Gardening : Looking for Variety? The Outlook Is Rosy

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With the rose buying and planting season in full swing, how do you choose just a dozen from the hundred or so roses available at some nurseries? Well, you could try folding this column up and putting it in your pocket or purse and bringing it with you, because it lists some favorites.

Part of the fun of growing anything is taking a chance: You might find that a rose not on this list is just what you wanted, or that it is perfectly suited to your garden, so by all means experiment. But with these roses you are not likely to be disappointed.

For our list, we polled Daniel Bifano, Santa Barbara rose judge and consulting rosarian; Northridge enthusiast James E. Sefton; Luis T. Desamero of Studio City, who edits the American Rose Society’s Pacific Southwest District Proof of the Pudding survey; Julia Sudol of Alhambra, and Helen Thorne and her daughter Lois Penney of Bonsall--all rose authorities.


Not on this list of excellent roses are the new All-American Rose Selections, because most thought it too early to judge how these will perform in Southern California gardens.

Some did venture that the grandiflora named Tournament of Roses had a nice form, but was a slightly “dirty” pink, while others thought that the cream-colored floribunda Class Act looked very promising, though a lack of fragrance and substance were noted. But these were only early reactions, so you will have to take your chances on the ’89 roses.

For the first time, two miniature roses are All-American Rose Selection winners in ‘89--Debut and New Beginning--but in general, more than a few rose aficionados think that the AARS roses are slipping in quality, and would enjoy seeing something really different come along.

In theory, AARS roses have already stood trial in various rose gardens across the country, but roses that are great in Omaha are not always great in Los Angeles or San Diego. Comments from our authorities follow each listing here of great roses for Southern California. Many are AARS roses, but these have stood the test of time and are proven in the southern half of the state.

Tried and True Hybrid teas and grandifloras remain the most popular of roses, because their flowers are the most shapely and are the largest, with bushes to suit. Most grow easily to 5 feet and flowers usually come one to a stem (and stems are long enough for cutting). Favorite hybrid teas and grandifloras receiving three or more votes include (alphabetically):

Color Magic--Pink blend--”a dramatic variegated pink”--that is “one of my best” and “a must for the rose garden.”

Double Delight--Creamy white-and-red flowers with a spicy fragrance; a favorite in Southern California because “sunshine brings out the perfection” of colors. “Outstanding” and “excellent for container growing.”


Duet--Medium pink with “many blooms and excellent repeat bloom.” “Excellent garden variety.”

Gold Medal--Deep yellow that “missed being an AARS variety by one point.” “A rose for all seasons, displaying masses of blooms all year.”

Honor--White with “good foliage.” “Queen of all the whites.” “Always in bloom.”

Mister Lincoln--Dark red and “the most fragrant of all the reds,” though one person cautioned it is susceptible to rust and has at times “leggy growth.” “Usually rated higher than brother-seedling Oklahoma, and probably is better, but not to quibble.”

Olympiad--Medium red “now found in many gardens; becoming a great favorite,” perhaps because “the brilliant color does not fade in the hot sun.”

Paradise--Mauve, “silvery lavender shading to ruby red at petal edges.” “An irresistible hybrid tea for lovers of mauve roses,” and fragrant to boot.

Pristine--White with pink edges, “the perfect picture rose.”

Queen Elizabeth--Pink “oldie but goodie,” that is “always in bloom” and “warrants its royal name.”


Touch of Class--Orange blend--”pink-shaded coral and cream”--that is “hailed as ‘the Rose of the Decade’ for its truly classical shape.”

Favorite Floribundas There are smaller roses called floribundas, which typically grow to 3 or 4 feet and have smaller flowers in clusters. Those receiving three or more votes included:

Angel Face--Mauve. The “color remains even and consistent” and “flowers hold well even in Valley heat,” but “it grows and grows” and “will get huge if permitted.”

Cherish--Medium pink with “massive sprays ideal for landscaping.”

French Lace--White. “The perfection of the blooms will be admired by all.” “The most perfect blooms.”

Iceberg--White, or more precisely, “ivory to blush apricot.” “Very fragrant, vigorous . . . a longtime favorite.”

Sexy Rexy--Medium pink, “the new floribunda on the block that everyone is mad about.” “Huge clusters of flowers.”


Showbiz--Medium red with “large clusters of blooms that last nearly a month.”

Sunflare--Medium yellow with “glossy foliage.” “All perfect blooms, single or in clusters.”

Sunsprite--Deep yellow, “fine, full foliage, many blooms.” “One of the few yellow floribundas that perform well in Southern California.”

Others Other roses were mentioned, so if you want to expand on this list, here are a few that garnered at least two votes and are known to do well in Southern California: Amber Queen, Aquarius, Blue Nile, Brandy, Fragrant Cloud, First Prize, Granada, Marina, Mikado, New Day, Oklahoma, Ole, Peace and Chicago Peace, Perfume Delight, Prima Donna, Redgold, Sheer Bliss, Sonia, Summer Fashion, Trumpeter, White Lightning and Voodoo.

I think that some of these may be going out of fashion and may not be available at nurseries, but out of the 42 roses just listed, you’re sure to find your dozen.

(If you would like a Proof of the Pudding survey from the Pacific Southwest District, send a check for $2.50--made out to the American Rose Society--to Luis T. Desamero, Editor, 3053 Laurel Canyon, Studio City 91604. The survey evaluates recently registered roses over a 3-year period and includes ratings of most other roses.)