Category Archives: Roses

Roses from the French Isle Reunion

Bourbon Rose ‘Variegata di Bologna’  -2 ©Kim Smith 2015‘Variegata di Bologna’

With Reunion in the news, I thought readers might be interested to learn that Reunion is home to some of the most highly scented roses in the world, the Bourbon roses. Bourbon roses grow very well in Cape Ann gardens and have the wonderful combined qualities of fabulous fragrance and repeat blooming. I wrote a bit about them in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities (see chapter 14). Bourbon roses are so named because Reunion was formerly called Isle de Bourbon.

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! 

A sepal, a petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flash of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—
A caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!

Emily Dickinson

Rosa bourboniana

The Bourbon roses (Rosa bourboniana) comprise one of the most extravagantly scented class of roses, along with having a wide range of growth habit in form and height. From the shrubby and compact ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison,’ growing to about two feet, to the thornless climbing ‘Zephirine Drouhin,’ there is a suitable Bourbon rose available to fill nearly every conceivable desired effect in the landscape.

Named for the island of Reunion, formerly called Isle de Bourbon, Rosa bourboniana is a natural crossing of the China rose (repeat blooming) with the Autumn Damask rose. Reunion belongs to the archipelago of Mascareignes in the Indian Ocean and lies east of Madagascar. Originally discovered by the Portuguese, then colonized by the French in the seventeenth-century, Reunion had a diverse population of settlers from around Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. The Bourbon rose was discovered growing wild in Reunion in approximately 1817.

Hybridized Bourbon roses flower in hues of white to china pink to cerise and purple. The flowers are quartered at the center and filled with overlapping petals. With their sublime fragrance, tolerance for cold temperatures, and freedom of flowering (‘Louise Odier’ remains in bloom from June until the first frost), Bourbons are amongst the most distinctive of all roses.

The following is a list of Bourbon roses successfully growing in our garden, along with one failure noted.

‘Louise Odier’ ~ 1851 ~ Bourbon ~ Delicate china pink, camellia-style flowers, enchanting and intensely fragrant. Blooms lavishly throughout the season, from early June to November, with a brief rest after the first flush of June flowers. Grows four to five feet.

‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ ~ 1868 ~ Bourbon ~ Clear hot pink. Thornless. The sensuous Bourbon fragrance is there, only not as intense relative to some others noted here. Repeat blooms. Twelve feet.

‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ ~ 1881 ~ Bourbon ~ Deep raspberry-magenta. Considered to be one of the most fragrant roses. Six to seven feet. Note: We no longer grow Madame Isaac Pereire as its buds usually turned into brown, blobby globs that rarely fully opened due to damp sea air.

‘Souvenir de Victor Landeau’ ~ 1890 ~ Bourbon ~ Deep rose pink, richly fragrant and consistently in bloom through October and into November. Pairs beautifully with Louise Odier. Four to five feet.

‘Variegata di Bologna’ ~ 1909 ~ Bourbon ~ Creamy pale pink with rose-red striations. Suffused with the heady Bourbon fragrance. The foliage becomes tattered-looking later in the season. Slight repeat bloom, although it initially flowers for an extended period of time, four to six weeks in all. Tall growing, best supported against a pillar.

‘Souvenir de Saint Anne’s’ ~ 1916 ~ Bourbon ~ Ivory flushed with warm pink and cream single to semi-double blossoms. Sensuous Bourbon fragrance. Compact growing, ideal for the garden room. Continually blooming. Two feet. Note: ‘Souvenir de St. Anne’ is a sport of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (1843), with the similar lovely colorway. The unopened buds and blooms of ‘Malmaison’ have the tendency to be ruined in damp air, whereas ‘St. Anne’s’ do not.

Bourbon Rose ‘Variegata di Bologna’  Gloucester Garden ©Kim Smith 2015

Tips for improved rose culture:

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Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

A Thanksgiving column for you–about the sublime rose ‘Aloha,’ for which I am most thankful. Even more so, I am thankful for my family—our son Alex is arriving home from college this afternoon, then later in the afternoon, my dear mother-and father-in-law from Cincinnati, and then darling daughter tonight on the train from NYC. I count my blessings each and every day, but I am especially grateful that this Thanksgiving my husband and I can share this most special of holidays with our family. I hope with all my heart you have a joyful Thanksgiving.

Warmest wishes, Kim

P.S. Programming notes ~ Two specials that I produced are airing on Cape Ann TV this week and they are The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate and The Greasy Pole Fall Classic (see previous post re Greasy Pole schedule).

Program schedule for The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate airing on Channel 12, Cape Ann TV:

Monday, November 21 at 8:00 pm

Tuesday, November 22 at 2:30 am and 10:30 pm

Saturday, November 26 at 8:00 pm

Aloha Blooming Mid-November

Rosa ‘Aloha’

The French have a beautiful sounding word for a repeat flowering rose and, without doubt, the most remontant rose that we grow is ‘Aloha.’ Embowering our front porch pillars, she welcomes with her fresh-hued beauty.‘Aloha’ begins the season in a great flush, followed by a brief rest, and then continues non-stop, typically through November, and in one recent, relatively mild autumn, into December. I like her so very much that I planted a second and then third and they are all three sited where we can enjoy her great gifts daily.

‘Aloha’s’ buds are full and shapely, and colored carmine rose with vermilion undertones, giving us a preview of nuanced shades to come. She unfurls to form large, quartered, and subtly two-toned blossoms, initially opening in shades of clear rose-pink with a deeper carmine pink on the reverse, or underside of the petals. The blossoms are long lasting, fading to a lovely shade of  pale coral pink. And the petals fall loosely, never becoming balled clumps. With luxuriously long stems and shiny emerald foliage, ‘Aloha’ also makes a divine cut flower.

Oh, and I can’t believe I am several paragraphs in and haven’t yet mentioned her fragrance. She not only welcomes with her great beauty, but also with her potent and dreamy scent. I’ve often heard ‘Aloha’ described as having a green apple fragrance, but find that description only partially accurate; the scent is really much more sophisticated, with notes not only of fresh Granny Smith apple, but also the warm sensuous undertones of the old Damask and Bourbon roses.

Passers-by may think she looks a bit peculiar, ruining my color scheme with her fresh-hued cluster of pink amongst a tumble of drying stalks and seed heads in the beige and brown hues of late autumn, but I don’t mind—to be welcomed by her scent on a cold November morning is simply to be welcomed by a gift—and ‘Aloha’ is a rose that just keeps giving and giving and giving.

I first took note of Aloha, arching along a split-rail fence and growing in the path of drying winter winds and sand. A rose that can withstand winter along the Cape Ann seashore is a rose worth noticing. I asked the owner of the garden if she minded if I took a cutting and she very graciuosly allowed me to take several (see Chapter 14, page 117, in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities on how to propagate a rose from a cutting).  ‘Aloha’ is one of the easier roses to propagate and I soon had several viable plants. I kept one and gave the rest to friends. Roses grown on their own roots are far superior to those grown on a commercial rootstock. The grafted joint is susceptible to disease and damage. Not only that, in the case of a very severe winter, the growth above the graft is often completely destroyed. The growth that returns in the spring is that of the rooting stock, not of the originally desired rose.

‘Aloha’ was hybridized by Eugene Boerner in 1949 and is in the class Large Flowered Climber. Her parents are the Climbing Hybrid Tea ‘Mercedes Gallart’ and ‘New Dawn.’ Although classified as a climber, the versatile ‘Aloha’ is easily grown as a shrub. The foliage is vigorous and leathery, and rarely visited by pests or disease. ‘Aloha’ is the parent or in the ancestry of many gorgeous roses and has contributed greatly to the development of the David Austin roses.

Roses seen in paintings by the old Dutch masters are the Damask, Bourbon, Gallica, Alba, and Portland roses. Hybrid Perpetuals were derived to a great extent from the Bourbons. Hybrid teas are a cross between the winter-hardy Hybrid Perpetual and the tender, yet repeat blooming, Tea rose; hence the winter-hardy and repeat blooming class called Hybrid Tea. These were cross-pollinated with large flowered climbers, culminating in roses that inherited what are considered by rosarians to be the most desirable qualities—that of repeat flowering, strong fragrance, strong stems, hardiness, and disease resistance.

‘Aloha’ grows vigorously in full sun or a very light bit of shade. A compact climber, she is ideal for planting alongside porch pillars and fences. It is easier to train the canes to grow up a porch pillar or to arch along a fence when they are young as the canes become stiff with age. After the first flush of flowering, deadhead and remove any weak or twiggy growth. Pruning is not mandatory for flowering because ‘Aloha’ blooms on both old wood and on the current season’s growth, however, I like to prune again lightly at the end of the growing season, to shape and to remove twiggy growth. In early spring fertilize and lightly prune yet again, removing any dead winter damage (usually minimal). ‘Aloha’ is not prickle free; be mindful to plant where she won’t create a nuisance (I should heed my own advice, although if planted in a heavily trafficked site she is very easy to keep in check).

Because of her ease in culture, remontant habit, arresting fragrance, and seemingly endless variations in color from within each flower, I would have to say ‘Aloha’ is in my top ten category of favorite roses, if not top five. If you have a rose that you cherish—a rose you grow, or perhaps one you recall from childhood—please write and tell me what it is that you find lovely in your rose.

Aloha (left pillar) Early June

Aloha Late June

Blooming Today in My Garden

In the garden of mid-Ocotober’s dissipating beauty ~

Black Swallowtail Butterfly and Fennel

Mandevilla

Zucchini Blossom

Toad Lily

Calico Aster

Rudbeckia and Smooth Aster

Monarch Butterfly and Smooth Aster

Sheffield and Korean Daisies

Moonflowers and Cardinal Climber

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea and Sargent’s Crabapple

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea and Winterberry

Begonia

Morning Glories

Geraniums

And the fabulously fragrant remontant roses ‘Souvenir de Victor Landeau’ and’Aloha’

Souvenir de Victor Landeau

‘Aloha’

Monarch Butterfly Program Presented to the Cape Ann Garden Club

This morning I had the pleasure of presenting my Monarch butterfly program to the Cape Ann Garden Club. The meeting was held at the charming and beautifully maintained Annisquam Village Hall, located in the very heart of Annisquam. Thank you Cape Ann Garden Club members for your enthusiasm and for your interest–it was my joy!

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100

These lovely arrangements are created by the members and then gathered up at the end of the meeting to be distributed to nearby nursing homes.

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100Notice the bare spots on the walls of the Hall. The Margaret Fitzhugh Browne portraits of local villagers are temporarily on loan to the Cape Ann Museum.

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall fujifilm x100.jpgCarolyn Stewart’s peonies from her garden in Vermont–imagine, fresh peonies in July!

Fabulous Review for Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

My deepest thanks and appreciation to Pat Leuchtman for her wonderful review. Pat has been writing a weekly garden column for The Recorder in Greenfield since 1980. She has been blogging for the past several years and has posted and archived all her columns on her blog Commonweeder. Read more of Pat’s review and spend time perusing her blog, which is brimming with useful information, book reviews, insights, and missives– all beautifully organized.

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Pat’s Review: Fresh Possibilities are just what I am looking for at this time of the year, so it is no surprise that I have been spending happy evenings with Kim Smith’s beautiful book that includes so many of her own delicate paintings of flowers, birds and butterflies.

Kim Smith gardens, and paints, in Gloucester.  Over the years her garden has grown, as has her concern about conservation and her delight in the roads to literature and art that her garden has opened to her. Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine Publisher) combines all these aspects of her life in the garden in the most beautiful way.

With its delicate paintings of individual flowers, and butterflies, the book does not look like a how-to book, yet it includes plant lists to attract butterflies, of fragrant flowers and plants through the seasons, seasonal blooms and useful annuals. I can hardly decide which I enjoy more, the charming prose of chapters titled The Narrative of the Garden, Flowers of the Air and The Memorable Garden, the exquisite paintings, or the poetry that ranges from our own Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker to Li Bai (701-762 CE),  a famous Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. I enjoy knowing that Kim has found the same delight  in the connections to history and the arts that I find in the garden.

One of the two chapters I particularly found useful as well as beautiful right now is Flowers of the Air which includes information about a variety of butterflies, and the plants that they need for their life cycle. We have to remember that butterflies are not only lovely, they are important pollinators.

It is no surprise that I also enjoy Roses for the Intimate Garden. Kim’s climate is a bit more gentle than mine and she can grow more tender roses that I can, but we are both devoted to the fragrance that roses bring  to our gardens and to the uncorseted exuberance of old fashioned roses.

If you want information, but also want the kind of delicious prose you find in evocative essays, an aesthetic sensibility, and beautiful illustrations, this is the book for you.  Kim is an inspired gardener and writer, but she isn’t stopping there. Watch for more news about Kim and her latest project soon.

Remontant Rose

Last of the remontant roses…the singular rose blooming in December holds a certain cachet, appreciated for its loveliness as well as its stalwart ability to withstand the earliest onset of icy cold temperatures and severe winds. Bravo oh Beautiful Rose of unknown name!

Remontant

re-mon-tant [ri-mon-tuhnt]

–adjective 1.blooming more than once in a season.
–noun 2. a remontant rose.
Origin: 1880–85;  < F, prp. of remonter  to remount
  • Remontant species roses were exclusively from the eastern periphery of Asia.