Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Flower Blogging - Rose of Topanga

When you visit older properties in Topanga, you often encounter this rose. The flowers are tiny, like a miniature rose, and they are an exquisitely delicate shell pink.

The plant, in contrast, is a thick-stemmed monster, with arching canes of blossoms rising high over your head.

This is Climbing 'Cecile Brunner', a sport of the polyantha rose by the same name, registered in 1881. It's sometimes called "The Sweetheart Rose" for its delicate pink blossoms. I like to think of her as the Rose of Topanga, because there are so many plants around this canyon.

My friend Jill claims that Cecile Brunner is what's really holding up the porch on her house - not the posts of the porch. Down the street from us, a 'Cecile Brunner' has engulfed my neighbor's fence whole. In other places, you can see it growing into the trees.

If you want to buy Climbing 'Cecile Brunner', you can find her in garden centers and mail-order nurseries, but I would guess that most of the plants in Topanga were grown from cuttings - and you could do the same.

Growing a rose from a cutting is the easiest thing in the world to do. Not only it is economical and satisfying, it continues a long tradition of gardening that has spread roses around the world, and has preserved antique treasures. Pioneers crossing the continent brought slips of roses to their new homes - some of those roses were in turn brought from their ancestors' homes in Europe. If you had to pick up and leave North Carolina for California, Texas or Iowa, you couldn't always bring grandmother's sideboard, but you could bring a slip of the rose that grew on her grave.

You can use the rose you put in a vase on your dining room table. Or the one your friend brought to work. When you're done enjoying the blossom, cut it off. Then trim the bottom of the stem, diagonally. Keep some of the leaves on the stem if you can. Then stick it into moist dirt, and wait for it to grow roots.

There are lots of variations to the technique. Some people dip the stem into a rooting hormone powder you can buy at the garden center. I have the best success if I root it in a 4- inch pot that I then enclose in a plastic bag - like the ones you get in the produce section at the supermarket - sealed with a twist-tie, and then let it sit in a shady place. Other people just stick the cutting right in the garden, and sometimes put a glass jar on top - you have to make sure it's in a shady place, though - don't do this in blasting sun.

In a couple months, you have a brand new rose bush - for FREE!

Although people associate this with old roses or wild roses, it works with almost any rose. When my mom visited me in Seattle, she was so impressed with an Austin rose in my garden called 'The Yeoman' that she took a slip home to Texas. A couple years after moving to California, I came home from visiting Mom with a slip of 'The Yeoman' from her now mature and blooming shrub - and planted my own shrub.

In some parts of the country there are groups of rosarians who scout old cemetaries and abandonded homesteads searching for old, unidentified roses that they can propagate and save from obscurity. They give their finds temporary names - "Old Cemetary Red" - until after much research, collaboration and discussion, someone manages to identify what it is.

There's something I like about this. We can gift one another with fragrant roses, we can save precious cultivars from dying out, and we can coax life from a green stick and a pot of dirt. Isn't it wonderful?


Logan Jacot said...

Thanks for visiting my blog as well. I really enjoyed your post about the circus and would love to hear more stories from you circus days.

Take care,

KathyR said...

Even though I am not a rose garden person, we had these little pink dolls along the fence at the bottom of our back slope in the Palisades. You are right about their giant climbing canes. The buds and leaves were favorite deer food.

HRH said...

Beautiful flowers. I miss my CA roses...

Jason said...

Sometimes, well most of the time, your blog is so soothing to me. This one was especially so.