Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Harlequin Rose - A Sport of Brilliant Pink Iceberg

Some of you may remember my first post about a Brilliant Pink Iceberg that has always been a bummer in my garden. It did, indeed, get shovel pruned a couple of weeks ago. I do have another rose bush of that variety, though, that does reasonably well for me...go figure. This one survivor, however, has produced a sport. In case you're not familiar with the term, a sport is a genetic mutation. It usually causes one branch to produce flowers that are not true to the variety. Brilliant Pink Iceberg, for example, was a sport of Pink Iceberg, which was a sport of Iceberg (a white rose). Apparently, Iceberg (of whatever variety) is prone to genetic mutation. I've seen reports of Pink Iceberg frequently sporting back to a branch of white blooms, like it's parent Iceberg. I have not, however, been able to find anything on the net about BPI sporting half white and half pink petals and blooms like this:

Isn't that just crazy? I have two branches on this bush producing these harlequin style blooms. Even stranger, some of these blooms have petals with the 1/2 and 1/2 coloring - sometimes bright pink and white, sometimes bright pink and pale pink. Check it out:

Imagine a rose whose blooms were entirely made up of 1/2 and 1/2 petals or one that always produced the half white, half pink blooms like the one at the top left in the photo above. I'd certainly buy a rose like that, wouldn't you?

I'm taking cuttings this year to see if this unusual coloration is stable and can be replicated. Not all sports are and I don't have my hopes too high. Still...just the possibility is pretty exciting. Who knows? Maybe, one of these days you'll walk into a nursery and find a harlequin rose called "The Jester," a sport discovered by Jean LaRue.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Are threre REALLY black roses?

...ummmm...no. The truly black rose is like the holy grail of rose breeding. So far, it only exists in mythology. In actuality, the so-called "black" roses are dark red, deep maroon, or dark purple. I like some of the black roses even if they do fall short of being truly black. They can be quite stunning in the garden, particularly when companion planted with white flowers for a stark contrast.

One of this year's additions to my garden is Black Baccara. It's difficult to capture the true color of this rose on film, but the coloring in these photos is reasonably close. When this rose is in tight bud, it's dark...really dark...and does give the illusion of a black rose. As it begins to open, however, it's obvious that it's true color is a deep maroon red.

Black Baccara was bred by Alan Meilland (France) in 2000 and introduced to the U.S. in 2002. It's classic high-centered tea rose blooms, unusual color, long thornless stems, and glossy green foliage made it an instant success with florists. Dark red roses have long been popular for use in sympathy bouquets and in floral arrangements for funeral or memorial services. What could be better for such occasions than a rose so dark red as to be almost black?

Interestingly, the Black Baccara has also become quite a popular flower for bridal bouquets. The darkest red rose symbolizes the deepest passion (or so they say). Both these bouquets would be wedding showstoppers. Don't you think? But, I digress...

As a garden flower, Black Baccara has been a great performer. I put it in a partly shaded location where it gets morning sun only. The hot afternoon sun will either scald the blooms or cause the dark color to fade badly. The color of the blooms is not only effected by too much direct sun, but varies with temperature. Cooler weather will produce much darker blooms. As it warms up, the flowers lose a good deal of the dark pigmentation and look, instead, like a the deep red of Mr. Lincoln.

If you like dark red roses, Black Baccara should be in your garden. If for no other reason, this rose is a terrific long-stem cut flower that (with care) lasts a full two weeks in the vase. I use a tablespoon of bleach in the water and then replace the water and re-cut the stems after 1 week. If you'd like to intensify the dark color, add 5 or 6 drops of India ink to the water. Just don't leave that vase where it can be knocked over by children, pets, or clumsy husbands. LOL This rose's only shortcoming for me is its lack of fragrance. I think roses should smell as beautiful as they look and seldom choose varieties that have no fragrance. This rose is so exceptional in other ways, I chose to overlook this one point.

Black Baccara may not REALLY be a black rose, but it'll do for me until something better comes along.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hollyhocks, Geraniums and Phlox, Oh My!

Hollyhocks remind me of my grandmother and when I think old-fashion garden flowers, they're right there with geraniums, phlox, daisies, gladiolas, and petunias. The old-fashion flowers are the perfect companions for roses, my favorite flowers of all. All of these and more are essentially mandatory if you're going for the English cottage garden style. This was my garden style for a decade or so and I delighted in it.

On the downside, the cottage garden is fairly labor intensive. Weeds are the bane of its existence and weeding is strictly a hands and knees operation. When 2 aspirin and a soak in a hot tub could no longer remedy the aches and pains of a lost weekend spent weeding, I found new homes for many of my old-fashion perennials. I ordered a dump truck load of bark, held onto the roses, and planted a select few specimen plants, like the hollyhocks, amongst the roses.

I'm down to a single large bed, a cutting garden, where I pay homage to the annuals and perennials I love. This year, geraniums, phlox, dahlias, alyssum, foxglove, petunias, zinnias and four o'clocks surround a dozen pink Simplicity roses. The weeds persist, but the task of pulling them out by their nasty little roots no longer seems like a mountain too high to climb.

The pink Simplicity roses have been a terrific choice for this bed. Simplicity is a floribunda introduced to the U.S. in 1979 by Jackson & Perkins. Simplicity is aptly named. The double blooms average just 17-25 petals and give the impression of the single bloom species roses in grandma's garden in those halcyon days before hybrid teas. When given plenty of food and water, Simplicity resists disease well. The most endearing quality, perhaps, is its delicate, perfectly formed buds. A little florist's wire and green tape - voila! - the perfect corsage or boutonniere for that special occasion. This rose grows to about 5', but can be pruned back in early spring and mid-summer to keep it from becoming too leggy. I've seen these planted cheek-by-jowl as a hedge rose, too. Absolutely stunning. They last only 3 or 4 days in a bouquet, but a pretty addition nonetheless.

Speaking of daisies...this low-growing variety is fabulous. Too many years have passed since I first planted it, so I can't tell you what name to ask for at your garden center. Unlike the Shasta variety, these are just 24" tall with a mounded growth habit, so they won't fall over at the first sign of wind stronger than a whisper. Best of all, they last more than a week in the vase. If there's anything more cheerful than daisies, I'm not sure what it is. A single plant is all you'll need. They grow rapidly in a single season and are easily divided in the fall or early spring. In a few years time, you'll have all the daisies you've ever wanted.

Here's a few more photos for you to enjoy...

"Rhumba Fire" zonal geranium, "Dreams Rose" petunias, white dwarf dahlias

"Charleston" zonal geranium - unusual coral pink color

"Blues" zonal geranium - variegated pink with pale pink eye next to "Dreams Rose" petunias

Bicolor phlox, bright pink with white star center

Double coral pink hollyhocks amongst the roses

They say that everything old is new again. If you're looking for a new direction for your garden, maybe some of these old garden flowers will fill the bill.