That in life’s garden there might be
June roses in December.
—Geoffrey Anketell Studdart-Kennedy (“Woodbine Willie”)
December roses, in fact, aren’t all that uncommon in our climate. Roses are hangers-on, defying several degrees of frost and often showing their best colors in late autumn. The last rose of our season is most definitely not the oft-heralded “last rose of summer.”
We have had November bloom on almost all of our modest collection of roses. No rosarian I, but I do have in my mixed borders several of the tougher roses that do not require nasty spraying to stay in fine fettle.
Among them are several of the new Knockout series, and I have mentioned them before, but must take note again after their appreciable fall performance. There is the original Knockout in bright red-pink, Sunny Knockout in yellow (actually cream in part shade), a coral-colored one and a pink. These are in our pastel borders, where they blend all season with herbaceous things.
Then there is a Home Run, a single true red with no hint of pink, in our red border. Also one of the Knockout series, it is just as trouble-free as the others. It has contributed constantly since late spring and right the way to the present.
Also in that red border is a “miniature” rose (quotes intended; in stature it is not so miniature at three feet), Neon Cowboy, with a really miniature single bloom of orange-red centered with yellow. It, too, has proven to be tough as nails, though one could wish bloom to be more prolific at any given time.
At the other end of that border are two roses near to each other but separated by enough herbaceous perennials to keep them from grating competition.
Hot Cocoa I have had for some years now. It is a grandiflora, but as free from disease as any. As the name would imply, this rose has a smoky orange-maroon bloom that really does set off other reds nearby. Even with severe spring pruning, it can reach six feet. Hot Cocoa also has been blooming during November.
Newly planted (in October) is a short (to three feet) shrub rose, Laura Bush, named for the popular first lady (at least for a while yet). It has glossy, dark green foliage, and bright orange semi-double blooms to three inches across.
The flowers fade to a pleasing coral with yellow centers, toward pink but not too far to prevent a pleasing harmony with its red and orange neighbors.
Chrysanthemums, particularly some of the late Korean types, are commonly considered to be the champion flowers of late fall, but roses outshine them most years, far beyond the first freezes of the season.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 11.25.08