Thursday, February 14, 2013

Roses for You

It's Valentine's Day, or the Feast of Aphrodite, whichever you prefer.
So almost everyone with anyone special is thinking roses.
It got me to thinking about roses, too, but not those long-stemmed beauties I saw for $60 a bunch in the grocery store yesterday.

I am thinking about the type of rose pictured at the top of this post, the Apothecary Rose (Rosa gallica), also known as the Red Rose of Lancaster. As you can see, it is actually a bright pink, but in roses, pink is red and.... well, if  you are really interested, a friend of mine is obsessed (a mild term) with roses and can do the rant much better than I can.
Souvenir de la Malmaison, once grown by the French Empress Josephine.
This rose was the emblem of the family on one side of the War of Roses that began at the end of the 14th century. It was not a war about roses at all, but a war over who would get to sit on the throne of England. The Lancaster family and the York family both claimed the right to put an heir under the crown. The York family's emblem was the White Rose of York (R. alba, see link for photo), hence the name, War of Roses.

I did not choose the apothecary rose because of its historical association with war, but because of its historical association with medicine. It was the official medicinal rose of the old apothecaries. This also is a fragrant rose.

Hot Cocoa
While many newer rose cultivars have minimal or no fragrance, the much older cultivars and those called "species" roses, because they have minimal "improvements" bred into them, have good deal of fragrance. Not all "rose" scents are alike. They vary as widely as the forms of the rose. To capture the fragrance of a rose, pick it early in the day, preferably just before it opens. Once the rose has been visited by bees and thus pollinated, the scent disappears.

The above "white" or pale pink rose, the Souvenir de la Malmaison is new to my flower garden, given to me by the above-mentioned friend with the rose obsession. Because it was new last year, it received some watering priority during the summer drought and rewarded me with numerous late blooms. It seems quite hardy. Before the middle of the 19th century, this rose (one of the "Bourbon" roses) had some name with the word "Beauty" in it. When a Russian duke gathered a start from Josephine's Malmaison grounds and took it to be planted in the gardens of St. Petersburg, it became a Souvenir. Roses are so loved that they have quite an interesting history.
Don Juan
You've just scrolled past another new rose -- new to my garden and a newer variety without the historical stories. I don't know its species, and its fragrance is slight, but it has a lovely bloom and an appealing name, Hot Cocoa.

The photo at right is a beautiful climbing rose we installed in the front of our house last year, called Don Juan. Minimal fragrance, but lovely, lovely color. It kept blooming late into the season.

This adorable little red rose (below) is called Red Mini Mo. It is a miniature rose that stays truly miniature, barely exceeding 8 inches in height at maturity.
Red Mini Mo
At the back of my garden, I have a red miniature climbing rose (which I think I have featured in photos here before) that is miniature only in its flower size, for the canes can get 10 or 12 feet long without pruning. I believe it is called Magic Carousel.
Finally, here is another miniature rose with an unusual lavender-like color. I cannot remember its particular name, but it is one of the Blaze series of miniature roses. It has no fragrance, but I love its color. And it has survived several transplantings.

Unfortunately, the only roses I have that have a notable fragrance are Souvenir de la Malmaison and the Apothecary Rose. My collection is not yet complete, however, if my rose obsessed friend has anything to say about it. So I imagine that at some future date I will be raving about some fragrant rose newly added to my "estate." If you are going shopping for roses this year, do so while they are in bloom so you can pick the fragrance(s) that most appeal to you,

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