Sunday, June 7, 2020

Display Garden, Sumas, WA

This devolves into a discussion of roses, just so you know.

Our town has an 'Old West' theme.  And I live in a house that was built before Washington was a state, a poor mans' Carpenter Victorian, and so I felt that I would stay in keeping with my towns' theme and grow an old fashioned display garden.  All the front beds are symmetrically arranged and planted, tall on the sides, short toward the middle of the yard, framing the front of the house.  Because I've been building this garden for over twenty years, all the plants are mature and need dividing and pruning, and that's fine.  I'm at the age where I'd rather do maintenance than construction.  And I have left enough yard so I can zip around on my riding lawn mower with it's little wagon and look all pro. Do I have a single dandelion?  I most certainly do NOT.  And I live on four city lots. Yeah, I'm really that awesome.

I did not set out to grow white flowers or mess with needled shrubs, because I grew up in the suburbs and everyone had that mess, along with  Red and Yellow Darwin tulips and some blue crocus in the spring around the apple tree in the front yard.  And there's nothing wrong with that, it's better than nothing, but my grandmother, who lived next door to us, had a Display Garden, and anything my grandmother did, I do.  I owe that woman everything that's good about me, and she grew a garden that was meant to be shared with people, that was an ornament to the neighborhood.

Gardening is an addiction.  You put in a few German Iris, a couple of Arborvitae, some simple stuff, and at that point you can either say "Yeah, that's good," or "You know, I think a nice pillaring rose would look good by the side of the house...." and you're done.  Welcome to addiction.

It's why I now have a white rose, a plant the size of an igloo that gets covered in small white blossoms all summer long.  It's why I have an evergreen drift in the back yard, with a Yellow Hemlock and a Blue Juniper side by side, both conical, surrounded by miniature evergreen this and that shrubs. It's why I have a 'White Star' magnolia tree.

Oh, I have ALL the colors.  Foliage, form and blossom, it's all here, every color of the rainbow, with blue a distinct favorite.  I have so much color that I needed the white to offset it. Without white, you glance and look away and your mind perceives 'orange.'  With white here and there, all the other colors buried in the green foliage are augmented with sparkle.  Think of the difference between a flat pool of water and one with wavelets. That twinkle turns it into something more than a blur.

I most certainly did not mean to go into roses.  I wanted one in front of the house for sentimental reasons, and I found an old, old variety growing alongside an old church.  I asked the pastor if I could take a slip (something I don't always do) and he happily agreed.  That slip took like gangbusters.  I get hundreds of trusses of small, vermillion-pink blossoms, more blossom than leaf most summers.  I've taken so many starts off that plant -  and those starts take off like a house afire - that at least six people in town are now growing that very same rose, all from that one plant next to the old church in Nooksak, WA.

I knew a woman in town who also grew a beautiful display garden.  We used to visit and talk.  She's since passed, but not before giving me a slip of her pillaring rose 'Sombreuil' which gets a pink and white striped, fully double blossom, and smells like HEAVEN.  You can literally smell this rose in bloom from across the street.  I have it planted next to the front door so that the aroma can permeate the house.

I was lucky enough to find rosa 'Improved Josephs' Coat' in a little quirky nursery in Sequim.  'Josephs' Coat' was the Holy Grail rose back when I was a kid.  They're known for their extreme susceptibility to diseases and their outrageously thorny canes.  My version, exceedingly rare, is clean as a hounds' tooth and bulletproof.  It's in blossom now, and the display is ever changing, like weeks of sunsets, every day a different combination of reds, oranges, and yellows, an airbrushed effect, and simply astounding - a real show stopper.  People ask me 'Is that Tropicana?' because that's the rose you grow when your Josephs Coat craps out on you.  "Nope," I say.  They go away and think "She's sooooooo cool." and I am, but when it comes to roses, I just got lucky, and the downhill plunge into addiction commenced.

I've had failures.  Oh God have I ever. "Intrigue" hated me at first sight.  I tore it out this Spring, no regrets.  Now if you live in a temperate climate, do PLEASE grow this rose; it's pure murex purple and it smells gorgeous, but it wants mild winters, good drainage, and it's a very heavy feeder.  If you have mild winters, a protected spot in full sun, acid soil and access to horse manure, this is the rose to grow. It's a specimen quality plant in the right circumstances.

Similarly, rosa 'Don Juan' slapped me across the face and told me to fuck off and die.

Rosa 'Black Baccara'? Slapped me, went joyriding in my car and took twenty dollars out of my purse before it croaked.  If you live  south of the Mason Dixon line, both these roses will joyously reach toward Heaven and sing halleluja.  You will get glorious, high-centered, spiralling, rich-scented roses perfect for cutting and competition  from 'Black Baccara' and it breaks my heart that it's just too tender for my biome.

"Lady Banks," a true vine, a twining rose, just cried itself to death.  I had it in a less than optimum place, though, so I'm playing with the idea of giving it another go.  Like I have room, which I don't.

You see how it progresses?  You fall in love with a pretty face and you have to have it. You find a place, or make a place, any place, make rash and foolish decisions, and either become a slave to the beast or learn to live in harmony - or hold a funeral.

'Night Owl', 'Fourth of July', 'All-American Red' (no scent), 'Cinco de Mayo' and 'Hot Chocolate' are highly recommended. "All A-Twitter'(neon canteloupe orange) and 'Sunsplash' (stripes of highly saturated yellow, red and orange) are on the fabulous end of the rose spectrum and both smell like cotton candy!

 If I had limited space and wanted a rose that would give me gorgeous blooms all season long, beautiful perfume, a reliable bushy form and lots of thorns to capture and hold miscreants, 'Hot Chocolate' would be my rose.  It is hardy as hell, the leaves are a glossy green, and the blossom color is like a dying ember, sooty orange and incandescent. It smells great too. I would honestly plant this rose in front of a first story window and leave that window open all summer long, day and night, and never worry a minute, serious as a heart attack.  Nothing made of meat that wants to come through those canes is going to get through. It is scary thorny and very woody and tough. If  Mr. or Ms. Crackhead wants to try, they'll still be hanging there in the morning, and you can poke them with a broom and laugh until the police come by.

I have rosa Damascena performing guard duty at my living room window for this very reason. Since I have a huge picture window there, I chose a rose with a very open, airy form so it lets the light and the view through. You get one flush of heavily scented red blossoms, but the leaves smell like apples all season long, and the canes are very flexible and have hooked thorns - think of Stalag 13.  I've shaped it into a fan and interlaced the canes, so it looks interesting all year long, and fantastic with a crackhead hanging from it.

Two roses I recommend with reservations are rosa rugosa 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup' and 'Zephyrine Drouhin.'  Both of them are hardy, but they tend to come up all over the yard, and you only get one flush of blossoms.

'Zephyrine' has no aroma, baby pink double blossoms, and is prone to sulk for a year or two after a hard cutting back.  It reaches for the stars, and wants to take over the world. These can get twenty feet tall, folks, with a tree to lean against.  If you want a tall, leafy green...thing, with very few thorns, this is the rose to go for. Hey, some people want that. It's so vigorously upright that I have it trained up an old folding latter for a support. My Zephyrine rose came from a mother plant that is 101 years old.  It was brought from Europe, around Cape Horn, and was planted alongside a farmhouse up in the mountains nearby.  I traded some tiger lily to a hippie for the start, and I'm pleased to have it, even though it's a brat.

'Frau Dagmar' can be destructively invasive, rending apart cement walkways, patios, and foundations.  I have it planted far, far away from the house, in a spot where I wanted something that would form a thicket, and it did that job very well.  It repays you with ruffly leaves, a nice aroma and pretty red new growth.

My very favorite rose of all time?  David Austins 'Munstead Wood.' Like Mary Poppins, it is practically perfect in every way. You get a four-five foot high shrub that gracefully arches over, and bears deep, red, rich, velvety, sooty, sensuous double-double blossoms that smell like rose-honey-rose. There is not a bitter note or an offputting tang. It has the most perfect true rose fragrance out there, besides 'Sombreuil.' The leaves are shiny and clean, the form is manageable, the blossoms don't droop, and it pumps out the flowers all summer long.

The crappiest rose?  Crested Moss Pink.  It's just ugly. The plant is ugly, the canes are weak, the blossoms droop and are an unremarkable pale pink, you only get one flush of bloom, and the blossoms smell like baby powder.  The only thing it has going for it are the strange, ruffly, interesting flower buds, which are covered in funky sundew tendrils that smell like pine.  And that's cool, it really is.  The plant, spring fresh, covered in unopened buds, is .  Unfortunately, those buds open, the boring flowers face downward, and the whole plant just goes 'bleaaaaah'.  And you're stuck with this ugly, messy looking thing for eleven and a half months a year, unless you rip it out, per Vita Sackville-West. Life is just too short, you know?


Mistress Maddie said...

Well I just bet when Mrs Merriweather and Aunt Pittypat come walking past they just adore your place?

It sounds divine by your description dear. All my garden in done at the mothers since I have but a small pied de terre, unless you count the potted three leafed plant I have growing behind a huge ass hedge near the corner of the apartment house, and in amongst the lily of the valley. Now my dear aunt has rose bushes out the ass, upwards of 35 bushes. She's out there every day pruning and primping...all that would cut into my happy hour I'm afraid. But she has one called a lavender crush...simply beautiful.

Steve. Because 'Steve' is almost as nice a name as 'Paul'. said...

Your dear aunt and I have something in common! And look at you and your three leaved plant. That counts. You are gardening. And Oh My God Lavender Crush? I GOTTA HAVE IT!

Gale said...

Roses. I don't have any. I do have a dirt garden out back and lots of stuff in pots. LOTS.