Friday, January 6, 2012

Alexander Mac

One of the more straggly roses that I grow on the prairie is the deep pink Canadian rose 'Alexander MacKenzie'.  She provides a bit of frequent color for me in my "rose berm" bed, but more often than not, this rose is an afterthought for me when I'm looking through the garden. I hate to say it in such sexist terms, but I think of  'Alexander MacKenzie'  like an old style prairie farm wife;  a tough and thorny hide to the world and never needs any extra attention, but with occasional glimpses of beauty.  That is, when I think of her at all.

Yes, I know I'm referring to 'Alexander MacKenzie' as a "her", but, in keeping with my gender-biased impressions of plants, I just don't feel this one as a male, even if it is named after Sir Alexander MacKenzie, a Canadian explorer who trekked across Canada to the Pacific Ocean in 1793.  'Alexander MacKenzie' is one of the larger Explorer-series shrub roses, bred by Svedja in 1970 and introduced by AgCanada in 1985.  Officially a red-blend flower, I think of her primarily as hot pink, maybe a little deeper towards the red side than other Canadian roses such as 'William Baffin', and accordingly much easier to blend with other colors than the latter.  Heirloom Roses describes her as "deep raspberry-red" in "sprays of six to twelve."  'Alexander MacKenzie' has very full (over 40 petals), but small buds, which are occasionally perfect, but more often a little raggedy as pictured above and I don't detect much fragrance from the rose.  The clusters repeat several times over the summer, with breaks of four weeks or so between flushes. Several times, I've noticed that the flowers tend to ball up with Botrytis blight in damp Springs.  On the plus side, I've not had to spray her for blackspot at all and the foliage is sparse but stays glossy and green.   She grows to an unpruned height of around 6 feet for me, with vicious thorns and long whipping canes that punish you when you attempt to prune her within bounds.  Frankly, I tend to give this rose a wide berth when I'm walking down the path near her.  So far, she's been bone-hardy, cane hardy, with no winter dieback at all in my Zone 5B climate.  Officially she should be hardy into Zone 3.

 I'm portraying her as a "bad" rose, but she's really not that bad, she's just not my favorite by any means.  Certainly others like her more; I noted that on Dave's Garden, one comment from New Hampshire stated that the rose was "possibly the best rose in my garden."  I believe perhaps that I was mislead to expect too much from this cross of 'Queen Elizabeth' and ('Red Dawn' X 'Suzanne'). I love the pink perfection of 'Queen Elizabeth' and thus refuse to believe she could ever have offspring that lacked royal bearing or beauty.  Perhaps, if instead of naming the rose 'Alexander MacKenzie', it had been otherwise designated "Prince Charles", then I might have developed more realistic expectations for her impact in my garden. 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. I'm having a little trouble with your characterization of this "straggly" rose as female! Strikes me that a male explorer of old would be more than a little straggly himself, with a "tough and thorny hide," and "never need[ing] any extra attention." Grows tall. Punishes you when you attempt to prune. A rose you give a wide berth when you go by. All sounds pretty male to me!!!

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