CreativityColourI feel mirrored by my roses

I feel mirrored by my roses

Reading time: 4:30 | Roses show distinct personalities. But like with us humans, not every rose is a nice guy or a champ everyone loves. It’s complicated.

In 2016, I inherited a little town garden. My mum built her garden upon diversity and affection for the little green personalities that needed gentle fostering to show their true selves and shine. Roses were always a part of that equation but never considered by her to be the queen of flowers. I try to keep that tradition alive. So, as June is the month when roses reveal what they’ve got, I think it’s an excellent time to show you around.

Azubis, climber rose, grower van de Laak 1981, photography: Hans von Sonntag

This is Azubis. Azubis belongs to the relatively rare so-called near-blue roses and is a climbing rose. Introduced to the market in the Netherlands in the eighties, you can spot the zeitgeist of her vintage: shoulder pads, a sense for bragging, only the sky is the limit. I planted Azubis four years ago. After some toothing issues and being particularly picky, she pulled herself together and is flowering this year for the first time (roses are female for me). With water, compost, sun, and a bit of talking, she will thrive. Next year, when the young shoots have grown woody, she’ll be out of the woods.

Westerland, ADR bush rose from the 70ies, grower Kordes, photography: Hans von Sonntag

And here comes Westerland. She’s the most robust climbing rose of my roses. Others say Westerland is a bush rose, which is how she is marketed. I think she fits exactly in between. Her wood is very robust, the foliage too. The flowers represent the early 70s when the red rose was no longer the rose of roses, and the rose flowers’ shapes could be re-thought in terms of form and colour, which did not necessarily end in modesty. She is said to be extraordinary weather-resistant, suggested by the name Westerland as the capital of the North Sea island of Sylt. Her screamingly loud, chaotic, and massive peachy flowers turn old after a week or two and lose their strong fragrance into a brown nothing. Balancing justice.

Gruß an Heidelberg, rambler rose, photography: Hans von Sonntag

And this rose goes even further back in time. She’s called Gruß an Heidelberg (a salute to Heidelberg). Back in the early sixties, when rose breeding was booming again in Germany after the war, typical German virtues such as perseverance and reliability were considered more important than artistic expression. That is why Gruß an Heidelberg’s flowers show the design language of the classic red hybrid tea rose. As a rambler, she likes to grow up a rose gate with long shoots. In my garden, she lives modestly in the shade of the firethorn held by an old cane.

Unknown white-flowering climber rose, photography: Hans von Sonntag

This delicate white beauty is my favourite rose. When I took over the garden, she was seemingly dead, buried in the shrubs. But with a lot of luck, I managed to bring her back. Unfortunately, I don’t know her name and where she comes from. She has a refined appearance in white, with a slight tendency towards romance without being overbearing, a pure understatement, which is rarely the case in roses. She climbs over 4-5 metres high on delicate, thin wood. Her flowers are classic, similar to those of the Gruß an Heidelberg, but smaller and more delicate. If I staged a particularly romantic Sleeping Beauty, she’d be my first choice. Her location by the gutter is almost ideal, except for the partial shade from the lime trees.

Sympathie, ADR climber rose from the 60ies, grower Kordes, photography: Hans von Sonntag

In between, a quick pan at my dear neighbour’s garden. As Westerland and Gruß an Heidelberg another Kordes rose, Sympathie grows majestically. She grows with rare vigour over six metres high, proving again that the gutter is the best location for a climbing rose. Her flowers show a somewhat vulgar red with a slight pink tinge. But her red doesn’t bore the observer because somehow, her appearance looks not quite right. Instead, one would expect a dark, aristocratic red for such a queen-worthy appearance. Ok. Complex. Sympathie was released in the 60s and was once world-famous. Her slight ordinariness as a ubiquitous park rose of that time is her strength today. She must be 30+ years old.

Lemon Fizz, ADR award from 2015, miniature/bed rose, grower Kordes, photography: Hans von Sonntag

This one is Lemon Fizz. In the rose scene, growers are not afraid of colours and shapes; likewise, they are not scared of names. I grow Lemon Fizz in a pot. That is possible because she’s a short bush rose, and her root system does not go very deep. Lemon Fizz is a rose of today and planted by me bare-rooted three years ago. Citing the catalogue, she won an ADR award, which means that she grows quickly, resists fungi and other threats well and looks good (whatever that means). What makes her so much contemporary is her old-fashioned appearance with open flowers, which is relevant again today because bees can easily visit Lemon Fizz’s flowers. Unlike real vintage roses, however, Lemon Fizz blooms several times a year. Her yellow is loud but not entirely ordinary because she has a slight tendency towards a coolish primrose yellow. Lemon Fizz is ideal for plant and forget.

Veilchenblau, vintage rambler rose on a comeback tour, photography: Hans von Sonntag

Here comes Veilchenblau (violet-blue). She is perhaps the most well-known German rambler rose. She dates from 1909 and is a wonderful rambler rose with small flowers on large umbels. Unfortunately, she’s lived in an unfavourable location for the first few years, and I had to transplant her to a more sunny spot. Now she grows like crazy, maybe even high up in my old plum tree. That would be her most noble task.

Goden Gate, ADR climber rose from 2006, grower Kordes, photography: Hans von Sonntag

Another climbing rose I have in stock is Golden Gate. Her yellow is a bit cooler than Lemon Fizz’s and leaves no questions taste-wise because her yellow petals don’t turn into a shallow postal yellow. Her flowering can best be described as classic, with a delicate scent of banana and mint. She grows incredibly fast upwards and to the side if you want and is a mate you can rely upon.

Unknown bush rose “Fairy”, photography: Hans von Sonntag

Finally, a special friend who I nurture and cherish because she is so un-rosy. Her flowers are withered right from the start, even as a bud. No idea what her name is, and no idea what kind of rose she represents. I can’t imagine she was commercially successful either. A friend says she looks like an old fairy, and I truly agree. She is a little personality without whom the garden would be much poorer.