Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rosa 'The Fairy'

This little charmer is a 1930s anticipation of the modern ‘Knock Out’ roses. And like that more modern group it has almost all of the qualities of the best roses. It shares the same failing: lack of fragrance. But  it finally dawned on me that it was time to get off my high horse when it comes to fragrance in roses. Yes, I definitely prefer my roses to be fragrant. But does it make sense to ignore a rose which scores in the highest ways in other qualities simply because it lacks fragrance? It does not to me, and so I’ve made my peace with the Knock Outs and am ready to really appreciate Bentall’s little 1932 beauty.

Do you have doubts? If so, I suggest you seek out established plantings of these roses in November. I wish I had the room for an allée of autumn camellias and Knock Out roses in harmonious colors; maybe some of the Encore azaleas would work in this grouping, too. The whole planting would be fronted by ‘The Fairy’. These are plants which have the ability to bring a spring-like freshness to the garden at a time when it is otherwise winding down for the year.

‘The Fairy’ is conventionally placed among the so-called Polyantha roses; but unlike most Polyantha roses ‘The Fairy’ has Rosa wichurana (formerly R. wichuraiana) in its background. It makes just as much sense to think of it as a dwarf shrub rose.

I have not grown this rose yet myself, so the image you see above is an exception to my usual rule to include only plants grown in my own garden. Wayne and I visited our Northern Neck friends Charles and Hilda last weekend, and as we were about to leave Hilda took me over to “The Fairy’ and cut a nice bouquet. The cool weather was especially kind to the color of the flowers, and the foliage of the plant was immaculate. It was hard to believe that this rose had gone through the summer: everything about it was so fresh, clean and brimming with vigor. And the color warmed up beautifully under incandescent light.

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