Ducher.

 Pernetiana roses are known for their vibrant multi-hued flame colors and fruity fragrances (as well as a propensity to blackspot, I might add).

In my garden, the temperamental Condesa is prone to bouts of fungal diseases. Blackspot is rare in my climate but this rose can have both rust and mildew, although foliage clears up in summer.

 However, it blooms a lot and the colors are brilliant. It reminds me often of a flamenco dancer in a bright multi-colored swirling skirt.

It took me a few years to get my own root plant. For quite a while, only one mail-order vendor offered it from time to time, and no matter how fast I ran to the computer it was out of stock before I could click on the "Order" button.

I tried it in the ground at first and it sulked, so I finally put it into a pot.

I find that some roses, such as own root hybrid teas, which are too weak to grow and flower well in the ground, do very well for me in big pots with lavish doses of fertilizer and ample water.

Growing large roses in containers is a lot of work, but for me the rewards are definitely worth it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


When I started growing roses, I tended to go for big sculpted brightly colored blooms. I am told many rose addicts get hooked this way. My tastes have since evolved, or, to be more precise, expanded (my lawn and my wallet were the two biggest casualties) to include more rose classes and a wider variety of plant habits, petal count, and size and color of blooms.

Penelope, an early 20th century hybrid musk rose, was one such departure from the world of hybrid teas. With each year I have spent with it I love it more and more.

I bought it as a tiny twig which now towers above the hodge-podge of perennials around it.

My plant came from Roses of Yesterday, and, if my memory does not fail me, is grafted onto multiflora rootstock.

I especially like looking at it in the morning when the sun just begins to hit the wavy petals
It spent its first few years as a mannerly 4x5' shrub, but in the last couple of years started throwing out gracefully arching 8' long canes with huge clusters of blooms.

The lovely creamy apricot color of newly opened blooms has not faded yet
Graceful or not, 8' long canes are too large :), and I have been cutting them back in half. The rose does not mind pruning at all, and I end up with a fairly small and dense shrub.

Penelope's best features are its wafting fragrance, generosity of bloom and plentiful healthy foliage.

I am not its only admirer, there are plenty of others
However, I treasure it most for its charming simplicity, a cool serenity in the heat of the summer and an ability to hold its own in the riot of color around it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Garden News

 One of my favorite perennials, campanula primulifolia, started blooming recently, so I went into the garden to take some pictures of it.

Julia Child is behind it

Besides being photogenic, it is heat-tolerant, has a fairly long bloom season, and sends up more and more flowers every year.

On the other hand, all nierembergias, which have graced my garden with a cloud of dainty blue flowers for several years now, bloomed their hearts out and died. I can't figure out why, maybe their time has come...

Rosette Delizy, a turn-of-the-century tea rose, gave me a big surprise this summer.

Rosette Delizy this spring

It is planted between two Crepuscules and a Penelope (all large roses), and I ended up with a long unbroken stretch of creamy apricot oranges, which I thought was boring.

Also from this spring

But lo and behold, it turned bright pink around the edges for the first time this summer. I have no idea what did it- maturity, temperatures, fertilizer-but I like it much better with this coloration :)

Rosette Delizy in its summer brightness. Summer perennials help enliven this space. 

My row of climbers on the side fence will have a large gap next spring. The oldest rose (Handel, a climbing floribunda) was removed recently. It was getting very old and didn't produce a new cane for years now. It has been sending up a lot of rootstock suckers, so its time has finally come. In its place will go a climbing Lorraine Lee, but it will take years to achieve its full glory. Oh well, I will miss taking glamour shots of this fence :(

This post has turned to be a bit of a hodge podge of good news and sad, but that's what makes gardening (and other things) interesting: not just successes, but setbacks too.

Hermann Lindecke resting on the retaining wall