My flower gardening did not seriously begin until we moved to Heath and I began with roses. That might seem odd, but as we prepared to leave Manhattan in November of 1979 I read Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White, who was married to E.B. White, one of my favorite authors. The first chapter is titled A Romp in the Catalogues. The artistic image that went along with that chapter is “Roses of Yesterday and Today – Old fashioned – Rare – Unusual.” Will Tillotson’s Roses live in Watsonville, California, and though dubious about the different weather in California and Heath I sent for the catalog.
There was something about our final gray days among the towers of New York and the descriptions of roses like this:
“Old Blush. China (1795) 4-5 feet, spreading. Not only the ‘Last Rose of Summer’ as immortalized by the Poet Moore, but also the first and in between, for this China rose literally never stops. A semi-double ‘fluttering assemblage of pink petals’ giving an impression of airiness and gaiety.” Another book I bought has photographs of glamorous roses with names like Leda (the girl who was ravished by Zeus in Yeat’s poem); Ispahan as in Iran; and Camaieux with its candy cane stripes of pink, white and red. I was ready for roses.
I spent our first winter at the End of the Road looking through the Roses of Yesterday and Today catalog and made our first purchase, the Cuisse de Nymph or Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, a tender shade of pink. We planted it right by the front door in May. This was a mistake but it took us a while to figure that out. How long would it take you to understand that a rose bush sitting right under the roof line is going to suffer as ice melts, and melts several times a winter in Heath. Oh, well! The Passionate Nymph showed her durability as she lived and bloomed next to the front door for 35 years.
Over those years we planted a Rose Walk, with roses on both sides of a path that led to our orchard, plums and apples. One summer day our Heath Gourmet Club was meeting at our house. We gave a tour of a very short Rose Walk and one of the gourmets suggested that we give a tour of the Rose Walk every year. And so we did. The Rose Walk got longer and longer as we added modern Griffith Buck roses, David Austin roses and Farmgirl roses, dug from friend’s gardens. The final Rose Walk party in 2015 was a rainy day, the first time ever for this event, but rose lovers were undeterred.
The spring we bought our Greenfield house we immediately started planting roses. First we planted two new-to-us Kordes roses, Zaide, a big pink rose, and a creamy white Lion’s Fairy Tale. We also planted the familiar-to-us Thomas Affleck rose, a seven foot tall shrub with large deep pink roses that blooms well into October; and the Griffith Buck slightly golden Folksinger.
We also planted two tall and familiar roses against some fencing along the North Border, Fantin-Latour and Alchemist. This was a mistake. There was not much sun under our neighbor’s beautiful and enormous maple tree. I had not taken that tree into consideration. Last year we pruned down those two rose bushes and planted them in front of our new wood fence that ran between the South Border and the Herb Bed. They did not look promising, but they are growing. The Alchemist did give us golden yellow blooms, but while producing foliage Fantin-Latour is still thinking about whether to bloom or not. To make sure there was something else against that fence we added the pink Brother Cadfael rose. I love Brother Cadfael books, and the beautiful roses did bloom.
During the winter I considered this L-shape of a rose garden. We needed to add more. More catalog reading. More choices.
I did make choices. Gruss an Aachen is a polyantha in shades of pink and peach, and we believe not very tall, so we have planted it between the Alchemist and Fantin-Latour. It did give us two blossoms this summer. Patience is the gardener’s creed.
Most of the Herb Bed is gone and now replaced by the Buck roses Quietness and Carefree Beauty. Even though this year’s dry summer has been difficult for all our plants, both gave us a few blooms. According to the David Austin catalog the Lady of Shallot is an orange-gold rose that would certainly be a jolt between the very pink Carefree Beauty and very quiet and pale Quietness, but our Lady is currently blooming in pale pastel.
Our Rose Walk addition is new and I am sure that the colors will change and deepen as the plants gather more energy.
It will not take long to stroll down our new Rose Walk, but when we have looked our fill we can stroll past the river birches, the red twig dogwood, the bee balm and the raspberry patch, and sit under the umbrella and enjoy the richness of our garden. We bought a house and a lawn. Now we have a house, a Rose Walk, and surrounding beauty. ###
Between the Rows October 13, 2020