September 19th, 2006
6. For Love of a Rose

Rose Gruss an Aachen
‘Gruss an Aachen’ is just one of roses I’ve managed to kill off. Although Austin’s heat and drought combined with humid air can be challenging to the rosarian, one payoff is that we often have roses blooming at Christmas.

September 19, 2006
I suppose that even when non-gardeners think of gardens the first flower that comes to mind is the rose. As a teenager I used to help my mother with her roses and I still remember that she had ‘Mr. Lincoln’, ‘Tropicana’, and ‘Queen Elizabeth’. Every Easter morning before Mass she took a photo of us five girls standing in front of the roses in our spring finery.

However, I did not plant roses at Zanthan Gardens for many years. I had tried growing roses when I first moved to Texas and compared with Las Vegas, I found it difficult. In Austin the ground might be dry but the air is often humid causing the roses to be easy prey to black spot or mildew. And here the bugs are terrible. Plus, in my garden there is the ever-present issue of the trees. I didn’t have enough sunny spots for roses–they were all being used by tomatoes.

Eventually both sunlight and roses came into the garden. Influenced by a Christmas present I received from AJM’s mother, For Love of a Rose, the story of the family who developed the ‘Peace’ rose, the first rose I planted was ‘Peace’. It remains the only hybrid tea rose in my garden.

Austinites are lucky to be near the Antique Rose Emporium. Most of our local nurseries carry their roses. So I had plenty of opportunity to become familiar with heirloom roses while reading owner G. Michael Shoup’s Landscaping with Antique Roses and Roses in the Southern Garden. If you live in central Texas, it is well worth a trip to Brenham or San Antonio to visit the wonderful display gardens at the Antique Rose Emporium.

Given that I could buy an entire rose shrub for the same price as one iris rhizome, I found it easy to abandon my former passion for a new love. In addition to their scent, I loved the way roses could be integrated into hedgerows, as I’ve seen in England. I have chain link fencing on two sides of my yard and I wanted to cover them with roses. So I don’t have a rose garden or a rose bed–almost all my roses are shrubs or climbers and integrated into some other planting.

I seem to have begun my rose kick in 2000 and killed quite a few right off. I planted ‘Sombreuil’ in May 2000; it was poorly sited and never did well but took several years to die. I planted ‘Marie Pavie’ in June 2000, three months before we hit a string of all-time record-breaking highs which she did not survive. (Yes, I know better than to plant in June but sometimes I succumb to impulse. I planted “Caldwell Pink” at the same time and it didn’t die until 2005.) I planted ‘La Biche’ in November 2000 and she did not survive a year.

The rest of this entry I wrote in February of this year. We were already six months into the drought with six even worse months to come. Since then I’ve lost ‘Ducher’ and the prognosis for ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ and ‘Buff Beauty’ is questionable. However, I’m not the least put off growing roses. There is so much variety and each rose is so individual in its personality that I will run out of time and garden space long before I’ve had a chance to try all I want to grow.

Pam/Digging asked me if I had ever tried to propagate roses from cutting. The answer is yes…and three of them are still alive!

Dateline: February 7, 2006
Last year was not a good year for my roses. My Lady Banks rose died after a hard freeze in December of 2004. This is the third one I’ve lost, although I’ve seen many very large specimens elsewhere in Austin. Maybe being on the northeast side of a hill makes my microclimate atypically cold.

Then in June 2005, before the drought really kicked in, “Caldwell Pink” died. This heirloom rose was discovered in nearby Caldwell County thriving on no care at all and brought into the local rose trade. Which just goes to show you, I can kill anything.

By fall, the drought had killed off my two smallest rose bushes, the established (though never very vigorous) Bourbon rose ‘Souvenir de St. Anne’s and the newly planted floribunda ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

Last week, after the garden was all rain-washed and looking alive again, I inspected the rest of my roses. The white China ‘Ducher’ opened its first flower. This week it is covered with small cabbage-shaped flowers which emit a delicious lemony fragrance. This is almost the only time of year ‘Ducher’ blooms in my garden. I don’t know if it likes cooler weather (cooler in Austin meaning 40s-70s Fahrenheit) or if it blooms now because this is the only time of year it gets any sun. I remember that Bill planted ‘Ducher’, too. When does yours bloom?

My favorite rose, the Bourbon ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ rarely loses her leaves during Austin’s mild winters especially since she’s placed against a south facing wall. She was looking ratty. So I stripped off her old leaves and pruned back old and dead wood. Now only a week later, she’s responded by sprouting red-tinted leaves the length of her canes.

I did the same with my three Pemberton Hybrid Musk roses: ‘Buff Beauty‘, ‘Penelope‘, and ‘Prosperity’, my one David Austin rose, ‘Heritage‘, and the tea ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz‘. They’ve all responded with vigorous new growth. Now that I can see where the new growth is, I went around today and did a bit more snipping here and there.

‘Mermaid’ dropped her leaves and is sprouting without any help from me. Good thing, too, as she has the most vicious thorns of any rose in my yard. A vigorous climber, she’s been biding her time in a shady corner near the fence. She’s finally big enough to have climbed out of the shade, and now that she’s discovered sunlight, I can tell there will be no stopping her.

‘New Dawn’, ‘Red Cascade’ and the ‘Scott’s Ruston Rose’ are lagging behind the others. I need to strip them and noisette rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere‘. She’s the only one who is difficult to strip because her leaves don’t pull off neatly; I have to clip them. I also find it more difficult to see her bud eyes and know where to prune her. She gets very leggy and doesn’t bloom much unless she’s pruned. My other noisette, ‘Blush Noisette‘ never needs to be stripped and always is a dense lovely green. She’s the only rose I have which blooms in the heat of summer. Her scent actually wafts on the air so that I can smell it across the front yard. In addition to these antique roses, I have the Hybrid Tea ‘Peace’ and the Floribunda ‘French Lace’.

When I set about to do all this work, I realize that, despite my losses, I still have a lot of roses and I love each of them in her own way. They don’t bloom for long periods here and compared to the roses I see in English gardens, their blooms are small and meagre. I love them because each of them has such a distinct personality, not just in the shape and scent of their flowers, but in the shape, texture and colors of their leaves, the type of thorns, the twigginess or woodiness of each bush, and the different forms of each plant. They are each so unique that it is amazing that we classify them under one name: rose.

What roses do you grow and love?

by M Sinclair Stevens

7 Responses to post “6. For Love of a Rose”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    I am going to try a Griffith Buck rose this year, probably Country Dancer. But I still find it incredible that you have daffodils and roses blooming at the same time–they are two months apart here.

  2. From bill:

    My favorite rose is the “Rouletti” a very small flower. The leaves are small too and very dense. It makes a very nice compact shrub. It has been blooming for the past couple weeks.

    The Ducher has not bloomed yet. Ours blooms off and on in the cooler months of Spring and Fall.

    I also like our Mutabilis and the Iceberg.

    And there are daffodils blloming here too. I don’t have any myself but I was at Cedar Ridge Park on Sunday and saw daffodils blooming in their beds.

  3. From Pam Penick (Austin):

    I’ve had a couple of rosebuds open in my Austin garden too. My favorite at the moment is the deep-red ‘Valentine’, which blooms wonderfully in a protected, sun-warmed courtyard. A new ‘Marie Pavie’ is blooming also in that courtyard–very fragrant white flowers. In a less-protected spot (i.e., no blooms yet) I’m growing ‘Belinda’s Dream’, ‘Carefree Beauty’, and a new ‘The Fairy.’ All pink, antique roses mixed into my native-perennial beds. According to the Antique Rose Emporium, all three are very drought-tolerant once established, and I have them growing among spineless prickly pear, purple coneflower, damianita, Autumn sage, and Gulf muhly grass.

  4. From r sorrell (Austin):

    The only rose I can say I’ve been “successful” with is Playboy; it has finally established itself. Mrs. Dudley Cross, Safrano, Climbing Iceberg, Climbing Don Juan, and Climbing Red Fountain were planted this spring and made it through the summer, so I have high hopes for their continued success. Red Cascade lost all of its leaves but is sprouting new ones this week. I lost a Crepescule and a Mermaid, but those two were planted late in the spring, and the dogs got into them, too.

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    There’s something weird going on in my brain–why is it that the more you tell us how the roses need water, and demand the best place in the yard, that they freeze and get blackspot and mildew and bugs, and then die–then the more I find myself wishing to be set loose at the Rose Emporium with a credit card?

    I actually have 3 unnamed roses in my yard – here when I came. One is a minirose, sort of orangy coral; one’s a lanky dark red once blooming climber and the other’s a pink climber with enormous flowers once a year. I wouldn’t have chosen any one of them, but can’t bring myself to murder them, either.

    Annie, I don’t know. Roses are just intoxicating. They are the queens of the garden. Hey! I just found out that the Antique Rose Emporium has another location in San Antonio. Maybe we’ll should get together for a road trip. — mss

  6. From r sorrell (Austin):

    I’ve been itching to check out the SA location… I wanna go.

  7. From bob pool:

    My favorite rose is my Don Juan. From the first flush of blooms in spring, there is hardly a day without a bloom till super summer sets in. It is the most fragrant, by far, of all my roses. It flushes with blooms again in the cooling of fall. It gets no sun till afternoon, and is in the heat till dark. It is very thorny though,but a friendly kind of thorny,never having stuck me all these many years. Although planted by the open side of a gate it has never grown a single limb into the gate opening, choosing instead to grow down the fence where I wanted it to go. I highly recommend this rose. I love your site and the informational format you have choosen. Its good to know I’m not the only one to kill plants, no matter how hard I try to save them.

    My mother grew ‘Don Juan’ in our first home in Las Vegas. I agree. It’s a wonderful rose. — mss