By Francesca Filanc, for Let's Talk Plants! February 2022.
‘Rose is a rose is a rose’ was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem "Sacred Emily", which appeared in the 1922 book Geography and Plays. In that poem, the first "Rose" is the name of a person.
Gertrude Stein was more than a century ahead of her time. Stein’s meaning for this line from her poem was inclusiveness. Most people think of the flowers when thinking of a rose as did I before today. How wonderful to know it had this meaning for Gertrude Stein.
January is the month that we prune roses, but February is the month of the rose with Valentine’s Day. Red roses have been known for expressing romantic love through the centuries. Traditionally red roses and a box of chocolates have been the gifts for lovers to give to their love on Valentine’s Day. Many times, men and women wait for Valentine’s Day to profess their love to the one they want to marry or be with for time moving forwards.
Roses were my favorite flowers from as early as I can remember. Although there are many roses that have no fragrance, as a little girl, I remember being in a rose garden; the roses skirting the edges of a large lawn. While the other children were playing a game, I would run to the roses and put my little nose down into each, taking in the scent of every colorful rose and appreciating and savoring the differences in fragrance. From a ‘Mr. Lincoln’ with beautiful deep red large blooms, to ‘Radiant Perfume’ with eye-catching yellow, to the soft pink with billowy blossoms of ‘Heritage’. 'Fragrant Plum,’ a lavender rose and ‘Louise Odier’ a vibrant pink flower were just calling me to smell their intense sweet fragrance.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I asked my mother, Pat Welsh, why she did not have any roses?
"I love roses Francie, but they will not do well with all the eucalyptus trees on our property" was her answer.
I decided to save my allowance until I had enough to buy Mum two rose bushes. They were each $3.75. We planted them in pots. These were Mum’s first two roses.
As an adult I have had roses in the landscape at every home where I have lived. The property where I live now, I have a parterre and there is an anchor plant in the center of each paisley shaped area with a fragrant rose as the centerpiece. ‘Golden Celebration’ is my favorite yellow rose. I have this climber in tuteurs repeating in my garden. (“Tuteur” is the French word for “trainer.” In this case, it's a trainer of vines or other climbing plants.) ‘Fire Fighter’ is an extremely fragrant red tree rose. The garden is filled with highly fragrant roses.
Roses are a hearty plant and can take freezing temperatures. Roses sleep during winter months and enjoy the cold. Roses love water but can survive droughts. They are thousands of years old, originally descended from the wild rose and will sometimes revert back to it without care.
I am an organic gardener. When the first leaves appear and then the fragrant blossoms follow, my heart skips a beat as I wander through the garden gazing at the beauty to behold and all free of bugs and diseases. After that first month or two I then deal with rust, mildew and black spot by removing all the leaves that have signs and using worm castings to help with aphids. One can also spray with insecticidal soap for rust and mildew. I feed banana peels to the roses. Just dig a whole and put the banana peel in the ground in the rose bed. One can also cover with a little soil so as not to disturb the feeder roots at the soil’s surface. Moosehorn Fern and Staghorn Fern also love banana peels. I have a reacher tool that I use to place the peels in the middle of a large Moosehorn that grows on the side of a tree.
The roses are all pruned right now. I love this time of year when you can see the bones and structure of your garden.
As always, I am enjoying these beautiful days after the good rains that we had; eating, writing and watching nature in the garden.
Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with two French poodles.