Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Friends, Old and New

At a certain stage of life, gardeners begin to notice that their connections with childhood friends are intertwined with rare reunions and increasingly frequent funerals.  While their qualitative value seldom changes, those friends seem to quantitatively dwindle at each successive reunion or wake, until at last the gardener is forced to acknowledge that he is old and nearly alone.  Old enough that lost loves are rekindled only from memory.  Old enough to compare present with past and wistfully remember better times.    

'Konigin von Danemark'
My recent hail hellstorm put a significant damper on the number and quality of roses that are blooming this year and has left me with the feeling that I'm attending a diamond reunion of old friends and classmates, many of them missing due to illness or death.  Some lost most of their blooms.  The survival of the new little ones is still questionable.  I have, however, taken some comfort in greeting a few old friends and precious new ones who persevered through the pummeling to provide me their pleasing presence.  Take, for example, 'Fantin-Latour,' photographed above, a fifteen year survivor of the Kansas prairie, yet as delicate and refined as a society debutante.  Or 'Konigin von Danemark' (seen at left), mine a cutting from a plant on an 1850's Kansas grave.  If this rose could tell me stories, I'm sure it could keep me entertained for hours with tales of its world travels and of pioneers and death and struggle.

'Marie Bugnet'
'Marie Bugnet', the purest white angel, bloomed second and sparsely for me this year, beaten to the garden by the bright sunshine of Harison's Yellow, as I noted earlier, but 'Marie Bugnet' is cherished all the more for its few perfect blooms.  I never understand why this rose goes unnoticed by most rose fanatics, because it would be one of my "must-haves" in any future garden.  She's a little sparse, but I have placed my dreams in several new basal breaks on the bush.

'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'
'Souvenir du Dr. Jamain' added his deep red hues again to my garden, his foliage stripped away from naked canes, but each tall cane topped with a masculine carmine bloom.  I'm planning to cut him way back as soon as he finishes, in an attempt to strengthen and fill him out for a better season next year.  In fact, a number of my Old Garden Roses are overdue for rejuvenation and they're about to be given some help from my pruners.

'Due de Fitzjames'
Newcomer-to-me 'Duc de Fitzjames,' perhaps a Centrifolia and known before 1837, certainly lived up to his class, the blossom tightly packed with "red" petals and strong fragrance.  Why, I wonder, do we persist in labeling dusky pink Old Garden Roses as red when they are barely more than pink?  And is it really a Centrifolia or is it a Gallica as some sources claim?  Are there two different roses living under this name, one a deep magenta Gallica, the other a lavender Centrifolia?  This rose is young, but tough and I hope it will continue to survive.

'Gallicandy', in contrast, flashed off its neon-candy-pink blooms to perfection against the rough dark green foliage that survived the hail.   In fact, it seemed brighter than ever, perhaps taking advantage of the paucity of neighboring blooms.  The vibrant color of this Paul Barden introduction pleases me so much more than 'Duc de Fitzjames."  Or am I just biased for brighter modern dyes and colors rather than accepting of older norms?

'Snow Pavement'
One rose that I'm sure is going to be a keeper is my one year old 'Snow Pavement.'  I watched this rose for years, straggly and struggling in the shade of a large elm in the K-State Gardens, and I was underwhelmed.  Last year however, it was yet another "impulse buy" for me and I'm very impressed by the compactness of this rose in full sun.  I'm also coming to appreciate the light lavender-pink tones of 'Snow Pavement' more every day, especially when other roses aren't stepping up this year to steal away the limelight. I'm also becoming quite fond of the Pavement Series of rugosas and I plan to write more about them soon.

I'd love to have introduced you to more old and newer friends if space and time permitted, but yet another storm was on its way and Bella was wanting to move inside, her bravery under assault by the low-lying clouds trying to envelop the garden.  At least you know that my garden is a shadow of its former self, but there are treasures still to be had.


  1. Are those some ever-so-Kansan rock fence posts I spy?

    1. Yes, those are on the dividing line between my neighbor and I and then around his driveway to the south. He paid for them :)

    2. Friends, Old and New. What a beautiful post! Konigin von Danemark is a beauty and the incoming storm is great!


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