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FRESH ROSES
I'm so happy you are here!

There are some people for whom a rose is a rose. I am not one of them. There are some people who get tired of taking care of roses. I am not one of them either. I think it is safe to say that if I could gaze at 'Buff Beauty' in full bloom each morning, I would be quite content to squish aphids every day for the rest of my life. With such a mindset, it is no wonder that I get a thrill each January when I sit down with the new rose catalogs.

Rose vendors are drawn to themes and one of this year's predominate themes is red roses. White Flower Farm and Jackson & Perkins both feature red blossoms on their covers. 'Lovers Lane'™, J&P's cover subject, is that company's "Rose of the Year" for 2002. Like most other "Roses of the Year", it is a hybrid tea, with large pointed buds, high-centered flowers and long stems. The new wrinkle that makes 'Lovers Lane' different is that the reverse sides of the petals are silvery in appearance, making them seem almost reflective. 'Lover's Lane' joins two other new J&P reds, 'Cesar E. Chavez' and 'Habitat for Humanity'. The former honors the late labor leader and the latter celebrates the humanitarian homebuilding organization. In both cases, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the plants goes to a charity associated with the honoree.

Wayside Gardens honors comedienne Rosie O'Donnell with her own new red rose. This rose, like 'Lovers Lane', has a little something extra on the backs of the petals. In this case, the reverse is white or cream. 'Rosie O'Donnell' is also a hybrid tea.

Every rose lover knows the name David Austin. The English rose breeder, now somewhere in his seventies, has revolutionized the rose business with his "English Roses". These plants, which combine the many-petaled forms, rich scents, and lush growth habits of old varieties with modern traits such as repeat blooming and diseases resistance, have taken the rose world by storm. Last year the Austin company expanded into the U.S., and now offers its own catalog. There is nothing like competition to shake things up, and in the last few years many major rose breeders, both in the United States and abroad, have developed their own "English-style" roses. Harkness of England has introduced the "English Legend" series of roses. The great French rose house, Meilland, has introduced its own line, christened "Romantica" roses. Another French breeder, Guillot, is selling its "Generosa" roses, which are very much in the "English" style. With the exception of David Austin himself, each of these rose breeders sells roses in America through one or more of the big catalog vendors. Not to be outdone, J&P has begun breeding its own English-style roses. This year the company has introduced 'Camisole', a fragrant pale pink/apricot rose, and 'Guinevere', which is white with a pronounced old rose fragrance.

One of the most exciting things to happen in the rose world in the past several years is the rediscovery of the late Dr. Griffith Buck, who spent his career as Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University. For years Dr. Buck bred roses in relative obscurity, and he created some beauties, such as 'Silver Shadows', a pale, bluish lavender rose, and 'Distant Drums', which has lavender-pink petals and a glowing golden center. Last year I bought 'Country Dancer', and it has become the centerpiece of my garden. The pink blossoms are huge and the petal color grows more intense the closer the petals are to the center of the flower. Even people who normally don't notice flowers at all exclaim over this bush. This year there are more Buck roses on the market than ever before. It might be wise to buy some before the whole world catches on.

Rose vendors are going out of their way to show the versatility of roses, featuring an increased number of shrub roses, climbers and old fashioned varieties with relaxed growth habits. Mindful of the fact that many people have limited spaces or gardens made up entirely of containerized specimens, vendors are showing an array of tree roses, "bedding roses" that grow no more than 2-feet tall, and "groundcover roses" that are designed to grow out rather than up. The rosebush has been liberated from the dedicated rose bed and set free to roam around the garden.

As always, the hardest part about perusing the rose catalogs is trying to choose from among the many gorgeous specimens . The next hardest thing is figuring out how to annex the neighbors' yards so I can install all the roses I want. If you haven't already received copies, you may want catalogs from any or all of the following companies: Heirloom Roses, 24062 NE Riverside Drive, St. Paul, Oregon 97137, (503)538-1576, www.heirloomroses.com; Wayside Gardens-The Complete Rose Catalog 2002, 1 Garden Lane, Hodges, S. Carolina, 29695, (800) 845-1124, www.waysidegardens.com; Jackson & Perkins, 1 Rose Lane, Medford, Oregon 97501, (800) 292-4769, www.jacksonandperkins.com; David Austin Roses Limited, 15393 Highway 64 West, Tyler, Texas 75704, (800) 328-8893, www.davidaustinroses.com.

 

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