Why do I grow roses? A big part of why I garden is to grow fragrances that are otherwise unobtainable. Then I realized that I have moved to climate where fragrances are rare. The thin dry air here is not a good conductor of fragrances, and the earthy fragrances of grass and wood and vegetation and decomposition that I grew up with are essentially absent here except on the rare humid day or after irrigation. Most of the time, I go for a walk or out in the garden and smell...nothing.This is very strange for me, since I have an over-sensitive sense of smell (hyperosmia), and the scent of an area is how I know and understand my surroundings in a similar way as we do seeing it or hearing it. There are some fragrances here, they are just primarily herbal: the pinyon, or juniper, the fernbush, whose whole bush has a warm woody fragrance and even more fragrance when it blooms, and the herbs that do well here such as rosemary, lavender and thyme. But what I want in my garden are floral fragrances in addition to the herbal. And there are some fragrant flowers here, the weedy Spanish broom, which smells candy sweet for a week or so, the musty smelling Scotch broom or other Cytissus cultivars, and the native Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), which does smell strongly of chocolate. Hall’s honeysuckle grows here also, and is a scraggly weedy looking vine, that builds up a fire risk thatch. These tough plants all have what I have forbidden in my garden, that being the color yellow, which grates on my eyes like nails on a chalkboard, and all these plants have weedy appearances. Then there is the native chamisa, whose golden yellow flowers in the fall, smell strongly. In fact whole areas of the city can smell like this in the fall. Some say it smells of sweaty gym socks...after it has been sitting at the bottom of the gym bag for a week. However you describe it, I have not encountered anyone who has described it as pleasant. Some other native plants have non-yellow flowers and pleasant fragrances: Purshia has ivory colored flowers on a tough sculptural shrub. The native mock orange, Philadelphus microphyllus has white flowers which smell of pineapple in the spring on rather scrappy-looking shrubs. Fendlera rupicola is a similarly looking shrub and also with white flowers but four petaled, which are fragrant if you put your nose in them. All these shrubs have beautiful flowers which last a week at most in the spring, too short of a time for a fragrance addict. But people grow lilacs which don’t last any longer. Datura wrightii has large white night blooming scented trumpets throughout late summer, if you have room for a large perennial to perhaps 5 feet across that dies to the ground in the winter. I tried growing one, and it died, but I may try again.
Although all of these plants are worthy of growing, when I moved into this house, I knew I wanted season-long floral fragrances. I also knew that all around the neighborhood, people grew roses easily, even in yards where the owners were not particularly interested in gardens. So I started growing roses. If I lived in a warmer climate and/or one with more moisture, I may not have become much of a rose grower, favoring the tropical scents of gingers, plumerias, Trachelospermum, Michelia, the fragrant camellias or rhododendrons, gardenias, daphne...the list goes on and on. Here I have a lot of herbal scents, some ephemeral spring fragrances, the long blooming chocolate flower tucked away where I don’t have to actually see them much, and...roses. Although their water loving ways may mean that they will need to be replaced, probably by the drought tolerant plants I mentioned.
But for now, the roses are here, and rose season is just beginning. These three roses began blooming first, all opening flowers on the exact same day, April 21, this year.
Bolero: Although white and fragrant , I will probably remove them all at the end of this year. I need something that uses less water in that spot, and Bolero is also extremely susceptible to thrips damage and constant spraying is not something I'm good at. There isn't a great need to replace them, since the rosemary will gladly expand to fill the area, but I'm thinking of a white flowered Autumn sage. I already have Texas Wedding, which is, like all Salvia greggii, starts blooming early and continues blooming all summer. In this climate, it's amazing, which is why it is used everywhere. It's fragrant, but an herbal foliage fragrance.
|Salvia greggii 'Texas Wedding'|
Marie Pavie, will probably be a keeper. It blooms throughout the summer, and the fragrance from one plant can be detected from yards away. I planted 4 more last year, to surround the outdoor eating area, and hopefully we can dine bathed in the fragrance of these.
Old Blush will also probably stay. Not because I like it, since the flowers are rather boring and not very fragrant, but because it is just a tough rose that keeps on blooming. The color of the flowers changes to a rather strident cerise in the heat. I'd remove it but I don't have the energy. That, and it was a gift from someone who took a cutting from her great-aunt's yard and told me that she was happy that it was now in a yard where it wouldn't be destroyed and lost. Hmph.
Abraham Darby. I wondered if it was my imagination that made me obsessed with this rose, but then this first one bloomed and I smelled it, and it all came back to me. The fragrance is incredible, and the flower form is just perfect.
Winchester Cathedral. I keep thinking I should remove it, since the flowers are small, strangely scented and doesn't rebloom well (probably due to my neglect), but I don't think it's going to happen.