Friday, July 16, 2021

Submitted for Your Approval

 I've been bragging about this rose for years, and here it is in all it's glory:  Improved Josephs' Coat.

Now the other flowers you're seeing down on the bottom are, from left to right : pink campion, outhouse bluebells (that's what they call 'em) and mini 'Wave' petunias - the red things with the dark throats. Also to the upper right are a small drift of red mop-heads; that's bee balm, and some yellow hangy-downy podlike things - those are tiger lilies that have not opened yet.

Focus on the rose.  The spent blossoms, the leaves, the canes, and all.  Most of all, focus not on the glorious cloud of multicolored blossoms, but on the sheer perfection of the leaves and canes.

Regular, bog standard 'Josephs' Coat' is a notorious bastard of a rose.  It has all the glam of a floribunda and the drama of 'Tropicana' and all the disease resistance of a malnourished Victorian infant.  The plants are usually nude of all leaves by this time of year, and those that remain are horrible objects covered in leprosy and black spot and what have you. Similarly the ultra-thorny canes.  Just awful, and not worth the few colorful blossoms you might get. 

I found this rose, as I've said probably four times by now, in a little privately run 'curated' specialty nursery in Sequim, Washington.  It was a hot, dry day, the wind was terrible, and there was one tall cane jutting up out of the container with a truss of blossoms, and that was it.

But it was PERFECT.

And so it has continued to be.  I have been graced by the Universe with this flawless wonder of a plant.  If you can find this rose anywhere, I cannot urge you strongly enough to purchase it at any cost.  I paid ten dollars for this one.  It laughs at dry weather, strong wind, sudden rain, and hellish temperatures.  And it's just glorious.  The leaves are a matte apple green, the blossoms are doubled, and have a wonderful, hoydenish form.  The petals change color by the hour - literally.  You can almost set your watch by when each blossom opens, then goes from bright scarlet through the apricots to clear yellow, pale yellow and finally pink- and every possible tint on that spectrum.  One hour! I have literally timed it! Yes! makes the difference between a scarlet rose and an apricot orange one on the same truss!  

It holds it's petals well, and after three days any given blossom is done.  Keep the hips popped off for the next month, and then let the last ones stay on the plant.  That is an old-time trick that actually seems to work - the plant 'senses' the presence of seed-bearing bodies lingering on it's life support system and 'remembers' to make more of them next season.  They're called flowers, kids.  

If you have a very old variety of rose, like Zephyrine Drouhin, Crested Moss, The Fairy or Celine Brunner, treat it the same way.  Cull the spent petals and clip the first hips away once the first flush of flowers has gone by to get a blossom here and there for the rest of the summer on these 'one time' bloomers.  And leave that last crop of hips alone!  Cut them away, and you'll get bupkis for flowers the next year - Zephyrine will go into a two-year sulk.  Those old, old varieties are so close to wild that they really depend on the action of the natural world to regulate their systems.  You are just there to keep them from eating small children and dogs, and to clear away the deadwood.



  1. So pretty!

    Roses are considered to be notoriously high maintenance, but our native roses suit me just fine. I've got three swamp rose slowly growing in a shady spot. They would probably do better if I watered them ore, but they are in the farthest corner from the spigot so I have to haul a heavy watering can over that way.

  2. And approval you've got! Your "Joseph's Coat" is definitely worthy of bragging about. I didn't know there were roses that changed colour so spectacularly. I have a red one that turns pink after a few days, but I just put that down to fading.

  3. I hate dead heading…..hate it…….

  4. It is an impressive plant - I imagine it would brighten the garden up on even the gloomiest of days! We tend to go for mainly "muted" colours in most of our garden (blues, purples and pinks) - hence the reason we have a blue rambler "Veilchenblau" and the pink "Gertude Jeckyll" rose rather than anything in the red or orange palate. [The only exceptions being dahlias, pelargoniums and hemerocallis...]

    If we had a proper size garden however, rather than a paved yard with pots, who knows? Jx

  5. ProximaBlue: I've had swamp rose (Dog Rose, rosa 'Nootkatensis', depends on if the prickles are straight [Nootkatensis] or downcurved [Dog Rose, interbred with garden chinensis and gone wild]} and you simply cannot go wrong with them. For a hedge they are unparalleled. Tough, beautiful, with a forgiving form that you can shape to your hearts' delight and then a winter covered in brilliant vermillion rose hips - plus a delicate aroma! You git to luggin' that water, PB!

  6. Inexplicable DeVice: Oh, there's plenty out there. 'Tropicana' is the one that most people get. It's a sturdy fucker, and throws itself a party no matter how much you neglect it. Rosa 'Josephs Coat' was bred up from a sport of 'Mutabilis', which lovely, loose, wild looking beauty is still sold as an antique rose if you're the old-fashioned type.

  7. John Going Gently: Long time no see, Paco! If you hate deadheading (I assume you mean culling? Pulling the withered petals off the hips?) then just get in there with a broom handle and rattle it around! That's what I have to do with my rosa 'Cinco De Mayo' because it's a thorn covered predator. If you mean popping off the hips themselves? You're on your own, baby. It's a dangerous world out there, and frequently routine and dull. I like to take a few mg. of Vicodin and drink a couple of beers before I sally out among the roses with my secateur. Give it a try!

  8. Jon: I did the same thing for years. I love purples and blues. But one day I stood back and decided that I had the property and the location to do vivid color, and once I discovered orange, the one color that pulls all the rest of the mutihued garden into harmony if you're going vivid, I never looked back. Pot marigold is my best friend! You have no worries though. Your garden is CLASS.

  9. I went with Swamp Rose because I was afraid the Nootka Rose might get away from me. I'll keep thinking about it though. There was a lot of it where I grew up. I would eat the rose hips on long cold country runs.