Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Roses Past

When we moved into our last house nearly 30 years ago, I inherited a rose garden occupying half of the strip between our driveway and our neighbor’s yard. At that time the neighbors had a tall evergreen hedge which screened our view of their yard and provided a background for the roses. I had never really thought about growing roses because they seemed demanding, ugly as garden plants and not very exotic. (After all I was in Southern California after a Midwestern upbringing and education. You can grow roses in Missouri but not hibiscus.)
Anyway, we had other more important priorities and so the roses stayed. Eventually, I decided that since they were there; why not give them a little attention. I learned to prune them and provided some occasional fertilizer. They responded by not dying and providing a springtime show – some a better one than others and gradually I considered adding some more interesting varieties. I don’t remember the ones that either died on their own or were ripped out but two were with me until the bitter end after which the new owner ckeared every plant in the front yard and replaced them with a grass lawn livened up with one palm tree carefully placed in the center. Oh well….


The roses that survived my reign at the old house were good credible varieties that I would never have selected. They kept being good enough that I hesitated to cull them. They were also hybrid teas (well I guess Queen Elizabeth is not really and HT but close enough) which I never even consider anymore.

Queen Elizabeth
In my garden it was a gangly teenager with ok but not beautiful flowers. It did keep blooming.

Chicago Peace
Just did enough to survive although it was on my list.


The Dark Lady
My first Austin. It had a nice deep red color and the flowers were attractive and full but it didn’t bloom a lot. I treated it like a hybrid tea which probably didn’t help. I was just getting to understand Austins when we moved.

My second Austin. Lovely flowers and a reputed wonderful smell although I can’t remember being overwhelmed. It was just getting going when we left.

Souvenir de Malmaison
My first old rose, a Bourbon. Slow growing and just coming into its own when we left but with beautiful flowers.

Mme Cecile Brunner
I mistakenly ordered climbing which because a huge rambling mound in my rose bed. Lots of blooms.
I was trying here to get some blooms. I also planted a grouping of three to get some mass. It worked well but made the overall look of the bed rather odd.

French Lace
Same planting as Scentimental. I loved the color and shape.

Things I learned

Over time I got better at pruning but only at the end did I begin to understand that not all roses are hybrid teas and since I kept eliminating the hybrid teas and replacing them with other types, I had to develop some sensitivity which is not a normal behavior for me. (I am still learning that as you will hear in my NorCal rose report sometime soon)

I also explored better fertilization adopting a four week cycle of fertilizers, Epsom salts and something else I don’t recall and a Spring tonics of alfalfa pellets. I got good growth but I think my pruning sabotaged the effort.

I never got to the point of thinking I was a rose expert but I was beginning to feel competent. So much so that when I was telling the landscape architect what to include in our new backyard plan, I told him I wanted some roses. He blocked out space for three.

How is it working out three years in to the new yard. I'll get back to you.

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