A Rose is a Rose

Like Queen Elizabeth in the year her beloved Windsor Castle caught on fire, most of us in the New Orleans area can admit that we have experienced our own two “annus horribilis.” We’ve missed work and business dollars, milestone events and social outings with friends and family, witnessed online and in-person fights about masks, vaccines and politics and experienced multiple hurricanes with Ida being our most recent and damaging.

But as always, there are the healing properties of nature and we can seek out serenity and inspiration in our own gardens, or those in our neighborhoods and beyond. So in April 2020, I literally “dug in” and planted gardens. I started with climbing roses.

My neighbor, Pam, has multiple varieties of antique roses in her sunny front garden. Like a greedy voyeur, I watched her as she planted over 30 varieties of old garden or antique rose bushes and climbers and ran over to talk to her as she weeded, deadheaded and pruned them. I was sold — I had to have roses, too! Once we were forced to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons or gardens out of my weed beds, so I started smallish with New Dawn climbing roses along my side gate brick wall. Described as an everblooming climber, within a few weeks, I was in business.

After I planted the six containers of roses, I asked Alan Mumford of Landscape Images if he could install irrigation in these new rose beds, but he said it would be better to hand water them until they had established strong enough roots to live independently. “Too much water and they’ll develop black spot, a fungus,” he said.

Then I encountered another hurdle: It’s fine to plant your climbing roses along a wrought iron fence as Pam had because you can weave the canes (stems) around the fence. However, if you plant roses on a brick wall, they have to have a support structure onto which to climb up the wall. Unlike twining vines like clematis or clinging vines like English ivy, climbing roses need not only a support structure but they also need to be either woven through or tied to the support.

In March and April 2021, my climbers were covered with blooms. Not only did I derive extreme joy from the greenery and blossoms that greeted me as I pulled up to the side of my house, but also the added bonus was the positive comments made by the friends and strangers walking by.

This winter, in order to prepare them for spring’s “big show,” I’ll need to mulch the beds with pine straw and then severely prune the rose canes. This first rose garden is my natural Prozac. Call your doctor, I mean, your nursery provider of choice, and get yours, too. 

The History of Roses

Roses have been a favorite flower starting with the Chinese over 5,000 years ago. The Persians, Greeks and Romans, Moors and Spaniards planted their gardens with them, and the Crusaders brought them to Europe from the Middle East. During the Renaissance, roses symbolized beauty, love and youth, were interwoven into poems and songs of romance and chivalry and all art forms including tapestries and stained glass. In the 17th century, the Dutch and the French recognized the commercial value of roses and with hybridization created over 200 varieties of them. A Chinese rose, or Parson’s Pink China, was imported to England in 1789 — today it is also known as Old Blush — my first rose. Empress Josephine Bonaparte cultivated and popularized roses and her collection at her chateau at Malmaison included 167 types. Souvenir was brought back to Russia by a duke who wanted to remember his happy visit with Josephine, hence the name, Souvenir or memory, “de la Malmaison.”

Local Garden Experts

Gregg Porter
Gregg Porter Gardens

Marianne and Alan Mumford
Landscape Images

Madeleine Perino
Perino’s Home and Garden Center

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