Cecile Brunner, the Sweetheart Rose


Cecile Brunner must be the most popular climbing rose in California. She's readily available at nurseries, and in the Bay Area where I live, glorious mounds fill freeway beds, and long canes grace pergolas in city parks. In neighborhoods you may find her neat and tidy on an arch in the garden, or wantonly devouring garages and sheds.


Cecile Brunner Pergola_5

Cecile Brunner is fragrant, flexible, powerful, and ever-changing. The effulgence of a generous heart seems an apt description. Year after year, in my garden, she was a showstopper reflecting the nuances of that year's pruning and the always evolving shade pattern from a huge silver maple overhead. This image is from 2005.


Cecile brunner rose harvest

Cecile became a favorite photographic muse and treasured garden focal point.


Carolyn Parker holding a Cecile Brunner rose

The story begins in 1990 and this gardener's dreams of a gorgeous arch blooming with tiny pink charmers, or as they are fondly known–sweethearts. Two plants purchased in 3-inch band pots took only one year to meet at the top. 


Cecile Brunner Rose

Two years later, the rose appeared mature and resplendent in my first book, The Poetry of Roses. In 1995, the metal arch buckled and had to be propped up by two-by-fours! Four years later, a sturdy pergola, worthy of our Cecile, finally offered years of wonder and joy.

My photo archives are brimming with each year's progress–here are three: the first is from 2014, then comes 2017, and finally 2018. 


Cecile Brunner Arch 14

Cecile Brunner Arbor 17

Cecile Brunner on an Arbor


Below, as always, I love to show you glam shots of the blooming beauties. In the first image, a harvest of panicles (a group or cluster of flowers on a stem) in tied posies. The bouquets in the next two shots were created at Cecile's peak moments that particular spring. An Indian silk chiffon shawl inspired a lie-in for the last shot. Roses love to pose.


Cecile Brunner Bouquets


Cecile Brunner in small brass vase


Cecile Brunner in porcelain vase


Cecile Brunner on silk chiffon shawl


Growth Habit and Care

Cecile has sharp thorns and is extremely vigorous. Unless you have unlimited space where the twenty foot climber can grow wild, or you have an old building you want to camouflage, this rose requires no-nonsense pruning by a strong person wearing sturdy leather gloves, who can work on a ladder and make cut after cut with arms raised.

How to prune Cecile Brunner roses

Our sturdy pergola was built in 2001. Shown here a few years later, Cecile is  looking tidy after a big pruning. However, as you can see from the shots above she eventually got away from our control as the top growth got higher and higher.

I love to change pruning styles from year to year. Some years, I let the canes droop down in big swags, and other years they would be cut as short as possible for a more compact look.


Cecile Brunner Shrub

The original shrub grew no taller than five feet and was named Mlle Cécile Brunner.  It was hybridized in 1881 at the Ducher nursery in France, and named after the daughter of a Swiss nurseryman. When the shrub found its way to California, one of the canes grew out eight feet, was cloned and became the climbing variety, which is formally named Climbing Cecile Brunner. If you go to, you'll find many more varieties.

Above, the shrub form is shown in my former garden. In 1976 she was lifted from her garden bed of many years and moved to two more homes, moved again in this garden three more times, and now crowded by salvia and receiving little water, is still blooming and giving love through her depth of beauty 48 years later. Says something about longevity doesn't it.

Both the climber and the shrub are disease-resistant, and  shade tolerant from zone 5 to zone 10. I've never seen blackspot or mildew on them and as-a-matter-of-fact, nasty insects stay away as well–a charmed life!


Cecile Brunner in big vase


I hope you enjoyed this post. Please don't be shy–introduce yourselves, I'd love to hear from you. If you grow Cecile Brunner let us know your experience and where you live.


To Fertilize Your Roses or Not

Tired roses, just before winter pruning, always look like they'll need lots of care and feeding before they bounce back come spring.


However, the natural regernerative forces that take place during dormancy are truly a marvel–I'm always awestruck by the power of growth.  


This is how the roses looked this weekend. I've never seen so many buds; these belong to White Masterpiece.


I thought what will a little fertilizer mean when there is such an abundance of energy swirling in all those buds (this is Paquerette)? For years, my garden has received homemade compost, mulch, and fertilizer before bloom time. This year, I'm going to let nature take care of the roses.


Truth is, the powerful forces at work during spring will even give healthy, beautiful blooms to a poorly cared for rose. I've always known this, so I wonder why I never thought to forgo that first feeding when my soil was usually in good shape? I didn't realize needless "rose rules" still had a hold on me. The beauties above are Winchester Cathedral.


So all I can say is, wow, I'm happy not to fertilize! 


When I give rose talks, the first questions are inevitably about fertilizer. My answer is simply, "Feed your soil, not your roses." Composting and mulching are the keys to healthy soil. This is not to say I will stop fertilizing altogether. I think this year I will give them a boost after the first bloom, and that will be it, along with a little mulch from our silver maple.

For information on composting, click here, and here's something about mulching in the garden, click


This is Safrano, a Tea rose enjoying much needed rain. 


Carolyn Parker Bio Part 3


"Before / After and Everchanging" seems a fitting phrase to describe a garden. What has come before always influences the now, and the future. Here's a timeline of my garden, so far.



When describing my garden plot I always start out by saying, "We live on a flat, sunny corner." Here it is on an early fall morning, before the sun has hit the front of the property. That sidewalk is 8-ft wide and surrounds a 1000-sq-ft strip of land that was actually roadway when we first moved here. Nothing like city improvements in our favor!



In 2008 our little house received a roof-lift and a new addition. 




It's 1986, and this is my first attempt at gardening- that Queen Elizabeth climber wouldn't quit.



The shuttered window (same one in the shot above) has witnessed many changes- this was taken probably 10 years ago- those pittosporums are long gone, but the pink roses are still there. The bed is 8-ft deep and surrounds the house.



This is our newly planted garden in winter (so naked). That deodora cedar eventually succumbed to old age, opening the space up to even more sun. The split rail fence inspired the rose plantings, however deer soon discovered the roses and after much angst, and too many do-it-myself repellants, the split rails were replaced with a 6-ft high lattice fence.



Here's a considerable transformation. To the left is the corner of the pink rose bed. The other beds are grouped by color- white to red to peach. The deer fence is a year old here.



This shot, taken this past spring, shows the pink bed in the foreground with the peach section behind. The roses really love that fence, and deer never eat (off the fence) from the other side- why I don't know. 




Here's the other side of the deer fence. In the mid-upper left, you can see the lattice. Yes there are roses on the outside as well, some they eat some they don't. This picture is not as tightly planted as it looks- you can walk around in there, and there is a pathway.



This fence extends beyond the area shown in the photo above this one. I love this shot- it brings back memories of a rose order I placed for climbers to cover that fence, sight unseen. With only one year's growth they made lots of progress! The foreground shows an old asphalt sidewalk and dirt wayside that edged the roadway.



This shot was taken a few months later. That's lovely Renae on the arch (which doesn't show in the image above). In the early days I edged the beds with catmint. It did very well, but I got tired of it and added a more varied plant palette. Good view here of that long gone asphalt. The weedy area is now like a little forest with a big persimmon tree and huge roses.




The silver maple canopy keeps the back garden shady. A lovely filtered sun pattern moves through the days of spring and summer. The little arch grew into the image below.



Climbing Cecile Brunner has been an endless source of delight. I love it when large roses are allowed to make a statement.



The blue garden is behind the Cecile Brunner, caught here in the early morning.



The Renae rose gateway looks in on the blue garden and a blooming Cecile Brunner.

Phew! That's the garden for the moment- always more changes to come . . .



A Very Special Rose Garden


However much we may learn of chlorophyl, chromogen, and colour-cells – the pigments of nature that are made from the earth and rain, air and sun,


Pamela Temple rose garden 1

somewhere in the dark habitation of the roots and the airy galleries of the leaves – we do not know why the same ingredients clothe one petal with flame and another with blue.


Pamela Temple rose garden 2

Colour, like fragrance, is intimately connected with light; and between the different rays of the spectrum and the colour-cells of plants there is a strange telepathy. 



These processes, so little explored, seem in their deep secrecy and earthly spirituality more marvelous than the most radient visions of the mystics.

 From The Spring of Joy by Mary Webb

Pamela Temple rose garden

These images are taken in the treasured Northern California garden of Pamela Temple. I've had some of my life's happiest moments amongst its many roses. I often dream of being there.


Many thanks always Pamela !