Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Visit to the Past: Roses of Yesterday

"Frequently it is said that 'old-fashioned roses are all singles', or 'they bloom only in small, rosette clusters', or 'they only flower in spring'. I am reminded of Artemus Ward's Definition of Ignorance - 'Knowin' So Many Things that Ain't So.' "

Queen of Denmark, alba
This is a quote from my copy of the 1959 rose catalog published by Roses of Yesterday, probably the oldest antique rose nursery in the US.

As far as I understand, the nursery used to be called "Roses of Yesterday and Today" and then dropped the second half of its name



This nursery is located just outside Browns Valley near Watsonville, conveniently on the way between our house and the beach. The valley is full of orchards and vineyards and is a beautiful, serene place to visit.



On my first visit to the nursery I was sure our GPS was wrong when it told us to drive into a deeply shaded canyon overgrown with giant redwoods covered with moss and ivy. Who could grow roses with so much shade?

Felicia, hybrid musk
And what about root competition from so many trees?

F.J. Grootendorst, hybrid rugosa











Despite my reservations, roses appear to have been flourishing here for many decades.

Common Moss, moss


The nursery does sell a few modern and David Austin roses, but most roses in the display garden are antiques.

Buff Beauty, hybrid musk


Because it is cooler and shadier than where we are, their roses bloom at least a month later, and on our recent visit we were rewarded with big displays of once-blooming roses...

Newport Fairy, hybrid multiflora






...some of which ramble hundreds of feet up stately redwoods, a spectacular sight.


It was very refreshing to come here on a hot day and stroll in a cool shady garden full of blooms....

Sally Holmes, hybrid musk

.... along paths strewn with fallen petals.....

Paul's Himalayan Musk?, rambler

... and turn a corner to come upon an unexpected view of a blue hydrangea smothering an old bench.



When I started collecting roses, I was surprised to discover that such a seemingly peaceful and innocent hobby can arouse strong feelings and heated debate, not the least of which concerns various rose vendors. The debate as to which is the best one still continues, and is unlikely to be settled in the foreseeable future :), as there seem to be as many opinions as there are customers...

Souvenir de la Malmaison, climbing bourbon
For myself, I can say that all my roses purchased from this nursery are thriving (as well as the vast majority of my roses bought from other rose vendors), and I would certainly buy from them again if I had anywhere left to plant.

Penelope, hybrid musk, purchased from Roses of Yesterday, in my garden
I hope this old nursery will continue in business for a long time to come, as a living reminder to us of generations of rose gardeners so passionate and devoted to their pursuit.

Mme. Hardy, damask

All rose pictures (except Penelope) were taken at the display garden of Roses of Yesterday. Their roses are tagged, but some tags are missing, and some are illegible, and some have been engulfed by a spreading rose. Therefore, I have supplied the names of most of the roses in these pictures myself, as best I could :). If you are interested, here is their website.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

After a Heat Wave

We have had temperatures over 100F in the past few days - a heat wave that came on quite suddenly after a long spell of cool weather.

Rosette Delizy


Lots of rose blooms are toast, but surprisingly a lot of others held up really well.

'Secret Garden Musk Climber'

Despite its fragile appearance, 'Secret Garden Musk Climber', a found hybrid musk, is very tough. It is clean and fragrant, and the blooms look fresh and spotless.  

Souvenir de la Malmaison

I love the swirls of petals on this wonderful bourbon rose. I can finally enjoy the blooms, after the spring flush all balled for me, again. Some of its outer petals have brown edges indicative of damage done by tiny insects called thrips, but I am so happy to finally see some open blooms that I can easily overlook minor cosmetic imperfections :).

Isabella Sprunt
I found this one bloom on Isabella Sprunt that thrips seem to have missed :). Most of the earlier blooms were barely semi-double, and the bush had a severe case of mildew, but the heat must have done it some good, it looks much better now.

Basye's Purple Rose
 Blooms on Basye's Purple Rose last only a couple of days. Petals drop cleanly and the plant never looks tired and shabby, a real asset in the heat of the summer. I never deadhead my rugosas, hips or no hips, and they all keep blooming on and off until frost.

Pretty Jessica
Pretty Jessica is an older Austin rose, almost thornless and very fragrant. I love the silvery pink cup shaped blooms, and I have placed a silvery blue nepeta next to it. Petals drop cleanly, although pretty often the blooms refuse to open for me. This rose is on the small side for an Austin, which is an asset, and it looks neat and tidy.

William Shakespeare 2000
Both of my William Shakespeare 2000 bushes give me these white edged blooms from time to time, so I presume it is fairly common. I am not sure why it happens, but they look pretty.

Gruss an Aachen
Thrips missed that one too, and it opened perfectly. My Gruss an Aachen displays very pronounced symptoms of rose mosaic virus (yellow mosaic pattern on the leaves), so I will remove it soon. I will miss those wonderful blooms...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Damask Roses

Damask roses are named after the city of Damascus because they were brought to Europe from the Middle East by the Crusaders.

R. damascena versicolor "York and Lancaster" (unknown origin, before 1551)

These roses possess arguably the most refined fragrance of all, and were quickly turned to commercial use.

R. damascena trigintipetala "Kazanlik" (unknown origin, before 1612)

Kazanlik especially is still cultivated in Eastern Europe and the Middle East to produce the essence, or attar, of roses.

R. damascena bifera "Autumn Damask" (Quatre Saisons) (unknown origin, before 1633)

Most damasks are once-blooming (summer damasks) with the exception of Autumn Damask above, which is known as Quatre Saisons in France for its rebloom in autumn.

Omar Khayyam (unknown origin, before 1893)
Damasks suffered perhaps the biggest decline in popularity among all rose classes...


Blush Damask (unknown origin, 1759)


... and very few of them are available to a gardener today.

'Arcata Perpetual Damask' (Found)

This is perhaps because most damasks, older varieties especially, form large, sprawling shrubs that are not easy to fit into a garden.

Gloire de Guilan (discovered in 1949)
However, while the original damasks are mostly collector's roses, some of the later ones, such as Mme Hardy or La Ville de Bruxelles, remain popular and continue to grace many gardens with their lovely blooms and wonderful fragrance.

La Ville de Bruxelles (Vibert, before1846)

All pictures were taken at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden this spring.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flower Power

I have recently discovered what a joy it can be to just look at flowers.

Heinrich Wenland
Not an amazing new discovery, perhaps, but something I have been too busy to do so far.

Salvia patens Blue Angel
Like every gardener, I spend a lot of time among plants, but I am usually doing something. 

C├ęcile Brunner
Weeding, deadheading, feeding, tying up stray branches and even watering are all tasks that take up most of my gardening time. I don't mind this: I enjoy taking care of plants, that is why I garden.

Nepeta
 When I can't find any weeds or spent rose blooms, I usually think about what needs improvement.

Rosette Delizy
 Every garden is a work in progress. I always find plants that clash, or have overgrown their space and need moving, or are not contrasting enough (I do tend to go for too much pink and purple...).

Geranium x Cantabrigiense "Karmina"













But I almost never simply look at my flowers.


All that changed yesterday, when I realized that I have no thoughts or pictures for the next blog post, so I took my camera and went into the garden waiting for inspiration.


Inspiration didn't come, but revelation did. Strolling around the garden and doing nothing but looking closely at even the smallest flowers brought me a lot of serenity and peace of mind. My heart rate went down, my mind cleared, and I found myself smiling for no obvious reason.

Lyda Rose

And I got a blog post out of it too. Which goes to show that one can always make something out of nothing.

Geranium "Rozanne" and penstemon "Apple Blossom"

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Day Among Grape Vines

I will remember the day we spent among the vines of Paso Robles as one of the most peaceful, relaxing and happy I have had in a long time.



There was something soothing in geometric rows of grapes stretching all the way to the horizon (and beyond)...,



...and in the stillness of the air filled with the fragrance of lavender.



Most wineries in Paso Robles are small, and the wine is not cheap, but what we have sampled was very good, and the view of never-ending gentle hills was in itself worth spending money on. Winery buildings too have their own unique character, ranging from simple rustic houses....



... to almost space-age modernistic structures, airy and graceful, and still with a beautiful view.



There were lots of shady picnic areas where we could sit and rest our sore feet...





...and we got some delicious wine to take home with us too.



What else could one wish for?