I was never really very fond of roses.
They always reminded me of the same things—glittery birthday cards with balloons and baby’s breath, a room full of bouquets from a jilted lover, a Broadway star with one long stem artfully placed between their teeth on a stage scattered with blood red petals, a prom corsage with a bit of fern and a pearl tipped straight pin.
You get the picture, a saccharin-sweet token of love.
They say that roses represent love, and I guess you can say this is somewhat true in my case. Having just bought my house, I was really getting into perennial gardening. I had already started the Shade Garden in the front and the Cutting Garden in the back.
My boyfriend at the time was very interested in roses. Make a rose garden, I said, let’s use the old spot where the vegetables used to be, the soil is pretty good there (my failed vegetable garden is a whole other story!).
I was happy to relinquish control of that particular project, always hearing how difficult roses were to grow. Learning about the complicated classes and subdivisions: damask, bourbon, floribunda, hybrid gallica, grandiflora… it all just seemed daunting to me.
That was 15 years ago. I have been tending the roses on my own now for the last 6 years and I’ve learned a lot. First and foremost, I LOVE roses, it just depends on what kind :)
The garden was planted with exquisite Old Garden Roses (roses in existence before 1867). Those awful long-stemmed grocery store roses are called Hybrid Tea Roses (first cultivated in 1867) and arguably the most popular flower in the world. All new roses coming after it are classed as Modern Roses.
Old Garden Roses come in a profusion of options. Most of them share common traits that make them ideal for any garden.
First of all, they are gloriously fragrant! During bloom time the sweet and sultry rose scented air fills the whole garden from the minute you enter the front gate.
Each shrub offers a dazzling plethora of blooms borne like little fairies on a sea of delicate deep green leaves—just magical! The flowers themselves are actually quite small in comparison to Modern Roses, reaching just two inches across in most cases.
What these roses lack in size they make up for in color. Their fantastic multi-petaled blooms are saturated with rich and sophisticated colors ranging from creamy white to deep reddish purple and every shade in between.
Old Garden Roses are also naturally disease resistant and pretty easy to care for. Believe me there have been a couple of years where I just didn’t get around to pruning or weeding and I haven’t lost one yet!
The only downside to these vintage treasures is that most only bloom once a year. I know its kinda sad, but in mid to late June when the garden is in full swing they are total showstoppers.
As you know I am currently breathing new life into the rose garden. It started out as a humble vegetable patch and will soon become an outside dining room, where for at least 2 weeks every year the magical scent of roses will be the topic of conversation on every dinner guest's lips :)
I can’t wait to share the progress with you once it’s done next month.
While the roses are not in bloom just yet (it actually snowed this weekend, ugh) here are some pictures of last year’s blooms to whet your appetite ;)
Blanc Double de Coubert- 1892 (Hybrid Rugosa) was the first rose I planted in the garden. Derived from Rosa rugosa, a wild rose first found in eastern Siberia, northeastern China and northern Japan. They are super hearty and have an intense and unusual scent. Please excuse my dirty fingernails, I was working in the garden after all :))
Madame Legrase de St. Germain- 1846 (Alba) known for producing many many flowers on gracefully arching canes, this flower is probably among the most ancient cultivated roses. Super fragrant, Albas were grown by Romans for both scent and ornament.
Madame Plantier- 1835 (Alba Hybrid) has a very sweet and heavy scent, this is the one you can probably smell when entering the garden gate.
Duchesse de Montebello- 1825 (Hybrid Gallica) is a beautiful, heavily scented french stunner! Gallica roses have traditionally been used for flavoring jam as well as medicinal purposes. Josephine Bonaparte had a large collection of Gallica roses at Malmaison.
Isfahan- 1832 (Damask) also known as Parfum d' Isfahan and Pompon des Princes, has an unusual pink color mixed with a slight touch of white and a great scent . One of the oldest roses, Damask roses have been grown for thousands of years for the distillation of attar of roses.
Bizarre Triomphant- 1790 (Hybrid Gallica) aka Charles de Mills is one of the most beautiful of all roses, with a swirling mass of petals and a green button eye :) It is also quite thornless.
Roseraie de l’ Haÿ- 1901(Hybrid Rugosa) 1901 is a sister to Blanc Double de Couber, both cultivated by Cochet-Cochet in France. I have these two side by side in the garden. Their scent is probably the most intense- a combination of soap and candy.
La Belle Sultane- 1795 (Hybrid Gallica) is the most striking rose in the garden, having dramatic, deep reddish-maroon blooms fading to a pale purple or violet. It is also the largest shrub in the garden, a mass of flowers floating in a sea of leaves.
Tuscasny- 1867 or before (Hybrid Gallica) also called The Old Velvet Rose has velvety rich petals and a deep dark color ranging from purple to magenta. The scent is intoxicating :)
The trellis at the entrance to the garden is covered with William Baffin, a modern rose known for its winter hardiness and deep pink blooms, also chosen for its long bloom time and climbing ability.
The East border of the garden with a profusion of Isfahan blooms.
Madame Plantier bobbing and bouncing in the North border with Madame Legrase de St. Germaine next door.
A view South towards the Sunset Garden (aka The Outhouse Garden) with a profusion of blooms in the Rose Garden.
All the different roses on display :)