Friday, January 29, 2010

Welcome to ROSEGASMS

The link between the human heart and romance and sensuality and roses goes back many centuries. Three thousand years ago the Egyptians cultivated roses, and in Cleopatra's time the rose eclipsed the lotus in their symbology. The Greeks said that roses came into existence after the birth of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The Romans would release from ceilings during their orgies billows of the petals of the lusciously fragrant 'Autumn Damask' rose, which until the 1700s was the only repeat blooming rose known to the Western world. The red rose to this day symbolizes romance, be it a big bouquet of them, or just one clenched in one's teeth during a steamy dance. The word rose itself is an anagram of "Eros", and since the Middle Ages poets have employed visions of roses to embellish their romantic verses.

A quick glance at the names of many roses, both Old and Modern, reveals anew this flower's hold on our lustful, romantic souls....Belle Amour, Sweet Surrender, Love Letter, Sweet Passion (my own hybrid), Passionate Kisses, Cupid, Compassion, Bride's Dream, Wedding Day, Ultimate Pleasure, Sexy Rexy, Marry Me, Maiden's Blush, Honeymoon, Hot Lips and so many more. Who says that rosarians are stuffy, uptight academics with our noses in the air or in dusty old books when they are usually penetrating deeply into buxom blooms? Most rosarians I know live life lustily, enjoying good drink, great food and friends, "colorful" language, some like me enjoy sublime cannabis, and heady music, with roses adding their own innocent decadence.

I went mental over roses, initially Old Roses, in Denver in 1989, a little over a year after I moved there from Tampa. It was easy...they thrive all over the city in alley ways and the humblest of homes and rentals in even the most impoverished neighborhoods. That passion was cemented in June of 1991 when I was bicycling through the 260 acre Fairmount Cemetery and saw a forlorn bush with magenta-red blooms and a sad framework of mostly dead canes. I soon snuck back with clippers and organic soil foods in my backpack, slowly revived it, then named it 'Fairmount Red". I saw that lawnmowers whacked the root suckers, so I rescued a few, planted one in my south hedge, and propagated others for my clients. This led to 12 years of studies and cataloging 77 varieties, then co-hosting the 1997 Heritage Rose Foundation Conference in Denver and leading a tour for the attendees. For several years I led tours of Fairmount Cemetery for the Denver Botanic Gardens each June and July, and worked with the board of Fairmount and many noted rosarians to try to preserve the roses, many of which were planted around a lovely white gazebo facing Mt. Evans. By using a restricted drainage container here in Tampa, I have for two years now been blessed with a thriving plant of "Fairmount Red", which defies all logic as it is a very cold hardy once-bloomer that glories in Denver. After this "frigid" winter (27 degrees two nights and many nights in the 30s and 40s) it should treat me to a stellar display this March and April.

I know it was their fragrance that initially inflamed my soul for Old Roses, and in time, certain Modern Roses, like some of the stunning creations of David Austin, whom I had the honor of meeting at his nursery in England immediately after the Denver rose conference. But I was a landscaper at the time, and discovering in Peter Beales' book 'Classic Roses' that my native Florida, long considered hostile to Modern Roses, was once bejeweled with three classes of subtropical roses called Teas, Chinas and Noisettes, I promptly began buying and propagating them under glass in Denver, then planting them in Tampa clients' gardens on working trips there each winter...they thrived and my customers were smitten too. Back in Denver I obsessively read every rose book I could find in the botanic gardens library, and soon had 170 varieties of roses in my small front yard to propagate from for my Denver customers.

When Brent C. Dickerson's book 'The Old Rose Advisor' came out I fell even more deeply in love with roses, and, as a direct result, began breeding roses in 1993, a passion I pursue to this day.

As someone whose gardening interests had always been primarily food crops, I could have never imagined a scented flower becoming pivotal to my life and work! But love is rarely rational or predictable or even sensible.

So I dedicate this ROSEGASMS blog to humankind's long lusty relationship with a deeply sensual, headily perfumed and often prickly (just like love!) flower that has touched and ensnared the heart for centuries. I look forward to sharing articles I've penned for The Rocky Mountain News, The St. Petersburg Times, Fine Gardening and other publications, plus many photos I've taken over the years. Of course as a "proud Papa" I'll share photos and data about my own hybrids, some of which are in commerce...some were bred for cold climates and some for mild areas like my native Florida.

I look forward to hearing from fellow rose lovers following this blog about their passions for various roses in their own gardens, and hopefully their benefiting from my postings here. The photo of the large pink rose is of my 'Autumn Damask' here in Tampa, the rose the Romans used at the climax of their orgies, and the one of me beneath a rose arbor is of 'Hiawatha' in my Denver yard in July 2002, the last year I lived there. There is a close up of the petite blooms of 'Hiawatha' the ONLY rose I've forgiven for being scentless. This blog, and my other two that address all my other interests and passions in life, should keep me happily and lustily busy for years to come!

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