Guest post by Carrie Bergs
With their high-born names like Madame Alfred Carriere, Louise Odier, Rose De Rescht, and Souv du Docteur Jamain, our collection of 30 old garden roses sound like a group of persnickety, pampered aristocrats. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. On our farm in southeastern Wisconsin the old garden roses are among the first to emerge in spring. New canes and buds start appearing in late March, pushing through the thick layer of leaf mulch that protected them throughout our long zone 5 winter. They confidently unfurl their new leaves with little fear of the desiccating spring winds or the inevitable frosts that can occur well into May. Their names belie their sturdy and resilient nature. They do however, in keeping with their social status and their propensity to sprawl, occupy a prime piece of real estate on the property. They are all planted in a raised fieldstone bed that extends along the wall of our barn. The wall’s protection perhaps plays a larger role in their bold behavior than their ancient lineage, but nonetheless they are a self-assured group. In early June, having taken full advantage of their posh location they are ready for show time. Almost overnight, they burst into full bloom in breathtaking shades of glorious pink, raspberry and crimson. I introduce them to everyone as The Pink Ladies (my apologies to Baronne Prevost, Paul Neyron and Ferdinand Pichard!) because the blossom covered bushes remind me of ballgowns, and because I have difficulty pronouncing their fancy names.
An old garden rose, (OGR) according to the ARS, are roses whose class was in existence before 1867, the year “La France” was introduced as the first hybrid tea. While there are many different classifications of OGR’s, many of them share a common “stop you in your tracks” characteristic…fragrance! They are also pretty hardy, prolific and relatively disease resistant. Blackspot is rarely an issue, but we often battle powdery mildew on them during July and August. A myriad of unique bloom forms also adds to the appeal of OGR’s. My two favorites include “ button eye” of which Sidonie is a classic example and “quartered” in which the petals appear to be divided into four equal sections.
Among our OGR’s, Rose de Rescht, Paul Neyron and Mme. Issac Pereire exhibit this classic “old rose” form. All of our OGR’s are repeat bloomers except for two exceptional striped roses, r. Gallica versicolor (Rosa Mundi) and Variegata di Bologna. Their hundreds of gorgeous variegated pink and white blooms are worth every minute of their short, once a year display. After the spectacular June bloom, we prune, sometimes aggressively because The Pink Ladies have a tendency to take over. Once settled back into place they bloom repeatedly throughout the summer providing plenty of blooms to share and show.
For those interested in adding a few OGR’s to their garden I recommend Barrone Prevost, Paul Neyron and Sidonie. They are all winter hardy, repeat bloomers and my favorite color…pink!