Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I tend to forget just how pleasurable spring is. We've got blooms all over the place, leaves are budding out, skies are blue, the "lawn" (i.e. our carpet of clover, sand burs, and wild bermudagrass) is giving a convincing imitation of being green and lush... It's particularly heartening to see the roses doing their thing, after the traumas of last year--first the shock of being transplanted, then the constant rain, and finally a nasty fungal invasion.

There have been some fungus outbreaks this spring (notably on 'Wild Blue Yonder' and 'Ducher'), but in most cases the plants seem to have successfully shut those infections down on their own, a happy state of affairs that I attribute to healthier root systems making them generally more robust.

Here's the best of the latest crop of pictures. It's a stout-hearted modern miniature called "Green Ice"--unassuming, dainty, yet vigorous and free-blooming. The tiny, creamy-white, green-eyed flowers recall the popular antique rose 'Madame Plantier' (picture and ARE profile). We have three, and this one, the most successful, grows by our kitchen door.

Darling little miniature 'Green Ice'

The roses in the front of the house have also rallied, to my relief. They really get more shade than they like, and by the end of last year they were peaky, sparse, and stalled out. But old favorite 'Cramoisi Superieur' is blooming nicely, and

Old favorite china 'Cramoisi Superieur'

the climber on (or, to be more accurate, currently under) our trellis, 'Red Cascade,' has finally put on a growth spurt, and the chipper polyantha 'Mrs RM Finch' has a couple of sprightly pink blooms. Like Barkiss, 'Mrs RM' is willin', which is one of the things I like about her. She doesn't fuss, but just chugs away, blooming freely and generously. (Was that Barkiss reference too obscure? David Copperfield. A working man of few words, but great goodness of heart. Like 'Mrs RM.')

Polyantha 'Mrs RM Finch'

I hadn't realized that 'Mrs RM's buds had such a classic sweetheart rose shape.

'Mrs RM Finch' bud

And here's one of our 2 'Mutabilis' roses. We need to plant 3 more quite soon, or our proposed hedge at the head of our driveway will be lopsided. The two we planted last year are already bigger and putting on a generous dressing of multi-colored flowers. 'Mutabilis' has an insouciant, informal prettiness that seems to me to match Austin's own personality very well. And, indeed, it's very popular rose there--you see 6- and 7-foot specimens in yards all over town, especially the older districts, like Hyde Park and Shoal Creek.

'Mutabilis'--if it were a person, it would be barefoot and probably bra-less

...And another mystery rose. I remember where most of our mystery roses come from--unlabeled cast-offs from one or another of Matt's jobs, usually. But I have no notion whatsoever of when this one joined our collection. It very slow to bloom--it's been sulking in bud stage like a teenager who refuses to leave his room. It looks so far rather like a hybrid perpetual in general shape and leaf type, and in those fat, round buds. Which is odd--hybrid perps aren't as popular down here as teas, chinas, noisettes, and shrub roses. They have rather spectacular flowers--ruffled, cabbagey, and large--but they're prone to blackspot and gangliness. But we're not overly fastidious, I think. It's welcome to our garden, whatever it is, so long as it doesn't whine too much.

Mystery rose #6--a possible hybrid perpetual from who-knows-where

You may be wondering, "Just how many mystery roses do you have, anyway?" The answer is 6. Longtime followers of this blog may remember the particularly lovely red cabbage rose, lost to that pernicious fungus, but then miraculously snatched from the jaws of death via some cuttings. There is also our nameless tea-cum-hybrid perpetual, by the study door, and also a ducky little thing with tiny, loose, globe-shaped dark pink flowers in the gazebo bed. In addition, we've got a neat stripy modern that came with the house and was bred to look like an antique (no pix--it goes from bud to shattered stage really quickly, and I've never managed to snap one in bloom), and another legacy, a semi-double bright red pillar rose, which we recently transplanted from under the bananas to the front of the gazebo. It's blooming away gamely--you'd never know it was a recent transplant that had experienced a particularly rough year last year. Because it's rangy, but not terribly tall, we're growing it on one of the low side walls of the gazebo, against which its bright red flowers will be especially vivid.

Legacy of previous owners--attractive mystery pillar rose

And then the surprise of the seaon, another castoff that's turned out really quite well. This is a Weeks rose, the Floribunda 'Burgundy Iceberg.' (Though the name's a bit stupid--under what horrific set of circumstances would an iceberg be burgundy, for goodness' sakes?) The flowers are a lovely deep wine color, which should coordinate happily (if utterly accidentally) with the mystery stripy rose next to it. And look at all those flowers! Such a striking color (without the tawdriness of so many moderns) on such a healthy plant. And I've always liked roses that bloom in clusters rather than on long individual stems (I'm not a florist, so I see no point putting up with the awkward, angular lankiness of long-stemmed roses in the garden).

Modern Floribunda 'Burgundy Iceberg'

And here's our 'Duchesse de Brabant,' finally starting to look like herself. Last year her blooms were few, stunted, and misshapen. This one, though, is starting to look more like herself, which is a relief. It's not quite as cup-like as the most archetypal Duchesse/Madame Jo flowers (Duchesse is the pink sport of 'Mme Joseph Schwartz'), but flower shape tends to be variable in antique roses, and it's at least moving in the right direction.

Delightful and free-blooming tea rose 'Duchesse de Brabant'

My amaryllis have also been popping into bloom. I unfortunately didn't get my papilio before the flowers faded, but here is a nameless white hybrid along with a miniature named 'Pamela.'

White amaryllis and miniature 'Pamela'

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