The other day when I was at Baldwin’s Nursery in Falmouth, Rob asked me what ten roses I would recommend to others and couldn’t possibly do without. I told him a few right away, but had to go home and look around the garden and make some arbitrary decisions about the others. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Charles du Milles
Snow Pavement (and Pristine Pavement)
Souvenir du Philemon Cochet/ Sir Thomas Lipton
Alchemist. My rose took a beating this winter and then I cut off the tallest cane, so I’m not expecting a whole lot of a show from Alchemist this season. However, even a few of its roses are enough to delight the eye and nose. I love how they change colours, incorporating apricot, yellow, pink and salmon into their full and fragrant blooms.
Charles deMills. This gallica only flowers once yearly, but it flowers so profusely, and with such decadently glorious rich fragrant quartered blooms…it’s allowed to do it all at once. It suckers exhuberantly but some winters has a lot of dieback too, at least here in our garden—maybe I should protect it a little bit.
I’ve mentioned Father Hugo’s rose as being a favourite because it flowers early and in great abundance: and when out of bloom, that pimpernellifolia foliage still looks great.
Hansa may be an old staple, and may sucker a little too much for some people, but there is something so decadent about standing on the back deck breathing in the fragrance of this rose. And I have lots of room for its suckers, which I simply plant here and there throughout the garden.
Henry Hudson is a modest Explorer rose from Agriculture Canada’s rose breeding line, white and reasonably fragrant—I grow it mostly in tribute to my favourite Canadian Coast Guard Ship, Hudson, ocean explorer that she is.
Polareis: Bob Osborne put me on to this robust rugosa a few years ago, and it’s never disappointed. It flowers its little head off, is nicely fragrant and the most interesting thing is that the flowers are white tinged with pink, like frosting.
Robusta: I love the clean look of single roses, whether they’re the tiny and to some, invasive, blossoms of Rosa multiflora, or large deep red beauties like Robusta. This rose has always been reliable although it probably would make a good climber if I had it in a different location than right in the middle of a border!
Snow Pavement (Schneekopf): If I could only have one rose, this would be it. Perfection is this rose; hardy as all get out, gorgeous flowers the colour of whipped cream with a little blackberry juice beaten in, (thank you Barbara Wilde, author of Growing Roses Organically, for that perfect description—and that perfect book!) Oh, and it’s fragrant as all get out too, and reblooms, and grows in shaded conditions, or in full sun….
I seem to have a thing for white roses—even though many of them are inclined to ball here, when the weather is foggy and wet for days on end—because they are always so fragrant. At least the ones I like are. Souvenir du Philomen Cochet, as I wrote recently, is a sport of Blanc Double du Coubert, but I like it even more especially when its blossoms are so packed with petals that it looks quartered. Sir Thomas Lipton is a robust grower, supposedly reaching four feet but easily hitting seven without pruning in one part of our yard—and I have a friend whose rose is even taller. Thorny, very thorny, but beautiful.
Topaz Jewel is a yellow rugosa hybrid. It’s just about the thorniest rose I’ve ever encountered—worse than Sir Thomas Lipton—but it’s this lovely soft yellow and softly fragrant, though the flowers shatter easily and aren’t much good for cutting. That’s okay, though. Ours is planted in Marilyn’s Memory Garden, along with a lovely Golden Wings single rose.
The thing about roses in our gardens: they have to be tough (preferably on their own roots rather than grafted) and they have to be prepared to be gardened organically. I prune the deadwood out, feed them some seameal, bone meal and the occasional banana peel and coffee grounds, along with mushroom compost, and that's IT. No sprays other than water if the aphids get overzealous. There's no black spot in these roses, and they are all at least five years old, which can be a challenge in this garden. We've lost a number of roses, most interestingly the Morden roses from Morden, Manitoba. My thought on this is that in Manitoba, winter gets cold, stays cold and provdes a lot of snow cover, whereas here, we all know about what the winter does. A fellow rose lover who has far, far more roses than I ever will had a number of losses or plants being killed right to the ground, this past winter; those 15 degree F days in January followed by a cold snap probably had a lot to do with that. So roses need to be able to cope with tough love up here, or else they get replaced with something that does.