July 14

The Last of the Roses


The last of our roses to start flowering–sometime in the beginning of July–is Rosa setigera, the prairie rose, native to the Midwest. We have two bushes spilling over our old paddock fence that encloses our meadow, one, curiously without thorns, the other with. The flowers are simple, five-petalled, candy-pink fading¬†toward white at¬†their centers of golden stamens, and they bloom in profuse clusters for two or more weeks, depending on our weather. They are¬†only faintly scented. The bushes have a graceful, arching habit to about six feet and¬†fit the wildness of this meadow setting. I have seen them growing in Wisconsin by the side of the road in the company of coneflowers, bergamot, and prairie dock.

I am grateful that most of the roses¬†we grow are one-time bloomers and flower in May and June because, without fail¬†by the first of July (this year two days before), the Japanese beetles arrive. I hate to see them disfiguring and devouring the roses. I knocked off dozens of them this morning into a container of soapy water¬†from the elegant white buds and flowers of the rugosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert,’ which had started to rebloom. Ugh.¬† The prairie rose is not much bothered by the beetles–perhaps it isn’t fancy enough for their taste.¬†

When the main flush of old shrub roses is flowering in June, I cut small bouquets of them for the house. I like to¬†combine double and single-flowering¬†sorts with a few greens like fernleaf tansy and apple mint. At¬†least one dark velvety¬†rose adds a bit of drama¬†to the mix. This¬†posy is in¬†one of Frances Palmer’s¬†charming ceramic vases¬†on a table in our living room. The dark violet-crimson¬†rose is a favorite of mine, a fragrant gallica called ‘La Belle Sultane’ or sometimes ‘Violacea.’

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