Saturday, August 2, 2008

Early roses -- rugosas

A good rule for cultivating roses in the Southeast is to use teas, noisettes, and chinas, with some hybrid musks and polyanthas thrown in. However, so far that hasn't worked for me. Perhaps it's because I live in a low-lying place with a lot of moisture, or the overly rich new soil in the new gardens causes the warm-weather roses to grow like mad all season, leading to deadly canker over the winter. I have lost every tea, noisette and china that I have tried with the exception of Climbing Old Blush. Now that the house has been moved and I have a higher drier place to garden I'm going to try them again.

Rugosas, on the other hand, have performed like champs. I started by growing a half a dozen R. rugosa alba from seed, half expecting them to melt down within a couple of years, and 5 years later those rugosas are robust and healthy. The flowers smell like cloves.

So I tried a few more from seed and now have a Therese Bugnet seedling that's over 5 feet high in less than 3 years and several rugosa rubra seedlings. The TB seedling is a throwback and very rugose in its foliage and flowers.

R. rugosa rubra

My favorite rugosa is Hansa. I saw this rose at the display garden at Witherspoon in Durham and was blown away by it -- the velvety color of the petals, the fragrance, and the health of the foliage. Now I am the proud owner of 4 of these beauties and I wouldn't mind having 50 of them. The fragrance is strong damask with clove.

A Rugosa rubra seedling that has a huge flower for a rugosa -- nearly 4" across -- and an outstanding fragrance.

Foxi Pavement, one of the low-growing rugosas developed in Germany. I love this rose. The soft pink flowers have a lavender cast in shade.

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