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Pick of the Roses
From 'Teasing Georgia' to 'Blushing Knock-Out,' the ingénues are tempting us
R. 'Sonia Sunblaze'
LATE WINTER is the time for pruning roses, and also for the less thorny task of ordering new ones. Even though I've whittled my own rose collection down to a sturdy few, I'm still intrigued by the ingénues introduced each year. After all, the love of roses is part of our collective unconscious; humans have cherished them for millennia. What do you think those Persians were tending in their walled gardens but roses and more roses?

It's true that the newcomers are untried and may well not thrive in our climate. But just their descriptions are a sensual delight, creating cravings as intense as those brought on by fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate-chip cookies. It may still be bleak and wintery outdoors, but in the catalogs the roses are in full, fragrant blossom.

And no blossoms are more showy than Rosa 'Red Eden,' a Jennifer Lopez of a rose with deeply ruffled flowers in luscious dark burgundy. It is a vigorous, disease-resistant climber that can't help but call attention to itself.
R. 'Blushing Knock-Out'
If 'Red Eden' is a flashy focal point, then the new 'Panda Meidiland' is more of an all-round dependable player. A ground-cover rose, it blooms from spring to fall with single white flowers centered with a splash of yellow.

The new shrub rose 'Blushing Knock-Out' falls somewhere in between, perhaps a Renée Zellweger- or Jennifer Connelly-type rose, with masses of shell-pink single flowers that perform all season long.

Let's close that curtain to take a look at David Austin English roses, popular crosses with a modern rose's long bloom time and an old-fashioned rose's charm and fragrance. For American gardens this year, Austin is introducing seven new English roses, which can be seen at and found in local nurseries. Three ('Teasing Georgia,' 'Wildeve' and 'Falstaff') are especially tempting.
R. 'Panda Meidiland'
R. 'Teasing Georgia' has a name as captivating as its looks, and it has already won an award for its sweet fragrance. Blossoms are two-toned pale- to butter-yellow, and the plants can be grown as shrubs or short climbers.

R. 'Wildeve' has blush-pink, rosette-shaped double flowers and is described as robust with a "fresh" fragrance, whatever that means.

For a darker note, check out R. 'Falstaff' with its cupped, ruffly flowers in deep crimson purple. If you've been frustrated by English roses grown too leggy, breeder Austin suggests planting them close together in groups of three to form a generous mound of flowers and foliage.
Illustration Now In Bloom
Statuesque, spiky yuccas create dramatic silhouettes in the winter landscape. Ideal for rockeries, containers or any well-drained, warm spot in the garden, yuccas come in shapes and colors beyond the all-too-familiar mainstays of 1950s rockeries around town. Yuccas are instantly recognizable for their tough, sword-shaped leaves (hence the common name of Spanish bayonet) and spires of whitish flowers. California native Yucca whipplei (above) is especially decorative, with a burst of slender, toothed gray-green blades as bristly as an angry porcupine, softened by willowy stems of creamy flowers in late summer.
For containers or small gardens, a couple of new petite roses sound intriguing. R. 'Preference' is a compact floribunda that tops out at about 3 feet, with scarlet flowers and dense, dark-green leaves. A fully double miniature rose as puckered as the face of a Pekinese, 'Sonia Sunblaze' is salmon pink, lightly fragrant and only about a foot high.

Jackson and Perkins in Medford, Ore., offers New Generation Roses grown on their own rootstocks, which makes them especially sturdy and hardy. New in nurseries this spring is the pale lavender 'Perfume Perfection' with a strong fruity fragrance, and 'Black Magic,' which has both a spicy scent and near-black buds opening to velvety garnet-colored flowers. Between the name and the color, it sounds nearly irresistible, even to someone who long since swore off hybrid teas.

Molbaks in Woodinville carries more than 200 varieties of roses, so I tracked down nursery manager Stacie Wilson to see which she's most excited about. First up is R. 'Heaven on Earth,' a floribunda with pink-apricot flowers so double they appear to be more peony than rose. She also admires the red floribunda 'Salsa' and 'Sundance,' with yellow flowers trimmed in orange-pink. The one rose impossible to resist even for a rose buyer is the showy new R. 'Chihuly,' which Wilson admits will be going home with her. Named after the glass artist, each flower is flushed with apricot, orange, red and yellow to create a multicolored extravaganza of a rose.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is

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