20 April 2009

plant ideas from philip in cambridge

After church one Sunday last summer, I was talking with a friend from Cambridge, New York, who is a crackerjack gardener. He loves reblooming iris and roses. Old roses, in particular. I told him that I’d planted a Rosa rugosa “Blanc Double de Coubert” and was looking forward to its beautiful white blossoms and the fact that it was very hardy and would grow tall.

I honestly didn’t think Philip would know anything about it. But he did. He said I’d be lucky if it grew to be 3–4 feet tall in our climate (I was expecting 5–6 feet), and the blossoms, while very fragrant, in his experience turned brown very quickly. (I can’t speak for the height prediction, because I’ve had my “Blanc Double de Coubert” for a year only, and I expect it will really take off this spring—it’s budding now—but I can vouch for the fact that its beautiful, spicy-scented blossoms do turn brown quickly.)

I said, “All right, smartypants” (not really, but . . .). “What do you suggest?”

And then he suggested a few roses that I wrote down, illegibly as it turns out. I just found this list, and here’s what I can decipher.
Rose and lilac ideas from Philip:
  • Gallica: Demille, Belle de Cressy
  • Rugosa: Hausa, Sir Charles Lipton, Theresa Brugnet, Magnifica
  • Damask: Ishbahan, Mme Hardy
  • Preston hybrids are really good
  • Tree lilac, Japanese, white, from the 1800s
And the reason I’m thinking of Philip’s list now is because I’m re-reading Dean Riddle's Out in the Garden, and in it he praises Rosa glauca (not on Philip’s list, but a worthy rose nonetheless, sounds like).

So I Googled “Rosa glauca” and found High Country Roses, which looks like hardy rose heaven to me. I expect I’ll be spending a few hours this evening researching Gallicas, Rugosas, and Damasks, as well as Rosa glauca.

Anybody know anything about a white Japanese tree lilac from the 1800s? I’d ask Philip, but he hasn’t been back to church since last July.


  1. Hi Jared, thanks for the comments about the circles..never put those two together before, I do like the imagery...as for the tree lilacs,I have fifty or sixty different hybrid and species lilacs, I would recommend fox hill lilacs...buy from a good grower, 'cause it's so dissapointing to finally get a lilac to bloom, and find out it's the wrong plant! For starters, go for an old french double, lavender blue and large-President Grevy, then an early flowering Hyacinthaflora type-Pocahontas,bright ,single reddish purple. For a great white, go for Rochester, a multi petaled pure white...I'll recommend as many as you want!! Sorry, don't bother with the tree lilac, very dissapointing..scented(yuk), but not fragrant,dirty white bloom panicles,borers love them..ice damage prone..I wish they were great, but alas...NOT. You should try Heirloom Roses, they virus index all the plants, they sell only own root roses, so they will always grow true to name.Especially good are the Griffith Buck roses...hardy and they don't need to be sprayed! Roses are hard where you are,a wonderful everblooming rambler for you-"Darlows Enigma", like a cluster flowering wild rose(white) that blooms 'till frost (7'+), another great white ,(a buck rose) is "Prairie Star" These roses are worth your time, a great company, and they come to you in great condition. Sir Thomas Lipton is great, by the way.Don't buy grafted roses,almost all are infected with a virus,almost like designed obsolescence,they get weak, then you must buy another...tricky! Own root roses come smaller than usual, but make up for it quickly! Brian

  2. Brian, wow! Thanks for all the suggestions. We planted a Pocahontas last year along with a Beauty of Moscow and Madame Lemoine. I've never looked at Fox Hill Lilacs, but now I will! Thanks also for your take on tree lilacs. I didn't know of such a thing as a tree lilac before; maybe that's just as well. Regarding your rose suggestions, Darlow's Enigma (great name) is gorgeous. I've got some exploring to do!

    That's a tricky trick if what you're saying about grafted roses is true. They do it with everything else, though, so why not roses? Hmmmph!

  3. Anonymous2:03 AM

    You are so funny. I laughed out loud at your last remark about Phillip. MrD and me are looking for a church. We've been looking for several years. The problem is that we like a bunch and rotate. You get some good fellowship that way.

    I don't know a thing about the roses and lilacs as I'm just venturing down that road myself. My Gertrude Jekyll bloomed this week along with some new PW cultivars. My Miss Kim lilac is blooming too after only one year in its home. That's good.

    I once had an all white garden and it was pretty. You would be better to call it a white and brown garden for when the blooms turned. That is the problem with white isn't it?