Wednesday, January 30, 2013

David Thompson Lives (For Now)

It is a poorly-kept secret that our Government officials, soon after being elected or appointed, quickly learn to use Friday as a day to dump bad news on the unsuspecting public.  Few of us, the over-taxed serfs, take notice of anything except family and fun on Friday nights and weekends.  The goal is to divulge the bad news Friday after the newspapers have been written and then hope that it'll be forgotten by Monday.  Following that example, I'm going to use the dead of winter to finally discuss 'David Thompson' in Garden Musings.  Maybe that way someone, somewhere will still find him worthwhile to grow.

'David Thompson' is one of the Explorer Series Collection of roses.  It was released by Agriculture Canada in 1979 and bred by Dr. Felicitas Svejda.  Named after a famous British-Canadian fur trader, 'David Thompson' is officially a medium red Hybrid Rugosa rose that repeats occasionally throughout the summer.  My mature, 11 year old specimen has never grown lower than three feet tall nor higher than four feet tall, and it has is 3-4 feet in width as well, a rotund aging specimen much like the local gardener.  The leaves are strongly rugose, and the flowers open quickly to flat semi-double disorganized disks with golden stamens.  'David Thompson is thought to be the result of an open pollination between 'Schneezwerg' and 'Fru Dagmar Hartopp'. 

I thoroughly hate this rose.  It holds a prominent spot in my back landscape bed and I have regretted placing it there from that first summer at this house.   Why, you ask, do I hate 'David Thompson'?  Let me count the ways.  First, the official description of medium red really means, in similar fashion to other roses described as medium red, that it is really a lousy shade of glaring bluish-pink that clashes with the clear pink tones of 'Carefree Beauty' to the west and the pale pink of 'Fantin Latour' to the east (see the photo below).  Second, the frequent white-streak added to the petals only make them look less refined. Third, even though a relatively small Rugosa, it is a thorny vicious beast, grabbing me every time I dare to shortcut across the bed within its reach.  Fourth, although it doesn't sucker far, it does sucker, slowly expanding the width of the clump and threatening to take more lebensraum than it deserves.  Fifth, the flat flowers are as uninspiring in form as they are in color, and they bring to mind a teenager's messy bedroom-nest, a phenomenon that I hoped to have left behind by this stage in life.  Sixth, although described as being "strongly fragrant", it has only mild, if any fragrance, to my personal sniffer.  All of that, and one more thing; the petals crumple quickly in the extreme heat of August, like fried pink potato chips.

'Carefree Beauty', left, and 'David Thompson', right
After reading my previous not-high praise, your second question must surely be, "why don't you spade-prune him if you hate him so much?"   To my constant chagrin, I must, in fairness, disclose that "David Thompson" remains so carefree and healthy that I have not yet become disgusted enough to take that final act, even though I annually reconsider that decision during the first bloom period.  'David Thompson' needs no extra water, no fertilizer, will almost always have a bloom or two somewhere, and he is bone-cold hardy down to USDA Zone 2.  He blooms almost incessantly, although never prolifically after the first flush.  It never has blackspot or mildew or insect damage.  My only hope is that he succumbs to a good infection of Rose Rosette disease.

I did have a good laugh while researching this rose.  A comment from "Monika" on the listing for 'David Thompson' states it is an "ugly Rugosa thing establishing its sucking roots in my garden only because I mistook it for 'Henry Kelsey', but hey, it blooms!"  Monika, whoever and wherever you are, I think that sums up my feelings on 'David Thompson' perfectly!


  1. haha! I enjoyed this post. I think we all have our roses that we secretly hate - and it's so refreshing to hear that, even though this rose does seem to have some redeeming qualities. And I actually think it's a pretty, cheerful pink. Maybe you just need to move it to a different location.

  2. Sounds like my Lady in Red hydrangea. It blooms, but....


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