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Joan Shaw

William Baffin
William Baffin

Two Cold-Hardy Canadian Climbers

After a long, near-barren winter here in northernmost Utah, with barely enough snow to ameliorate the cold, the yellow of winter aconite and pinks and whites of early crocus are a welcome sight indeed at DragonGoose Farm. Then, of course, the daffodils erupt and the tulips, and these are all very wonderful and comforting, especially when their blooms coincide with the masses of  forget-me-nots as happened this year. But, to my mind, nothing can top the rose bloom of early summer. This period, for me, is when the garden year begins.

I couldn't seem to get outside at the proper time of day to
competently photograph the huge show that the rose,'William Baffin', put on for us this year. But here (above) is my best effort, taken in late evening. Trust me, the sight of it "in person"  was spectacular and it's one of our favorite roses. My daughter, Melanie, has one on the front porch of The Granary, the little house her dad built for her using the storage building that was on our property when we bought it in 1969. The building itself dates from 1875. (You might like to glance at An 1875 Granary in Utah Gets a Facelift.) And the 'William Baffin', along with a wonderful 'John Davis',  practically engulfs The Granary's front porch.
Rose John Cabot
'William Baffin' is part of the Explorer series of roses developed by  Dr. Felicitas Svejda in 1974 and introduced in 1983 by Agriculture Canada Ottawa. It's terrifically cold hardy; it has stood up to -30F temperatures here with no winter protection. It also repeats lightly throughout the season with good-sized, semi-double blossoms of a clear pink with a center of  bright yellow stamens. The foliage is lovely, too, healthy and bright green and, here at the farm, completely disease resistant.

Partly seen on the extreme left in the above photo is Baffin's companion rose, 'John Cabot' which has tighter, and darker pink blossoms than those on William Baffin (see photo to the right). Like 'William Baffin', 'John Cabot' is part of the Candian Explorer Series and, in fact, is the first cultivar released in the series (in 1978, by the Experimental Farm in L'Assomption, Quebec). Also disease resistant and extremely cold tolerant, it has a long initial blooming period with sporadic repeat until frost. Other benefits of both Baffin and Cabot are shade tolerance and delightful fragrance.

I bought both of these roses from the mail order company,  Royall River Roses, which is no longer in business, but Wayside Gardens in South Carolina, among others, carries both in their online catalog.

Constance Spry

David Austin has been hybridizing his English Roses since the 1950s at his nursery in Wolverhampton in England, crossing, recrossing, and back-crossing between modern, repeating roses and old classic roses. The first rose he introduced, 'Constance Spry', in 1961, made a terrific impact on the hybrizing business. A cross between 'Belle Isis' (a Gallica) and a modern floribunda, 'Dainty Maid', the plant is the first truly modern "Old Rose," what the rose breeder, Peter Beales, terms a type of antique reproduction.

'Constance Spry' can reach heights of eleven feet here on the farm and, though it has only one bloom, that bloom is a show stopper – the canes are literally smothered in flowers, escaping the confines of the arbor in a waterfall of huge pink blooms in an old rose, open-cup shape, each blossom full of petals. (Photo of blossom below left.)
Constance Spry blossom
These flowers have a captivating scent, what Graham Stuart Thomas and Peter Beales calls a myyrh fragrance.  There are five of these climbers here on the farm, opening within a week or two of each other, the times depending on how much shade they enjoy (the sun can be fierce in Utah).

Following the success of 'Constance Spry', David Austin continued to cross old roses with modern, repeat-bloom roses, aiming for blossoms with an old-rose shape and fragrance like 'Constance', but with the more appealing rebloom of modern roses.  He was also breeding for smaller, and less sprawling plants than the old gallicas, damasks, species, and old garden roses.

Though Austin Roses now has a nursery in the United States, in Tyler Texas, there were few nurseries in the United States carrying his roses when I started collecting them in the early 1980s. I became aware of his 'Constance Spry', actually, through reading the wonderful  Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book and his description and photos of the rose.  I discovered, too, that Constance Spry was a florist, teacher, author, and social reformer of the early twentieth century, who advocated using flowers to beautify the home, and who died in 1960, the year before David Austin introduced the rose bearing her name. "I do feel strongly," she once wrote, " that flowers should be a means of self-expression for everyone." A short biography of Constance Spry can be found here.
Rose Austrian Yellow

The Austrian Copper and Austrian Yellow 

But before the magnificent roses described above appear in early June, the Austrian Copper (Rosa foetida bicolor), the opening fanfare of the rose season here, start showing their startling colors in May. The copper, the bicolor variety showing red petals with a yellow reverse, often reverts to the solid color of its parent, Rosa foetida, Austrian Yellow, also known as Austrian Briar. These roses date back to before the mid-1500s, and are classified as species or wild.

The Austrian Yellow has a sweet fragrance, the Austrian Copper has no fragrance, both put on a spectacular show in May.  Coming around the hosta bed and into the arch leading to the north copse, the sight of their sudden blossoming is like the setting off a series of firecrackers, and they never cease to surprise me, coming into bloom suddenly, almost overnight.

In ordering Austrian Copper, I'm never sure I won't end up with the yellow instead, and that was the case with the yellows pictured at right. But the coppers do come through as coppers, and this spring we had a veritable thicket of them at the end of a row of pear trees, shown below left.

These two varieties of Rosa foetida are exceptionally cold hardy but they are susceptible to black spot. I've never had to spray for it and, in fact, I avoid spraying chemicals on any of our roses unless backed up against the wall with something like thrips. But  we did have black spot on one of the Austrian Coppers that we planted in the early 1980s. The plant was crowded on both sides with arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), depriving it of both sunlight and air.

This was the period during which we had an influx of deer, starting with a doe and her two fawns. The fawns, growing into adults, looked up
on the farm as their birthplace and therefore their home ground and spent their time up here leisurely browsing. The two Austrian Copperarborvitae (and all the other arborvitae on the place) were soon stripped up as far as they could reach and looked fairly awful. So we cut these particular trees down. (Eventually, we cut almost all of them down.)

What a relief for the Austrian Copper which could now get a breath of fresh air and see the sun again. No more black spot and, since shortly after the black spot incident we'd wrapped the place up in an electric fence, no more resident deer.

Cache Valley in northern Utah is not necessarily a breeding ground for black spot which is a fungus and thrives in damp climates, though l
ocation does have a lot to do with problems in caring for roses. And so does the infestation of thrips. They don't bother the Austrians or any of the other roses we grow here on the farm but, as  I mentioned above, we did have a thrip problem several years ago on one particular rose.

I first noticed their effects on a lovely soft pink hybrid perpetual moss rose, 'Madame Louis Leveque' (France 1873), and wrote to the supplier, Roses of Yesterday, about the problem. The manager explained to me that thrips, which show up as tiny black spots when the leaves are shaken onto a white sheet of paper, prevent the large, globular buds from opening – a process known as balling. I discovered later that they tend to infest roses that are crowded and kept damp, and this particular rose was flan
Madam Louis Leveque Thrip Damageked by others that had grown fairly large. It was also in the shade of a large lilac.

I eventually dug up the rose and moved it to an open spot near the north copse where it receives plenty of sun and air and have had no problem with thrips since. But here is a photo of that long-ago thrip damage, especially evident on the left-hand bud.

More later,

Joan Katherine Shaw
Early June 2007

Photos - Joan Katherine Shaw
Sources for Books mentioned in this essay:
The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book
Classic Roses by Peter Beales

Some on-line sources for roses:
Arena Rose Company
David Austin Roses Limited
High Country Roses
Jackson and Perkins
Roses of Yesterday and Today
Vintage Gardens (a source of more than 3,000 different varieties of roses)
Wayside Gardens, South Carolina
White Flower Farm 

More on roses:
Roses After Christmas
A Miniature Rose Garden in Utah
Cascading Roses
Cottage Gardens: Not as easy as they look
Cottage Gardens with Roses
Dreaming of Roses
Old White Roses
Prolific Climbing Roses for the North
Roses in Sunset Colors
Roses of the Middle East
Some Tough but Elegant Roses
The Charm of Single Roses
Three Favorite Roses

Back to: Roses in Sunset Colors

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