Frank Dezzutto leads readers down the rosiest path
photos by Brent Fleury
Trellises are growing up. Garden apartment, grand estate — whatever the structure, it’s no longer quite enough to have a homely two-dimensional lattice clinging to one’s exterior. Even simple arbors can look imposing in the right space, and in fact, some wee Asheville bungalows now boast rustic post-and-lintel creations that are taller than the houses they enhance.
As the zeal for pergolas, green-roofed patios and the like keeps climbing, attention naturally turns to what will best grow on them. Enter roses — again. History’s most poetically entrenched botanical never requires an official renaissance. But then, Shakespeare (“by any other name …”), Robert Burns (“my love is like …”) and Gertrude Stein (“is a rose is a rose is a rose …”) probably never tried to train a finicky “Léontine Gervais” over a Canterbury-style arbor.
Rose growing is a thorny business, and a little grounded advice never hurts. Frank Dezzutto is a past president of the Asheville-Blue Ridge Rose Society and an expert on “antique” or “old garden” roses — varieties introduced before 1867. He was a featured speaker at the group’s annual exhibition at the North Carolina Arboretum in June.
What kind of cultivated roses grow best locally? Our Rose Society polled members in 2008 for input on the roses that do best in our area … based on beauty, fragrance, vigorous growth and disease resistance. The top vote-getters were “New Dawn,” a rambler; “Abraham Darby,” a shrub; and “Veterans’ Honor,” a Hybrid Tea. (30 species in all made the list.)
What are some trendy cultivars? New specimens are produced all the time, many with wonderful names. What are some recent ones? I think that commercial rose growers and hybridizers concentrate on developing roses that are attractive but may not do well in the garden. If you’ve been growing roses for a while, you look for proven varieties and not necessarily new introductions. The American Rose Society (www.ars.org) publishes ratings for roses that can be used to make buying decisions.
Are you willing to share any of your “state secrets?” Or at least one or two tips that the average gardener might not know? Roses should be planted in a sunny location with good air circulation. Don’t plant them close to trees, because in addition to shading the rose, the tree will rob the rose of moisture and nutrients.
What is the average enthusiast’s number-one misconception about rose growing? That they are difficult to grow. Roses are plants like any others. If the average gardener will follow a few basic rules, they will be rewarded with beautiful roses. Follow basic planting instructions and make informed decisions on rose purchases.
Some Hybrid Teas, the top show rose, have no scent at all. When a rose is so intricately bred for looks that it no longer has that wonderful smell, do you believe something of the soul of the rose — to risk being dramatic — is lost? Hybrid Teas are probably still the top show rose, but other rose categories are also included in rose shows, such as shrub roses and antique roses. Most Hybrid Teas are not fragrant and most are grafted roses, which tends to reduce the life of the rose. They require more care and have a tendency to lose their leaves due to fungal diseases such as “blackspot.”
Arbors/pergolas/lattice-roof patios are increasingly popular outdoor-room additions. What’s a good climbing-rose variety with which to ornament latticework? And what are some tips for getting these kind of roses started? My preferences are “New Dawn” and “Zephirine Drouhin.” “Zephirine Drouhin” is thornless and also very fragrant. The canes on climbers are somewhat stiff, which is why they can attain heights of ten feet or more. However, after climbing on the fence, arbor, etc., the canes will produce more blooms if they are constrained to a more horizontal position.
How much care do bushes need in the off-season? Very little. Hybrid Tea and other grafted roses should be mulched heavily so that the graft is protected from freezing temperatures; this has been a major factor for loss of roses in our area. All roses should be pruned in late winter/early spring for vigorous growth and good bloom.
What is your favorite public rose display, local or otherwise? The Biltmore Estate rose garden and the exhibition garden maintained by our Rose Society at the Red Cross Center in Asheville, which was established to evaluate roses that will thrive with “no spraying.” The garden displays a variety of modern, shrub and antique roses.
What are some of the most intriguing varieties of heirloom/antique roses? I like “Marchesa Boccella,” a pink, fragrant, Hybrid Perpetual shrub; “Belle Poitevine,” a pink, fragrant, Hybrid Rugosa shrub; and “Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison,” a light-pink, fragrant Bourbon rose.
Is there a renewed interest in growing antique roses? Yes, definitely. Antique roses are vigorous growers, require less care and are generally fragrant. They can be grown on their own roots and can live for 50-plus years.
How does one acquire them? I buy my antique roses from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. Check the Web for other antique-rose nurseries. I propagate a variety of antique and “found” roses and I sell them at the Flat Rock Tailgate Market on Thursdays from 3-6pm.
Local Resources: Asheville-Blue Ridge Rose Society