So I put it to B that if he was going to splash out on a Valentine's bouquet for me, he should instead take me to Roses of Yesterday, an heirloom rose nursery just outside of Corralitos (in the southern half of our county); and buy me a bare root 'Charles de Mills'. And it worked.
Corralitos is gorgeous, just so rural with it's loping grassy hills, gently rusting farm implements and brown ponies behind split rail fences. The sun shone weakly through the clouds, a momentary break from the early spring showers that have been bucketing down all weekend. We drove out through land that had been through one of the big wildfires last summer. I heard rumors of horses being killed, so sad. There was new growth on the blackened trunks of the eucalyptus trees on Hwy 1, which I thought was encouraging.Come for the Sausage, Stay for the Roses
I recommend a trip out to the demonstration gardens at Roses of Yesterday, it's only a mile or so from the Corralitos Market & Sausage Co., and there's ample space for a picnic. May through June are when the roses are at the zenith of their bloom. In May I will be busy (nothing big-just labor, childbirth, and sleepless nights with a newborn) so I'll have to come a little later in the year. This is actually a good time to visit if you're thinking of adding one of these roses to your garden, you can see what it looks like in its least lovely state; dormant and pruned, and so can see what you're getting yourself into. Although it's not so nice for picnics, being either damp from the previous rainfall or downright sopping from the current rainfall....
I also picked up the lovely red Apothecary Rose (Rosa gallica 'officinalis')-for the garden we're planning at the Abbey. The Apothecary rose dates back to before 1500, and is the red rose of the Lancasters in the War of the Roses (white rosa alba is for the Yorks). Also in its favor are the old rose scent and shade tolerance, as well as its propensity to sucker on its own root stock (if the bud union is planted below the soil level.) I had a nice chat with either Andy or Jack Wiley, one of the owners, and it was great to talk to people who really know their stuff. The nursery's been around since the 1930's and their catalogue is full of delightful little vignettes like this:
Souvenir de la Malmaison, climbing. Bourbon. (1893) 10 feet. Flowers repeatedly. Zones 5-9. (duh lah mahl-may-ZAWHN) I find it difficult to select the right words, for this is not just another old-fashioned rose, or can you describe its many subtle qualities with the usual catalog superlatives. Factually it is very hardy...no freeze-back even in the coldest Pennsylvania; a moderate grower, but a profuse all-season bloomer. Flower is large, many-petalled - a pearly soft flesh-pink. Full, tight buds open slowly to show many tightly curled petals full of fragrance. A sunny protected position is best, as well as a garden with low rainfall, as wet weather can keep a bloom from realizing its glory. This rose is well suited trained over an arbor, providing a lovely canopy for a bench. An old-world rose which speaks of history, romance and nineteenth century “Paris in Spring.”
All this and I don't even like Valentine's Day.