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A Rose By Any Other Name …

  • D.F. Braun
  • Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered until I read the description in the catalogue: “No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”

    I have a number of celebrity roses in my garden and I started to think about how appropriate their names were after I read Mrs. Roosevelt’s comment.
    Years ago I saw a colorful picture of a cluster of floribundas in a catalogue and I giggled. Honestly! I was amused by the varied colored stripes of red, orange, pink, yellow even purple in each bloom as well as how each rose differed from the other on the same stem. The name? ‘George Burns.’ Of course! I sent away for it at once and the bush is as prolific in blooming as George was in creating laughter. In fact, when curious friends are attracted to it and ask the name, they too giggle when I tell them.
    ‘Barbra Streisand’ is a lusty, sharp lavender tea rose with a strong musky fragrance. Poor Barbra was not planted in the friendliest neighborhood. She’s rather boxed in by three leggy ‘Bonicas,’ but she seems to have fared well despite them. In fact, she’s grown taller each year and now the ‘Bonicas’ seem like her chorus line.
    ‘Audrey Hepburn’ should be the first choice of flowers for a bridal bouquet. A tea rose with delicate pointed pink buds, she never seems to fade in maturing. There is a fragility about the whole bush and the leaves are complimentary to the blooms in a bouquet.
    My ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ like his namesake, stands strong and tall. Although introduced nearly forty years ago it is still regarded as one of the best reds; its velvety dark scarlet petals do not burn in our hot Marin sun as easily as other red roses and they do not lose their fragrance.  In my garden ‘Mr. Lincoln’ stands six feet tall.
    I used to grow a ‘Dolly Parton,’ which like its show-business namesake is bigger than life, with huge six- to seven-inch double blooms that are very long lasting as cut flowers. The fragrance is exceptionally strong and spicy and the bright orange-red blooms are attractively set off by dark, green glossy leaves. The plants can grow to four feet. Unfortunately, for me, the blooms were sparse and the plant was prone to mildew.
    In 1982, the late grand old lady of the Grand Ole Opry, Minnie Pearl, was given a bouquet on stage of miniature roses that bears her name. Harmon Saville, the rose hybridizer made the presentation, and Minnie was beside herself. She’d be even more thrilled to know how well the rose has borne the test of time. Currently rated 9.5 by the American Rose Society, it is formidable both at the show table and in the garden.
    While the lovely David Austin roses have rarely done well in my very warm summer garden, I couldn’t resist two of them, both English “celebrities”:
    ‘Gertrude Jekyll,’ named in honor of the brilliant, trendsetting British garden designer and former Impressionist painter, is a rose among the most strongly perfumed Austins and while the buds start out small and scrolled, they quickly mature into buxom rosette shaped blossoms of hot pink. The bush can grow to four feet and in my garden becomes quite bushy and hedge-like and although lacking the first prolific blooms it is certainly worth keeping.
    ‘Brother Cadfael,’ another lovely Austin rose, named after the monk turned sleuth, has a definite U.K. feeling about it; a pale pink, robust cabbage. Why define it as a “celebrity” after a Benedictine friar? Its fragrance is “divine.”
    Last, but certainly not least, is ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ bred by the great American hybridizer, Walter Lammerts in 1954. This regal bush and bloom was the All-American selection for 1955 and today is still ranked as one of the top exhibition roses in the grandiflora class. The Queen is a very tall grower and shouldn’t be coerced into shorter heights by pruning too low, or she will spend the following growing season growing to lord over everything. Besides being a stately bush. the disease resistance, vigor and regal single lovely pink blooms are the reasons why it still enjoys a respectable rating by the American Rose Society. The Queen is in no danger of being dethroned.