Six on Saturday

“June is bustin’ out all ovah!” So Shirley Jones sang out in Carousel back in the 1950s when Broadway musicals made their way into Hollywood films. No less so this morning in my June gardens, traditionally the month of roses. Leading the show are the three Old Roses in my herb garden. Although a bit late, they are making up for it, now.

(1) Cicero’s rose began the color show first, finally opening the first of June. Known as Rose of Castile, it is an autumn damask, rosa x Damascene Bifera dated c. 50 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). Cicero cultivated this specimen in his own garden outside his well-stocked library in Rome. “If you have a garden in your library, you will want for nothing.”

Rose of Castile

Inside the library? Not outside, as my gardens are? Not in ancient Rome.

bibliotheca, stacked with papyrus rolls or even wax tablets, may simply have been plain stone and wood rooms in one wing of a building. And enclosed by these buildings stood an open square surrounded by colonnades, often with Greek sculptures and temples. This was where the hortus, the garden, was planted and enjoyed — topic for another story.

(2) “Empress Jos├ęphine” was next to open fully and now has all but taken over its quadrant in the peristyle herb garden. I don’t mind. It is a romantic rosa Gallica (c. prior to 1770) from Malmaison where Empress Jos├ęphine gathered together the largest collection of roses ever established up to her time. The Old Roses are divided into two categories: Summer Flowering Old Roses and Repeat Flowering Old Roses. This one is a repeat bloomer, usually in September.

Empress Josephine

(3) At first lagging behind but finally catching up with herself is the Red Rose of Lancaster (c. prior to 1300) ~ not quite all that red but more like a dark rose. I suppose it’s called a red as opposed to the White Rose of York.

Red Rose of Lancaster

Also known as “Apothecary Rose,” the Lancastrian rose is a gallica, Rosa gallica officinalis. A rose gules was the heraldic badge adopted by John of Gaunt, first duke of Lancaster (1340-1399. A lot of English history and literature is represented here in this rose, both glorious and tragic. Because my paternal ancestral lineage is Lancastrian, I wanted it represented in my garden.


A cobblestone mosaic showing the Red Rose of Lancaster in Williamson Park, Lancaster

(4) Since my favorite horticulturalist — and one of my favorite garden writers — is the late Gertrude Jekyll, of course I had to include her namesake rose bush in my English borders. But she did not introduce it herself; David Austin did, in 1986. In fact, I think it’s one of his first. My husband calls her “Gertie,” as in “how’s old Gertie today?”

Rose Gertrude Jekyll

She’s doing quite well with her rich “old rose” fragrance of fully opened blooms of a gorgeous deep pink of this flower form, typical of a David Austin rose. Yet unlike the Old Roses, Austin’s roses have the repeat flowering habits of modern rose varieties, the best of both worlds. My only regret is that I planted mine at the far end of the garden, giving it plenty of space for its five feet height and wide girth, instead of close to the front door so we could enjoy the fragrance without making a “pilgrimage.”

(5) The little Hermosa rose bush we planted later in front of “Gertie” adds a cascading effect of pink roses. I notice only if I walk down to the end of the herb garden and peer over the boxwood hedge.

Rosa Hermosa

We found it in the garden of a historic pioneer place “way out in plum nelly,” as my mother would have said. A small group of gardening ladies were holding a garden sale, trying to preserve as much of the garden gone wild before the transportation folks bulldozed everything down for a new road.

Hermosa is a china rose introduced in 1840 by hybridizer Marchesseau. According to Antique Rose Emporium, “many rosarians suspect Bourbon influence in its breeding [because, I suspect, of its characteristics]. It was long popular as a container plant for European window gardens and its low, compact form is well suited for any small garden or for a massed effect in a larger border.” Because of its low height of two to three feet, I wish I had bought more — but it was the last one left.

(6) Dainty blooms of single petals have begun opening on climbing rose Evangeline making her way up one side of an arbor that separates the English borders from the Asian garden. The name reminds me of my youngest granddaughter, my son’s sweet dainty little girl.

Cl. Evangeline

Introduced in 1906 by hybridizer Walsh, Evangeline can reach 20 feet or more, producing single blossoms of one and a half inches. We’ll see about that height this year as this climber is making a painful comeback from a sad heap after house painters nearly destroyed it three years ago.

If this renewed month of June continues with daily alternating spells of sunny days and summer rain showers, well into July, I shall be quite contented as I continue to recover from the stroke of a year-and-a-half ago.

Mystery Rose

Does anyone know what this is?

Today in my garden, one long bending cane bloomed for the first time — single roses with yellow centers — sprouting up next to a couple of “Betty Prior” rose bushes (c. 1935), a carmine-pink floribunda grown on its own root stock, as she has yet to open her buds.

I’m wondering whether the mystery cane sprouted from old root stock of Blaze, a row of which once grew along the back fence.

The red Blaze was not my choice of rose, but it was the only rose available in small-town nurseries when we moved here in the mid-1970s. Introduced in 1932 by Jackson & Perkins, Blaze is a large climber sporting bright red roses with little to no fragrance, as I recall. Soon I introduced other modern hybrids, such as the pink Queen Elizabeth and the white Lowell Thomas, to my new garden with varying success.

During one exceedingly cold winter with daytime highs of sub-freezing temperatures as a daytime high for weeks on end, I lost all eleven roses. That’s when I discovered the Old Roses, as advertised in the back pages of garden magazines. I found many of the heirlooms from my childhood. I did the research and learned that the Old Roses fare much better in this climate. I ordered one, then another, until I collected had specimens that have become named favorites, and I’ve not lost one.

So, my friends, who is this newcome, this intruder? Do I bid her stay and make her presence known?

My elderberry is coming back!

Sambucus Nigra Black Beauty

Unlike this beauty pictured above, mine are not nearly ready to bloom. Already it stands at a bushy four feet, two years after workers butchered the trees still in early bloom to clear the way for the house painters. They left the plants so damaged that we had to have someone cut them down entirely. Blessedly, they left the roots and stumps. Now they look like this . . .

Sambucus Nigra Black Beauty

Yesterday’s blog post (“Wordless Wednesday” 6/1/2022) featured the Black Beauty elderberry in various stages of bloom. The plant is a deciduous shrub that can reach six to eight feet and a spread of five feet. In May, tiny mauve blossoms like mine, or white blossoms like these below, open on flat bracts at the ends of branches . . .

Stock photo of white elderberry blossoms

. . . and scent my garden with an aromatic blend of citrus, passionflower, and vanilla. Their muted yet pungent fragrance wafts from the back gardens out to the front street from late spring well into mid-June, sometimes later. Around August, the faded blossoms form purple berries, a veritable feast for the birds flitting about among the branches.

Elderberry fruits

Ripe berries can be harvested for elderberry pan sauces, syrup, and an old-fashioned home-made wine or cordial. I’ve never tried any of these as I planted just two elderberry bushes for ornamental purposes only, to help create a sense of enclosure for a secret garden on the north side of our house.

Old-Fashioned Homemade Elderberry Wine

One of these days, out of curiosity, I just may buy a bottle of store-bought Manischewitz.

Six on Saturday

On this mid-May afternoon, too damp to work outside, I browse through some of my garden journals for inspiration and writing prompts. Five years ago, we considered downsizing to a retirement place, weighing disadvantages against the few advantages. But, I asked Hubby, how ever can I leave my gardens for a hotel-like one-bed suite?

We’ve worked hard and spent plenty good money for 40+ years making this once plain corner lot into a lush plot. We read lots of books, toured gardens, studied plant culture and garden design, and learned to blend traditional English/French/Colonial American styles touched by a bit of Italian. It all began with a Tasha Tudor-illustrated book called Kitchen Gardens.

In its early years, the garden’s crosswalk of flat concrete blocks intersected four beds of summer vegetables and a few culinary herbs.

We found a source in town for used bricks, giving the area a more refined appearance inspired by our first visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

John Blair Garden, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

We added four bushes of Old Roses and surrounded the plot with boxwood. And we introduced English ivy, a honeysuckle vine and climbing roses trained to a pair of trellises flanking either side of a bench arbor similar to this one.

The summer and fall before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the house exterior repainted. Sadly, and unfortunately, everything against that back wall of the herb garden had to come down. The work crew was none too gentle. I tried to harvest as many herbs as I could before the men trampled everything to the ground. They tossed the trellises onto the lawn, the arbor bench, too, and damaged all the roses.

Herbs, however, are a hardy lot. They recovered from the shock and appeared anew the following spring. Judicious pruning helped reshape damaged rose bushes, but this spring I haven’t pruned at all; I’m allowing the canes to grow naturally long, so we’ll see. The broken climbing roses may or may not return at all. Oh, well. The trellises are gone, anyway.

The bench arbor is back in place after Hubby repaired it, although a bit wobbly. A couple of lush hanging planters suspended from the arbor corners will work wonders by summer, I’m sure.

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