Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Old the New New?

The proverbial baby keeps getting tossed with the bath water.  Its true. And nowhere has this been more debated than in the rose world.  As the story goes, the commercialization of the cultivar "Peace" by Meilland after WWII, ushered in the age of the hybrid tea, which saw a great many roses perish in their midst.  Now, all kidding aside, I think many of us now sigh a big whew, and thank those 1960s, 70s and 80s folks who stuck to their guns and kept around an old rose or two instead of hoisting them all in favor of the latest and greatest.

But come on everyone, lets get real.  Rose growers have long been in the business of commerce, and there has always been "this years winner" be it wines, or flowers, or fashion trends.  Some of those items honestly SHOULD be deigned fit only for the history books (kindles). White skintight jumpsuits for instance. Hoopskirts, knee breeches, knob and tube electric, telegrams. And yes, many many old roses.  There are also those things that come into and go out of fashion throughout the years.  And yes, gardening itself goes in an out of style, and flower type, height, smell, and form all seem to win or lose favor with each successive generation.  Even before the advent of hybrid teas in the later 19th century, the annals of time have claimed many a flower variety.

Rosa "Peace" ~ The Conquerer
So with this as the setup, we have an interesting trend going on now in the rose world, as well as the gardening world as a whole: organic, original, heirloom, old.  Old is this generations next greatest thing.  So much so that I read somewhere recently that hybrid tea roses, once the overwhelming ONLY selection of roses in commerce are having trouble selling and languishing on the shelves!!!  This means that hybrid tea varieties, the good, the bad, and the ugly will perish in the whiplash. Hold on to your favorite varieties now, because soon they'll be hard to come by (life's full of blackspot and then you die).

And so it goes... in my lifetime I'm all but certain that new will move back into being the next new thing, and old garden roses, heirloom vegetables and whatnot will again have to step aside for some amazing new horticultural marvel as the whim of popular opinion moves along.   As most of us probably have found out in our lives, not all progress is actually progress, but no progress isn't progress either.  And sometimes you can't tell the difference for a good long while.  Something to chew on, that.

So to each his own I say.  The fact that there are remontant lilacs and hydrangeas and short versions of every old garden stalwart isn't a bad thing.  It reflects what we the people really want.  Not all of us (I sure as heck would rather the taller dianthus, coneflowers, and salvia's of yore), but the masses have spoken for this day, this moment, and have done for many many many generations.  And hey, my hydrangeas stay in bloom 10 months of the year.  I can live with that. And just to throw it out there, if I could grow lilacs at all down here, I wouldn't care if they came from Mars, and were only available at the "evil box store": I'd be growing them.

So how about this: Lets stop beating each other up about our choices... what do you say?  Organic or not, heirloom or not, OGR or knockout, purebred or hybrid, remontant or species, the choice is yours, and surely any current generational zeal you conform to for anyone's reasons but your own will shortly be the next worst thing.


For the record: in my garden in zone 9a super humid all year long Southern Coastal USA, I fertilize primarily organically with a midseason dollop of osmocote, spray for pests and disease only when absolutely necessary (but I absolutely do), think lawns are sort of pretty, and I grow 18 cultivars of roses:

3 types of knockouts
2 david austin shrubs
1 species rose
5 OGRs (or almost) a noisette, a polyantha, a bourbon, a china and a hybrid musk
4 modern bushes/climbers
2 bermuda/mysteries
1 miniature

They ALL grow quite well, and have no distain for each other.  Imagine that!  I make my own choices, and to those of you who think I do so in an uninformed fashion, I'll also state for the record, I think its nice that you have an opinion.  We all do.  And since nostalgia is such the rage these days I'll add this oldie but goodie: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Now I sure do wish that WOULD come back to stay.


The defense rests.

30 comments:

  1. I totally agree! Plant what makes you happy. Though I have a love for old garden roses I also have knockouts and plan to get more. I also happen to love plants that have been around and were popular since the 1800's but see new brand new plants in bluestone perennial magazine that I would love to try too. I am totally with you on the lilacs too!

    I also agree about the choice to be organic or not or to spray or not. I personally would rather try to stay organic and not spray but it isn't always happening and yet because of the push to do that you feel evil if you do spray or use non organic fertilizer or spray for that matter.

    It's your garden ENJOY it!! And let's not get on someone because they don't choose to garden as you do. ;)

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    1. Thanks! It's nice to know that there are others who are on board with me.

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  2. Sorry for repeating words lol I'm using my phone and it makes it a bit difficult to comment! :)

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  3. I started my garden here , not far from Charleston, and almost every single rose bush got black spot. It was a battle for years, but roses do not like hot and humid weather like we have here. They like cool & drier weather( found out). The only roses that survived are some cheaper bush roses, that come back every year. I was not going to spray gobs of chemicals constantly to kill the persistent blackspot and then they had that bud disease too.Ok, take care ! Gina

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    1. Gina, you must not have had the right roses. I live in Summerville, SC just outside Charleston. I have 25 old garden roses and all but a couple are very good to excellent disease resistance to black spot. Not all roses like cool weather teas, noisettes, and chinas for example love our hot humid conditions and thrive in it. It is all about picking the right rose for your area. Of course a really wet humid summer might result in a little more bs than usual but things can't always be perfect in my opinion. So if you love roses don't give up and if you live nearby try Noisettes they were bred here in Charleston. ;)

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    2. Hey Gina. See I haven't had much issue but I have really tried hard to only grow very disease resistant varieties. If its not out it goes. I have had absolutely no blackspot in Madame Alfred carriere, ballerina, and carefree beauty. And they have never been sprayed. No need. All the rest have minimal with the need for a quick spray come October here. I do not have a spray program so it can be done if you ever choose to try again! My biggest garden nemesis is actually slugs. Coat the garden in sluggo and beer and still I have them. I dream about them all over plants! I have scale issues too.

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  4. Someone say something mean? I hope not. I have always thought gardeners were some of the sweetest people, but people can become opinionated. And there does seem to be some kind of unspoken peer pressure around. You are so right that what's old becomes new again. But compassion, understanding, and good manners will never go out of style! (I hope!)

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    1. Yes let's hope this generation and future ones do find those stylish!

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  5. as roses go, you grow what you like and your climate can handle...my garden likes knockouts and so do I ...we shall see how other roses do that I also planted...I never try to judge or say anything mean...my momma says, "treat others like you wan to be treated"...too bad not everyone learned that lesson :)

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    1. Yes, and there really are a lot of choices, which perform different functions. Knockouts I grow because they are bullet proof, but I don't love their form... I grow DA's for that and some of the OGRs. Noisettes are large and climbers and also bulletproof here. I have Marie Pavie in a 3 gallon cement urn and its FINE! now thats a keeper. :)

      As far as politeness is concerned, I am definitely concerned. People no longer seem to understand when they have crossed the line.

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  6. Are you ever right about 'old' being the 'new' thing to do. I see this a lot in interior design right now but I hadn't actually thought about it in the garden. and yet it's obvious, heirloom is definitely something I see a lot of lately and it will affect what plants are available to us. I remember my mother telling me if I ever found shoes I liked to buy 2 pairs because as soon as the first pair wore out they would be out of style and I would never find them again. Perhaps rose lovers should be going out and buying 2 of all their favourite tea roses?

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    1. I really do think that all but the most popular are going to become very scarce. The own root, OGR craze is upon us, and I relish the choices but do see how we might one day be missing this or that 'perfect' vase flower.

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  7. I'm SO with you on all this!! I actually had a good giggle about some of your comments because its all so exactly the way I feel. I honestly couldn't care less about what the latest "fashion" in plants and gardening is - I buy what I like and what will do well in my garden. Isn't it enough that I wear (try to) stylish clothing, do I have to take this over to the garden too? Not going to happen :)

    As for the organic thing - I use organic fertilisers and I try not to use sprays etc., but I will use if it becomes neccessary.

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    1. Gardening definitely is about self expression, and if it came down to it, I live within spitting distance of the ocean, where it can be baking hot as He** for 4-5 months of the year, and the soil looks like beach sand. If I wanted things to be natural, I'd be left with sea grass and palm trees. The entire act of gardening in my back yard is so far from natural it isn't funny. And yet, since I started my garden wildlife has increased 100 fold and earthworms have moved in (a 'non' native!).

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  8. i've had some thoughts about this, too, jess...the idea that old is better. the romantic notions we attach to things don't represent the truth that much, and i think that's what a lot of this is. some of the heirloom tomatoes, for example, are pretty horrible garden plants. there's plenty of garden snobbery out there too, "my way is better and only the people who do it like i do are truly enlightened." like the rest of life, we have to honor our own convictions and make our own decisions about things. i'm just glad we have gardens and gardeners!

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    1. As a nostalgic person myself I romanticize just about everything... but every so often common sense comes in and says something like: sure it was nice in the grand ol' 1850s, but people died at 40, disease took away half of your children, and you better hope you are white and rich or else things aren't so good for you! Sure did build nice houses though.

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    2. i have dreamed of living like tasha tudor did, and have about 10 years of old victoria magazines saved. haha! romantic could be my middle name. i've decided it's useful to look back and see what baby we might have thrown out with the bathwater, but no need to try to relive the past...there's a lot to appreciate in the present!

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  9. LOVE THIS POST!!! I'm so tired of how judgmental gardening has become. When my neighbor asked for landscaping help the first plant I went for were the Knock Out roses because of how tough and easy they are. They sure beat a yard full of nothing. When pretension and disdain take over gardening, it's no longer gardening but a veiled attempt to make ourselves feel superior to the poor schmuck we're diminishing. How sad! Thanks for your kind words about my dog. :o)

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    1. It totally beats a yard full of nothing, every. single. time. in my mind. And I agree that humans do have a tendency to feel themselves superior by putting others down... it never works, but there are some that cannot rise above it, be it going into debt for a nicer house than the neighbor, mommy parenting styles (the biggest example I have EVER seen... you'd think there was only one way to raise a healthy child!) or garden practices.

      I prefer to lead by example with my convictions. And I definitely try to make sure others know that my convictions are my own, and I will not think worse of you for having your own!

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  10. Well... I think the recent drop in popularity of HTs is due not only to the fact that they are going out of fashion, but also because they are not adapted to most climates in which they are grown. They require too much effort (spraying, winter protecting, pruning, fertilizing) for most people. Which is also why Knock Outs are so popular. Also, grafting HTs is a labor intensive process which makes plants more expensive (and makes lots of people wonder as to why all roses are grafted onto the same, in many cases virused, rootstock, which doesn't always perform as expected but raises the price of the rose).

    I also grow many different types of roses, and they each have their own use in the garden. I find that older antique varieties are generally better landscaping shrubs, while modern HTs are generally better for cutting. I find acknowledging their limitations very restful - I don't cut Austins for the house, and I don't try to make HTs look graceful and elegant. That makes gardening with roses a lot less stressful for me.

    I do believe you are right though in that there is a lot of snobbism attached to growing roses. Just watch rosarians' faces if you tell them you grow Knock Outs :). I know a few of those people myself... And while I have some very rare roses some of which are not even in commerce, I also grow not one, but two "vulgar" Double Delights, and enjoy them very much.

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  11. P.S Do you actually grow any of the reblooming lilacs? A local nursery has some in stock this year, and I admit, they look very tempting :).

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    1. ps.. I know they are sort of garish but DD's are a classic, and I like them too. Plus they smell good.

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    2. Yes, at my cabin in upstate NY. In South Carolina they won't grow at all, even the regular kind, they need a cold period. This is one of the south's biggest bummers..that and we can't grow tulips, same issue.

      From what I can tell, the rebloomers are just like the regular...except that they rebloom. Seems like progress to me :)

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  12. Hi Masha - yes I agree that is why they are going out of style now...it isn't 'in style' to slave over a garden at the moment, at least for the masses, and OGRs currently have the spotlight as easier than HTs (which is true, but not all of them thats for sure!) And I agree about the knockouts..I get flack, but I tell you what, in December when they are covered in blooms LOTS of people are asking me just what that rose is, blooming in full shade.

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  13. "Life's full of blackspot and then you die"...I so want that on a t-shirt LOL. I don't grow roses any more. I love them, and had a thing for the old English roses in my last garden. The only ones I ripped out were ones that needed hand-holding to squeak out a bloom, but the others were tough, robust, and beautiful. If I'm honest though, I was happy to move. They grew so well I was pruning them constantly!!! I don't grow them now for a host of reasons, not the least of which is deer, except for a native rose because it's adapted to living here. I've gone through numerous phases of gardening over the years. Shade, full sun, Japanese style gardening, xeriscaping, you name it. I've learned from all my gardens, and loved them all. For me, the bottom line is diversity, and healthy soil. Lawns aren't as evil as some suggest, depending on how they're maintained, but a lawn alone a garden doth not maketh. Plant a few flowers, and maybe a shrub or two, and then that lawn is a garden.

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    1. I'm big on trying to get my soil to be real soil myself. I keep asking myself just how many years is it going to take of amendment before it is nice soil?

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  14. Jess, I love your writing, particularly I'd like to quote you on 'life's full of blackspot ...' and I love the witch cartoon. But I don't think heirloom is just a fashion. The way I understand it it's ensuring that we continue to have a choice because big companies control seeds and plants and their commercial needs determine the limited numbers of plants we end up with. So I do agree with you we need to plant widely and whatever we love and share seeds and seedlings with fellow gardeners to do our bit to maintain diversity. We can't depend on nurseries. Their interests are different. cheers, cm

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    1. And I do respect that what commercial nurseries sell and what hard core gardeners want can be very different. You and I aren't the mainstream more than likely, and I heartily agree with sharing your best and brightest and hanging on to what you really love. Trends come and go, a plant you truly love is worth the extra effort to keep.

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  15. Jess, great that you are brave and writing a quite provocative post! Since gardening and rose growing seems to be much in decline, I am happy for anyone, who is gardening and growing roses at all. In my own garden I have come to the point where I select roses mainly for their disease resistance and if I personally like them or not. I do love Old Garden Roses, but I don't cling to them for ideological reasons. Oh, and by the way I garden and grow my roses organically, so I am one of those ;-)!
    Christina

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    1. I love that you are 'one of those' lol, and I hope others respect that you are too. I am organic myself, about 80% of the way, I do what I can, and what is right for me. I just also try not to buy into every single thing I hear about a current hot trend.

      I totally select only roses that I know will not be a pain in the butt. I have one blackspot prone rose..just the one, and it basically lives hiding in the star jasmine foliage because it generally looks like hell.. but the blooms are gorgeous and smell bonkers good (Zepherine Drouhin). Every other rose I have basically is super healthy, chosen because I don't have the time, inclination, or desire to be spraying chemicals on things.

      I agree with you too that I am extremely happy that people take the time to garden, its such a great pasttime and really does beautify our environment, which is something, rightly or wrongly, I very much enjoy.

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