Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diary February 2006 - Roses

Ahhh romance. Ahhh love!! Valentines Day in February often finds us on the receiving end of chocolates, (sometimes) diamonds and almost always - ROSES! Roses are the most common symbol of love, dating back to Greek mythology. Aphrodite cried so much over the death of her lover Adonis that she had red Adonis Roses grown with his blood, thus symbolizing never-ending love.
Perhaps February is an ideal month to research roses, although I admit, they have never been a top priority in my garden.
But if I start to examine the types of roses I have now and have had in the past, there certainly are some I am willing to consider for the Perfect Garden.
I probably will not grow too many hybrid tea roses, if any. Everything you’ve ever heard about them being high maintenance is true! There’s winter protection needed, pruning, Japanese beetles, aphids, black spot and fertilizing to be considered. I love to see them in private and public gardens, I adore their fragrance and I love them in a vase, but I myself never seem to have time to care for them properly.
However, I have had lots of luck with certain types of roses, which include rugosa roses, the “Canadian Explorer Series” of roses and climbing roses.
The Rugosa rose is a deciduous flowering shrub with (very) thorny branches, crinkly leaves (the Latin word rugosus means “full of wrinkles!) and a lovely fragrance! It can grow in zones as low as Zone 2 and tolerates very poor soil conditions, has few pests or diseases and if grown on its own roots, is almost indestructible! In fact, they are better off neglected than coddled. Most are very fragrant. Rugosas fit well into a flower border if kept near the back (they can grow extremely large – 4’ x 5’). In autumn their foliage turns a fiery yellow orange and in winter, they sport fat red “hips”, the fleshy bright-coloured fruit of the rose plant. (Maybe you’ve heard of rose hip tea? Just one product you can make from hips.)

Canadian Explorer roses also do very well in cold climates and require little care. I have a few in the garden now and love how they look with Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’).

Neither Rugosas nor Explorers do well as cut flowers, though.
There’s a real trooper of a rose that has never let me down: ‘The Fairy’, a polyantha rose. It puts on a wonderful display in the spring and then again in late summer/early autumn! Its dainty pink buds look adorable cut for a small vase but watch out for those thorns!! It attracts no bugs or diseases. An excellent candidate for a mixed border or cottage garden.

Another type of rose I’m willing to test in the perennial flower bed is the David Austin Rose, also called the English Rose. Even though some articles claim that they are easy-care, others claim they take the same amount of effort as Hybrids. In the 1950’s and 60’s, David Austin crossed Gallicas, Damasks and Bourbons with Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and Climbers. A few of his early success stories include ‘Constance Spry’, but later he introduced fragrant, repeat bloomers ‘Mary Rose ‘and ‘Graham Thomas’. Some of them, like, ‘Cottage Rose’ and ‘Eglantyne’ are beginning to steal my heart! They do look wonderful planted with lacy, silver Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’, Valerian (Centranthus rubber ‘Albus’) , Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’ and annuals such as Swan River Daisy (Brachyscome iberidifolia) and the dark purple, spiky salvias.

The last type of rose that I would consider for “my perfect garden” is the climbing rose. I’ve grown some beauties here in Burlington and even though they’re fairly common, would probably repeat those exact ones: ‘Blaze Improved’, dark red and slightly fragrant; ‘New Dawn’ with double blooms and a light pink colour; and pale yellow ‘Lichtkonigin Lucia’, which I pair with a dark purple clematis over my arbour.
Pictured here is ‘Lichtkonigin Lucia’:

One last rose to mention: my friend Sheila and I fell in love with ‘Rosa glauca’ on a Toronto garden tour. Its deep burgundy leaves were showcased against a Golden Elder bush and it was such a stand-out, that I gave a Sheila a ‘Rosa glauca’ rose as a retirement gift.

A few more points that I hope to remember when I’m actually installing the next garden:
a) Make sure the ground around roses is mulched to retain moisture.
b) Use low bluish or silver plants to hide the “bare ankles” of roses: Catmint (Nepeta faasenii), Cranesbill geranium, the non-flowering Lamb’s Ears (‘Silver Carpet’ or ‘Helene von Stein’) and Artemesias.
c) Shrubs with colourful foliage, such as Crimson Japanese Barberry, blue upright juniper, variegated dogwood and the smoke bush provide great background for roses
d) Remember that spike-shaped plants and flowers such as sage and veronica compliment roses as do plants with lacy textures: Lady’s mantle, coral bells and feverfew.

Maybe there’s a reason that roses stand for eternal love, purity, joy and grace. Just writing this diary entry has made me appreciate them more!

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