In 2000, visions of blossoms danced in my head, and I planted two climbing ‘Joseph’s Coat’ roses on the East side of my house. The border in this photo didn’t exist. Like everything else, it evolved over time. Instead, imagine three tiers of rotting railroad ties that we eventually replaced with a stamped concrete wall and formed concrete steps. At the end of the stone path, is an iron bench painted in a rust color. As a focal point, it blends in too much with the landscape, but that’s because I wanted it to be a kind of secret spot to linger where the children couldn’t find me. I take my iced tea and a book out there and hide in the shrubs.
Why ‘Joseph’s Coat?’ I’ve always been attracted to bright yellows, pinks and reds. In that respect, I think Christopher Lloyd and I would agree. However, after reading about how he eliminated his historic rose bed to replace it with tropical plants, I am sure he wouldn’t approve of my rose infatuation. My devotion isn’t logical. Of all the plants I grow, the roses have the worst temperament. They can be fussy, disease ridden, insect magnets, and they eat like teenage boys on Super Bowl Sunday. Recently, I heard from a friend in the Oklahoma Horticulture Society that Oklahoma now has Japanese Beetles. I hope not.
I thought the multi-hued ‘Joseph’s Coats’ would fill the wall with blooms and fragrance. I was wrong. They are pathetic climbers, barely making four to five feet, and their scent is slight. They are supposed to be remontant (repeat flowering,) but they are content with a moderate flush in the spring followed by a summer of blackspot and leaf fall. The question I always ask myself in February during pruning is: why don’t I just dig them up and throw them to a galaxy far, far away?
Instead of hastening their demise, I surround them with other roses to enhance the color scheme. I have three yellow ‘Golden Showers’ climbers, three claret red ‘Altissimo’ climbing Hybrid Teas, and a small cherry red ‘Skyrocket,’ a Hybrid Musk. These roses are alternated against the log wall on trellises built by, you guessed it, HH. In the picture, you can just see one ‘Joseph’s Coat’ in the center, its blooms dangling toward the ground.
On the other side of the stone path, the rose in front is ‘Buff Beauty’ a Hybrid Musk from 1939, which, to me, looks a lot like the Austin rose ‘Graham Thomas.’ GT is a little darker and holds its petals longer, but it isn’t as carefree as ‘Buff Beauty.’ Behind BB, is the aptly named cerise pink ‘Footloose.’ It is nearly always blackspot resistant. Love that. Described as a Ground-cover rose, it is footloose and fancy free with my space. At four feet tall by four feet wide, I have to whack it back to keep it out of the path.
This is ‘Golden Slippers,’ a Floribunda that needs no spraying. One thing I’ve done for the last few years is replace most of the disease prone roses with disease resistant ones like those in the ‘Knockout’ series. In this bed, I have the original ‘Knockout’ (shown below) and a red ‘Double Knockout’ which I’m testing to replace the two remaining ‘Europeana’ Floribundas. ‘Europeana’ is another rose with beautiful blooms, but the shrub supporting those blooms is ill. Not only does it get blackspot and mildew, but it also suffers from tremendous die back in the winter, and this is in a border protected from the wind.
When I write of rose performance, please remember that I’m only concerned with the roses in my region, which is USDA Zone 7(a.) I can only speak to our hot, humid summers and our changeable weather and its effect on various plants. Maybe ‘Europeana’ performs better in France or Alaska. I don’t know.
All of these roses have their own personalities. ‘Altissimo’ likes to find the sky and grows straight upward twelve to thirteen feet. It would make a great rose to train on a porch pillar or on a large tuteur. It’s not as great where I’ve placed it under an eave. ‘Golden Showers’ needs lots of food to maintain its strength. ‘Knockout’ needs nothing at all except water and a little compost. ‘Joseph’s Coat’ and ‘Europeana’ need gene transplants. ‘Sophy’s Rose’ a David Austin, has petals which resemble a camellia. I grow it simply for this shape alone, and I put up with its idiosyncrasies. Wouldn’t you for these blooms?
You may have noticed that most of my roses are not Hybrid Teas, the handicapped class of the rose family, inbred until they became the teacup poodles of the rose world. I maintain more than 90 roses, along with four flower and vegetable gardens. I don’t have time for too much bad behavior. However, I make a few exceptions for very special roses. I think everyone who grows plants does.