Monday, August 13, 2012

The Catalonian

'El Catala'
The beautiful, albeit slightly heat-singed, bi-colored rose pictured at the left is the Griffith Buck rose 'El Catala', a tribute to the great Catalan rose breeder Pedro Dot (or Pere Dot i Martinez as he was known in Catalan).  The Catalonians are an ethnic group in northern Spain (including Barcelona) with their own distinct language. As a high school student, Griffith Buck was assigned by a Spanish teacher to find a pen pal from Spain.  Senor Dot became that transAtlantic correspondent, taking the time to befriend the budding rosarian in a mentoring relationship that forged a lifetime interest and friendship, although the actual letters were written by his niece, Maria Antonia.  Pedro Dot's roses are not widely distributed these days, but if you've seen any of them you would most likely have run across 'Nevada', a single white Hybrid Moyesii, or the Large-Flowered climber 'Madame Grégoire Staechelin', both bred in 1927.

Officially listed as a red-blend grandiflora, 'El Catala' was released in 1981.  The classic buds open slowly to reveal double 4 inch diameter blooms of rose-red to crimson-red on the face of the petals and very pale rose on the reverse.  The color seems to intensify in heat and sunlight.  Blooms are borne singly or in clusters up to 8 at a time and have a mild fragrance.  The bush, in its second summer in my garden, is small at present, only 2 feet tall and about 1.5 feet wide, and seems healthy but not very vigorous.  It has a slow repeat bloom, but I've seen no fungus or winter damage here during two seasons.  The seed parent was 'Wanderin' Wind', a Buck-bred pink shrub, and the pollen parent was a complex cross of a seeding of 'Dornroschen' and 'Peace' with 'Brasilia'.  It is the latter ancestor, a scarlet rose with a golden yellow reverse, that the unique coloring pattern of 'El Catala' seems to originate from.   

'El Catala'
I find the coloring to be quite similar to the 1980 William Warriner-bred eventual AARS winner 'Love', although 'Love' tends to be a little more crimson on the inside and a little more white on the outside of the petals than 'El Catala'.   I grow 'Love' here on the Kansas prairie as well as 'El Catala', and it is no contest that  'El Catala' is a much more healthy rose than 'Love', which struggles year to year to keep enough canes alive to reach a bloom-supporting size.  Although the summer heat seems to be doing its worst on the pictured 'El Catala' blooms, they hold their own the rest of the year, adding a nice and very different touch to the front of the rose garden.

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