Friends, ProfessorRoush had every intention of running another beauty pageant this week, perhaps one among red roses or irises or peonies, but I'm a bit addled by all the roses blooming and wanted to show you a surprise standout this year. Most years I would keep her hidden in a closet, tending the stove or the boiler, but this year 'Blush Hip' is the debutante of the ball, Cinderella with her slipper.
'Blush Hip' is an old Alba that's been growing and slowly dying in my garden for 20 years. She's a small lass for me, never over 3 feet tall, and since she is sited next to a taller 'Therese Bugnet', she has always struggled for sunlight. She has also been out-competed by an invasive Woolly Verbena (Verbena stricta
) that grew up in her center and tried to smother her. The verbena has roots that grow up to 12 feet down and it reaches 5 feet tall so it competes for water and light and nutrients and I have a devil of a time exterminating it where it chooses to grow in the best of circumstances. I pull it and pull it and it just comes back from those deep roots, and glyphosate or 2-4-D is not an option in the middle of a valued rose. I wage a constant battle on behalf of this rose and last year I doubled my verbena-cidal efforts in an attempt to rejuvenate 'Blush Hip' and ensure her survival.
Thankfully, it seems I'm winning at present because 'Blush Hip' has responded and bloomed its heart out this spring with only a small clump of verbena still hanging on. 'Blush Hip' deserves the victory, for she is a rare Old Garden Rose of unknown provenance. She was known to exist before 1834, but introduced in Australia as 'Blush Hip' 1864. Her flower is as described and as pictured
, nicely double and light pink with a strong fragrance, but both helpmefind.com/rose and Peter Beales in his Classic Roses
describes her as a 6-10 foot tall rose, so either I was sold a pig-in-a-poke or she simply doesn't like the Kansas environment. She is reliably winter-hardy here and free of disease, so I'll take what I have, especially when she blooms like she is this year. Despite her name, however, she doesn't form seed hips, just the "hips" or "buds" of flowers. My Botanica's Pocket Roses
, itself a misnamed 1007 page monstrosity that doesn't fit in any pocket, says that many rosarians describe her as the best of the Alba roses.
I can't agree, however, with "many rosarians", if indeed 'Blush Hip' is what I have, for although the flowers are pretty, there's just something I'm not crazy about with the color of the "blush", the pink having a blueish tinge that leaves me cold. Or maybe I just like my pink on the edges rather than in the center. I much prefer the blooms of her near neighbor, 'Leda', 3 doors down, another Alba blooming well this year, although I've also had my frustrations with 'Leda', truth be told. Wait two minutes too long in bright sunlight and those ruby-edges fade to white and she's just a gangly white double rose. Or catch her after a rain or a heavy dew and the edges of the petals are already browning and she inspires no love at all. But, once in a moon, if you catch 'Leda' blooming just at the right moment, usually a newly-opened bud at mid-morning when its not yet too hot and it hasn't rained and you're very lucky, then she has no equal. Like the jewel pictured here. Beautiful, but one of only two or three on a bush with hundreds of faded blossoms present at the moment this was taken.
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