Rosa Foetida Bicolor, the Perfect Valentine

Red rose heart

One day more than 400 years ago, creation gave the world of roses a perfect valentine. The gift of the color crimson. It took awhile to establish itself in the gene pool, and did so with the assistance of one yellow rose.


Rosa foetida in the garden

In 1590, there was only one yellow rose on earth and it grew in Persia. Westerners eventually named it Rosa foetida.

Rosa foetida bud

Here is her story.

In a winter garden in ancient Persia, when this yellow rose was dormant and had no leaves, a growth bud surfaced through an eye on one of her brown, slender canes. As the days warmed, the growth bud swelled, and began to lengthen. Shaggy bits of green emerged that soon became small, serrated leaves. When fully leafed out, flower buds appeared, as they did every year. But on this particular cane when the sepals curled back on the rosebuds, instead of the color yellow, tight scrolls of gold emerged with a blush of red. Five petals slowly unfolded and took shape, each one a perfect heart. 


Foetida bicolor_austrian copper

The unexpected gold became the under-lining for cups of glowing crimson. 


Rosa foetida bicolor portrait

The pistils formed a heart of garnet encircled by stamens of gold. A new rose species was born.


Foetida Bicolor rose in the garden

I like to think of the astonished gardener as he noticed the brilliant flowers and eagerly propagated them into shrubs of a new species rose. The rose became known as Doufrouyeh (two faces) and grew in cultivation from Asia Minor to Afghanistan and Eastern Tibet. Don't you think it's remarkable how the original yellow rose with its unique matching stamens, pistils, and petals changed so dramatically? Definitely one of those cosmic/creation miracles. 


Foetida bicolor species rose



The two foetidas eventually made it to Europe. An unsympathetic fellow named the roses R. foetida and R. foetida bicolor. In Latin, foetida means fetid or "having a bad smell." It seems unjust to name such stunning roses for their scent. Their fragrance is unusual, more pungent than bad. But aside from that, our roses had big time work to do in the West.



Since there continued to be few yellow roses, and they only bloomed once, hybridizers, again and again, tried using the two foetidas and the hybrid *Foetida 'Persiana', to make a yellow Hybrid Tea.

*Below is 'Harison's Yellow,' a hybrid similar to Foetida 'Persiana.' (Both of these once blooming roses were created in the west, crossing the two foetidas with other roses.)


Persian yellow rose  Harison's yellow rose

For twenty years, the persistent Frenchman Pernet-Ducher tried to create a reblooming yellow rose without success. Then one day, a visitor in his rose fields pointed out a yellow seedling that must have come from an accidental cross. The plant turned out to possess the genes of a reblooming hybrid! Unknowingly, Pernet-Ducher finally succeeded in creating what is classified as the first yellow Hybrid Tea. He introduced her in 1900 with the name 'Soleil d'Or, meaning "golden sun." 


Peace Rose

The successful mating of 'Soleil d'Or' brought yellow into the usable gene pool. Now rose breeders would have free reign for unlimited color possibilities. Thanks to the Foetidas, the world has yellow, gold, peach, orange, coral, and multicolored roses, like the famous rose 'Peace' above.

By the way, all these roses have their own special classifications, and are under the umbrella known as "heritage roses".



I have not posted here for three years, and I'm so happy to be back with tales about this very special rose. You will be seeing lots more from me. Those of you who are subscribers, please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you and know that you are still here.



 heart shop
I'm excited to announce that I just opened the Rosenotes Print Shop on etsy. I'm in the process of filling it with endless rose beauty, and this heart image of Foetida Bicolor is offered there as both prints and greeting cards. I do hope you will stop by and maybe even "favorite" the shop if you like it. 

Please drop me a line here, at etsy, or on Instagram if you have questions.




iPhone Flower Photography Tips


In my career as a flower photographer, I've worked through seven cameras, which included a Hasselblad and three DSLRs, the latest being a Canon 5D. Today I certainly use my Canon, but my favorite and most used camera is my iPhone 6s!


I had the pleasure recently of sharing phone photo tips at a workshop in Sacramento, and thought why not continue the fun here on the blog. Before I went out the door that day, I had to take this shot of some of the photo ops I was bringing to the workshop. Spring flowers and leaves and two buckets of early blooming roses made the cut. The blush rose is G. Nabonnand  and the pink is Grandmother's Hat.


Photo Possibilities with One Flower

To create handouts for the workshop, I gleaned my camera roll for workflow examples. There is so much a photographer can do with just one flower. I often go through numerous variations per subject before finding an image that I might want to publish on Instagram, Facebook, my blog or a publication. From left to right:

1- camellia shot in the garden

2, 3, 4- in a small bronze vase; the first two shot from above

6, 7, 8- the camellia rests in a square glass dish

4, 6, 8- in front of a white cotton curtain (it was not a sheer)

2, 7- kitchen counter background

3, 9- black foamcore background

5, 9- both are cropped


Editing Photos in iPhone



In our living room there is a picture window with two sets of curtains: both are white cotton, one sheer, the other opaque. In the first two shots, the garden is the background. (Would have been nice if I'd moved the wheel barrow and trash bin!) In the bottom shots, the sheer became the backdrop. In these four shots I was warming up to get something better, which happened in the next shot. But how did I get the exposure to lighten up so much? 



I used the iPhone exposure slider (oh I love it), it's that sun icon. Tap on the part of the flower you want in focus and a yellow square will appear, the square will focus the image. Now hold the camera still, put your finger on the sun and slide it up or down for more or less light. 


Finding the Background


I can easily go through several backgrounds to get the shot I like. On March 9, I had just a tiny bunch of blooms (middle shot). 

5- this is the first shot on a stone paver

3,4- still on the stone, but not so pretty

9- old table outside; no, too much going on

6, 8- metal garden chair outside; maybe 

1- black metal table inside; yeah

2, 7- kitchen counter; yep


Inside the iPhone's Photo Tools


To use your iPhone's photo adjustment tools, take a look under one of your images; note the four blue icons. Click on the one above the X.



Now click under the next X (by the way, the icon at left is the crop tool).



Next click on the down pointing arrow for 'Light' and a list will appear. I use the exposure tool first. Check each one out and know that you can always revert to your original, even days later.






The two shots above are of a double bucket of goodies I took to the workshop, photographed in the garden right after they were harvested and inside the house on a piece of white foam-core.





At the workshop everyone especially enjoyed photographing Grandmother's Hat. In the first image the blooms, shot from above, hide the bucket, and the last one is a close-up without cropping.

A Few More Tips

  1. For a sharp image, look at your shots as you take them to make sure they are in focus.
  2. Always crop after you take the shot, expanding the picture while framing degrades the image.
  3. If you press your finger on the focus square it will lock in the focus, and you can still use the exposure slider.
  4. Some Android phones have exposure adjustments in the settings menu. 

It was fun putting this post together–I hope it was helpful. Let me know if you have questions. If you would like to have one-on-one instruction, I am available at an hourly rate.

Take lots of photos, experiment and have fun!



Harvesting Roses in Miriam Wilkins' Garden



For five years after Miriam Wilkins' passing, we have had the privilege of harvesting roses in what remains of her garden. The property is a wild thing now with no care taken and the few roses that remain are the hardy species types that Miriam loved best in her later years. These pictures were taken last year, once again, on the Friday before the Celebration of Old Roses. You will see that amongst the ruin we still managed to gather spectacular things. This rose is Dorothy Perkins.





First a nod to the species roses Miriam loved. 



This is a hardy European rose- if you think you know the name, let me know.



Year after year, this rose thrills me. It is a monster though, huge, extremely thorny, but with the most compelling and photogenic blooms. I've taken many pictures of it and you will see it in the bouquet below. I've never seen a rose to compare with this one, and who knows, this may be the only one in existence.


To me, a garden of the heart would be a modest affair, whatever the true gardener who loves to work in the soil comes up with, not lavish estates. We are all limited in one way or another. Visitors to gardens must take this into account. That is why I never hesitate to let anyone see our rose collection. There must be something here to teach or please.

~Miriam Wilkins








The harvestees are now ready to wow people at the Celebration.







As we were harvesting, I noticed the steps and pots below Dorothy Perkins, and then realized Dorothy had demolished a pergola.


We bought our dream lot in 1944 when Dick returned from the South Pacific. It looked out at the Golden Gate, a mysterious sight when wreathed in fog. Five years later the house was built and we moved in with three children under five years. Soon we had a lawn with play equipment, and a badminton court. I was buying old roses from Roses of Yesterday and Today. They were planted in neat rows with paths between the plots. The lawn and everything went in 1952. Roses grew as roses will. I began to garden on my neighbors back forty. That was soon filled. Five years ago (2002), the two yards were well worth a visit, but it's been downhill every since. I do not encourage visitors but they may come if they care to.

~Miriam  Wilkins


The wonderful thing is that she always welcomed us and in that overgrown state there was wonderment! Miriam's garden has given its all again and again and here it's 2016. I hope to see you at the Celebration–there will be many wonderful roses for sale propagated especially for you!