Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Color, Winter Sunset

One of the rarest colors of roses has always been that perfect apricot-orange color that I, myself, happen to really covet.  Do we like it only because it is rare?  Is it just a hard color to reach with a rose-breeding program?  Is it rare because yellow, itself, is such a relatively new color in Western-bred roses, considering that they were unknown before the Persian rose was introduced to Europe?  Regardless, it seems like every rose that hits that perfect hue of golden-peach-orange ends up on the popular list, whether it is 'Alchymist' or English rose 'Abraham Darby', or the new Paul Barden gallica 'Marianne'.

 Every year, as Autumn rolls around and provides other red and gold hues to mix in arrangements, I appreciate more and more the glorious display and delicious color of another of these copper beauties, the Dr. Griffith Buck-bred rose 'Winter Sunset'.  'Winter Sunset' is a shrub rose introduced in 1997 whose deep saffron-yellow buds open as large, fully double orange-yellow blossoms. Parentage of this rose is supposed to be the Buck rose Serendipity (seed) and a cross of Country Dancer and Alexandra (pollen). The blooms are borne continually from June through frost in clusters of 3 to 7 flowers on a three foot tall shrub.  The foliage of 'Winter Sunset' is dark green and glossy, and here in my Flint Hills garden it seems to be almost completely resistant to blackspot and I've never seen mildew on the plant.  This rose, like many of the Buck roses, is completely cane-hardy here in my zone 5B winters.

If I've had any difficulty here with 'Winter Sunset', it is that new canes seem to be easy to topple in the Kansas winds, so I have to make sure I "tip prune" each new cane before it reaches two feet high so that I cause the cane to strengthen and thicken before the large flowers weight it down. 
'Winter Sunset' will eventually open to expose a more yellow base and golden stamens, and it ages to a pink-orange hue on the outer petals, but the hybrid-tea style buds open slower than most of the Buck roses in my garden and so I get to enjoy them longer, both outside and, if cut, as house roses.  Fragrance is slight but present, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush tells me that she considers it fragrant so I don't quibble over its true degree of fragrance.  In a vase, with red fall leaves and foliage from other shrubs, it will make a dazzling group for the house.
So if you are in the market for hardy, unusual, healthy roses, try 'Winter Sunset' in your garden.  I consider it one of the best flowers Dr. Buck created, rivaled only in health by 'Prairie Harvest' and 'Carefree Beauty'.

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