“Old garden roses have a lot of nuances of fragrance and diversity of form. This gives you, the artist and gardener, a palette of plants to grow,” said Mike Shoup, owner of Antique Rose Emporium, “Fragrance is the emotional tie you will have to that plant forever.”
Sunday, Shoup spoke as part of the Oklahoma Horticulture Society’s Annual Winter Lecture Series. I thought I would share some of what I found most interesting.
Shoup told a story about a friend who used a film empty camera to capture his small daughter as she smelled roses in his garden. The idea was to have her sniff blossom after blossom and retain the memory of her father and his flowers. He knew that whenever she smelled the same scent it would bring her back to him. (For the young people reading this blog, this was before the days of digital cameras when film was pricey.) We can now take all the photos we want with almost no expense at all. However, having our children remember us is priceless. Just make sure they don’t get snagged by the thorns.
I’ve been to both of the Antique Rose Emporium’s gardens in Brenham and San Antonio. I loved them both, and while there, I bought Shoup’s book, Roses in the Southern Garden, which is now hard to find. I handed him my dog-eared copy, and he signed it all the while asking me questions about my own garden.
That’s the thing about gardeners. They have an insatiable curiosity about plants and the people who grow them.
Shoup stressed that a rose should not be a prima donna, but instead, just another plant in the garden. With that idea in mind, he’s crossed old garden roses (those found at old homesteads, cemeteries and other abandoned places) with species roses like Rosa virgiana and Rosa carolina because they are tetraploids and tough as nails. He’s also used plants hybridized by Dr. Robert Basye, along with Rosa banksiae var. lutea, the Lady Banks rose. The result is the Texas Pioneer series of roses. They have brighter colors and simple forms which would probably look great in southern gardens with our hot sun.
I was also extremely interested to hear that his nurseries and gardens are now completely organic. They weren’t when I visited, but this is a fairly recent change. The roses do get blackspot, but they aren’t harmed by it, and seem to shake it off better than Hybrid Teas. (This is something I’ve believed for a long time.) He now applies three to four inches of hardwood mulch (recycled from the electric company line trimmings) to all of his beds and borders. He stressed that you need to feed the good microbes, and you’ll get nourishing soil. In his greenhouses, he makes an aerobic compost tea with molasses (oxygenated with a bubbler) to get good fungi in his gardens. He then referred us to the Soil Foodweb, Inc. website for further details on how to make the tea. Shoup used to sterilize and “nuke” his greenhouses, but now, the good fungi from the compost tea eat the mildew and blackspot. I’m impressed that he’s doing this on a large scale operation. Very impressed.
Shoup also revisited his rose rustling days and the beginnings of his nursery. It was entertaining to hear him speak of those early days and how rose rustling brought him out of his financial woes. One of the things I loved best about the San Antonio garden was the use of roses with xeric plants. Although Oklahoma gets approximately 35 inches of rainfall a year, our summers are very dry. Pam at Digging took some beautiful photos of this garden here and here. Unfortunately, I visited before I was a shutterbug.
As for fragrant roses, Shoup was a bit cagey because he said he’s found different people find different roses fragrant. However, when asked about his favorites for fragrance, he listed ‘Duchesse de Brabant,’ ‘Marchesa Boccella,’ ‘Reine des Violettes’ and Madame Isaac Pereire.’ Of these, I’ve grown the latter two, and yes, they are very fragrant.
Although I have many friends in the OHS, two of them are pictured here. Both Jeanne Mapes and Laurie Barger are also daylily crazed so we are members of both clubs. Jeanne is now the secretary of COHS, and Laurie is the past president. I will never serve as president. Mark my words.
I just wrote a garden profile of Laurie’s beautiful garden for Oklahoma Gardener magazine. It should come out in the May issue.
Good friends and an interesting talk about my favorite genus. It was a fun afternoon, and I left feeling energized for spring.