by Steve Jones, ARS past President 2006-2009
Asking about my favorite rose is not easy; it is like asking who is your favorite child although we always seem to have one. I believe in what the great rosarian and past president of the ARS Horace McFarland said when he was asked the same question, and he replied “The one I am holding”. I often say “The one I am beholding”.
We live in the Sierra Foothills (49er Gold Country) in Northern California, at 1700 feet elevation on top of a ridge and have a shorter growing season than when we lived in Southern California (360 miles to the south). Roses here start blooming around the first of May. The temperatures will occasionally hit 100 during the summer, but not for very long, and we may get an occasional dusting of snow in the winter. Winter low temperatures in the 20s is not unusual and we get hard frost off and on. Our average rainfall is about 38 inches a year, which is twice than where we lived down south. We are on the cusp of USDA Zones 8b and 9a (10 Zone map), so I go with the former to be safe for planting. We are a little more humid than down south so blackspot is somewhat common, but it is never out of control, and gone by late spring. Powdery mildew is rarely seen. I currently grow about 450 roses of all types (excluding my seedlings) with about 100 climbers and ramblers that line the eight-foot high deer fence that surrounds our five acres where they can grow wild.
Roses that don’t do well for me do not stay long, so in the end, the remaining roses are all my favorites. However, I think I will cop out and say my favorite rose is Dorothy Rose (1998, Min), a rose I hybridized that was good enough to name for my mom, Dorothy Rose Jones. I have always been amazed by the ever-changing single blooms with stripes of white, orange, orange-red, red, in cool weather burgundy, and all the colors in between. The blooms can range from near all white to near all the other colors; no two are the same.
I believe Dorothy Rose is a cross between Sarabande (1958, F) and Peggy “T” (1988, Min) and I say that because one year my granddaughter decided to help grandpa out and collect all of my cross tags from each pot. I did make a considerable number of crosses that year with these two roses so odds are it is correct.
The blooms sit atop long stems that are well clothed with foliage, and can be singular or in small to large clusters. The foliage does not get powdery mildew, is quite resistant to blackspot, and rarely gets anthracnose. I have won many best single rose trophies and certificates with this rose and it makes a great photo subject. Linda Burg of Fresno, California, has won many district and national awards using Dorothy Rose as her subject, which are included in this article.
Dorothy Rose can be a climber in cool areas and a small shrub in hotter areas. I classed it as a miniature, but it could have been classed as a climbing miniature, but since I live in warmer climates, it never gets that tall for me. The blooms have a nice spicy fragrance and repeat quickly. For me the only down side is it readily sets hips and needs to be deadheaded regularly. I have used it in my hybridizing program and have produced some interesting seedlings, although most are single, and so far, nothing as good as the parent.
Other roses that could be my favorite roses include Souvenir de la Malmaison (1843, B), Gemini (1999, HT), Veterans’ Honor (1999, HT), Wing-Ding (2007, Pol), Maria Liesa (1925, HMult), Frederic II de Prusse (1847, HCh), Lavaglut (1979, F), Bouquet Parfait (2000, HM), and the bush and climbing form of Gold Badge (Bunny) (1979, F). Others may shudder, but I also love Rosa multiflora, both the thorned and thornless plants, for the huge amount of super fragrant blooms they produce each spring and for budding as a preferred rootstock in our area.
'Dorothy Rose', photos by Steve Jones