Queen of Denmark

In 1816 James Booth introduced Konigen von Danemarck (Queen of Denmark). It slowly spread across northern Europe, picking up new names as it went along. Among them were “New Maiden’s Blush,” a reference to its kinship with albas, and “Naissance de Venus,” literally, birth of Venus.  Because people propagate roses even after forgetting their original names, or because the original name sounds awkward in one’s native tongue, roses accumulate new names.  A rose’s popularity is generally related to the number of names it has picked up.  And this one has picked up at least seven or eight names.  ARS members rate it 8.6, which puts it among the twenty highest rated old garden roses.  So it’s popularity seems to be based on merits that are widely evident to rose gardeners in the US.

Continue reading

Knock Out Rose and Beyond

Knock Out provides a new punch to the garden.   It’s a super-vigorous, disease-resistant, repeat-flowering, cold-hardy rose that grows into a head-high shrub inside of two years. Since its introduction in 1988 it has taken the eastern half of the United States by storm, leading millions of gardeners who had ignored or abandoned them to grow roses. In its first year alone it sold 250,000 units, and it has been about as popular ever since.  But for all their popularity, Knock Out and its close kin have been ridiculed by the most serious of the rose faithful.  Why?  Partly because they are not hybrid tea roses, and as such they don’t conform to our expectations for what a rose ought to be.  Partly because they have become common, or faddish.  Partly because they are not fragrant.

Continue reading

History of Roses: Part III

Revolution

With so many new things happening at once near the turn of the twentieth century, it’s very difficult to characterize the progress of rose development or of rose gardening very simply. It was developing on many fronts. Hybrid tea roses were being developed. Hybrid perpetuals still ruled the show benches. Climbers and ramblers were being planted widely in Europe and the US alike. Polyanthas and shrub roses popped up in gardens and parks across Northern Europe.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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