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May 2009

Rose of the Week – 'Chevy Chase' Part II

Growing Three Ways in One Garden


After a full day of rose enjoyment, I was about to leave The Celebration of Old Roses*, when a pert little red rose, named 'Chevy Chase', caught my attention, and purchase. The rose bloomed beautifully the next spring, but mid-bloom when long canes began shooting up, it looked like I had a rambler on my hands. Since space was an issue, I trimmed the canes for two years, until I traveled to England and saw pegged roses at Sissinghurst.



On my return, the new rose pegger (me), now relished those long canes and all the circling, twisting, twining, and tying. The end result looked like a modern sculpture! See the results below.


'Chevy Chase' is a bountiful shrub no matter how you grow it, but when pegged like this, there’s almost no end in bloom production. I’d harvest an armful and you couldn’t even tell.

Trained as a Climber


When my husband built our beautiful deer fence, I wanted a Chevy that climbed. The canes propagated easily, and in the picture above, the climber is only two years old, spread out on 27-feet of fencing. I love how the sun happened by for a little highlighting to show the extensive reach.


Here’s a bloom view from the outside of the fence. By the way, the deer in my neighborhood don’t show much interest in this rose.


This is a peek from the inside. My garden is color-themed, and ‘Chevy Chase’ provides a rich backdrop for the dense plantings in front. R. glauca is to the far left, ‘Baby Donnie’, ‘Sweet Chariot’, ‘LD Braithwaite’ and ‘The Prince’ mingle with Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’.

Free-style (unpruned for a year)


Last summer, when the canes were ripping through the air and cascading in awesome arcs, I didn’t have the heart or heft to train them, and decided to let them make their own special statement.


If you’ve been following ‘Rose of the Week’, you know that this post is late, because I was waiting for Chevy to bloom. I tried for two days to get good shots of the unpruned version, and so far this is the best I can do. Photographing the whole shrub is always a challenge and the light wasn’t what I would have liked, but I hope you can get the idea. It’s so much more impressive in real life. This is the front of our property along the sidewalk.

Next year, I'll have to cut it back or risk a takeover.


People wonder what the tall plant to the left is. It's Melianthus Major and this is the first year it has bloomed. I originally planned to cut off the flowers when they first emerged, but I let her go and wow what a look, especially with the seed pods forming.

Chevy Chase is tough, flexible, and cooperative. The leaves are grayish, dry, leathery, and crisp. Small, sharp prickles grab my wrists as I harvest. Blackspot is minimal. Sturdy, long lasting blooms do not bruise easily, and rain does no damage. However the flowers have no fragrance and, for me, it's a once-bloomer.

*The Celebration of Old Roses is next Sunday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Community Center in El Cerrito, at Moeser and Ashbury.

Jars Make Great Rose Vases

Hand-tied-bouquets      Hmmmm..... What's with the olives, you wonder? Well they go great with tacos and when they're gone, the jar becomes one of my favorite rose gift vases.

This morning my husband said I should pick a bouquet for my osteopath (I had an appt. this afternoon.) Usually I ignore him when he says I "should" do things, especially when it comes to bouquets. Maybe I'm softening. I not only made one for my O but we were invited to a lunch for visitors from India, so I decided to make two bouquets. Leroy (my husband) kindly took the labels off the jars, which by the way, came from Trader Joes.


Thinking about two small hand-held bouquets, I took a bucket into the garden and went around picking two or four stems from each shrub. I removed the leaves that would be in water with my trusty thorn remover and then placed the stems in the bucket.


In the kitchen, I emptied the roses on to the counter and began gathering the stems in my hand, one at a time. The magenta 'Yves Piaget' is a stunner isn't it? The bouquet on the left has one on the back side. The stems were cut the length of the jars and become part of the over-all look.

The roses included 'Apricot Nectar', 'Graham Thomas', 'Poulsen's Pearl', 'Evelyn', 'Belle Story', 'The Pilgrim', 'Common Moss', 'Belle Isis', and 'Yves Piaget'.

At the doc's office they went nuts over the roses. Cooped in an office on the second floor of a building in Emeryville, who wouldn't love a lively fragrant bouquet? I "should" give roses more often.


The Celebration of Old Roses Part II

Celebration-of-Old-Roses-table        This is the Hybrid Perpetual table at the Celebration of Old Roses. Nowhere in the world will you find displays of so many antique roses in one place.

The Celebration of Old Roses is coming up soon! Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 17,  2009,  from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be held at the  Community Center, in El Cerrito, California on Moeser at Ashbury. For those of you who live in far off places like Louisiana, Australia, India, I hope this post gives you a sense of how fun it is.

Here is an excerpt from my book R is for Rose about my first visit to the Celebration in 1989.

A carnival atmosphere swung me into a throng of Old Rose lovers. Plant vendors lined both sides of the walkway outside the entrance. The delectable roses and perennials tempted me to stop, but I had to see what was going on inside.

At the entryway, stood a tall basket that looked like a wicker wedding cake. Packed close together on three tiers were numerous and varied Old Roses in their well-known pinks, mauves, and deep violets.


Walking past raffle tables displaying tempting prizes of superb rosebushes, I tried to contain myself as I entered a scented sea. A rectangle of long tables in the large room displayed a vast assembly of roses. Arranged by family, the roses were all carefully labeled in clear glass bottles. Even though I was by myself in the large crowd, I started laughing – overwhelming beauty had me laughing! I perused the roses intoxicated by fragrance and splendor. Taking reference notes was useless – I wanted every rose.

Celebration-of-old-roses-bouquet       This is a close-up of two little bouquets that I brought to the Celebration from my garden, in 2006.
At the back of the room, artful arrangements of Old Roses waited to be judged. Additional vendors had display tables against the walls. You could purchase a dollop of rose jelly on a cracker, accompanied by a recipe for 10¢; a flower-shaped cookie with rose flavoring for 25¢; china hand-painted with roses; rose clothing; rose greeting cards. A tiny lady who must have been 90 years old, stood waving an astonishing sphere of pale peach petals, like a flag. It was a poppy. She offered to send seeds when the pods were ready. I signed my name and address on her seed list and gave her $1.25. When I was able to tear myself from the room, I walked by the plant vendors again. I purchased two roses I had been looking for, 'Belinda' and 'Ballerina' and what looked like a darling mini rose labeled 'Rouletii'. I left the memorable event in great happiness.

Miriam Wilkins        Miriam shares the picture with the famous climber 'Belle of Portugal'.

In 1975, Miriam Wilkins founded The Heritage Rose Group. She lives on a hill above the El Cerrito Community Center, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The Celebration of Old Roses, held at the center the first weekend after Mother's Day, was her idea and is the group's labor of love to introduce Old Roses to a wider public. The members focus on the preservation, history, re-introduction, and identification of these roses.