Roses: A Celebrationby Wayne Winterrowd, Pamela Stagg
Thirty-three eminent gardeners on their favorite rose
Among the plant kingdom, Rosa is a relatively small genus, comprising only about one hundred species around the globe. But as these species intercross, they have given rise to as many as thirty thousand cultivars, making the rose perhaps the most various of all plants grown in gardens-and/i>/p>/b>
Thirty-three eminent gardeners on their favorite rose
Among the plant kingdom, Rosa is a relatively small genus, comprising only about one hundred species around the globe. But as these species intercross, they have given rise to as many as thirty thousand cultivars, making the rose perhaps the most various of all plants grown in gardens-and one of the most treasured.
This one-of-a-kind collection gathers together thirty-three eminent gardeners and rosarians, including Graham Stuart Thomas, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas C. Cooper, Joe Eck, Michael Pollan, Anne Raver, Page Dickey, Thomas Christopher, David Austin, Peter Beales, Dan Hinkley, and Jamaica Kincaid. Each writes about a favored rose--Rosarie de l'Ha
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By Wayne Winterrowd
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2003 Wayne Winterrowd
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'Great Maiden's Blush'
I HAVE ACCEPTED an impossible charge — to write an essay on "my favorite rose." I do not have such a thing. My favorite rose is a rose, and my favorite roses are roses, so how can I pretend otherwise? Easy, indulge in a little favoritism.
"Favoritism" is defined in my dictionary as "the unfair favoring of one over others," so, in this context, my pet rose has always been that temperamental, once-flowering, wet-weather-hating, but stunningly beautiful 'Maiden's Blush.' It is a member of the alba family of roses, and it has come down to us from the very distant past, avoiding extinction, the fate of so many of the old roses, by its will to live to a great old age even in some of the most hostile of environments, surviving on the captivating charm of its delicate pink, full-face flowers, and, perhaps above all, its exquisite perfume.
I first fell in love with 'Maiden's Blush' as a child. I have a vivid and cherished memory of my first introduction to it by my grandfather when I was about four years old. Although Grandfather was a vegetable grower, it being wartime then, he loved to share his enjoyment of gardening with me. His rose — the name of which he did not know — was the only rose in his garden, and no one else but we two could touch it. Or so I thought. Certainly no blooms were ever cut from the bush to be taken indoors — a tradition upheld to this day, for the same plant, which I came to know so well all those years ago, is still thriving under my mother's care in the garden of our family home in North Norfolk.
I had no inkling, all those years ago, that I would one day make my living from roses. But in the mid-1960s, when I started my rose-growing business, I cut the budding eyes for the propagation of my first crop of 'Great Maiden's Blush' from that old bush that had become known by my family as "Granddad's rose." It gives me great pleasure to know that each plant my rose nursery now distributes around the world came from stock of the first rose I ever knew.
As most devotees of roses will know, there are two forms of 'Maiden's Blush,' known respectively as 'Great' and 'Small,' definitions that refer specifically to stature. The former, as the name suggests, is quite capable of growing up to a height of ten or fifteen feet. The latter seldom attains a height of more than four feet. As far as I can tell, there is little or no difference in the size of their respective flowers. There is, however, sometimes a considerable variation in the depth of color of the flowers in both forms, but this seems to be a phenomenon related to either soil or climate, or possibly both. The two forms are equally resistant to disease, and both are extremely shade-tolerant, therefore having many uses as garden plants. Although the 'Great' form is still essentially a large shrub rose, from time to time I like to use it as a climber, allowing it to thread its way up into the branches of a small tree. When grown this way, it can be most rewarding, and its tolerance of shade gives it an advantage over most other climbing roses of similar coloring, for it never seems to sulk amongst dense foliage. It just gets on with life. It will even grow happily if planted on the north side of conifer trees, where it will filter its branches through to produce flowers on the brighter, south side.
In their different capacities, both the 'Great' and the 'Small' forms of 'Maiden's Blush' are very good mixers when used in association with other shrubs or perennials, their leaden-green leaves combining well, in particular, with plants having maroon or plum-colored foliage. They will also make good hedges if tended properly. The 'Great' form is best pruned judiciously from time to time to make an informal hedgerow. The 'Small' form has a naturally tidier habit, and therefore makes an ideal upright-growing but bushy hedge. The best way to achieve this effect is to reduce the current year's flowering shoots to half their length in the earlier years of growth, a task that should be done immediately after the plants have finished flowering each summer. This helps to encourage density of growth in the formative years. Later, from about the third or fourth year onward, the only pruning necessary to keep the hedge in shape is to remove all the spent blossoms with shears.
The longevity of 'Maiden's Blush' is borne out by the fact that it is far and away the most common of all the roses that are sent to me each year for identification. More often than not, these requests are accompanied by delightful little nostalgic stories, as, for example: "My grandma knew this rose as a child, and her mother told her that the bush from which I send this example came from a plant which she, too, recalled from her youth." A less common reason for inquiry — though still frequent enough — is the sudden appearance of this rose in a part of the garden where no rose has ever before been seen growing. Such a surprising emergence is usually the result of the rhizomelike roots of 'Maiden's Blush,' which, having been hindered from sprouting for one reason or another (usually because of the constant cultivation of a border or the regular cutting of a lawn), suddenly reappear above ground. Such is the will of this rose to live that a new plant can emerge many years after its parent has disappeared, and many yards from its original position.
As with other members of the alba family, one of the most endearing attributes of 'Maiden's Blush' is its fragrance, which I have referred to as exquisite. In addition of course to its good looks, this characteristic is what most singles it out for my favoritism. I look forward to its blooming with relish each year as winter passes and summer approaches. That it will not display its flowers again after the first flush is singularly unimportant to me. Indeed, it is the very transience of these flowers that endears "Maiden's Blush' to me so much. On occasions when it may produce only one perfect bloom each summer, which is sometimes the case in our English climate, such is its loveliness that I am contented for the whole year to come.CHAPTER 2
GRAHAM STUART THOMAS
'Souvenir de St. Anne's'
ST. ANNE'S PARK, near Dublin, was the home of Lady Ardilaun, who had a good garden in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Among the roses she grew was 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' and in her garden this famous, very double blush-pink rose produced a sport with very few petals. It was essentially a senti-double, quite lovely in its simplicity. She gave cuttings of it to Lady Moore, a fatuous gardener in her own right and the wife of Sir Frederick Moore, for many years the Keeper of the Glasnevin Botanic Garden, near Dublin. With her gift, Lady Ardilaun expressed to Lady Moore the wish that she should not give away that rose again. That is a request which is always to be respected, and Lady Moore grew it for many years at Willbrook House, Rathfarnham, 1W blin, taking both satisfaction in its growth and pleasure in the appearance of its flower. After Lady Ardilaun's death, Lady Moore gave propagating material to me, and I introduced it in due course as 'Souvenir de St. Anne's.' This name was Lady Moore's suggestion, as a way of commemorating the garden of her old friend. St. Anne's itself is now a public park, and, appropriately, a bed of this rose is in full evidence there.
But let us go back a bit further. The parent of 'Souvenir de St. Anne's,' 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' was raised by Jean Beluze at Lyon in 1843. (Only two roses are recorded as having been raised by him, this one and 'Gloire d'Orient,' a deep red which I have never seen.) The Empress Josephine, who created the first large collection of roses at her chateau at Malmaison, near Paris, died in 1814, and so, quite contrary to popular belief, she never grew this rose. It was named in her honor by the Grand Duke of Russia, who had obtained a plant for the Imperial Garden at St. Petersburg. Beluze recorded that 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' was a cross between 'Mme Desprez' and an unspecified tea rose. Since its appearance, it has never been out of cultivation, though at one time it acquired another name, 'Queen of Beauty and Fragrance.'
'Souvenir de la Malmaison' makes a sturdy, freely branching shrub that in my garden is out of flower only for the occasional odd week between mid-June and the autumn. It bears large, very double flowers with masses of overlapping petals of a pale creamy pink. It has some scent, verging toward the tea fragrance, but I have never found it free enough in this respect to justify the last part of the second name it acquired. A climbing sport originated in 1893, and though it is a strong grower, it is by no means as freely reblooming as its parent.
Now we may come to the particular value of 'Souvenir de St. Anne's.' It is known that the Bourbon roses have in their inheritance not only the old French once-flowering roses but also a tincture of Rosa moschata, the musk rose. That species has close relatives all through the Northern Hemisphere, such as R. setigera (North America), R. wichuraiana, and R. multiflora (Japan), and many lesser-known but vigorous climbers, all with single white flowers, native to western China and other parts of East Asia. They share two very marked botanical characteristics which distinguish them from all other species in the genus Rosa. Their styles (stigmas) do not stand free but, rather, are united into a single column, and their scent is in their stamens, not their petals.
It is important to understand all this, because 'Souvenir de St. Anne's,' being nearly single, possesses prominent stamens, and so bears a sweet and lovely scent reminiscent of cloves, whereas 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' being quite double, possesses a much slighter scent, if, indeed, one can discern any at all.
From this knot of 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' and 'Souvenir de St. Anne's,' one may trace the threads of this history still further. For, according to Dr. C. C. Hurst, an eminent geneticist of the last century, the Bourbon roses, of which 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' is one, were initially the result of crosses between the Autumn Damask and 'Parson's Pink China.' The Autumn Damask was itself of ancient European origin, a hybrid with the gallica rose, the musk rose, and Rosa fedtschenkoana from Turkestan in its parentage. 'Parson's Pink China,' on the other hand, was an ancient Chinese hybrid that united R. chinensis with R. gigantea. The result of that crossing was a repeat-flowering rose, and as the two last were also repeat-flowering, many of the resulting progeny possessed this desirable characteristic to one degree or another. 'Souvenir de St. Anne's' is an example of the luckier ones; it is seldom out of flower in my garden except in the coldest weather.
Having investigated the parentage of 'Souvenir de St. Anne's; I feel I must add a note on another of the distinguished offspring of 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' the famous old 'Gloire de Dijon.' It dates from 1853, and is the direct result of crossing the Malmaison rose with an unspecified but evidently vigorous tea. In my Roce Book, I write, "With its many assets it was indeed an epoch-making rose, at a time when yellow roses were tender, or drooping, or pale." For many decades it was the most famous yellow climbing rose, with a wonderful scent. It has the further distinction of having been the favorite rose of the Reverend Dean Reynolds-Hole, first president of the National Rose Society, and it was made famous by his writings. It is still well worth growing.
To sum up, I fear I would not give high marks to 'Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison.' It is too long out of flower in summer, though one must confess that its autumn blooms can often be very good. On the other hand, 'La Malmaison' itself is a superlative performer from early summer until late fall, a characteristic inherited by its sport, 'Souvenir de St. Anne's.' They are both strong and bushy, with good foliage, and they do not disappoint when grown with shrubs and other plants of all kinds. Their delicate pink petals — palest in 'St. Anne's'— consort well with the crimson sepals and purple skirts of hardy fuchsias such as Fuchsia magellanica and its many forms, the slender stems and foliage of which will provide a pleasing contrast with the roses which are close to nearly the same height.
How blessed we are with these two fine roses that provide color for almost half the year!CHAPTER 3
IS THIS A GOOD THING for me to be doing, actually putting into writing the idea that I have a favorite rose? Do I have a favorite rose? Does anybody? How can anybody like one rose above all others? There are so many roses to begin with, and then there are even more. When people meet roses, they fall in love with them so much that a whole process of tampering is set in motion. And yet there is one rose I love and would be very sorry not to have growing in my garden.
My favorite rose, then, is 'Alchymist.' Its provenance is 'Golden Glow' and an unspecified R. eglanteria hybrid. It came into my life in this way: I was at the most feeble and ignorant stage of my gardening life — I was at the beginning. The house I live in now was new to me. It had some old flower beds, planted with peonies (big red-maroon things), roses (small pink fragrant blossoms that came at once in early June and that was that), and some daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva). Without hesitating, I began to move some things here, other things there, and when I grew tired of that, I dug up and threw away the rest. How I regret that now, the throwing-away part. Especially I regret throwing away all those roses. But in those days, I approached the garden with great certainty — not confidence, just certainty — that everything I did and thought was so clearly the right thing to do. I certainly did not like flowers that bloomed fleetingly, and I would not grow them.
In those days, I made many trips each day to places where garden things could be purchased. I would find that I needed things to make the soil more sweet and things to make the soil more sour; something that would make a plant produce more leaves and something that would make it bear more fruit. I was so much at the store getting things to make a plant do what a plant will do, I often forgot that a plant knew how to do anything at all by itself. I never went to the garden store to buy plants; I bought most of my plants through the mail. I went to the garden store to buy things that are meant to support plants.
But, of course, one of the unfortunate things about gardening is how it puts you in an acquisitive mood. So it was that on one of those many trips to the garden store I bought something that I had not gone to the garden store to buy in the first place. I saw two rosebushes in five-gallon pots, and. without knowing what kind of rosebushes they were, I bought them. They cost me almost ten dollars each.
One of the roses turned out to be a 'Henry Kelsey' (a nice red rose that seems to enjoy a fair amount of mistreatment, which it gets from me both on purpose and accidentally), and the other was the now much-loved and treasured 'Alchymist.' I planted them and replanted them a few times before ) I was satisfied that I had gotten rose planting right. The year after, 'Henry Kelsey' bloomed but 'Alchymist' did not.
That first year, when 'Alchymist' did not bloom, I was on the verge of uprooting it and placing it in that netherworld of plants tossed out. But I saved the rose and the tag that came with it, a little piece of stiff paper on which appeared the words "R. Alchymist," and next to that a picture of a peach-colored, open-faced flower, my rose. Over the next couple of years, many things happened. I found that I had started to make a garden without meaning to do so, for one thing. I thought [ was just putting plants in the ground in a way that pleased me, but almost behind my own back, certainly without any true purpose, I was making a garden. All that time, while the 'Alchymist' just sat there, throwing out ten-foot-long cane after ten-foot-long cane, making the act of growing seem a form of languishing, I got all sorts of ideas about the garden, and they were not limited to shady and sunny, hardy and tender. I came to know the garden as the place where conquest becomes a beautiful distraction. The rose all by itself is a splendid example: some of them come to us from someplace Alexander the Great passed through, some of them come to us through the travels of a priest, and so forth.
Excerpted from Roses by Wayne Winterrowd. Copyright © 2003 Wayne Winterrowd. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Meet the Author
Wayne Winterrowd is the author of three previous books on gardening, and a contributing editor of The Gardener. He also writes frequently for Horticulture magazine. He and his partner, Joe Eck, are cofounders of the garden design firm North Hill.
Wayne Winterrowd was the author of books on gardening, including Roses: A Celebration, and a contributing editor of The Gardener. He also wrote frequently for Horticulture magazine. He and his partner, Joe Eck, were cofounders of the garden design firm North Hill, and together they wrote books including To Eat and Our Life in Gardens. Winterrowd died in 2010.
Pamela Stagg illustrated Roses from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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