Sweet (Winter) Dreams

If, as Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, “spring is the time of plans and projects,” then winter is the time of dreaming. Every gardener knows this, and we find it maddening. Winter’s necessary, we know, because many of us are the sort that take breaks only forcibly. You know exactly what I’m talking about: in warmer months you can find us out past twilight, sweaty and blistered and aching but insistent on pushing that last wheelbarrow up the hill before calling it a day. Winter is nature’s way of coercing us into respite because just as our plants require twelve weeks under a sparkly blanket of snow, we need downtime. In Zone 6a, we get it. For a full three months, there’s no compost to spread, no weeds to pull, no growth to prune, and certainly no blooms to collect. What is the restless gardener to do? Dream. Winter is for dreaming, and, in my experience, the sweetest winter dreams include roses.

For the past several years, I’ve finished my seed lists and sowing schedules soon after Christmas, and once the glitter of the holiday is behind me, all I can see is the bleak tundra of January, February, and March stretching out in front of me: cold, colorless, soul-deadening. I submit that roses are the best and most restorative cure. There are palliative supports, of course, but no amount of dahlia catalogues or Instagram throwbacks of summer sweet peas can fix me like nightly online rose shopping. It is active and engaging and alleviates my heartache almost completely. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

I should say here that I’m no expert rosarian. I’ve been growing roses on and off my whole life, but I’ve got tons to learn. Luckily—and contrary to what I suspect might be popular opinion—I’ve found the rose community to be an especially welcoming one, peopled with folks who are not only tireless in their dedication to cultivating these beautiful flowers but who are happy to share their knowledge and encourage in others the love of roses.

Of course, every lover of roses has her own priorities when it comes to selecting varieties. I like a prolific, hard-working rose with demonstrated disease resistance, and for me fragrance is a must. Isn’t a rose without scent, no matter how beautiful otherwise, sort of a tragedy? If these requirements are met (I know it’s a tall order), I’ll try anything, though I do seem to prefer the very full-petaled, romantic, old-fashioned roses.

Here are the roses I’ll be adding to my gardens this spring (so far):

Distant Drums: In all things, I’ve always liked to pretend I’m above trends, but I’ve ordered Distant Drums so how true can that be? She’s just so hot right now! I do think I like her, though. The color is interesting to me, and I think I’ll enjoy growing DD. Please reprimand me when you find me on here touting Koko Loko. If I ever get my hands on one, you will!

Honeymoon: I’m very excited to add this beauty! She’s so romantic and abundant and old-seeming. Right up my alley.

Cream Veranda: This floribunda may be the perfect color, a pale peachy-pink with a glowy yellow center that makes the whole rose seem lit from within. Absolutely enchanting.

Earth Angel: This pretty pink floribunda is so much like a peony, and I’ve heard that the fruity, citrusy fragrance is completely intoxicating. Again, I’m a sucker for perfume.

Princess Charlene de Monaco: I admire this rose. Her slightly wavy, salmon-pink blossoms are cheerful and girly without seeming saccharine. I aspire to that! Plus I have a friend named Charlene, and, no offense to the Princess of Monaco, but my Char is the funniest lady in the world!

Clotilde Soupert: It might be that I’m most excited about growing a Clotilde Soupert climber. The blush color and billowy bloom form are lovely, and I’ve heard she can be amazing in terms of output and re-bloom. She also has that glowy center thing going on—that just slays me.

Poseidon: A lavender rose of reputed good health! Can it be? I shall find out and report back.

First Crush: I’m trying to see beyond its name because this rose is supposedly disease-free and lushly fragrant. It’s also very lovely to look at, I must admit. On the whole, I’m expecting it will be an invigorating rose, and if it lets me down, well…maybe it’s perfectly named!

Glamis Castle: I’m a little nervous about growing Glamis Castle because she isn’t known as the toughest rose out there, and if we’re in for an especially humid summer (as often we are in my neck of Zone 6a), it’s going to take lots of effort to keep this beauty healthy. Still, I’ve decided to give her a go because those super pale, creamy pink blooms are just too delicious to pass up.

Stanwell Perpetual: A purportedly hardy rose, Stanwell Perpetual is a charmer that should go great for me (fingers crossed).

Celtic Pride: Though it’s only slightly fragrant, Celtic Pride is just so lovely—that gorgeous apricot center is heart-breaking! It seems to be one of those very special roses whose blooms look increasingly pretty as they mature and wither.

Sombreuil: Another blush-but-almost-white rose. I certainly have a type! Introduced in 1940, this rose is a must-grow and I’m ashamed to say this will be my first time.

Lion’s Fairy Tale: The creamy ivory-apricot blooms of Lion’s Fairy Tale conjure images of beautiful maidens from a forgotten century. Hah! I’m really struggling with these rose descriptions, everybody, and it seems unlikely that David Austin might pluck me out of obscurity to start writing for his catalog (ala Elaine Benes and J. Peterman). Lion’s Fairy Tale is a very pretty, dainty, ladylike rose.

James Galway: I’ve always loved this rose from afar, and I’m relieved to be growing it myself finally. I love the dark, radiating middles and that sort of flat, wavy face. It’s always seemed to me a kind of bright and cheery rose.

Jude the Obscure: I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve not read the Hardy novel, but I’m in love with the rose! How to describe the color of those gorgeous globular blooms? It’s like antique paper or a cup of my morning restorative turmeric tea with a splash of milk. Heh. Mr. Austin?

Desdemona: I’ve tried and failed with her in the past, but it wasn’t her fault. As soon as I put two bare root Desdemonas in last spring I left town for ten days, during which it rained unceasingly, effectively drowning my little beauties. I’m giving her another go this year in a new garden.

I’ve still got plenty of winter nights ahead of me, friends, so my rose shopping is far from done and I’d love to hear your recommendations! If you’ve got experience with any of these roses or if you’ve got suggestions for me to try, please let me know before I place my biggest ever compost order this spring!

Thanks for reading! Only 54 more days of winter. Sweet dreams!



Mary Beth McConaheyComment