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Give a Valentine's Day Bouquet that Lasts
By SUZY FISCHER, Urban Harvest

In two short weeks, flower shops will be swarming with customers in search of that sentimental Valentine's Day gift that expresses their feelings -- roses. In the language of flowers, the color of the rose determines it meaning. Red conveys love and passion, pink denotes grace and beauty, yellow indicates friendship and white signifies purity.




As a Noisette rose, Jeanne d’Arc is a prolific bloomer with a strong musk fragrance. Bright red hips often appear at the same time as the flowers. Like hybrid musks, it will tolerate locations with less than optimum sun.


This year, whatever sentiment you care to express, consider giving a living shrub that will bear bouquets for years to come instead of giving cut flowers that will be ready for the compost pile by week's end. Antique roses (ones that thrived before modern hybridization) and hybrids designated as Earth Kind or Texas Pioneer Roses offer carefree color and fragrance to Houston-area gardens.

Throughout time, the rose has been one of the world's most favored flowers. Botanists in search of the perfect rose concentrated their efforts on the Hybrid Tea category, breeding flowers of striking color with long-pointed buds. The new hybrids came at the expense of the plant's resistance to pests and diseases and the flower's heady fragrance.

More than two decades ago, an antique rose resurgence began as their hardiness, spectacular floral displays and fragrance made them welcomed garden additions. Today, they are at home in gardens across the country and their use need not be restricted to the ornamental garden, but can be included in the edible garden as well.

Pound for pound, rose hips (the fruit of the rose) have a higher concentration of vitamin C than oranges. Rose hips were another casualty of modern hybridization, but many antique roses bear beautiful hips. They are used in making jams, jellies, teas and wines, and rose petals and rose water are often used in Near and Middle Eastern cooking.
The following are a few of the antique roses that produce good hips:

    Ballerina is a repeat bloomer that bears clusters of small, single, light pink roses and grows to 6 feet as a shrub and 10 feet as a climber. Belonging to the Hybrid Musk category, Ballerina tolerates areas that receive as little as 4 hours of sun a day.

    Basye's Blueberry grows to 8 feet and resembles a blueberry bush, especially as its foliage begins to turn color in the fall. It is a repeat bloomer and produces fragrant, pink, semi-double flowers and its stems are thornless. Belonging to the Rugosa Rose category, its foliage is thick, leathery and deeply veined.

    Chestnut Rose is a fragrant, repeat bloomer that grows to 7 feet and belongs to the Rambling Rose category. The double, pink flowers emerge from what looks like moss-covered buds, and the bristle-covered hips are said to look like chestnut burrs.

    Danaë grows to be a 5-foot shrub or a 10-foot climber. It is a repeat bloomer whose creamy flowers, which are borne in clusters, begin as dark yellow buds. As a Hybrid Musk, they inherited their musky fragrance from a distant ancestor, the Musk Rose.

    Jeanne d'Arc belongs to the Noisette Rose category whose plants are prolific producers of flowers. The small, semi-double, pure white blooms have a strong musk fragrance. It grows to 8 feet and is best used as a pillar rose.

    Penelope is a 5-foot shrub that bears large, pale pink, clusters of flowers that are semi-double and fade to cream. This repeat bloomer of the Hybrid Musk category has fragrant flowers that appear throughout the growing season.
Traditionally, Gulf Coast gardeners have set aside Valentine's Day for cutting back finicky hybrid roses. Their breeding demands a specific method of pruning to ensure good flower production, yet the shrub itself never grows into an attractive plant.
Antique rose bushes on the other hand, are nicely formed shrubs in a garden setting, and most remain evergreen through our mild winters. Pruning can be performed throughout the growing season to shape and train them.

Suzy Fischer is a registered Landscape Architect and principal of Fischer Schalles, a landscape design/build firm. Contact her at suzyinthegarden@urbanharvest.org.

This column is produced by Urban Harvest. Learn about gardening classes, community gardens and orchards, farmers' markets and more at www.urbanharvest.org.