Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fire Island Notebook: Rose Garden Inspiration

Constance Spry

I am fixated with Old Roses and particularly David Austin's English Roses.  Over the years, I have planted quite a few on the south side of our Fire Island house. Once you start learning about the rich history of roses, botanical and otherwise it can become quite addictive. We lost quite a few in Sandy, some that were well established with over 20 + years growth. So tabula rasa!(or Rosa) Here is my inspiration and wish list, as well as a brief resource guide for re-building our garden.

The good news is that it is peak rose season and one of the largest, and oldest rose gardens in America is right here in NYC at the Cranford Rose Garden in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Many of the roses that were planted in 1927 are still there and the garden boasts tens of thousands of blooms. If the rain holds up, this is the week to visit.

Constance Spry
Abraham Darby
Gertrude Jekyll
Rosa Mundi
Sir Paul Smith - a modern climber
Sombreuil Climber
Glamis Castle

Why roses? My parents were avid gardeners, and my father maintained his rose garden with meticulous care, spraying and pruning weekly. But his garden leaned more to the fragile, formal side and required too much attention for my taste. I became hooked when I first visited Siasconset, Nantucket and saw the sweet, little fisherman cottages covered with trellises and exploding, rambling roses.

S'conset Rose Covered cottage

David Austin is a brilliant rose breeder based in Shropshire, England, with a shipping warehouse in the States.  His roses have all the lovely forms and fragrances of old roses. Over the years he has bred his roses with an emphasis on heady fragrances, disease resistance and repeat blooming.  The truth is that if you choose well, roses are quite hardy and just require a little pruning and basic fertilizing, preferably organic. While the season just ended for most mail order roses, many of these are still available at your local nursery, though not at any of the big boxes. It's not to early to start planning ahead for the fall planting season, reserve now so they don't sell out of your favorite.

 Here are my favorite rose resources, which also serve as great sources of inspiration and reference guides. If you read just one book about the history roses, read In Search of Lost Roses by Thomas Christopher. Though read with caution, you might just catch the rose addiction.

Mail Order Sources:

David Austin Roses
The Antique Rose Emporium
Wayside Garden
White Flower Farm

Inspiration + Reference:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden / The Cranford Rose Garden
Martha Stewart
New York Botanical Garden / Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Royal Horticultural Society

Favorite Books:

Anatomy of a Rose, Sharman Apt Russell, 2001, Perseus Publishing
In Search of Lost Roses, Thomas Christopher, 1989, Summit Books
Nantucket Gardens & Houses, Taylor Lewis, 1990, Little, Brown & Company
Roses for English Gardens, Gertrude Jekyll, 1902 /1982 reissue by Baron Publishing
Two Gardeners, A Friendship in Letters, Katharine White & Elizabeth Lawrence, 2002, Beacon Press

Note: Full details for each rose are included their links above.

Special request: The Paul Smith Rose isn't available in this country yet, so if anyone is visiting his Westbourne Grove House this month, please snip off a rose on the pillar there and toss it in a baggy for me.  A little rose "rustling" will be greatly appreciated. Rose rustling etiquette guide here.

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