It is an awesome time of year. Our roses haven’t broken dormancy and all the new roses i’ve ordered haven’t been delivered yet. These quiet times afford us an opportunity to review our garden plan.
With just over 100 roses under cultivation, you need to know that each one was added to my garden with a purpose. Each one has been planted for color, form, fragrance, or in memory of someone I love. I call it “The Road to 100.” I set a goal of 100 roses on our very small subdivision lot about three years ago. I had about a dozen at that time and everyone said I was crazy. They said it could not be done. Well, as you can imagine, I took the naysayers’ remarks as a challenge. I saw it as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of growing roses, and also to show the chatterboxes a thing or two.
My wife wanted color in the garden, so I planted floribundas. Floribunda roses are a cross between Polyantha and Hybrid Tea roses. They produce a profusion of blooms from spring until fall. Many of the newer varieties are quite disease resistant. We admire the beautiful yellow blooms of the ‘Julia Child,’ a floribunda introduced by Weeks Roses. It is said that Julia Child herself selected this rose because it reminded her of “scrambled eggs.”
I wanted form in the garden, so I planted hybrid teas. Hybrid teas first came into being during the Napoleonic wars. Empress Josephine was creating a stupendous rose garden a Malmasion just outside of Paris. She sent horticultural envoys all over the globe to collect specimens. They each had special travel papers allowing them to cross enemy lines to collect roses. Upon their return, hybridization of various specimens produced “LaFrance”, the first hybrid tea. The work that began in her garden is alive and well in gardens around the globe.
We both wanted fragrance, so we planted old garden roses. ‘Reine Des Violettes’ is a deep purple Hybrid Perpetual rose introduced when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It is the most highly fragranced rose in our garden.
External characteristics are not the only factors we use to determine which roses we plant. I planted the rose named ‘Peace’ in memory of my mother, and pink roses for my grandmother. My mother loved roses. I think she loved them for what they represented in her mind: Love, Friendship, Reverence, and Honor. She always wore a rose corsage on Mother’s Day. I can remember the ladies dressed in pink dresses, with big hair and even bigger pocketbooks; all wearing corsages, white and red, some carnations, but mostly roses on Mother’s Day. My mom explained to me that they wore flowers on this day to honor their mothers and that the color and type of flower you wore had something to do with whether or not your mom was alive. For as long as she lived, my mother made sure that her mom always had a rose to wear on Mother’s Day. Even when my grandmother died suddenly in the fall of 1971, my mother had a pink rosebud corsage made up, which she insisted on pinning to her mother’s chest. These women wore corsages like badges of honor, having somehow earned the right to wear a rose. As my roses bloom this year, I remember with fondness my mother and all those women who through the years have earned the right to wear a rose. They hold our families together by a strand that is unseen, yet felt by all. Through good times and bad, they teach us about faith, hope, and love. They pray over our lives as they mold and protect us.
So, as I continue down the road to 100 and beyond, I consider the roses very carefully. I want my garden and my life to mean something. I want them both to have a purpose and a plan. Roses, like people, have a story to tell. Are you sharing yours?
I’ll be sharing my love of roses at the Birmingham Home & Garden Show Feb 14-17 at the Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Center in Birmingham AL. I’ll be sharing how you too, can have the rose garden of your dreams.
You can find me on the Southern Living stage. I hope you’ll come out and see all that the show has to offer. When I’m not on stage, I’ll be hanging with the folks at the Birmingham Public Library booth. Come by and say hello. Discount tickets can be had by using the code LIBRARY at checkout. Hope to see you there!