Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Altissimo Adoration

I'm still going to keep the anticipation level growing for 'Duchess of Portland', because this week I feel that I just have to show you my 'Altissimo'.  He's blooming in a third flush right now, and is quite a standout in his bed.  If a fellow of ruddy complexion does that well in a (garden) bed, then I feel he deserves a little moment of acclamation by an appreciative rosarian.

I grow 'Altissimo' as a shrub, although I know he can be used as a climber in some climates.  He's had a rough go in my garden.  When I was Zone 5B he struggled a bit and died back in the harsh winters, stretching up to 6 feet tall and then freezing down to his knees.  But since I've become Zone 6A (which still sounds a little odd and miraculous to say out loud), he's doing better summer to summer.  I also moved him about the time my climate jump occurred.  From the center of a dry bed where he seemed to sulk from being placed next to some boisterous taller ornamental grasses, I moved him to the sunny south-facing edge of a wetter bed.  He seems to like the sodden clay around his feet better than no moisture at all, or at least he likes the solitude of his placement without the encroachment of neighbors.

'Altissimo', registered as DELmur, is a cardinal red large-flowered climber who may grow to 15 feet tall in warmer climates, but I've only seen him to about 7 feet here.  The single flowers have velvety-textured petals and prominent yellow stamens and range from 4-5 inches in diameter.  Blooms are reported to have a mild clove fragrance, which I unfortunately can't detect.  'Altissimo' blooms in rapid flushes, but is rarely without a few blooms all summer long. The blooms stand out and almost glow against the dark green glossy foliage on a healthy bush with thick, stiff, moderately-thorny canes.  The foliage is fairly healthy, with a little blackspot at the bottom unless some preventatives are applied.  'Altissimo' was bred by Delbard in 1966 from a cross of 'Tenor' and a seedling.  Trimmed as a shrub, I can keep him neatly at around 3-4 feet tall, with a spread almost as broad.  The picture at the left is his third bloom cycle, still a stunning picture in the garden.

'Altissimo' is one of those roses that I think would make an excellent pillar rose if one were so inclined.  If we don't have a reversal from global warming to cooling within the next few years, I may try him that way myself because I hate to keep him chopped down when he could be reaching for the stars.  In the meantime, I can still relish his vivid red blooms at a more controlled height, shining like a beacon to drag visitors towards the back of my garden. 

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