The last rose of summer

Janice Wells
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Daughter No. 2 was amazed this week to see roses still blooming outside my back door.

Well, perhaps blooming is not quite the right word, but two of my roses are still producing buds and the scattered bloom.

In the past, I’ve cut these late buds and brought them in to open in the house, but it hasn’t worked. The buds stay attractive as buds for a while, and then just sort of wither away.

Maybe it’s the reverse of hardening plants off in the spring; maybe these November flowers need to be brought in for a few hours a day and acclimatized gradually to the warmth of the house.


I’ve learned to leave these really late ones outside and enjoy them as I walk by.

It got me wondering, though, about how common it is for roses to behave like this.

I remember years ago in Corner Brook, cutting a huge rose bouquet for a late October birthday and basking in the accolades.

In those idealistic days I was growing hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras. I have no recollection whether all or just some of them contributed to the bouquet.

I have four mature roses in my garden — 10 roses in total if you count the four that are there in pitiful body only and the two that have only been here two years but seem to be settling in.

Only two, Climbing New Dawn and Prairie Joy, continue to produce buds right up until hard frost.

It’s not anything that I do to encourage them. I don’t think I even got around to feeding them this year.

New Dawn avoided the threatened transplant, but did get heavily pruned.

On the other hand, Prairie Joy didn’t seem to have as many blooms this year, and both of them had a stretch when blooms didn’t open.

An email from Elaine Nichols got me thinking back and realizing that, yes, it was August that they were unwell.

Elaine wrote, “The first part of our summer was very nice and the garden performed really well, especially the clematis, but August was very disappointing.  We had a lot of rain. August is usually my favourite month because I am an avid lover of daylilies and daylilies bloom in August. Dressed in rubber boots and an umbrella I would do a garden walk every day, but it was disappointing not to be able to linger and enjoy them longer.”

My books and online research turned up only one reference to too much moisture being a possible cause for rose buds not opening, and that source also said that not enough moisture could be the cause, as well as some disease and insects.

You can see why most roses are not an ideal choice for a gin and tonic gardener.

There’s a Climbing Peace that has been outside my fence for years and is down to one healthy looking cane that produces a bloom or two a year.

A few feet away, on the other side of the path, is a tall, skinny David Austin Heritage that mocks me every time I pass it.

Both of these will hopefully get a new lease on life once I start gardening in Heart’s Content.

Struggling under more aggressive mallow and hollyhocks are two miniatures whose names I have forgotten, and which I’m sure will do better when I get around to liberating them.

One of the newer ones doing well started as a piece from a vigorous shrub rose I was told is John Cabot. I’m not sure that it is, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to need any help from me.

It probably is one of the Explorer series, bred for extreme Canadian conditions, but even so, it doesn’t produce late in the season.

Climbers are good for a small garden, but I really don’t have room for vigorous shrubs. Sooner or later, I’ll probably have to tell that to John Cabot.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at

Note to readers: please do not send

thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: New Dawn, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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