Where Have All The Roses Gone?

Hot Cocoa + Graham Thomas

Speaking of birthdays.  In a few days it will be my middle daughter’s birthday and that means it’s time to go hunting for a rose for Sydney Rose.  Her dad picked out the very first birthday rose when she was a baby.  ”Bewitched,”  a beautiful clear-pink hybrid tea, captured this spellbinding strawberry-blonde daughter perfectly.


Every year since we’ve planted a rose around her birthday. Other favorites include “Ballerina,” “Hot Cocoa” and  ”Sterling Silver.”

Sterling Silver

Fortunately, we’ve moved to a place with a lovely hillside garden that has NO roses—so I absolutely have to add a few.  I picked up Cecile Bruner and Cornelia on my trip to Annie’s Annuals a few weeks ago but want to include some old favorites as well.  However, after spending a week dropping by local nurseries, I’m finding that the rose pickin’s are pretty slim.


I finally asked the owner of my neighborhood nursery what was up when I saw that he, too, offered only a few white carpet roses and a single purplish tree rose. He gave me two reasons for the limited rose options–first, that many of the major commercial growers have gone out of business ( including Jackson & Perkins–really?!) and second, that roses have fallen out of favor here in the inner Bay Area.

“To keep them looking healthy in the fog they often need pesticides and fungicides,” he pointed out, “and people are more leery of using them now.”

Hmm.  I’ve never sprayed my roses—though I’ve been pretty careful about choosing varieties that do well in this climate.  ”Sterling Silver” is the one exception and I tend to just plant it in a less visible spot so I can enjoy the cut flowers without obsessing over the less-than-lovely (at least if you choose not to spray them) leaves. So it’s hard for me to believe that gardeners can’t grow chemical free roses here.

Wise Portia

There are still good resources for mail order roses like Heirloom Roses in Oregon–I ordered “Just Joey” and “Wise Portia” this week–but I’m thinking my best bet might be the Celebration of Old Roses event at the community center in El Cerrito this Sunday from 11:00 to 3:30.  They advertise that heirloom and hard-to-find roses (the list is now so long!) will be for sale.

Is anyone else wondering where have all the roses gone?


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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.