Monday, June 16, 2014

A Beautiful Blemished Rose

ProfessorRoush has waited for years to discuss 'Lèda', the classic painted Damask rose.  I've waited because she never seemed to have a good year; as a young bush she often had only a few flowers that would always be destroyed by Spring rains, fungus, storms, or various other environmental influences.  This year, I believed, was Lèda's year.  She was not hurt at all by our tough winter, keeping her three foot stature without dieback.  Hundreds of perfect buds followed, the bush loaded with the promise of delicate beauty about to be revealed for my world.  An early flower opened to tease me with a taste of heaven.

And then she disappointed me once again.  Rains in May, just as the photo at the right was taken, turned the rest of the ready-to-open blossoms to brown botrytis-blighted mops right as they began to open.  The few that opened completely were marred, beauty stolen in the night.  Hundreds were completely browned, with a very few only mildly disfigured, like the flower pictured below.  Even worse, I think her annual problems are entirely limited to me since she is raved about in every other reference I can find.  Perhaps the former Queen of Sparta is still mad about Zeus seducing her in the guise of a swan but for some reason she only displays her anger here on the Kansas prairie.

'Lèda', also known as the Painted Damask rose, is a near white Damask bred before 1827.  She has a strong fragrance and displays, when she's not marred, a very double, reflexed, button-eye bloom form.  Some sources say she has repeat later in the season, but I've never seen it.  That's too bad, because later blooms in my annual dry July or August might not be damaged.  In my garden, at 5 years old, she's reached 3 feet tall and across, a round bush with dark green foliage.  The foliage and bush, at least, are healthy.  

I'm about to give up on 'Lèda'.  Her beauty is either not meant for this world, or at the very least not meant for Kansas.  To paraphrase Longfellow, "When she is good she is very very good, but when she is bad she is horrid."

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