Comments Off on Roses




Roses are weird. They’re associated with all sorts of emotional concepts and events; they’re as over bred as show-dogs; they often require a lot of work to get them looking good and they require almost no work to keep them alive. Having a really scraggly but surviving rose in your yard is dead easy. I pulled several out of the deep shade when I bought my house – they’re now in mom’s yard, where there’s a lot more sun, and doing much better.

Getting antique roses is kind of like going back before working and show dog lines diverged; you get less ‘perfect’ flowers, but usually (not always) a lot more aroma and vigor. And occasionally a lot more size. Modern roses are not being bred for their ability to eat small houses. Old roses on the other hand…

My mom took six cuttings from a Cecil Bruner at my aunt’s old place in Eugene, Oregon, around twenty years ago. She planted the healthiest in their yard, where it grew… and grew… and grew. It tended to attack people on the sidewalk. This bush was the size of their SUV. She took a cutting off that and put it in the front yard, where it was scraggly and slow growing for about five years, until it hit something – water or a decomposing squirrel or a bit or radioactive superrose juice out of a comic book – and exploded.

My folks needed to move the original when they re-landscaped, so mom cut it back to four bare canes. Dad took a trailer load of rose to yard waste. They dug it up with a tractor.

Three years later it’s as big as the SUV again, but no longer in a place where it attacks small children on the sidewalk. The smell is almost spicy, an entirely different rose smell than we’re used to, and an entirely beautiful one (I actually have a little vial of attar of rose, rose mixed with sandalwood, that is the closest I’ve smelled to a replica).

In my own yard, I’ve only go two remaining roses. The elderly lady who owned the house decades ago LOVED them, but she planted when there was a lot more sun. Now all the trees are mature, they mostly die at my place, so the rose that smells like raspberries is now thriving at mom’s instead. The hold-out, which is growing like mad with only morning sun, climbing up through the rhododendron and trying to get into my house, is a lovely dark pinky red rose you can see all over the Pacific Northwest called Dr. Huey.

No one ever plants Dr. Huey. They plant fancy schmancy roses that give you perfect florist worthy flowers, and when those fancy schmancy roses fail to thrive and new little happy shoots come up from the bottom, the frankenstein plant is revealed: the root stock is Dr. Huey.

Dr. Huey will happily grow to 12 feet tall, and all the rose blogs recommend getting rid of him. He frequently loses all his leaves to black spot, but he doesn’t die. The Good Doctor perseveres. I’m pretty sure the Dr. can’t die.

I love Dr. Huey.

So if you look at roses, and you want something that will cut beautifully for your flower arrangements, look for new ones! If you want a plant that might eat small buildings, look for an antique. :P

We have a couple of heritage roses here, because my mum adores heritage roses and gave us some. They are gorgeous when they’re in flower; the aroma they give is so much more rich than modern hybrids, but as with yours, one of ours is almost leaf free most of the year. It’s got terrible blackspot, but I don’t care because the smell is delicious :)

I’m really hoping the people buying our house love the garden, because it’d be heartbreaking to hear that they’d ripped it all out and gravelled it, or some such awful fate.

Also, because we’ve got a plant called Katherine Dykes back there, which we bought entirely because of the name, and which struggled in Slough but has flourished in Bristol :)

OMG that plant name makes me so happy, lol! As you already know, I’m hoping Katherine Dykes flourishes in the US, too. :P

The people who buy your house damn well better appreciate your garden. It looks AMAZING, from all the pics you’ve shared!

It’s Embassy Day today…. So I’m really hoping that Katherine Dykes gets to the US…! Although as Kathryn put it, today we look like /wholesome/ dykes today… With button down shirts on ‘n all…