I love growing roses because they are a challenge. Often there is no rhyme or reason to what they do. They can be high maintenance and finicky, and their success or failure is dependent upon a “perfect storm” of weather, watering, fertilizing, disease and pest resistance, luck, and a little bit of skill and knowledge.
It’s a thrill when all of your gardening efforts pay off like lemons lining up on a slot machine. The rewards are grand, astonishingly beautiful, and often fragrant. Maybe if roses were easier to grow, the successes wouldn’t seem so significant and sweet.
Even though I care for many roses, I feel like I know and recognize each one as a friend. Not only does every variety differ in vigor, resilience, and performance, but individuals within a given variety can also vary.
I can rely on a ‘Julia Child’ grown in Montecito to have a sunny disposition and an abundance of butter-yellow blooms. Her twin sister over in chilly Hope Ranch may surprise me and have so much rust and black spot that she throws a tantrum and drops all her leaves.
I know that I may need to stand on a bucket to deadhead a ‘Princess Charlene de Monaco’ or a ‘Francis Meilland,’ because both are extremely enthusiastic and very vertical.
All of my newly planted ‘State of Grace,’ ‘Burst of Joy,’ and ‘Big Momma’ roses have exceeded my highest expectations, and I enjoy watching their progress when I check in with them each week.
And did I tell you about my ‘Coretta Scott King,’ ‘In Your Eyes,’ ‘Honey Dijon,’ ‘Koko Loco,’ ‘Passionate Kisses,’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe,’ and how every time I go into my garden, I have to take yet another picture of my ‘Flutterbye’ as it changes from yellow to tangerine to orange to everything in between? I mean, how many pictures of the same rose does a person need? Seemingly, a lot.
To do well, roses need lots of sunshine, warm weather, adequate irrigation, and plenty of food. If you don’t keep them happy, they will disappoint. But even if you supply them with all of their basic needs, they sometimes fail to perform. Not only is this discouraging, but their optimistic, whimsical, and often romantic names can be misleading and seem to promise gifts that they’re sometimes unable to deliver.
For example, when I welcomed the popular yet temperamental ‘Double Delight’ into my garden, I soon began to address it as ‘Mildew Magic.’ I couldn’t resist the ivory pink hues of ‘First Prize,’ but after one gloomy spring, she turned into ‘Last Place.’ And finally, after being seduced by the strong citrus scent of ‘Chrysler Imperial,’ I realized that this Chrysler was just not so imperial.
All of this got me thinking, and so allow me to suggest some new, more appropriate names for a few popular roses for when you’ve done all you can do and your gardening efforts go unappreciated.
‘Dream Come True’
‘Drop Dead Red’
‘Easy to Please’
‘Jump for Joy’
‘Moonlight in Paris’
‘Paris d’Yves St. Laurent ‘
‘In The Mood’
‘Nightmare on Elm Street’
‘Just Drop Dead’
‘Hard to Get’
‘You Should Move Out’
‘I Think I Pulled Something’
‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’
‘After Hours in Goleta’
‘I Just Want to Be Friends’
‘Sorry, I Don’t Speak French’
‘Burned the Pan’
‘I Have a Headache’
Randy Arnowitz, aka Mr. Greenjeans, is a Santa Barbara–based fine gardener and writer. Visit greenjeansmr.com.