Time to stop and smell the roses. It's that all too brief moment in the season when they're fresh, flush, and as yet unmolested by descending hordes of Japanese beetles. The rose pictured above, the David Austin rose 'Redouté', is perfection in a punchy pale pink. It survived last winter without any protection and suffered only inches, if that, of winterkill on its stems. If last season's performance is any indication, it'll rebloom heavily into autumn.
For someone who's never drawn up a garden plan with a rose in it, I've ended up with a lot of them: besides 'Redouté', there's 'Bibi Maizoon', 'Othello', and 'Graham Thomas' of the David Austin line; polyanthas 'Fairy' and 'Red Fairy'; rugosa roses 'Roseraie de l'Haÿ' and 'Blanc Double de Coubert'; and native Rosa carolina. But I still don't think of myself as the rose "type". I picture the quintessential rose gardener as someone who wafts gracefully and charmingly through rows of perfect pampered specimens. And so it seems to be in Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden by the writer-naturalist-poet-pilot-gardener Diane Ackerman:
The first roses of the season have unfurled—two pink spicy-smelling Paris de Yves Saint Laurent. "Mes roses," I say as I cut them, echoing Cocteau's rose-adoring, sensitive beast in the film La Belle et la Bête.
Being more oaf than diva, "mes D'ohs" is more like what you'll find me saying in the garden (ask me about the rusty whiskey-barrel-band metal shard I managed to jam deep underneath my fingernail a few weeks ago). I've also tended toward a knee-jerk contrarian reaction against the overdone romantic symbolism of the rose, ever since getting two dozen long-stems in my youth from a would-be beau with stalker tendencies. (A hat, on the other hand...now that's romantic.) But there's no reason to begrudge my roses their involuntary baggage. Taken for what they are, there's no other flower with petals as soft and scent as sweet. I'm happy to have them.
Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden by Diane Ackerman. Perennial, 2002 (paperback). ISBN 0060505362.
Newly blooming: Allium nigrum; Allium caeruleum; yellow Dutch iris; Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'; self-sown Borago officinalis (borage); Cynoglossum amabile (Chinese forget-me-not); Agastache neomexicana (New Mexico hummingbird mint); peonies 'Alberta Kelsey' (Kelsey, 1937), 'Sarah Bernhardt' (Lemoine, 1906), and 'Ann Cousins' (Cousins, 1946); Cotinus coggygria (smokebush); and clematis 'Comtesse du Bouchard' and 'Rhapsody'.