Roses and I have a love-hate relationship. I love them, but for the most part, they hate me. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word.
But I do have a struggle with one particular rose in one particular spot.
In my garden I have a wreath of roses with catmint planted underneath of them. But there is one spot in my garden that seems to have “no roses here!” written all over it.
It began many years ago with Opening Night. I chose this rose for its extraordinary long stems and beautiful habit. The blooms were among the prettiest of the reds that are generally good performers in this climate. To put it bluntly, Opening Night pretty much closed the same year.
Never one to be discouraged, I decided that the rose bush must have been damaged in some way and simply replacing this rose with another Opening Night would do the trick. After all, my other seven bushes had survived and were thriving.
So in went another Opening Night. And again that year, Opening Night turned into a closing act almost immediately.
The following season, again never one to become discouraged, I decided that as much as I liked Opening Night’s habit, perhaps it was time to try something different.
That year I chose Olympiad. Olympiad was the official flower of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as well as the 1984 AARS award winner, so it must be a good choice, right? Olympiad unfortunately met the same fate as Opening Night, and rather quickly.
So I began to wonder, is it just this particular place in my garden that dislikes red roses?
In a fit of desperation for a red rose to add to my collection, the next year I decided that Mr. Lincoln and I needed to spend some time together, so in he went.
Now, Mr. Lincoln is a rose that has been around for a long time. Originally introduced in 1964 and winner of the AARS award that year, this rose has been an old standby favorite for almost 40 years.
A fragrant, repeat flowering red, some claim that this rose, given the proper conditions, can be as tall and stately as the man in whose memory it is named.
Mr. Lincoln was planted that summer along with another I wished to try, John F. Kennedy, a clear beautiful white rose. After all, if I was to be among the company of presidents, why not pick two of the most notable?
Now, John F. Kennedy has an interesting history. After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Jackson & Perkins offered to introduce a rose in his memory.
Mrs. Kennedy requested that it be a white one, if possible, and Jackson & Perkins had one in development that fit the bill. Large, strong and fragrant, this bush sported blossoms up to 5½ inches across. It was named and introduced in 1965.
So Mr. Lincoln and John F. Kennedy came to live in my yard that summer. And despite the dry conditions, they seemed to try to survive the summer’s unrelenting heat and drought of 2002. But by the end of the season, even I had to admit that the thought of them making it into the next year seemed unlikely. Nonetheless, I covered and mulched them in the fall along with my other plants, hoping for the best.
I went to the garden that following spring and gave my roses a good looking over, and much to my surprise, Mr. Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were sending out new growth!
Not that the bushes were very large; in fact, they are little more than stems with a few leaves and certainly no match for the other, more established roses in my garden.
But being the survivors that they are, they seemed to have made it through that dry, hot summer and the following winter.
Even with an in-house horticulturist, I am not a perfect gardener. I struggle just like everyone else when the wind and heat decimate our vegetables. When the grasshoppers make a feast of newly planted annuals. When the soil isn’t right or the beautiful new thing I’ve brought home and just can’t wait to try, dies. Gardening can be a challenge in our high desert climate, but gardeners are some of the most persistent folks I know, and for this reason alone, I like and admire anyone who gardens.
Perhaps that is the lesson for all gardeners – persistence pays off.
I am very happy that I have finally been able to get a red rose to grow where no red rose seems to have wanted to thrive before. Mr. Lincoln, and on the other side, John F. Kennedy, and I seem to be doing well together.
But then again, in the company of two such noteworthies, how could I help but do anything else?
Gail Vanik can be reached at Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery at 565-8274 or by email at email@example.com.