In the garden: Roses and their companions |

In the garden: Roses and their companions

Anna Naeser
Special to The Aspen Times
Anna NaeserHarison's yellow rose

The roses are blooming. My Harison’s yellow roses, Rosa x harisonii, are big, prickly, unsophisticated bushes I have to gingerly crawl into to get at the branches and twigs that are constantly dying back.

I do it because no other rose I know of has such distinctive and elegant buds. It lines them up along the top of the stems, perkily pointing skyward until the weight of the opening petals pulls them down, so the gorgeous roses face you. The best partners I have found for this rose are daylilies with their thick, arching foliage and a generous catmint, Nepeta faassenii, or Six Hills Giant, with vibrant blue wands that soften and mask the stiff canes. Later, sturdy yellow yarrow will bloom through them.

Just clearing the top of a gray boulder, with another at its back, are the deep red clusters of the rugosa hybrid Linda Campbell. I planted the airy ornamental blue oat grass Helictotrichon next to this rose, thinking that their textures and colors would go well together. Unfortunately, the rose has never reached the 5-by-8-foot advertised size, while the grass has exceeded expectations, so tall that it obscures “Linda” instead of enhancing her. As a focal point, this combination is a disappointment.

In the foreground, among a clutter of small boulders I have an Austrian copper rose, Rosa foetida bicolor. It is unprepossessing, even after 5 years, and like its relation, the Harison’s yellow, it sheds canes and twigs, requiring regular pruning to keep it civilized. It flowers only briefly and the petals are easily shattered by wind and rain, but, oh my, what petals they are, with their jazzy polychrome orange and red petals faced with solid yellow. While I underplanted this rose with lily-of-the-valley and sweet woodruff, its real companion plant is the pesky grass that continually invades it.

A brief mention of the white Sir Thomas Lipton rose, growing against the house wall, which I defoliated with soap spray last year in my zeal to kill aphids. It recovered and is blooming sparsely, but nothing to write home about. There’s not an aphid on it. The luxuriant golden oregano filling the bed beneath it really does nothing for the rose, or maybe it’s’ the other way around, but I can’t bear to get rid of either one.

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