Sunday, July 05, 2015

Dorothy Perkins

Weather: Some rain Tuesday and Wednesday, but high noon temperatures are taking their toll on plants that prefer the low 80s to the low 90s.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, lilies, daylily, datura, Spanish broom, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, squash, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, brome grass; seed pods forming on sweet peas and catalpas.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, cholla, tumble mustard, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, silver leaf nightshade, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, flea bane, strap leaf aster.

In my yard facing north: Potentilla, Saint John’s wort, golden spur columbine, coral beard tongue, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, anthemis.

Facing east: Snow-in-summer, coral bells, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Jupiter’s beard.

Facing south: Betty Prior rose.

Facing west: Lady bells, Goodness Grows veronica, catmints, blue flax, Shasta daisy.

In the open: Rugosa and Dorothy Perkins roses, buddleia, California poppy, larkspur, bachelor button, white yarrow.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: House and gold finches, humming bird, geckos, cabbage and sulphur butterflies, bumble bees on catmints, hornets, ants; seems like more cabbage butterflies this year, at least in my yard.

Weekly update: Dorothy Perkins rose has gone out of fashion. Some say it’s because it’s prone to powdery mildew. I suspect it’s more because it doesn’t have large flowers, doesn’t bloom all summer, and doesn’t stay in its assigned space like the more popular hybrid teas.

Dorothy’s canes heap into a mound covered with clusters of light pink roses in mid-June. Given a chance, they can escape any barrier. Their mother was a wanton species introduced from Japan in the late nineteenth century by Max Ernst Wichura.

In 1898, Theodosia Shepherd advised, Rosa wichuraiana "will creep closely over the ground, forming a dense mat of very dark green, lustrous foliage, or it can be trained on pillars or arches, where it is very effective and graceful." She added, "the branches will grow 20 or 30 feet in a season and are so pliable that they can be trained in any way desired. It is very fine for cemetery decoration, useful for covering fences or walls, fine for verandas and especially adapted for covering rocky slopes or embankments."

We have air conditioning now. We no longer need cool, shaded verandas, but we still like summer kitchens. Only now, we use propane-fueled ranges on open decks.

As for cemeteries, have you seen any old lilacs in the modern ones with their rows of uniformly flat markers? Even older graveyards have been tidied enough to fit contemporary expectations. Along Lake Ontario in New York, John Zornow says, "thanks to a device called the "weedwacker, or string trimmer, these old roses are disappearing from cemeteries and other locations."

As soon as the wichuraiana was available, breeders began crossing it with other varieties. Michael Horvarth added cold hardiness to the ones he bred in South Orange New Jersey. Mrs. Shepherd was offering them in 1898.

In 1902, Alvin Miller added the deeper color of the bourbon hybrid Gabriel Luizet to produce Dorothy. At the time, he was foreman for Jackson and Perkins in Newark, New Jersey. It became the most popular rose in the country. The rambler even made its way to the walls of Windsor Castle.

I bought two small own-root plants in 2013, and they immediately took hold. In China, its mother grows in thickets on limestone cliffs and along the coast of Fujian, Guangdong, and Guangxi.

This year, with the spring rains, it came into its own. The ever changing patterns of color were visible from sixty feet away through my kitchen window. The flowers open a mid-pink, then fade to something so pale it looks like a blush.

It’s small, dark green leaves may develop white splotches this summer, but they rarely kill anything, especially something able to survive this climate.

Notes: Botanists have reclassified it as Rosa luciae, but if you want to know anything about it, you use it’s older name. However, be warned, there have been several ways to turn Wichura’s last name into Latin.

Eflora. "Rosa luciae," Flora of China, available on-line.

Shepherd, Theodosia B. Descriptive Catalog of California Flowers, 1898.

Zornow, John M. "The Dorothy Perkins Rose," 2012, on Wayne County Life website (New York).

Photographs: Dorothy Perkins taken in my yard.
1. The flower cluster, 22 June 2014.
2. The full plant this week, 2 July 2015.
3. Canes sneaking out of their bed, 27 June 2015.
4. Clusters of clusters, 27 June 2015.
5. The plants in spring after their first winter, 21 May 2014.
6. Thorns and leaves, 2 July 2015.

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