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


  1. Love this rose - it is the closest I've yet seen (having been pointed to your blog by a fellow garden bloggist) to my Aunty Corrie rose, which is NOT repeat flowering and seems much fuller than yours. In fact it looks like the ultimate classic centifolia - until you try to find it, and then there is nothing like it! Check it out on my blog (Oh! And I'll be back! Love your blog and its title ;D)Jack

  2. You can order this rose from High Country Roses in Denver, along with some of the other roses I discovered and cataloged at Fairmount Cemetery over my 12 years of studies there.