Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Rose is a Rose?

The award winning 'Julia Child' stands alone. (Well, in this picture it stands next to some baby cleome.)

I've always been the type of gardener to let color and texture guide me. I know the general name of flowers, but not specifics. I think that is about to change.

I have mentioned in the past that I am crazy about roses, but now I believe I am straddling the fanatic stage. I have twelve rose bushes to date. I know that I have two varieties of fairy roses. I also have a 'Persian Yellow'. I picked up the Persian Yellow because the tag said it has a "strong licorice" fragrance. I love licorice so I considered this a sign that this plant was meant for me. (Don't ask what signs I received telling me to get 11 other roses in the past 3 years. They just called to me.) The rest of my roses are unidentified. I'm sure that I have their names in a file somewhere, but what they were called never mattered to me really. Now as my collection grows, I realize that I must learn the names 1. to avoid the danger of having a garden full of fussy roses (as we all know they can be) and 2. So that I don't duplicate my purchases for despite the immense variety of roses, I tend to gravitate towards particular colors and leaf shapes.

The realization that my lack of knowledge is a problem came today while I was researching a plant I admired in another garden. I am now on the hunt for a 'Julia Child' rose. Its yellow blossoms are splendid and I was told that it is very easy to grow. When I looked up the rose on the Weeks roses website I learned that the flowers have a spicy licorice scent. Could this be the yellow rose I recently purchased? I ran outside to see if I left the tag on the flower and luckily I had. The flower is a "Persian Yellow," which with more research I learned is fussier than Julia and blooms only once. 'Julia Child' blooms all summer long. Wow!

Tucked in the recesses of my brain, I knew some roses bloomed longer than others. I know that some of my roses get black spot and others don't succumb to diseases at all. Yet, when I am standing in the garden center in front of a beautiful rose, I get weak kneed. Nothing else matters except the color and fragrance of the rose before me. But I have so many rose choices and it seems that I should learn to choose more wisely before I run out of space...before I miss out on fabulous plants like the 'Julia Child'. I need to learn more about my hobby.

The trouble with my chosen hobby is that there really is so much to know. Besides the the plants themselves, we also must know about soil, bugs, weather, etc. etc. I have a master's degree in another field. It seems like I should acquire one in this arena too to become a really good gardener, even if it is just for a hobby. After ten years of gardening, I still find myself staring blankly at other gardeners if they delve too deeply into latin names.

So how to proceed? I once gardened alone -- without talking with other gardeners except an occasional conversation at a garden center. When I became a garden photographer three years ago, I began talking to the professionals at the garden centers even more. When I decided to write a book about gardening last year, I began to talk to people just like me. I interviewed backyard gardeners who have picked up the lingo over time. One can learn a lot through in-person gardening companionship, online browsing and correspondence, and reading books. I am also considering working toward a master gardener certification.

I've learned recently that a rose is not just a rose. Each has its own personality and it's time for me to get to know them a little better.


Daphne said...

I'm not good at latin names. I used to know a lot of them, but over time I figured they really weren't important and forgot most of them. Of course if you write a book, people will expect you to have that kind of knowledge.

Lydia said...

Good morning from the opposite diagnal side of the country. Julia Child is a marvelous rose, and a match to her personality. The flavors are layered, nuanced, but accessible- just like her cooking.
Julia Child is a generous bush brimming with nuanced flavor. Here, the buttery yellow flowers are almost constantly in bloom. The color is not so bright as to overpower softer colors- but bright enough to hold its own in the California sunshine. A great "blender" to brighten any garden.

Pomona Belvedere said...

You put in a nutshell the good reasons to learn names.

Here's the deal about Persian Yellow: it's a very old rose (possibly a species or possibly such an old garden rose people think it's a speces) and like most old roses, it blooms only once. It was the first yellow rose to be used in breeding in the Western hemisphere (the Chinese were way ahead of us on this), so it's likely that Julia Child has some Persian Yellow blood in her.

I have to say that "licorice" isn't the way I'd describe a Persian Yellow scent, but I never smelled the roots!

The advantage of old roses is that they are much easier-care and can be planted in places where you don't water much. Persian Yellow has naturalized in my dry-summer area. It needs water through the time of bloom but after that you don't need to water it, except in the first couple of years while it gets settled in.

Sorry it's taken me so long to get to your site--I'm enjoying it!

The Redneck Rosarian said...

Great post.. Yellow roses always stop me in my tracks.