I SHOULD mention two other purple roses, besides the ones last week. Even though I know many gardeners believe that if God meant for us to have purple roses -- well, never mind.
'Cardinal de Richelieu' has flowers the size of a correct biscuit -- neither small nor large -- and they open reddish violet but mostly violet, and by the second day they are what anybody would call purple.
They are not as highly scented as they might be, though I have noticed this varies according to season. This rose and the next one only bloom in the spring. Only a few days.
"Tuscany" is a rose of the same sort (both are gallicas, an old class of roses) but it opens rich red.
It is like red-black velvet, a flat flower with petals crumpled somewhat like moth wings (before the moth has dried out and stretched his wing) in the center.
The second day it too is purple. Both these roses die off a grayish color, which makes some gardeners grate their teeth, but once you get used to it you can call it Parma violet.
Virtually all roses fade. For some reason this is rarely commented on. Even the ones that don't fade change color, almost always for the worst. So it is nothing peculiar to purple roses.
'Reine des Violettes' is different from these two. She makes a bush seven or more feet high, rather weak in the limbs and likely to spraw if not supported (she can be turned into a moderate climber against a fence) and is usually strongly perfumed.
This queen, as she is rightly called opens pink-lavender and fades through a splendid range of tints, so that often several colors can be seen at once. When well fed, she is a large flower. Unlike the others, she repeats moderately after the spring bloom.
A rose I admire vastly is 'Variegata de Bologna,' which is the size of a smallish tangerine, a very double flower that winds up almost globular. It is white, with stripes of the liveliest crimson, sometimes getting on toward scarlet. But this color lasts only a few hours, then fades to purple. The purple stripes on the white are, to my mind, beautiful. The scent is intense and rare.
The plant grows in a couple of years to eight feet, and in time higher than that, I suspect. This variety is said to dislike full sun. I grow it in a terrible place, shaded by a large clematis and a martin house on top of it.
It has rewarded me more than I deserve.
It has the fault of most roses, that after it has been cut for 25 hours it starts looking rather dead, even though thepetals may hold for three or four days more.
None of the roses I mention is worth a fried hoot if you judge them wrong.If you score them for qualities they do not possess, of course, they fail the test.
I remind gardeners, some of whom are much given to argument, unfortunately, tht it is perfectly all right with everybody if they do not like purple roses or striped ones. But for my part, I look forward to them, and am considerably enchanted by them. Whereas I would not bother even to look out the window to see 493,000 bushes of "Tropicana' or 'Peace' -- both of them over-glutted flowers that well deserve their popularity in a heartless, vinyl, brittle, indifferent century.
A question arises, what do the purple roses look good with? I think they look best with two colors: either a fairly strong pink or a very pale yellow.
"Thisbe' is a so-called hybrid musk, with noisette-scented great clusters of bloom, each flower no larger than a quarter or a best a half-dollar. They open a soft canary-ivory, pass quickly through primose and ivory to (not to split hairs about it) white. They are intensely perfumed, and the flowers come off and on all season.
I recommended it to a friend once, warning that it is less vigorous than most hybrid musks. Ever since planting it, this friend has lost no opportunity to mention that "Thisbe' is up to the second-floor windows, is very likely to swamp the house, blooms its head off, etc. This friend wishes I would give my secret for keeping Thisbe so small and neat.
The secret (as this friend well knows) is tht I do not grow it a third so well as my friend.
With me this pale fading yellow is never more than four or five feet high.
Another small yellow (small flowers) climber good with these purples is 'Goldfinch' which I have not grown. It too fades, but then what does not?
I have taken the pledge not to mention 'Mine. Gregoire Staechelin' again, my favorite pink climber, so I shall not dilate on her merits as companion for purples. Equally good are the pinkalba roses, such as 'Koenigin von Danemarck' (Queen of Denmark) and 'Celeste,' often called 'Celestial.' These are both decided but soft pinks. 'Zephyrine Drouhin' is a harsher pink. All are well-scented, and Zephyrine (unlike the albas) blooms off and on later.
I heard somebody envy the atrocious English, Irish and Scottish climates.
It is a miracle that anything can be grown in that hostile air, so unblessed by the sun.
Visiting gardeners in those islands sometimes attribute to the (truly wretched) climate what ought to be attributed to the varieties of plants grown in them.
It is absurd to think roses grow better in a gray sunless twilight, often on atrociously poor soil, in those islands, than they do in our relatively sun-blessed latitudes, on our fine heavy soils.
But some of the things visitors admire there are roses not commonly grown here, except in old gardens, such as some of those mentioned today. It's like cooking. If you want lamb curry, you use lamb and curry, not what happens to be on sale at the Giant.