Monday, January 24, 2011

Ballerina Dances

It perhaps will come as a surprise to serious rosarians that the Hybrid Musk rose 'Ballerina' grows and flowers well here in the Flint Hills. Or to a really serious rosarian, perhaps it is not a surprise.  It is rated as a Zone 6 rose in many sources, so trying it out in my garden was one of those occasional (okay, frequent then) stretches that many gardeners seem to take in a fit of zone-envy.  The upshot of this experiment is that I've got several own-root specimens of 'Ballerina' growing in my garden and in all respects, 'Ballerina' is a trouble-free, hardy rose here in the Zone 5B Plains region.

'Ballerina', released in 1937, is a cloud of pink flower trusses during the main rose season, and it reblooms sporadically over the summer and fall.  Blossoms are single with bright yellow stamens and the blush pink tones often fade quickly as the hot sun burns the petals in the Kansas sun.  It is a fragrant rose, as advertised, but I find the fragrance fades with the pink color here in the wilting Kansas heat. I leave the blooms alone without deadheading because I enjoy the small orange hips that form a spectacular display as Autumn and Winter come along.  As an own-root rose, 'Ballerina' stays about 4 foot tall wherever it grows in my garden and I have not detected any winter dieback in the past decade.  I've seen a wondrous five foot specimen in the Denver Botanical Garden as well, so I know it will take the winter in other Zone 5 areas as well.  I never spray the rose and it does not become denuded by blackspot in the worst of summers.  It also tolerates shade exceptionally well for a rose, blooming profusely in my back landscape bed close to the house and overshadowed by a  7 foot tall NannyberryViburnum  (Viburnum lentago).  'Ballerina' makes an excellent hedge and its thick foliage can be pruned to shape or the thin canes allowed to spill over a wall or other structure.

I originally purchased Ballerina because I recalled it was listed as a "dancing" rose in a 1993 American Rose Society article where the author, Anya-Malka Halevi, described four of her favorite roses that have flexible canes that dance in the wind.  I've got plenty of wind available and my biggest problem with wind is that it breaks off new rose canes.  I hoped Ballerina would thus be strong in the wind and in fact, the flexible canes stand the wind well.  Unfortunately, checking the original article again, I see that I had a bit of a senior moment and probably confused the Ballerina name with the desired activity, for the four roses described by Ms.Halevi were 'Therese Bugnet', 'Madame Plantier', 'Honorine de Brabant', and 'Sir Thomas Lipton'.  Ballerina, it seems, dances only in my mind.  But as long as she thrives in my climate, she's welcome to stand in as a dancer in my garden anytime.

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