Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pink Saturday - December rose

Pink Saturday - Beverly at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

For several weeks now, each morning as I walk the dog through my neighborhood, I've been greeted by the amazing scent of a late-blooming rose that grows at the front gate of someone's property.

It's a large shrub, growing in a rock-walled bank of earth raised up from the street. It faces southeast, and has its back to a fence - this probably gives it a warm and protected microclimate. Its flowers are bright pink, or cerise, and are semi-double. Their shape is somewhat informal, blowsy.

Its scent is so strong you smell it from twenty feet away.

Because roses are so valuable in every human culture where they are cultivated, and because it is relatively easy to propagate them, roses have gone along as passengers in most human journeys. Rose cuttings traveled from the Middle East through the Ottoman Empire and into Bulgaria. They traveled from Spain to Mexico. They traveled from the gardens of Tudor England to Virginia, Delaware and Georgia. They traveled from France to India.

Here in the U.S., roses from Eastern gardens traveled with pioneers settling the west. Women in Conestoga wagons broke a spray from their mother's rosebush and took a rooted cutting along with them as they cross the American continent.

Roses are long-lived, and often a rosebush will endure longer than the house in whose dooryard it was planted. This one looks as if it's been there since the little bungalow nearby was planted, probably in the '20s or '30s.

Some people just enjoy flowers, no matter what they're called. Other people - myself included - are afflicted with a peculiar obsession. We have to know this particular flower's name.

Rosarians look at each aspect of a plant to determine what type of rose it is.

In addition to the color and shape of its flowers, there are other important clues. Are the flowers carried together in clusters, or do they bloom alone at the end of the stem?

How are the flowers' sepals shaped? These are long and straight, unlike the fringed and fuzzy sepals of the European gallica roses.

What are its leaves like? They can be rounded or slender, glossy or wrinkly, grey-green or bright. What about the thorns - is it wickedly armed, or does it have few, if any, barbs? This plant has rounded, matte leaves, and is sparsely thorned.

What is its bloom habit? This rose doesn't bloom year-round like a modern Hybrid Tea rose, but rather it blooms in one big flush in the spring, and then once again in the fall. This blooming habit is an important clue to its identity.

Old Garden Roses - the ones grown in Europe - bloomed only once a year. This was a disappointment for gardeners, so during the Crusades, they were thrilled to discover a rose in the Middle East that bloomed again in the fall. This was the Damask Rose - rosa x damascena semperflorens, named after Damascus in Syria. It was also extremely fragrant.

Northern gardeners bred them with European roses to create roses with a longer bloom season that could still take the cold.

A few centuries later, travelers from Asia returned with specimens of roses with a much longer bloom season. These China Roses and Tea Roses also brought new colors to the European roses - yellow and orange and true red. They were bred into the mix, and by the 19th century, hybridizers crossed and re-crossed different roses to create a marketed commodity for a rising middle class - and the qualities they valued included a variety of colors, summer-long bloom, hardiness against the cold, and the ability to produce lots of large lush flowers for cutting.

What kind of rose is this? I've looked in all my books and looked online, and I wonder if it is one of the family of roses called Portland roses, which originated around 1800. The English Duchess of Portland obtained a rose from Italy called "paestana", probably a Damask and China cross. The Duchess, in a show of international goodwill in spite of the conflicts between their nations, sent a plant to Empress Josephine at her garden Malmaison in France. The Empress's gardener named the rose after the Duchess, and developed other repeat-blooming roses from it.

These roses were the ancestors of the beautiful Bourbon and Hybrid Perpetual roses of the 19th century - but Portland roses are still prized by gardeners on their own merits.

Is it possible that this rose, or one of its descendants, traveled all the way from Empress Josephine's garden to Topanga, California? Are there any rosarians out there who'd like to take a crack at this mystery?


Thru Pink Curtains said...

i was wondering where this story was coming from with roses in bloom!!!! l love roses but qite as well informed as you bit this is interesting, thank you and merry christmas

CaShThoMa said...

Gorgeous blooming bush; just in time for Christmas. Love your photos; I can almost smell the sweet scent right off the screen.

Pink is definitely to be celebrated and you do a wonderful job of showing us just why...

Jodi Anderson said...

Oooh, I'm good with pink being the color of the day. If I see any inspiring pink, I'll snap a photo and post it.

Thanks for sharing YOUR pink. :)


I don't know much about roses. Loads of roses are grown here in Kern County. Here's a link to some rosarians:

That shabby Pink Girl said...

It is refreshing to know someone is enjoying Roses now, I have many bushes but they have all bloomed out now, I have to write down every Rose I have by name what row they are in and what side of the house or which fence they hang over~I can never remember them all~thanks so much for sharing this with us!

Have a wonderful New Year!

marian elizabeth

Beverly said...

I like to think Josephine may have enjoyed the sweet fragrance, color and form from which this very rose came.

Our roses are dormant now, but spring offers sweet anticipation.

Happy Pink Saturday, Glennis.

Tricia said...

Great lesson on roses. I'm a rose lover too, although not nearly so knowledgeable as you. Happy Pink Saturday!


Gilly said...

What a beautiful rose, whatever its name! I love scented roses, but so many of them now seem to have no scent, even if they have been bred to produce wonderful shape and colour.

I can almost smell that rose from your great photos!

Jason, as himself said...


Charlene said...

I'm late for PINK Saturday but, at least I made it to say hello! But, I love the photos of the roses! Ours are long gone thanks to the COLD weather we have had here in the past month. I can almost smell those. Have a great week. Charlene

dana said...

Dear G,

I've been so busy over the last few months, that I've not had the time to visit my favorite bloggers. You, my dear, rank right up THERE on my list. You have such a way of sharing information with us...and you have a huge variety of interests, too. I'll bet you are one fun gal to be around! Thank you for this terrific Pink Sat. share. . . . how did your Christmas Goose turn out?

L, Dana

Unknown said...

These are so beautiful. And your lesson that accompanies the picture is right on point as well! Wishing you a very wonderful New Year!