In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
The Olympiad rose is a champion in the garden.
The publishers of National Gardening Association asked me recently if I had any recommendations for roses that do well in our fair climate. Having grown all kinds of roses for many, many years, I have a personal favorite that I would like to share with you.
My number one, all time favorite rose is 'Olympiad.' It is a hybrid tea that was developed by Armstrong, now Jackson Perkins and was released in 1984 to coincide with the Summer Olympics that were being held in Los Angeles. I was working at Sunset at the time and we received a shipment of about 30 bare root plants in January. A special set of three raised beds were built right outside of publisher Bill Lane's office. The 'Olympiad' roses were planted in fresh nursery soil mix and, because the beds were visible from the lobby, colorful nemesia were planted under the roses to provide interest until they began to do their thing. Normally you don't plant anything under roses because they require maximum air circulation to prevent fungus disease. But these 'Olympiad's were true champions - they didn't mind the competition from the colorful annuals and began growing with vigor almost immediately after having been planted.
It was my job to care for and tend the 'Olympiad's, and it was a pleasure! I have never grown a rose that had such long, straight stems. The buds were good sized and the flowers, although not packed with petals, had a lovely form and held well in arrangements. The only criticism I would make is that the "bud petal", or the first petal to open at the base of the bud near the calyx, was always deformed. It didn't interfere with the bloom at all, it was just a little unsightly but could easily be picked off. The foliage was dark green and glossy with a deep, waxy sheen that protected the plant from insect pests. There was never a problem with suckers growing from below the graft.
One Monday morning I came in to find that some of my beautiful roses had been shorn. They had been cut correctly so I knew it had to be someone who had knowledge of rose cultivation. The first person I suspected was Bill Lane himself. Heck, it was his company and the roses rightfully belonged to him, but I didn't want him to think I was falling asleep on the job so I confronted him with my suspicions. He laughed and admitted that he was "busted" for taking a bouquet of the beautiful red roses home to his wife, Jean. He was impressed that I knew my plant so well that I could tell when a thief had been at work.
The 'Olympiad' roses bloomed throughout the summer and fall of 1984 with no sign of fungus disease or insect problems. When they finally went dormant the following winter, we dug them up and planted them in containers. I left the company in 1996 and the 'Olympiad's were still growing strong.
Beginners and rosarians alike can be assured of a great experience should they decide to add an 'Olympiad' rose to their collection.
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