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Not Picky at All
By Henry Everett
The varied collection of roses in my garden would probably confuse many a rose enthusiast. They might wonder, “what is he getting at” or “where is he going with this;” especially when the bushes are in bloom. Yes, the flowers are all on rose bushes, but there the continuity ends. (Did I say continuity? I suppose I should say similarity for the differences are dominant; some bushes are quite large, for example, Tuscan Sun on steroids, I mean on fortuniana or American Firefighter on its own roots, both are full bushy plants in the tenfoot range. On the other hand, with high hopes I planted a lovely specimen of Bolero right in front of Double Delight so its small statue would not block my view; but, heavens, it is even smaller than when I planted it, one foot max. Visitors might say, “Is that small thing a rose bush?”
And, when they see the very red new foliage of Dolly Parton against the lettuce green foliage of Gold Medal, they turn to me with a questioning look. When visitors reach out to touch a bush, as they often do, I steer them away from the viciously thorny Falling In Love or wickedly thorny Electron and guide their hands to the relative safety of smooth Pink Peace or silky stems of Pink Promise.
The flowers shapes are as varied as the bushes, and when my bushes begin to bloom in the spring one that I look forward to the most is Frances Debruiel with its ensnaring fragrance but also the unique cup and saucer shape it attains as its outer petals lower to near horizontal and its inner petals remain uprigh This is so different from the odd shape of Orchid Masterpiece with its ball shape of a dahlia as the outer petals reflex to the stem and its small inner petals layer themselves like a geometric drawing. My favorite shape is the bowl shape of a wide open Fragrant Cloud offering up its generous scent; it seems so unlike its neighbor Key Largo that holds its petals swirled close and tight for such a long time. I have surprised my friends with the enormous and chaotically shaped blooms of Reichprasident von Hindenburg and they wonder what peony I have brought them and when they inhale the stunning aroma they realize, oh, yes, a rose. How voluptuous some blooms are and how polite and mannered the blooms of Dainty Bess.
I never offer my visitors a taste of roses; can you imagine, if I said, “Here, take a bite of this, I think you’ll enjoy it.” But, let me tell you, once I was walking with a German friend through rural England and as we passed a great white rose he pulled off a blossom and offered me a bite. Not wanting to seem like a city slicker, I did stuff a few petals in my mouth and found they were sweet and tasted exactly like a rose smells. I wish I knew what variety that tasty treat was, I would grow it today, but I don’t dare eat the flowers from my own garden because I spray them regularly, yet when I run my hands across the foliage of Sonia and give a sniff I smell a distinctly peppery whiff, although not all bushes have this characteristic.
There is so much variety to enjoy in the rose family, so many differences in form and color, in smells and tastes, in height and shape. I am so glad to have a garden full of rose bushes to discover the many treasures of the rose.