Yesterday afternoon, my friend Sheila came by for a visit. She was the first live visitor since the beginning of the Pandemic. I served lemonade with ice and sliced strawberries on the courtyard . . .
. . . and we talked about gardens — what else, with mine spread out behind us? Here a rhododendron is coming into full bloom.
She and her husband are incorporating more perennials and roses into their back yard landscape. I steered her to peonies and the Old Roses for their stability and endurance in our harsh winters, such as the Rose of Castile, r. damasceno bifera. Cicero’s favorite at his villa on the Via Appia, it’s my oldest rose, dated c. 50 B.C.E.
Next is the “Red Rose of Lancaster,” a gallica dated c. 1370, sometimes referred to as the apothecary’s rose, r. gallica officianalis. This red rose was first adopted as a heraldic badge by John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and father of King Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king. I grow this cultivar in my herb garden in honor of my English ancestors who were loyal Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses.
A couple of French roses round out my old rose collection, one of which is also part of the herb garden, the Empress Josephine. This cultivar is descended from a pink gallica stock at Malmaison, dated prior to 1815, and developed by David Austin.
The second French rose in my garden (in a separate location) is “Queen of the Bourbons.” Bred by Mauget (France, 1834), it is considered one of the heirloom roses. When in full bloom, the bush is covered with rounded pink cups packed with 26-40 petals.
These are a few of my favorite May bloomers showcased in this week’s “Six on Saturday.” Only the rhododendron is in full bloom, but all the roses have sprouted buds, some showing color already. Next week, I’ll feature the Old-Fashioned roses. Be sure to tune in then!