Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Blush

This charming rose is an historical wonder, having brought the genes for remontancy to western roses around 1750.....possibly MUCH earlier. It has many names including....'Parson's Pink', 'Monthly Rose' and 'Pallida'. European breeders immediately started interplanting it with their centuries old Mosses and Albas and Gallicas and Damasks to let nature take its course...(they did not know about/had not yet thought up controlled breeding). It was SUCH a potent parent, both as Mom AND Dad, that it soon came to be known as "The Stud Rose of China"!

Within a few years the 'Hybrid Chinas' came about from these random crosses by wind and bee.....this catchall term embraces a GREAT many roses (like one of my favorites, 'Great Western'), most once blooming and lusciously scented (their seedlings however COULD be remontant due to recessive genes from 'Old Blush' surfacing). Other roses from China, like 'Slater's Crimson' and 'Park's Yellow Tea Scented China' soon arrived on the scene and led to many new classes of repeat blooming roses, including the Damask Perpetuals, Portlands, Bourbons, Teas, Polyanthas and Poly-Teas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Pernetianas and, finally, the modern Hybrid Tea. So us lovers of the rose owe a lot to this "studly" great-great-great-great-great-great Grand Daddy.

Here is a photo of a honeybee visiting a bloom on my plant some years ago. You can order a husky, own root plant of this living treasure from the good folks at The Antique Rose Emporium, whom I've been happily buying from and dealing since 1989 when I lived in Denver. This rose loves Florida but is VERY tough and adaptable, and you can rely on The Antique Rose Emporium to let you know if it should do well where you live. Owner Mike Shoup is a fine rosarian and a great guy, and it shows in the respect his business gives to roses and his customers. You can reach them at: 1-800-441-0002
'Old Blush' has the classic "China Rose" perfume....very fruity with a touch of "Old Rose". It is a good hip setter too. But I don't like the taste...too astringent and bitter for me unlike the fruity sweetness of frost-touched hips of 'The Dog Rose' (Rosa canina) that I ate thousands of in Denver from the plants along the High Line Canal east of Fairmount Cemetery, and in the cemetery itself.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Woo Hoo! Happy Birthday to Me!

I turned 57 today. Will celebrate by weeding, rooting cuttings, cleaning house, then eating my body weight in seafood and sushi at my beloved Tampa Buffet at Britton Plaza. I will concern myself with losing that last 12 pounds beginning tomorrow! When I was deeply depressed and closeted in my teens and twenties, I could have never imagined that by my forties I'd be so damned happy. And folks back then were right....my fifties have been a blast! John

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Fairmount Proserpine"

Photo by Michael Mowry

Photo by Michael Mowry

By the autumn of 2001, 78 varieties of Old Roses and Mystery Roses had been discovered in Denver’s 111 year old, 260 acre Fairmount Cemetery. "Fairmount Proserpine" is the study name I gave to a singularly beautiful, repeat blooming Mystery Rose first I first noticed in the fall of 1999. Perhaps planted by a loved one by that headstone, this charmer is very likely an early Bourbon rose, quite possibly the rare cultivar ‘Proserpine’ from the year 1841. In Greek mythology Proserpine was the wife of Pluto, god of the underworld…how fitting to find it in a cemetery! I found the rose while one of my Denver Botanic Gardens students and I searched Fairmount that fall day for the widely scattered repeat-bloomers I’d noticed each autumn prior. It was a thrill to find, and that night I curled up with Brent C. Dickerson’s ‘Old Rose Advisor’ and based on the bamboo-like canes, leafy bud sepals and bloom form and color I hesitantly but excitedly concluded that "Fairmount Proserpine" might be a very apt study name. To this day I feel that is the best guess.

Displaying the red new growth, fruity overtones of fragrance, and repeat bloom of a China Rose but possessing the leafy sepals, hooked prickles, cold hardiness and rich Old Rose background scent of the Damask roses, "Fairmount Proserpine" is intermediate between the two groups and thus offers the best of both. The narrow upright shrub will fit into even small gardens, reaching 5 feet in height and just 4 feet across. From June through October in Denver it offers a complex Old Rose form, highlighted by a charming "knob" of unopened petals in the center of each unfurling blossom. If one is lucky, it will open right before your eyes, or if touched by a finger to prompt it like a Jack-in-the-box! At that moment the perfume is startlingly intense. By autumn these blooms have transformed into small, oblong, bright orange hips for a final color feast.

One curious but charming trait is that new growth tips and unopened glandular buds, when rubbed with one’s fingers, release that savory pine needle scent of the Moss Roses!

Even young plants are eager to bloom in Denver, and very free of disease and pest issues if grown in full sun, kept deeply mulched and fed fish meal or fish emulsion liquid fertilizer in the spring. Picking bouquets frequently encourages even more blooms. I am having fair results with it here in Tampa IF I grow it in a drainage-restricted Water Wise Container Garden.
This rare treasure is now growing in the gardens of two of the world’s greatest rosarians, Fred Boutin and Brent C. Dickerson, as they seek to confirm its true identity. Until then, it is available in limited quantities as a Mystery Rose that will bring heart-stirring beauty to your garden. It is my hope that more rosarians will grow this lovely Old Rose, not only to help preserve it, but also to add to the effort to secure an accurate ID for it.
High Country Roses Jensen, Utah 1-800-552-2082

Friday, August 6, 2010

High Contrast Bouquets

I love mixing roses, perennials and annuals into big informal bouquets. In Denver I especially loved making arrangements that relied on the rich contrasts between blues, purples and yellows. Here are some pics with 'Persian Yellow' (Rosa foetida) being the yellow rose of choice. I forget which, but one was chosen to be on the cover of 'Colorado Gardener', but we just could not get the data density high enough to look good. Enjoy! John

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Breeding Red Roses

'Oklahoma' own root in Tampa

"Fairmount Red" in Denver, photo by Michael Mowry

"Fairmount Red" own root in Tampa, Spring 2010

Today I picked a fat hip of ("Fairmount Red" X 'Oklahoma'). Since both are doing fine for me own root and all-organic in Water Wise Container Gardens even though this is Tampa, I can't but be hopeful about any seedlings that result. I just hope I GET seedlings....the last couple of years I've been cursed by miserable germination rates. IF these seeds sprout, I may see first blooms on seedlings in 2013 since "Fairmount Red" is a once bloomer. I'd love it if the best traits of rich color and intense perfume of both parents end up in a vigorous rose that thrives here. If "Fairmount Red" is what I have long suspected it is, 25% of the seedlings could be repeat bloomers. And because of this parentage, any desirable seedling resulting from this cross could be very cold hardy in snowy winter regions as "Fairmount Red" was totally immune to Denver winters.
Enjoy, John