Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sprawling Fantin-Latour

The selection of roses for planting is such a fickle action at times.  I sometimes seek out specific roses based on their reputations, while at other times I'm struck by a photograph in a catalogue, or an intriguing hint dropped in another blog.   As a result, there are roses in my garden that I take almost for granted.  Hardly noticed for their temporary beauty, they fill in spaces and trundle on year after year, never causing trouble sufficient to sentence them to elimination by spade, nor causing enough excitement to move them to a more prominent position.

Such a rose, in my garden, is the Centifolia 'Fantin-Latour'.   I obtained her ten or eleven years ago, I believe, from Suzy Verrier's former Royall River Rose Nursery, and she has long been one of the non-remonant roses that border my back patio.  Of unknown provenance, discovered before 1938, she is undeniably beautiful in bloom, a light blush pink with sometimes a green center, and her fragrance is sweet and very strong.  When she is without bloom, however, she's a stiff, rangy shrub that wants to sprawl 4 feet in all directions and stands about 4 feet tall as well.  I would give her better marks for appearance if she was the sole rose at the party, but placed in my garden next to my favorite 'Madame Hardy', she always comes off as a poor second choice for a dance partner.  'Fantin-Latour is less-refined and more loosely arranged in blossom than 'Madame Hardy', she hasn't nearly as tight or shapely legs, and she's much more awkward in appearance.   Her stiff canes are gawky and never clothed with short stems or flowers, completely naked, in essence, from the waist down.  In a Romance novel, 'Madame Hardy' would be the prim and proper Lady of the manor, 'Fantin-Latour' the blushing but willing peasant milkmaid who pleasures the Lord on his daily travels.

I don't intend, by that comparison, any ill will towards peasant milkmaids, many of whom star in my nightly dreams just as 'Fantin-Latour' graces my garden.  'Fantin-Latour' is of hardy stock, whoever her parents were, and she has no winter dieback here in Kansas.  She gets a little minimal fungus occasionally, so I watch her for blackspot a bit when the weather is most humid in order to keep as many leaves covering her angular frame as possible.  The blossoms, cupped and very double, are a little disheveled at times, and they also get a smidgen of botrytis blight in cool wet weather, but in warm dry sun they are the equal of any beautiful rose in my garden.  The biggest positive of 'Fantin-Latour', in my mind, has been the absolute lack of care she needs.  The picture above is from 2008, blooming her head off in late Spring, and the picture at the bottom is from this past summer, halfway through a drought.  Her appearance is almost identical and I haven't taken a pruner to her at all during those years, except to remove a dead cane or two.  No gardener could ask for an easier rose to care for, nor a more beautiful one.  I, for one, will always be able to overlook her wanton desire to sprawl across my garden beds just as long as she is willing to provide an annual burst of fragrant blooms.


  1. no no no. no. not my weakness - i cannot look.

    Roses are my stable boy (akin to your peasant milkmaid) *blush* but we are still rehabbing the land due to the fire that came over our place last summer. But yet ~

    I have recently found a dealer (shhhh) in bareroot stock of heirloom roses http://www.rosesofyesterday.com/bareroot.html and my fav is on her list - Blanc Double De Courbet, a truly prolific extremely fragrant hardy white blossomed rugosa that survived zone 3 wisconsin winters year after year with no covering. And if i took the time (which I would!) to deadhead every 2 weeks, it would bloom all summer long until i would finally let it rest and make the largest hips for the birds to come in and eat during the winter...and now, now this -

    your blog of your favorite...but i must plan trees this year, only trees...for right now... ;)

  2. What is that pretty dark purple bush behind her? Thanks!

    1. If you mean the purple bush in the distance, that's a Purple Smoke Tree; one called "Royal Purple" if I recall correctly. If you're talking about the rose in the foreground to her right, that's 'David Thompson'.


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