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Between the Rows

Between the Rows: Come smell our roses

I was inviting a new friend to our annual Rose Viewing. She looked at me in absolute amazement. “You can grow tea roses in Heath?”

No, I cannot. Tea roses will not grow in Heath. The word rose is not synonymous with the words tea rose. Mostly I have rugosas, albas, damasks, shrubs and farmgirls. Since 1980 when I planted my first rose, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, I have planted over one hundred roses. More than half of them are still alive, and most of those are doing well.

One of the reasons for the Annual Rose Viewing, besides the initial desire to share the roses, is to show people what kinds of roses can be grown with very little of the fussing that tender tea roses require. I confess, there are a few roses right now that are not thriving. That is a lesson, too.

The first roses I planted were antique roses otherwise known as old roses, or shrub roses. These are fragrant roses with romantic names like Ispahan, the Queen of Denmark, Leda and Celestial. Some are very unusual, like large graceful Rosa rubrifolia, now named Rosa glauca because of the bluish-redish foliage. It is the rose that gets lots of attention because of the foliage; the roses themselves are tiny and pink and will never grace a bouquet.

Early on I learned about Griffith Buck roses. Griffith Buck began hybridizing cold hardy roses at Iowa State College in the 1950s. Applejack was my first Buck rose and it is the rose that greets visitors at the head of the driveway. Applejack is now about 30 years old, big and graceful, disease and trouble free.

Some of Buck’s roses have also been added to the list of Earth-Kind roses. Texas A&M began testing roses for hardiness some years ago. They took roses and planted them in test beds. The researchers took good care of them for one year and then ignored them for nine years. At the end of 10 years, they identified those that had lived and thrived healthily and gave them the designation Earth-Kind because they take few resources like water, or poisons to kill or control pests and diseases. Carefree Beauty, with its enormous deep pink blossoms, is one of Buck’s Earth Kind Roses.

Two of the other Earth Kind roses that are very popular in our area are The Fairy and Sea Foam. I love pink and I love The Fairy so much I have two of them. They are low growing, very prickery and bloom all summer.

In fact, one of the reasons many of my roses are not common or popular is because most of them do not bloom all summer. To get fragrance and hardiness, I have had to sacrifice a long season of bloom. That is why the annual Rose Viewing is always held on the last Sunday of June, when most of the roses are blooming. Of course, many other flowers are blooming in the garden as well, including the peonies, but The Rose Walk is the star of the day.

There are many good repeat bloomers, most especially the David Austin shrub roses that have the generous shape and fragrance of the antique roses. But they are not hardy in Heath. I have a single Austin rose, Mary Rose, named for one of Henry VIII’s ships, and she survives, but is not the kind of beautifully blowsy shrub she might be in a Greenfield garden. One friend looked at me with great compassion when I told him that I had killed at least six Austin roses. That is to say, the Heath weather killed six Austin roses. My friend did not boast about the Heritage, Graham Thomas and Fair Bianca flourishing in his own Greenfield garden.

In addition to the list of officially named roses in my garden, I have what I call the Farmgirls. These are unnamed roses that have been given to me by neighbors. Some of these have been growing on local farms for generations. I have named them after the donor, Alli and Terri and Rachel. I have what I call a Buckland rose given to me by a Buckland friend who said it grew all over town. She called it Belle Amour. I also bought a rose labeled Belle Amour, but these two roses are not the same. Which is wrong?

Identifying roses is a very difficult enterprise. The same rose can go by many different names. The Berkshire Botanical Garden used to occasionally have a rose expert come to identify roses that people brought in. I am definitely not a rose expert in any sense.

What I am is a gardener and rose lover. We hold the annual Rose Viewing to share the garden. It is our version of Garden Open Today. If you come up to Heath on Route 8A North you will find a sign on a tree, not far beyond the Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Syrup stand, directing you to the roses. The street address is 43 Knott Road, and we, and the roses, live at the end of the road.

The Annual Rose Viewing will be held on Sunday, June 30, this year, from 1 to 4 p.m. After you have viewed the roses, and inhaled their fragrance, come and sit in the shade of the Cottage Ornee for a refreshing cup of lemonade and a cookie. I hope to see you.

Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.

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