Friday, June 07, 2013

In Lieu Of That Readhead

Rosa 'Soleil Brilliant' , top & Rosa 'Alain Blanchard'

By now anybody who regularly might read in this space, will know that I am a rosarian. That is a person who grows roses as a hobby. It is one of those peculiarities of these small obsessions that hobbies can be that I cannot understand why the rest of the world isn’t as excited about roses as I am.

Thematically I have stories to write here that are coming out of my ears and yet I go out into the garden to gaze on my roses, to see which ones are open or are about to open. I smell them and feel like I am levitating.

All hobbies have aspects that get no respect. I could walk the street with a Doberman or a German shepherd without much notice. If I happened to do so with a just-manicured and coiffed poodle it would be a lot different.

In the hobby of roses the snoots (I am one of them) look down on those who grow Hybrid Tea Roses. While it is unfair to say so, many modern tea roses have no scent.

In less politically correct times such a rose (a beautiful, perfect, single, long-stemmed hybrid tea rose specimen0 is like a beautiful blonde that is all show but no substance. I apologize right now for any blonde rosarian who might object to that comparison.

The poodles of the rose kingdom are the patio roses. These are small, almost cute, and with the current trend to live in high-rises they seem to be the ticket for young couples who might want to tend to plants on the balcony. Except that few understand that roses, even these “poodles” need at least half a day’s sunshine. While Guinea pigs can be microwaved (preferably while wearing a metal collar) when they are unwanted, all one can do with a dying patio rose is to chuck it into the compost.

I love my old roses, particularly the once-blooming (they are unremontant) Gallicas. These roses are ancient and some of them are hardy enough to grow in Lillooet where my eldest daughter lives.

Originally, species roses, roses found in the wild and untouched by human influence, had five petals (one, this one is the sole exception). You might note that since apple trees, cherry trees and other fruit trees are members of the rose family, they too have five-petalled flowers.

In the wild, as Darwin noticed plants tend to sport, change, vary and or adapt to changes. These wild roses would sport into having more petals. These are sometimes called double flowers. This term applies to flowers in any other category that suddenly have more petals, and tinkered by humans are bred to remain so.

Roses have been bred for centuries to have evermore petals to the point that many of them have their pollen hidden behind and bees and insects cannot get to it. These roses and most modern roses that are cloned need humans to reproduce.

I like my Gallicas because many are deep red and when the blooms age they turn into maroon or purple and in some cases a weird metallic purple/red. Most Gallicas have sweet scent and they make up for not re-blooming by blooming for a long period and profusely.

And because I am snooty I have a predilection for spotted, mottled, marbled and striped roses. Here are two Gallicas that are marbled. The marbling is subtle but some of my garden visitors ask me if they are sick roses or if spring rain does this to them. The darker rose is Rosa ‘Alain Blanchard’ which for me does not have much scent. What is most remarkable about this relatively rare plant to find in Vancouver is that I bought it in Garden Works on Lougheed Highway in Burnaby some many years ago. The other rose, the lighter one came via Germany with a friend (did it come in a suitcase?) who gave it to me. This rose, ‘Soleil Brillant’ is rare enough that if you google it my blog will be first up!

I have a predilection for mottled roses which just might be the result of the frustration of having been attracted to redheaded women all my life. My mother told me that my sister, born dead, would have been a readhead. When I was 20 I fell in love with my redhaired first cousin Elizabeth Blew. I long to photograph a multi freckled, white skinned redhead with nothing on. Until then I will have to settle to scanning my mottled roses.