History of Roses: Part I

“I have loved only Napoleon and roses” Jean Pierre Vibert a French breeder of roses in the month of his death, January1866 at the age of 89. The Quest for the Rose p 105.

The rose has been cultivated in the west at least as far back in time as the Babylonian civilization. At the start of the nineteenth century, China was about as far along in rose breeding as was the west, so  it is not unreasonable to believe that the culture of the rose might be at least as old in the far east. There are stories about Romans cultivating great fields of roses and using their petals in imperial celebrations. There are stories of knights returning from the crusades and bringing with them garden roses from Persia and Assyria. There are reasons to believe that the roses painted by Rembrandt’s contemporary Rachel Ruysch were special cultivars of local (Dutch) breeding. Indeed the rose has been entwined with human culture for millennia; but the real start of rose history, of large scale distribution, and of intense rose breeding begins with Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison.

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The Rose in Winter

The deer have moved south for the winter, and frost has begun to take what the deer left in the garden.  First it was the pumpkin plants about two weeks ago. Then it was the Dahlias. Most of the roses still have foliage.  Some will hold their leaves through most of the winter, here, hoping that the moist soil and bright afternoon sun will provide a return on their investment.

Some will win this bet using winter sunlight to stretch their roots ever further into the soil and be in a much stronger position next spring.  Others, though, will lose the bet and find their resources depleted when spring weather finally arrives.  In the three or four weeks prior to the last frost they will have committed the whole of their remaining strength to the promise of spring and will put out lush foliage.  Then, at the last frost, this tender new growth will freeze to death; and the plant will die. Continue reading

Why Won’t My Rose Bloom?

It’s probably happened to everyone who has cultivated roses for a while.  You put the rose into the ground at the right time of year.  You follow the planting directions scrupulously. You keep the rose watered as it sets leaves and makes canes.  You fertilize it.  And the first year … nothing.  So the next year you prune it and fertilize it some more.  And still nothing.  The rose doesn’t bloom.

There are lots of places on-line where people complain of the problem, but few places undertake to list all the causes.  Here’s a pretty complete list to consider if your rose fails to bloom. Continue reading

Mauve and Fragrant

Perhaps it was Sterling Silver that set the expectation that mauve, lilac, and purple roses ought to be fragrant.  Angel Face supported that idea.  So, too, did Lagerfeld.  Regardless of origin, our sense is that the purplish rose must prominently feature scent. The list of exceptional fragrant roses is long.  But not all are good garden roses.  Sterling Silver needs exceptional care to just get by in the best of climate. Lagerfeld has a reputation for being a difficult rose, too. Angel Face, though is a perennial favorite because it is considered a rose of easy culture. Perhaps it is, but I have failed with its climbing sport. Continue reading

Deer. Dear Me!

Every day of spring 2011 I went into the garden soon after the sun peeked over the south mountains.  I would water all the new roses, if they needed it.  And I would pull up weeds here and there.  The previous year had proven to be a measured success, and I had recently added a few dozen roses.  By mid May they had all leafed out.  They were growing long, tender new canes.  And they were very active in making rose buds.  The buds swelled and several opened.  I prepared myself for a generous spring display.

The third day in June there was a full moon.  I came out the next morning to find that every single rose bud in the garden had been nibbled away.  And that much of the new foliage on my newest roses was gone, too. I was crushed.  Not just for the loss of a spring’s worth of rose blossoms, but for the setback the youngest roses had suffered.  Continue reading

Lust List, Fall 2012

At every point in time there’s a long list of roses I’ve wanted to be growing in my garden but am not for one reason or another.  It’s sort of a long list of candidates for the wish list which eventually gets worked into a set of orders.  Schematically it’s Lust List -> Wish List -> Orders.  Here’s the list as it stands at one moment in time in October 2012.  What’s on your lust list?  Continue reading

Frost Bytes: Autumn 2012

Frost lingers in the forecast:  light this time, but sure to get heavier soon.  The roses are still green with leaves, but they’ve stopped making new shoots.  And bambi has stopped nibbling them. Soon cold weather will complete the job bambi abandoned to move south for the winter.

The fall orders are already in at the trendy mail-order rose nurseries, even before some others got their catalogues on line for the season. Knowing that we can expand the boundary of the rose garden by placing a new bed  here or there, we dream of new roses blooming in the garden. Continue reading

Hello world!

Though it hovered on the horizon as the bulletin board project  failed for reason after reason, the blogging project got started almost as a lark. I wanted to communicate observations about roses  from online research and from gardening to fellow rose gardeners; it wasn’t really working because of the medium.  So I tried a new medium.  Lots of questions linger.

What would a blog look like? How would it sound?  To what extent is it about garden writing and to what extent is it about roses?  How should it engage? How should it inform?  Can we get it to look good?  Can we pull together photos and text to give people a real sense not just of the great beauty of gardening, but of the hope, the dreaming, the planning, the digging,  the sweating, the heartbreaks, and the joys of the enterprise?  Who can say?

Please join us so we can find out together.