Friday, May 25, 2012

Red Moss

'Red Moss'
I don't know why, but I somehow associate the name 'Red Moss' with the ominous feeling of doom evoked by Poe's The Masque of the Red Death,  I suppose that association only occurs because of the similar sounds of the respective name of the rose and title of the short story, but it is unsettling nonetheless.  And the feeling is blatently false, because 'Red Moss' is a troublefree and dependable rose in Kansas.  At 8.8, it also has one of the highest merit ratings by the ARS for Old Garden Roses, testifying to its good growth in most climates.

'Red Moss' or 'Henri Martin'
'Red Moss' is more accurately known to rose lovers far and wide as 'Henri Martin', an 1862 breeding by Jean Laffay.  This once-blooming rose was named for the French historian involved in the creation of the Statue of Liberty, although most who know 'Henri Martin', the rose, wouldn't know the significance of the name.  Like most of the moss roses, it has a strong fragrance and resembles a semi-double Gallica rose in bush form, foliage and flower, except for the mossy buds.  I have two 'Henri Martin', both of the same age, one about three feet tall and wide and the other, interspersed with a pair of sun-blocking taller roses, is taller, approximately four feet in height.  This rose sprawls a bit on its own, so smaller plants might be smothered within its reach if the gardener allows such a travesty.

Moss roses, for the uninitiated, have mossy-looking growths on the sepals of the buds and calyx.  These are actually a glandular mutation of the prickles and oil glands, and the moss, when brushed, adds a balsam or piny scent to the rose fragrance. All moss roses have two sepals with moss, then one without, one with, and the last of five without.  True moss roses are believed to be descendents of a sport of  a centifolia rose and first appeared around 1700.  They were bred sporadically by rosarians through the 1800's and into the current century, with several fascinating and more recent introductions by the late Ralph Moore.

I grow three moss roses, 'Red Moss', Chateau de Napoleon, and 'Old Pink Moss', the latter likely being the original centrifolia sport.  All are bone hardy in the Kansas climate and survive drought and wind without failing.  Blackspot is nonexistent on the old moss roses, however the 'Old Pink Moss' in the K-State University garden, placed in a fairly stagnant area in terms of air flow, is prone to a little mildew now and then.  If I have a complaint about 'Red Moss', it would be that the bush is sparse, with overly flexible canes and no real mass of foliage.  The flowers, however, make up for that failing as does the complete lack of need for additional care while the season progresses.  I should also point out to the unsuspecting that the color or 'Henri Martin' resembles the Redoute engraving or a "red" Gallica, really a rose-red rather than the bright red displayed by many internet pictures of it.

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