Monday, March 29, 2010

The World's Oldest Rose Breeder

Now here’s something I’ve never figured out. We buy all kinds of things based on their being created by a “favorite”. A favorite author, musician, artist, designer: so why not buy roses that way? Modern roses are bred by very talented artists and like many of our other “favorites” their work possesses a common thread.

If you like one book by an author it stands to reason you’ll probably like the others. And so it is with roses.

The late Jack Harkness wrote a book on rose breeders called "The Makers of Heavenly Roses"

I’ve always loved that title and in the spirit of that I thought I’d introduce you to some rose breeders. If you recognize some of their work as growing in your garden, I urge you try their other roses. Help Me Find Roses is a great place to explore roses organized by breeder.

So who is the World’s Oldest Rose Breeder? Was it someone who worked in the mountains of China thousands of years ago, or maybe in the Mid-East? Or perhaps a great naturalist dubbed Pliny the Pollinator?

Nope. The World’s Oldest Rose Breeder is still with us today. Don’t believe me? Get up from your computer and look out your window. There you will meet the World’s Oldest Rose Breeder. Nature herself. Long before Men and Women turned their hand towards breeding plants, Nature was hard at work using simple tools like birds, bees and butterflies.

So before we start talking about human rose breeders we will take a moment to thank Nature for giving us so many Heavenly Roses since time began.

After all, it’s not nice to diss Mother Nature.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Take a Chance - A Bon Chance That is!

Is it possible for a rose to be fragrant, winter hardy and disease resistant?  The answer in short is yes, it is.  Thanks to the late Malcom "Mike" Lowe we are blessed to have such a rose available to us.

Formerly known as "Mike's Old Fashioned Pink", Bon Chance is a one tough shrub rose.  I first met it in Mike's garden in Nashua, New Hampshire where Mike bred and tested roses he bred.  The soft pink blooms were perching on arching canes and begging for a nose to be put in them.  Always one to oblige, I did so.  And was greeted with sweet fragrance that lingered like a fine Bordeaux in a Riedel wine glass.

I asked Mike about it and he told me it was one of the latest ones he'd bred and there was a bed of them on the grounds of the Nashua City Hall.  There, like so many hardy New Hampshirites, they thrived and bloomed from spring to fall all season and simply shrugged off winter during the cold months only to emerge unscathed the following spring.

Always unsure how roses bred up north would do in the south I propagated Bon Chance and planted it here in the upstate of South Carolina.  It thrived.  In our no-spray garden the same blooms, healthy foliage and tidy arching habit were revealed.  And a test of the nose again plumbed the depths of a Riedel glass.  Plant one of these roses in your garden and take a moment to drink of the same glass.

Here are the specifics.  Shrub, light pink, Zone 5 - Introduced in 1999 by Lowe, Mike - Growth Size & Characteristics are: midsize shrub (3'-5'), fragrant, repeat flowering.

Here is where you can buy it - Rogue Valley Roses.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How low should you go?

There seems to be a competition among some rose folks as to how short they prune their roses.

"I pruned mine to 12 inches this year" is usually quickly raised by, "Oh yeah, I cut mine down to 6" - "That's nothing, I pruned mine to the below the soil level!".  I would be remiss in not mentioning these talks also usually involve the wearing of some form of rose print clothing.

Hey, if someone wants to cut their roses down to nothing and then wait all year for them to get large only to do it again then that's their business.

Me?  I like a full, shrubby, plant right from the get go so I don't prune that way.  In fact I leave my shrub roses tall - like three to four feet.  I also leave lots of canes because that also gives me a full shrubby plant.  And more importantly lots and lots of flowers.  So many you can smell them from across the yard.

If a picture is worth a thousand words than I figure a video might really do the trick.  Here are two videos on pruning.  The first introduces you to my thoughts on pruning - with a shout out to Jeri Jennings who suggested the two basic growth habits and methods.  The second is about pruning a shrub rose to give you that full look as taught to me by David Stone at Mottisfont Abbey.

Introduction to rose pruning.

Pruning a Rose That Grows From the Base

See, I told you it wasn't that hard!