Recommendations

A parade of gorgeous new roses All-America selections in
time for January planting

By Rayford Reddell
San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, January 1, 2003


(Click on the desired image to see the full image.)

A slew of roses will float down the streets of Pasadena today, but not one of them will have grown in a garden (all were grown under glass) and none will possess a whiff of fragrance.
However fetching, greenhouse roses will be blotted from memory the moment their garden-rose cousins commence blossoming (early April in Southern California; here, three weeks later). According to those in the know, 2003 promises to be a banner year for garden roses. First, the varieties hottest off the hybridizing bench - this year's All-Americas.
Because the All-America Rose Test Selection Committee allows entries from hybridizers the world over, many of today's most prized roses aren't American at all - at birth, that is. This year, three of the four varieties to wear the coveted All-America crown began life in Europe. The fourth winner, and my personal pick of the litter, is decidedly American, and I'm not just being nationalistic.
As it happens, blossoms of all four winning roses have 30 (plus or minus five) petals each, making them ideal for the Bay Area. (Such varieties perform best where summers are cooler than average.)

THE EUROPEAN WINNERS

France's House of Meilland has introduced some mighty fine roses, not the least of which is 'Peace,' the most famous rose in the world. Its winner for this year is 'Cherry Parfait,' which churns out masses of blossoms composed of white petals with broad red edges. As a good Grandiflora should, it bears its blooms in sprays. Unlike its taller Grandiflora siblings, the broadly rounded bushes reach only medium height.
Germany's winner, the Floribunda 'Eureka,' is a colorful affair, with flowers that combine eye-blinking shades of yellow, apricot and gold in each blossom. Glossy foliage complements compact bushes that seem forever in bloom.

The last time a white Hybrid Tea won an All-America Award was in 1980, and it's high time for another. Ireland's prestigious Dickson family of rose breeders answered that call with ‘Whisper,' a classically formed rose that should breathe fire in exhibition. In case you prefer white roses to be pure white, with no shadings, accuracy compels me to mention that, in bud and early maturity, blossoms have a decided pastel-yellow cast. Although fragrance is only mild, it's definite.

THE AMERICAN DOOZY

Garden-rose hybridizers have been trying for more than a decade to breed a brown rose to compete with the ubiquitous, annoying (it's scentless) Ecuadoran rose 'Leonides,' which grows well only under glass (grown outdoors it's unarguably orange and a bad shade at that). At last, the formidable American hybridizer Tom Carruth has emerged triumphant with ‘Hot Cocoa,' a fragrant Floribunda certain to excite floriculturists.
The first thing to know about this rose is that you should trust no photograph you see of it. 'Hot Cocoa's' actual basic color is brown, which, I'm assured by fine photographers, is one of the most difficult colors to capture accurately. Then, too, petals of 'Hot Cocoa' include shades of rust, even purple, in their complicated color scheme, and these hues are often exaggerated in supersaturated color images. Think brown - 'Hot Cocoa' does.

OTHER FINE CHOICES

Jackson and Perkins selected 'Bella'roma' its rose of the year. It's bella, all right; fragrant, too. The well-formed buds are pure bright yellow, but as blooms unfurl, they reveal deeper yellow petals with rose-pink edges.
If you're already a fan of 'Double Delight,' the lovely All-America rose from 1977, you're likely to want to grow 'Bella'roma,' too - it's yellowish where 'Double Delight' is white, and pink where its predecessor is red, but both are fragrant as all get-out.
Kudos also to Jackson & Perkins for bringing 'Summer Fashion' back into ready commerce (it had all but disappeared). This fine Floribunda introduced in 1986 doesn't always perform well (it freezes in Eastern climates and mildews badly in the South), but it's a quintessential Bay Area performer, producing comely sprays of yellowish-white blossoms with rose-pink petal edges. Stems are heavily thorned, but fragrance is sumptuous.
Those who dillydallied over their bare-root order last year were sorely disappointed when the bombshell rose 'Marilyn Monroe' sold out. Because it was its first year in commerce, supply was limited. This year, substantial quantities are available, but I'd still encourage you to order early because this rose is an all-around winner. Large, perfectly formed blossoms are washed in green before they begin to unfurl shades of creamy apricot. Besides being a blond beauty, ‘Monroe' is disease resistant and well perfumed. Although I've never been fond of 'Joseph's Coat' (I find its color combination of red and yellow garish), I'm constantly amazed at the size of its fan club, and I've heard these aficionados lament that 'Joseph's Coat' grows only as a climber, rather than also as a conventional shrub.
The prodigious German hybridizing family of Kordes heard these bellyachings and have responded with 'Bonanza,' a shrub rose with blossoms so similar to those of 'Joseph's Coat' that they could well be mistaken for each other.

SPECIALTY ROSES

Lovers of David Austin varieties will take heart from the introduction of two new additions to his stellar line of roses.
As do their siblings, these roses look so old-fashioned you'd expect them to bloom only once each year. Quite the contrary; they repeat blossoming throughout summer and perform satisfactorily in the Bay Area in spite of having more than 100 petals per bloom (just allow them to linger on their bushes longer than you do most roses before you harvest them).
'Teasing Georgia' produces perfectly formed cupped flowers with rich yellow petals surrounding honey-colored centers. Although I haven't sniffed it for myself, it's said to smell of licorice.
'Geoff Hamilton' grows particularly tall for an Austin rose - easily to 5 feet in the Bay Area. Buds and immature blooms are warm pink. As blossoms mature, petals fade to white at their edges, creating a pleasing bicolor effect. Fragrance is classic old-rose.
The Romantica family of roses from France has a new member, too - 'Comtesse De Provence,' which blooms coral pink, quartered flowers that harbor a hint of apricot in their complex perfume. Though the bushes rarely top 4 feet, blooms occur on long cutting stems.
You can't go wrong with any of these roses, but if you're a gardener reputed for prowess cultivating the queen of flowers, for goodness' sake plant 'Hot Cocoa.' Otherwise, your rose buddies will make fun of you for being out of the loop.

ROSES FOR A CAUSE

-- Venerable rose grower Jackson & Perkins offers a series of commemorative and cause-related roses and donates a portion of the net proceeds to the cause commemorated. Past blooms have included the 'John F. Kennedy,' 'Mr. Lincoln,' 'Billy Graham,' 'Diana, Princess of Wales,' 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' and 'Cesar Chavez' roses.
Last year, the company introduced the first 'Habitat for Humanity' rose, a brilliant red rose, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit house- building charity. This year, it has introduced:
-- 'Habitat for Humanity' rose, second in the series, an orange-apricot Floribunda that grows 4 feet tall with profuse 4-inch blooms and a light, sweet fragrance. The rose is available through the company as well as nurseries and garden centers that carry Jackson & Perkins roses only through spring 2003. (Next year the third, and final, 'Habitat' rose will be offered.) Ten percent of the net sales will benefit Habitat for Humanity.
-- 'Ronald Reagan' rose, a Hybrid Tea "with red petals with a white reverse.
As the blooms unfurl, the red deepens and the blooms finish with a deep-blue edge with white underneath."
-- 'Nancy Reagan' rose, an apricot Hybrid Tea with 5-inch blooms. Both Reagan roses are available through the Jackson & Perkins catalog and Web site at $24.95 each (three of one rose, $59.95). Ten percent of net proceeds will go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

To order any of the roses, call (800) 292-4769 or go to www.jacksonandperkins.com.

ROSE SOURCES--

--Garden Valley Ranch Nursery, 498 Pepper Road, Petaluma 94952; (707) 795- 0919; www.gardenvalley.com.

-- Regan Nursery, 4268 Decoto Road, Fremont 94555;
(510) 797-3222; www.regannursery.com.

-- Sloat Garden Centers; stores in San Francisco, Marin and Danville.

-- Sunnyside Nursery, 130 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.,
San Anselmo 94960;
(415) 453-2701;
www.sunnysideofmarin.com
.

Rose authority Rayford Reddell is owner of Garden Valley Ranch Nursery in Petaluma. E-mail him at home@sfchronicle.com.





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