Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dreaming of roses

The bloggers at Gardening Gone Wild have asked their readers to submit their thoughts on roses for the month of November. Since the rose is my favorite flower, I am happy to oblige.

Our first garden was a tiny plot behind a tiny apartment down the street from where we presently live. I’m guessing that it was about forty feet wide and twenty feet deep. It was our first home and my love of gardening began there. Browsing through catalogs, I was always drawn to roses. I made a bold notion to order a selection of ‘Europeana’ and ‘Iceburg’ roses from Wayside Gardens and alternate them around the back porch and patio area. Lo and behold, they lived and were absolutely beautiful the years we lived there. It is odd that I haven’t been able to grow a decent ‘Europeana’ or ‘Iceburg’ in our present garden. Hmmm

I started out with hybrid tea roses because that is what our local nurseries sold. At the time, I knew little about old roses. I was drawn, however, to large displays of roses. I liked seeing climbing roses draping over archways and big billowy shrub roses spilling out onto pathways. I wasn’t very fond of the stark thorny canes of hybrid teas although the blooms were of course very lovely. I liked roses that were so dense that you couldn't see the individual canes. I also soon discovered that hybrid tea roses were very demanding and required constant pruning, fertilization and spraying to keep them looking their best.

Fortunately, I learned that there was an alternative for rose lovers who didn’t want to spend their gardening time behind a face mask roaming the garden with a sprayer in hand. Old roses, or antique roses, were easier to grow and better yet, they had that opulent look that I so loved. Of course they don’t bloom all summer like hybrid tea roses, but I grow so many other plants that I can overlook that discrepancy. I started buying roses from mail order catalogs, like the Antique Rose Emporium and Chamblee’s Nursery, and pretty much went wild over roses.

I would be lying though if I said that all of the older roses are easy and carefree to grow. A lot of them are, but I have found quite a few duds over the years as well. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is try one and if it doesn’t perform, shovel prune it and replace it. I can always find another rose variety that I want to try.

There are different types of old roses and some do better than others in our southeastern climate. As a general rule, the Gallica and Centifolia roses do not perform well here and get blackspot as bad as hybrid tea roses. They are better suited to cooler climates. I have found that Noisettes, Hybrid Musks, Polyanthas and the old Tea Roses perform the best in our garden.

A garden is ever changing. We started out with tons of sun, which roses love, but over the years the trees that we have planted have grown significantly and the garden is shadier. As a result, many of the roses have suffered. I am constantly moving roses here and there so that they get the sunniest exposures. This factor has also led me to grow more hybrid musk roses, which are more tolerant of shade than other roses.

Beginning in late April and extending through May, the roses are at their peak. The scent is overwhelming and it is the first thing that visitors comment on. It is truly a magical time. Walking through the fragrant garden with cascades of colorful blossoms surrounding me is my ideal of paradise.

Someone just reminded me that I didn't mention any of the roses that I've shown. Sorry about that! The top photo is "Veilchenblau" one of my all-time favorites. It only blooms once a year but when it does, it is magnificent. The second photo of the rose behind the urn is another of my favorites - "Buff Beauty". The buds start out a deep apricot and open to lemon yellow before fading to a pale blush color. The color range is incredible and since the buds open at different times, you can see all the color variations at once. This is a big rose and one of the few in the garden that has an open spot to grow to its full potential. It is about 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall.

The third photo shows the pergola on the left which is covered with various roses. It is hard to see the details here but in view are "New Dawn," "Reve D'Or," and "Francois Juranville." The rose next to the bench in the fourth photo is "Robin Hood". This easy-to-grow and trouble-free rose is one that I frequently recommend to beginning rose gardeners.

The fifth photo of the pink rose growing on the arch is "Climbing American Beauty." Again, it only blooms once per year but when it does, watch out! In the next photo, you can get a glimpse of "Buff Beauty" again. The huge rose next to the bench in the sixth photo is "Moonlight" which is a hybrid musk rose. The final photo features "Buff Beauty" again as well as "Rambling Rector" growing on top of the pergola. You may recall my previous post about my battle with this monster rose! It is one of few roses that I've regretted planting.

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