My journey to the Sustainable Rose Garden

  • Folksinger is a Griffith Buck Rose. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Brother Cadfael is a David Austin Rose. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Zadie is a Kordes rose.

  • Thomas Affleck rose was bred at Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Oso Easy Paprika is one of the popular landscape roses. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

Published: 6/20/2020 5:00:24 AM
Modified: 6/20/2020 5:00:12 AM

The only roses I remember encountering as a child was a prickery rose bush near my grandparent’s house in Vermont. It did not hold much interest for me except that I thought it might be a place visited by fairies. Occasionally, I would leave a tiny gift, but I never did see any fairies. Even so, I did not lose my belief that there are magical creatures in the world.

When I was a young teenager in Connecticut, I went to New York City to see matinees of Broadway plays. Sometimes, I would splurge on a 50 cent gardenia corsage that vendors sold on street corners. I felt very grown up.

When I attended high school dances, I would wear a corsage, but in those days of the 1950s, corsages were usually carnations or orchids — at least at my high school.

Roses were not a part of my life until my husband, Henry, and I were preparing to leave New York for life in Heath. At the time, I was reading books by E.B. White and about his life in New York and on his farm in Maine. By chance, I bought the new “Onward and Upward in the Garden” by Katherine S. White, White’s wife. The very first page was an image of the cover of Roses of Yesterday and Today: Old-Fashioned, Rare, Unusual — Selected Modern Roses.”

Then there was a poem, “I sing of spring, flower-crowned/ I sing the praises of the Rose/Friend, aid me in my song.”

I launched myself into the book, learning her views of roses as well as all other plants and imagined life on their farm. During our first spring in Heath, I planted the Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose from “Roses of Yesterday and Today.” How could I resist a rose with a name like that? My life with roses began.

With very little prodding from new friends, I began to plant a rose walk and soon planned rose viewings at the end of June. I concentrated on choosing old  roses like Celestial (1759), Camaieux (1830), Ispahan (1832) and Fantin-Latour, a centifolia rose whose date of origin is unknown. Amazingly, the rose that got a lot of attention at what became our Annual Rose Viewing event was Rosa glauca, an ancient rose with tiny pink flowers. It was formerly known as R. rubrifolia referring to the reddish foliage. These old roses were very strong, as well as beautiful.

I also learned about Dr. Griffith Buck, of Iowa State University, who began hybridizing hardy roses in the 1950s that were disease resistant and would not need fussing. I added Buck’s Applejack, Prairie Harvest, Folksinger varieties among others.

Then in 2009, I visited the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in the New York Botanical Garden. There, I met the curator Peter Kukielski, self-taught rosarian, who was transforming it into one of the most environmentally-friendly gardens in the world. He more than tripled the number of roses in this garden which seemed miraculous. I asked him how he did that. He looked at me with just the trace of an impish smile, leaned toward me and said very softly, “I planted them closer together.”

He told me that Kordes was way ahead of time in breeding roses that did not need insecticides. Many of the new roses Kukielski planted were beautiful Kordes roses like pink Zaide and Lion’s FairyTale which is white with a ‘breath of apricot.’

 A visit to my daughter, Kate, in Texas, took us to the Antique Rose Emporium where I bought their rose, Thomas Affleck. It is the hardiest, longest blooming, big beautiful rose I ever imagined. And, unlike Zaide, it is almost thornless.

 A relatively new kind of rose is what is labeled ‘landscape rose.’ These are small, low growing roses that will bloom over a long period. Naturally, I had to have some of these. I have a small area in my garden that is just right for two bright landscape roses from different companies. Oso Easy created a really cheerful Paprika rose, and Drift has an array of shades including Coral, which lives cheerfully next to Paprika.

I just added five roses to the garden. There is Gruss an Aachen, believed to be the original rose that began the Floribunda class, the Buck roses Quietness and Carefree Beauty, the tall apricot of Lady of Shallot, and Brother Cadfael with a wonderful scent.

In Heath, I had a long Rose Walk with many roses on both sides of the path. In my new garden I have just created a u-shaped Rose Walk, although one leg is a bit longer. To be on this walk is to be quite surrounded by roses. What a lovely image. I am so happy that I can see the roses from my dining room window.

I have not yet experienced that surround. Those five new roses are small, but they will be showing off a few of their blooms to keep me hopeful, waiting for next year. I am learning, finally, to be patient and I am concentrating of enjoying what I have this year.

I am looking forward to sharing the Rose Walk, and the rest of the garden, at the Greenfield Garden Club’s Garden Tour on Saturday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tickets are only $10 this year and will be available at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street. Your ticket is a map of the other eight gardens on the tour. I hope to see you on July 11.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980. She now lives in Greenfield. Readers can leave comments at her website: commonweeder.com.


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