Rosa 'Crown Princess Margareta' in my container garden, a David Austin climbing rose in her first year.
On my roof garden, I demand roses that need no spraying, that can tolerate neglect, and will winter-over with no wrapping or other extraordinary measures. I want roses that match my romantic ideal, many-petaled and fragrant. The David Austin's English roses that I've tried meet these criteria.
I want the same characteristics in cut roses, so when I volunteered to help with the centerpieces at the District Rose Convention of the American Rose Society I approached David Austin Rose LTD. for 36 of their finest peach and cream cut roses. Instead they sent me 48 and told me to keep the extras. They were gorgeous and fragrant. What's a girl to do?'Patience' in cream, 'Juliet' in pale peach.
They were shipped overnight from the grower in California, packed to perfection in cellophane, newspaper, frozen packets of coolant and moist foam around the cut stems. The roses were timed to arrive in the open bud stage two days before the event, needing to be recut underwater and to stand in deep tepid water to rehydrate .
Rather than use my regular bucket for this conditioning, I felt I deserved a treat, so stood them in my livingroom in vases, until we made the actual centerpieces.I knew I'd need short stems in the centerpieces so I cut some to condition and kept them in my office to admire.Two that I had broken by accident, I plunked individually in tiny copper pots, and used three other stems in glass candle holders. I had fragrant roses all over my home, albeit most on borrowed time. The impromptu greens are snippets from a large house plant.Diane Grinnell and I made the centerpieces in the corner of the banquet room, away from prying eyes. When completed, the table centerpieces were greatly admired by the enthusiastic members of the Rose Society. Members couldn't believe how different the roses looked from the typical cheap grocery store roses.Confession #2
The Japanese maple foliage was 'pruned' from the tree on my roof. Regular readers know that I save my pruning tasks for when I need branches for some design project. Other elements:real pumpkin cleaned of seeds and pulp, a piece of moist floral foam stuffed in a baggie holding a little extra water, a few more stems purchased that day at the Greenmarket at Union Sq. All stems cut short and stuff in the foam.
Regular readers also know that I hang flowers to dry deep in the basement of my building, behind a locked door with a sign that says no admittance, staff only. There it's hot and dark, and roses will dry in three days.
I also dry flowers by burying them in silica gel, a sandy desiccant that holds the shape of the dried rose. Back at home, this is what I did with a few of the roses I could keep for myself; there's still a tiny whiff of fragrance.Readers with deep pockets who want fabulous roses for a special occasion (or because they deserve it), contact David Austin Limited online or by phone at 800-328-8893, or check the back of the DA catalog, USA 2010 edition. If fragrance is important, make sure your selection mentions fragrance.
Below, risking life and limb for her blog partner, Ellen Z. climbs to hang a bunch of David Austin cut roses from the ceiling sprinkler of our hotel room at the Garden Writer's Symposium in Dallas. I hoped they'd have time to dry fully before they had to be stowed in my bag for the plane. Alas, despite the warmth at ceiling height, they were fit only for potpourri by the time they arrived home in The Big Apple.