Tuesday, May 13, 2014

on becoming a rose lover

This winter was exceptionally harsh, even in the South.  The roses seem to have LOVED it, because all of the roses in my garden are absolutely knocked out.  I have mostly antique/old garden roses for their fragrance and ease of care.  When I was in high school we moved into a house that had a huge bed of hybrid tea roses and they required constant care to preform, so I never really liked them.  My introduction to old roses changed that and require only a late winter pruning and deadheading, plus some compost when I think of it.  Here are my glory girls:

This was my first mother's day gift, and my first rose- Graham Thomas.  Gorgeous buttery yellow with a terrific fragrance.  All yellow roses get black spot, but I try my best to ignore it and focus on the protrusion of buttery blossoms.  This will easily grow 10 feet tall if I'd let it.

This rose is the now-ubiquitous Knock Out.  We planted it at our school one year, and the following year it had been trampled to the point that it was a barely-alive throny stick.  I dug it up one day, planted it in my blue folk-art tire planter with a rosemary, and it was off to the races.  Earlier in March, before our late ice storm, it was 5 ft tall.  I cut it back to 2 ft and it's 5 ft tall again and blooming it's silly head off.  Not much fragrance, but it's nice to see right outside my back door.

This rose, which I may have mentioned before, is the Perle d'Or.  It came with my house.  There are two of them, both quite old and tall. It dates back to the 1880s and is said to be a short, 3-4 ft shrub.  I must have climbing varieties because one has grown all the way up to our roofline, through the camellia, and the other is 10 ft tall.  This rose blooms from March to November or even December for me in zone 8, and one flower scents the whole room with an apple-like fragrance.

This small flowered rose is one of the bees' favorite pollen sources.  It is a rampant grower- even though I cut it back to a single 4 ft cane in January, it had scaled the front of our screen porch by April.  The rains drove it down, so it's flopped over, and I'll cut it back after it finished flowering, or it will be 20 ft tall by the end of the season.  The 1" blossoms have no fragrance to speak of, but the bees- honey, bumble, and small natives- flock to it.  I got this from a friend who worked for a small house museum with a kitchen garden.  It is a bit of a thug, but I still like it.
This rose is the pink's screen porch companion.  It grows up the south side of our porch and offers a glorious floribunda display in April and May and then leafy coverage for the porch after its bloom.  Both it and the pink have nice rose hips if I can manage to not trim them back, and I generally find myself needing to.  I call this a "trash rose" because I just can't kill it.  I think that it must have been root stock for another rose that died before we moved to our house.

I have two of these climbing iceberg roses.  They're tall- reaching for the roof.  And of all of my roses, these root the easiest.  I really enjoy these- they have a lemony fragrance and bloom non-stop.  One is in the front yard, one is in the back.

This sweet little rose is a nameless rescue.  And older woman once lived down  the street and was a master gardener who lived alone until she no longer could.  When her children sold her home to someone who was flipping it, I asked the workman who was digging up the entire front yard and depositing the plants on the curb if I could have this rose, because it thrived in full shade.  It grows along our front fence, in the shade of my vitex tree.

Lastly, my most recent rose acquisition: a mutabilis, or butterfly rose.  This one is so interesting- the buds start out coral, almost orange, open to a single seashell pink blossom, then turn deep magenta-pink as they age and lose their petals.  No fragrance to speak of, this china rose wants to ramble and get to be the size of a school bus (hmm), but it is a real eye-catcher.

I really never thought I'd be a rosarian, but it seems that I am!  They are all mixed in with other perennials in the garden, and even in case of the Graham Thomas, in my vegetable bed.  All of the named old roses are available through the excellent Antique Rose Emporium.  I hope you'll give them a shot! 


  1. i love roses, but we currently don't have any. must remedy that. really enjoying your posts here, m.