In the Garden:
'Mutabilis', also known as the "Butterfly Rose," is an old China rose first introduced in 1894. Its blooms open peachy gold, change to pink, and finally turn a stunning crimson.
A Great Spring for Roses
This spring has brought one of the best rose displays that I have seen in recent memory. Everywhere I drive, roses are putting on a superb display. Plentiful rainfall and moderate temperatures have definitely put our roses in prime condition for the season.
Old Fashioned Beauty
I must admit a strong partiality to the old roses. There is something simple about their beauty and admirable about their tenacious ability to withstand our climate -- even without pampering.
Not all are disease proof, but most seem to either avoid diseases or take a hit and bounce right back. A recent drive through an old cemetery brought this point home. While few plants had survived this low-care environment, a handful of old roses were aglow with a display of blooms that would put the pampered specimens of our botanical gardens to shame.
Space will not allow mentioning all the outstanding roses for our southern landscapes, so I will limit myself to a few that have proven themselves in my landscapes. The first antique I ever grew was 'Old Blush', a large shrub rose with double, pink blooms. Another great shrub rose is 'Mutabilis', with lovely, single blooms that change color as they age. This gives the plant a multicolored show of cream, pink, and red. Also included in our favorites list is 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', with flat-topped, quartered blooms that emit an intoxicating fragrance.
Then there is the smaller-statured 'Marie Pavie', with dainty, white blooms with a slight pink hue. 'Marie' does great in a half whiskey barrel planter or a large terra cotta pot. I love it also for its light fragrance. The fact that it is almost thornless has earned it a spot right next to the walkway near the front door. 'Marie Daly' is a pink sport of 'Marie Pavie' that is also well deserving of a place in the landscape.
There are a number of roses not quite old enough to be called antiques, and some just plain new arrivals that offer disease resistance, beauty, and a nice, shrubby growth habit. Such attributes have earned them a spot in our landscape.
A rose that is not new but is newly famous is 'Belinda's Dream'. It makes a great landscape shrub for its disease resistance, dense foliage, and fragrant, pink blooms. 'Knock Out' is the closest thing to a perfect landscape rose I can think of. Hot-pink blooms come in waves all season, while the dense shrub with dark green foliage and burgundy new growth looks great even when not in peak bloom.
Keeping Roses Happy
Our southern summers bring blistering heat and humidity. To keep our roses at their prime we provide them a soil with lots of added organic matter. This helps the soil hold water and nutrients. Raised beds are another key as this allows for good drainage during our periodic deluges when nature decides it is time to catch up on rainfall.
I also have found that with few exceptions roses need full sun to bloom well. I have some that get by on 6 hours a day. By choosing dependable varieties and providing them a good soil mix and some minimal care, our roses are a source of enjoyment throughout the growing season.
Roses can bloom themselves into a weakened state and need regular feeding to keep their vigor and bloom production at its best. Apply a complete fertilizer every six weeks at a rate of 1/2 cup per 25 square feet of soil surface area. Water it in well and maintain a few inches of mulch over the soil surface to deter weeds.
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