Wednesday, May 7, 2014

abq rose garden

I took a trip to The Albuquerque Rose Garden today, it being May, I figured the roses would be blooming, and I wanted to catch their only alba rose in bloom to see if I waxed rapturous and people seem to be when smelling the albas. The Albuquerque Rose Garden will never be as luxurious a rose garden as, say, the Huntington Rose Garden, or the San Jose Rose Garden, and today was ample evidence why. Dry winds gusting hard enough to knock me off balance was enough to cause damage to the roses. This happens every year, when the spring winds coincide with the main flush of roses. I think that to grow nice roses here, you've got to have roses that rebloom, or bloom again in the fall, when the weather is nicer.

First, my yard, with the flush of Knockout Roses. I admit that they do put out a nice flush. I've voiced my opinion of Knockout roses before, and I don't feel the need to repeat them.

This rose in the parking lot of the rose garden caught my eye first. It is not labelled, but I think it is the ubiquitous Dr. Huey rose, that understock for all the grafted roses in this area.  I resented Dr. Huey in my old yard, for being a gangly climber of a rose, which bloomed once in the spring with scentless flowers, and regrowing from the mile-deep roots when I tried to remove him. He also has a propensity to mildew and the flowers fry when the sun gets hot and the wind blows, which is just about when he likes to bloom. But I've grown a fondness for him, when I realized that his flowers are a rather rare shade of ruby red. Not just a red, which many roses have, but these petals have some kind of depth to them that can't be photographed.

I've been reading the rhapsodies of Zephirine Drouhin on-line, and have only sniffed the flowers once, last fall. I wasn't impressed. Neither was I impressed with the flower form and color. It is in full bloom now, climbing lustily up an arch, and I can't say that I am any more impressed with plant or flower form. The color is a warm pink, which is okay, but nothing to get excited about. The fragrance however! Even with the warm dry 50mph gusts, the flowers held fragrance which was delightful. This fragrance is rose-like, to be sure, but also a unique something, which I would describe most akin to amber. Sweet, warm, honeyed. 

Yes! The rose garden's lone alba rose was in full bloom.  I wish they had a 'Maiden's Blush' or 'Madame Plantier' or Alba semi-plena, all of which I've read about as having incredible fragrance. The rose they do have is 'Jeanne d'Arc'. It is a good 8 feet talk, and sprinkled liberally with smallish 2-1/2 inch very double white flowers. When the wind wasn't whipping past my nose or throwing thorny branches into my face, I did detect a lovely fragrance. Maybe not enough to roll around like a cat in catnip, but enough for me to bury my nose in a blossom 4 or 5 times. Or 10.

Paul Neyron was looking good despite the dessicating winds, which was amazing, considering the size of those blossoms. Easily 5 inches across, maybe 6, enough that I could blind myself in petals when going in for a sniff, and with that button form that I love so much. Alas, the wind had blown most of the scent away.

This bank of 'Linda Campbell' was very impressive, but scentless, and if memory serves me correctly, not much rebloom. 

The original 'William Shakespeare' in all its glory.  Not the best looking bush, but I wonder if that is a matter of culture. The color, form and fragrance add up to just about the perfect flower to my eye. Too bad about the plant. Still might have to get one.

This guy was unlabelled but my guess is 'Eglantyne.' A cute button eye on most of the flowers, and a light scent which might be stronger when the winds die down.

'Graham Thomas' has "weak necks" so the flowers all hang down. I happen to like this look, but it would be better on a taller plant. I hear that he gets tends to get tall, so maybe this one is just pruned down. I can't be sure that this is 'Graham Thomas' since the color doesn't look right, but that's what the label said. I was very impressed with 'Prospero' to the left when I saw it last year, but today I am not very excited about how the flowers change colors so dramatically from red to purple, or how the flowers are so variable in size. Last year, the one flower on the bush was a good 4 inches across, this year they are more like 2-1/2 and some quite a bit smaller than the others.

I'm always impressed with 'Julia Child' which seems to be forever in bloom, with flowers that were not damaged despite the gusty winds.  Behind it, the climbing rose 'Night Owl' was blown flat against the wall, reminding me of Gulliver being tied down by millions of tiny threads.

I took this photo to remind myself of what 'Evelyn' looks like here. Not bad for a first year plant, but certainly not the perfection of form and huge flowers that you see on the web. The last time I smelled the flowers, they had a peachy scent, but the wind must have blown that away today.

'William Shakespeare 2000' showing off its ability to produce "quarter pounder" blooms. The lens cap that I'm holding is 3" in diameter. It is quite similar to the first WS,  but as others have commented, on a floppier but better foliated bush. I was surprised at the large variability of the flowers, some being quite a bit smaller and with much fewer petals than this, the largest one. In this way, the original WS seemed to be better, if today's perspective was an accurate representation.

This was the only flower on 'Jude the Obscure' today. Yes, I went down on hands and knees to sniff it, and it does have a rich and fruity fragrance even in the high winds. But the plant was weak and sickly looking. I wonder if it is a culture issue, since I don't read about it being a weak plant.

The flowers of 'Carding Mill' were abundant and perfect, although the Juicy Fruit fragrance was mostly blown away by the wind. 

The one Hybrid Tea that I felt compelled to photograph was 'Mister Lincoln.' He had enormous flowers today, a good 6-7 inches in diameter, buffeted by the winds but still undamaged. This plant exhibited the classic "lollipop on a thorny stick" look that Hybrid Teas are criticized for having. But after sniffing this flower, 'Mister Lincoln' is still, in my mind, the quintessential rose for fragrance. I also sniffed 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' which is described as "The Queen of Beauty and Fragrance" but I found her to be neither. I found the color to be muddy, the flower form to be lacking (too few petals?), and the scent to be too much like bread. Now, I like bread (too much!), but although others have spoken highly of it, it wasn't for me. Good thing I smelled it before buying it.

'Queen of Sweden' was quite impressive. It was one of the two most floriferous roses in the Austin bed. I have not been fond of flowers of this pale pink, but in this case it was very charming. Part of that might have been the sturdy cup-shaped flowers, a form I am particularly fond of.  Not much fragrance, but then again, nothing had much fragrance in this wind.

 'The Shepherdess' is an older Austin variety, and is supposedly superceded by better cultivars, but this was the other very floriferous rose in the Austin bed. As a second year plant, this is impressive.

Although I was mostly looking at the Austin roses, 'Suzanne' was very impressive. A bit of scent, and a once bloomer at least in my observation, but as impressive as 'Cecille Brunner' as far as small pink scented roses on a big bush goes. 

Although a terrible photo, I probably did a triple take of 'Reba K. Rowland' with hanging double but scentless flowers on a climbing plant. Behind it was 'Showtime', a single rose with particularly eye-catching but scentless flowers. Nice to look at, but I'm not planting them. Other disappointments: 'Belinda's Dream' which is said to grow so well in Texas. Apparently not so great in the ABQ rose garden. 'Louise Odier' of which I've seen glorious photos of camellia-like flowers, had an odd scent when I first smelled it a couple years ago, but on subsequent sniffings was delightful, has not tolerated the sun and wind well. Most of the flowers had crispy edges. Maybe I'll have to take another trip when the wind dies down, just to see what survived the wind best.


  1. Still not bad, including how well you shot this in spite of the *$(*&@#** wind. In defense of the high desert, I think roses look pretty good in the El Paso-Santa Fe corridor, plus have little problems with mildew...and the fragrance is more intense than lower. The "Queen of Sweden" is exquisite.

    At least rabbits and the wind dont coincide at that garden!

    1. True! And although the fragrance is blown away from the wind, when cut and brought in where there is no wind, the fragrance becomes more pronounced. Unfortunately a lot of the Austins do not hold when cut. Have to pick the ones that cut well, I guess.