I was blown away today, so to speak, not by the autumn wind but by the color in Witherspoon’s Rose Garden in Durham, NC. With every Piedmont, NC resident focused on the vivid tree foliage that now surrounds, the fact that roses can be so incredibly beautiful in October seems to pass us by.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I wheeled off I-40 and stopped in to say “hello” to some ol’ friends and take a peep at their display garden. I had worked with THE rose man, Bob Witherspoon, in the 1980′s when I served as the horticulture agent in Durham. Bob could get you excited about the possibilities of a rose bed and he had the knowledge to jump start a passing interest. Clearly, roses have come a long way since that time, and most gardeners have added Knockout roses to their home landscapes despite their fear of the dreaded blackspot leaf disease– yes, it can reak havoc on a bed of tea roses!
Oct 25, 2011 couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a walk in a rose garden (75 F and sunny.) A prime opportunity to evaluate the foliage of modern rose varieties, following a typical Tar Heel summer. Witherspoon’s had done their homework…routine spraying, fertilizing, grooming and ample irrigation. The roses were flowering to beat the band and I was flitting around the garden, pencil in hand, trying to make some notes for future reference. It was near impossible to find ”just a few” noteworthy varieties, as I was feeling overwhelmed by the sight of so many near-perfect selections.
Fortunately my wife was with me, and she so aptly picked up on the fragrance factor. I followed suit and soon we were going round and round about which ones we rank highest for our garden. It was exhausting, but I think we narrowed it down to 20 varieties that were outstanding that day. (I must say that ’Pink Peace’ and ‘Brigadoon’ caught my eye….and any yellow flowered variety.) I hate being nailed down on selecting roses cultivars as roses are such incredible flowers…truly, horticultural wonders !