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Plants

Talk About a Rose Parade

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TIMES GARDEN EDITOR

So many roses to plant and so little room, what’s a gardener to do? Nurseries will be chock-full of roses in January--this being the start of the short “bare root” planting season. So how does one choose a few when there are more varieties of roses than of any other garden plant?

The choices include hundreds of Hybrid Teas and Floribundas--the two most common categories or class of rose. Then there are Musk, Portland, Bourbon, China, Polyantha and all the different kinds of antique, heirloom or old roses. Don’t forget the descriptive class called Ramblers, or the Shrub roses. And there are miniature roses and the new “landscape” roses, plus all those climbing roses.

It’s all simply overwhelming.

We asked experts--gardeners who have grown several hundred (or even thousand) kinds of roses--to name their favorites.

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Generally, they picked varieties that look good in the garden as blooming bushes--though they also named a few that are champion producers of cut flowers for the house.

Note where the gardeners live. That may have influenced their choice of favorites--a rose may thrive in the dry heat of an inland garden but be sickly by the beach.

Only three varieties made more than one list--the climber ‘Eden,’ the 1879 Noisette ‘Mme. Alfred Carriere’ and the English rose named ‘Mary Rose.’

New rose varieties made some lists, but as Edie O’Hair, who grows some 3,000 roses in her Temecula garden, put it, “The longer one grows and knows roses, the more one appreciates the older ones.”

Here are the favorites of seven expert rose gardeners:

In Praise of Resilience

The San Clemente garden of Beautrice Grow (that really is her name) includes many roses among an abundance of perennials and other flowers.

She loves the simple white Floribunda ‘Iceberg’ and recommends it to new gardeners, who will find this rose “most forgiving.” It blooms all the time and is especially tolerant of gardening mistakes. “Even if you prune it poorly, it bounces right back.”

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Grow says the much fancier, many-petaled soft-pink English rose named ‘Mary Rose,’ after Henry VIII’s famous flagship, “is one of the most gorgeous roses and so vigorous.” She keeps hers pruned into a small tree-shaped rose. As a bush it likes space, say about 6 by 6 feet. Though she hasn’t grown it for long, ‘Huntington’s Hero’ is another English rose she loves for its simple open shape and pale buff to coral pink flowers that are tinged yellow in the middle.

She grows several roses on arbors and loves the 1985 ‘Eden’ with its many-petaled soft-pink flowers, though she appreciates that the deep-pink 1868 Bourbon rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ she grows on another arbor has no thorns. “I don’t have to be concerned when the children go running through the arbor.”

Sticking With the Classics

O’Hair of Temecula describes herself as a “mad, enthusiastic amateur” who has planted more than 3,000 roses on her five acres.

She is partial to older rose varieties and those colored cream or white. Her very favorite is the white-flowered climber ‘Mme. Alfred Carriere,’ which she uses as a huge shrub, 8 to 9 feet tall by 10 feet across.

‘Honor,’ with its masses of blooms and “honey fragrance,” and the 1989 All-America Rose Selection named ‘Class Act,’ with its heavy, sweet fragrance, are two of her favorite white Hybrid Teas. ‘Etain’ is a big Rambler that she uses as a bank cover, planting it at the top of a hill and letting it spill down. It has masses of flowers “that are a medley of copper, peach, pink and other warm tones.”

A Hybrid Tea from 1954, ‘Lady Elgin’ has well-shaped apricot flowers and nice fragrance. “All of the roses in my garden must have fragrance,” she said. ‘Betty Prior’ is a floribunda she grows by the dozen because it is never without blooms and the flowers “look like flocks of pink butterflies, even fluttering in a breeze.”

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Intrepid Climbers

Julie Heinsheimer, a Rolling Hills landscape designer who gardens on 2 1/2 acres, has the room for some really big climbers.

She first saw ‘Mme. Alfred Carriere’ covering the two-story cottage used as an office by famed gardener V. Sackville-West at Sissinghhurst, England. Heinsheimer has since used this 1876 Noisette at her home to cover a two-story chimney and the 20-foot-tall skeleton of a dead tree. Cream flowers with a pink blush open continuously.

The yellow Lady Bank’s rose (Rosa banksiae) is a truly evergreen climber that never loses its leaves, though it only blooms in spring when it is covered with little yellow blossoms. She has it growing in a 25-foot-tall olive, which this rose fills to the top. “We have to do a lot of pruning every year to keep it in bounds,” Heinsheimer said.

Growing 30 feet in either direction along a low fence, ‘New Dawn’ is a big climber loaded with large pale-pink flowers that bloom mostly in spring. ‘Altissimo’ is a “fabulous climber, especially on a trellis,” with blood-red single blooms and centers composed of golden stamens, “a fabulous combination.”

A rose that blooms and blooms is the 1928 Hybrid Musk ‘Felicia,’ with a “heavenly fragrance” and great clusters of peachy-salmon-colored, 2-inch flowers. It grows to 6 feet “up and sideways,” as Heinsheimer put it.

Shades of Apricot

Sharon Van Enoo, a Torrance consulting rosarian for the American Rose Society, has grown and tried at least 600 roses. There are currently about 300 roses planted on her 50-by-100-foot lot, which is near the coast but out of the fog belt. “My motto is, if there’s dirt showing, plant it and, if possible, make it a rose.”

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Van Enoo’s favorites reflect a passion for apricot- and peach-colored roses. She is also very fond of the little-known and undervalued Hybrid Musk roses as well as the older but similar Noisette.

‘Crepuscule,’ a Noisette climber, has dainty flowers that combine copper with peach and the color apricot. “It never stops blooming,” said Van Enoo. Its soft and relaxed canes make it easy to train, even up into the branches of a tree. “I’m crazy about that climber named ‘Eden,’ “but the canes are thicker and it’s not as easily trained.”

She thinks that ‘Just Joey’ is one of the best all-around garden roses, even though it is a traditional Hybrid Tea. Its formal tea-rose blooms are apricot in color. ‘Pure Poetry’ is a floribunda with blooms that are a “wonderful if somewhat odd color”--yellowish with hints of peach and apricot.

She loves English roses, and her favorite is ‘Prospero,’ which makes a neat 3-foot-round ball, covered with garnet-red flowers that look distinctly old-fashioned. For a smaller rose that grows to only 2 feet, she suggests the China rose named ‘Irene Watts,’ with powerfully fragrant, light peachy-pink flowers of old-fashioned form.

A new rose from Europe, named ‘Paul Bocuse’ (after a five-star chef) has almost immediately moved to near the top of her list of favorites. It’s what’s called a Shrub Rose and makes a mound of good green foliage about 4 feet tall and wide, so it’s a useful rose to plant in the garden with other perennials and shrubs. Its apricot flowers are old-fashioned in form.

Expansive Shrubs

Behind landscape designer Judy M. Horton’s 1910 home in the Hancock Park area is a tall arbor full of climbing roses, and two 12-by-33-foot beds of “roses, fruit trees and ephemerals.”

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‘Mary Rose’ is her idea of “what a rose should be, the quintessential rose.” An airy, 6-foot shrub with loads of old-fashioned, deep, dusty-pink blossoms that are “wonderfully fragrant.”

If you’re looking for a tough rose that’s just about the perfect size for most gardens (3 feet tall) with “creamy to pinky-white flowers” that can even tolerate as little as a half-day of sun, Horton suggests the 1909 ‘Gruss an Aachen.’ It looks a lot like the current crop of old-fashioned-appearing English roses, so much so that David Austin includes it in his book “English Roses.”

‘Erfurt’ is a strong, spreading shrub rose that will grow 8 feet wide but only 3 feet tall. The “only thing I don’t like about this rose are the flowers,” said Horton. “It’s got great foliage and wonderful orange rose hips [the fruit], but the two-tone white and cherry-red flowers leave something to be desired.” She grows it for the foliage, which one florist friend regularly comes over and cuts.

Though she uses them only in cutting gardens, she loves Hybrid Teas with really big flowers, such as ‘Brandy,’ ‘Garden Party,’ ‘Mr. Lincoln’ and ‘Peace,’ to cut and bring into the house.

Partial to Polyanthas

Sharon Milder grows more than 100 roses of all kinds, mostly in her front yard in Westwood.

Of all the roses she has grown over the years, she is most impressed by the group known as Polyanthas. “They have everything one wants in a rose, at least for those who garden near the coast,” said Milder. She says that while many roses get orange-colored rust disease in her garden, these don’t.

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The 4-foot-tall Polyantha ‘Marie Pavie,’ with blush-pink flowers, is her favorite. “Sometimes I think, ‘Hello, why aren’t the landscapers using this one?’ It’s just a stunning, tough plant, even better than Iceberg.’ ”

The 1884 ‘Perle d’Or,’ whose flower color is described as a soft golden-pink to buff, is another she adores. ‘Mlle. Cecile Brunner’--the shrub, not the climber--is another favorite Polyantha. “Its flowers are a beautiful shade of pink, it blooms a lot, and never gets diseases.”

For a climber, she prefers ‘Blush Noisette,’ another old-timer from 1817, part of the Noisette clan. Milder says it has “absolutely the best fragrance, it’s enchanting.” This is a moderate grower that won’t overwhelm a trellis or arbor. Like most of her other recommendations, it has small flowers, but lots of them, because “I frankly love small flowers,” preferring their grace to sheer size.

Designer’s Palette

Sandy Gaal grows more than 300 roses in Santa Paula and has recently started designing gardens.

The Portland Rose ‘Marchesa Boccella’ (also known as ‘Jacques Cartier’), tops her list, for the flower’s full, many-petaled rosette form, and for fragrance. “The fragrance is incredible.”

‘Excellenz von Schubert’ is a huge, 8-foot-across, cascading Hybrid Musk with a typically musky fragrance. It blooms a lot with clusters of lavender pom-poms.

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‘Yves Piaget’ is one of the new so-called Romantica roses, with flowers that look like a modern Hybrid Tea in size and stature, but with many more petals so they also look old-fashioned. The flowers are a deep cerise pink; it is fragrant and blooms often.

“Most of my favorite roses are old-fashioned or are English roses that look old-fashioned,” said Gaal, and two of her favorite English roses are the many-petaled, medium-pink ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and the black-red ‘Tradescant.’

For landscaping, she loves a 1925-vintage Hybrid Musk rose named ‘Cornelia,’ with light-pink flowers described in one catalog as exhibiting a “tug-of-war between lavender and brown.” “It’s very graceful, very healthy, and has nice dark green foliage,” said Gaal. It can be used as a climber, but she grows it as a cascading 6-foot-wide shrub.

In the Garden is published Thursdays. Write to Robert Smaus, SoCal Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; fax to (213) 237-4712; or e-mail robert.smaus@latimes.com.

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