Rose Survivors

A little potted rose ‘rescued’ when my mom lived in a care facility. Gifted to her, these little roses would soon dry up and I’d take them home for life support!

Are there roses in your life?  There is scientific evidence that rose petals have healing properties and rose hips (fruit of the rose) are packed with vitamin C and other goodies. Rose flower essence is calming, uplifting and used especially for helping one through difficult times of trauma and depression. Perhaps this flower of love is needed in abundance in all our lives now more than ever!

June, National Rose month, celebrates this flower steeped in lore, legend, symbolism, healing properties and revered in every culture, past and present. Living in the woods with poor soil and lots of shade, growing roses like my mom did (see Mom’s Garden Love Affair) wasn’t something I aspired to do.  But roses came into my life, each with a story of survival and determination and each sweetens the June air with a different scent.  Some of them are subtle, others fill the air with a strong fragrance reminiscent of how I imagine the old rose gardens seen in paintings must have filled the air.

This little pink sweetie is the rose behind, or rather under, the Peace rose given to me 32 yrs. ago by a boy friend. Lovely gift, but tea roses aren’t happy in a woodland environment. It lasted 2-3 seasons (longer than the relationship lasted). After it died I waited. Shoots started to emerge. Eventually this root-stock rose, on which the Peace Rose was grafted, grew into a tall, gangly plant with clusters of little pink roses with floppy petals and a scent so strong – the scent of legends! After researching roses used as root stock, I determined it is rosa manettii. Developed in 1835, (100 years before the Peace) it is rare, used as an understock in 19th century, not so much now. It seems happy here in the woods and one of the few roses I’ve seen pollinators at .

Another surprise rose, this one came from an old farm I rented with a friend for a few years. Probably mowed along with the grass for years, maybe decades, the last mowing I did before moving from the farm I noticed what looked like a little rose sprout in the grass. Digging it up, it moved with me and for 40 years it has bloomed it’s heart out every June for 2 to 3 weeks, depending upon the weather. Though the bush gets big, the blooms are small with a classic rosy scent. It doesn’t tolerate high heat or heavy rains. I have three bushes and it seems like we’ve been together forever!

This soft pink rose grew next to my parent’s driveway in Seattle. At some point it was dug up and given to me. But that was not the end of the story. Though replaced by a winter blooming evergreen bush, the rose made it’s way back up through the bush. Years after Dad died, Mom, who loved roses and may not have been the one to instigate it’s demise, pointed it out to me with a bit of humor, like, “look at that it’s back!” The guy who cared for her yard as she got older again and again cut it down. The last time we took mom to her house, before it sold, on a cold rainy September day, as we got her in the car to leave I looked and there was one pink bloom, sticking out high above the evergreen bush. I could barely reach it. This June blooming rose showed up to say good-bye to the woman who loved roses and all flowers (she had many tea roses out in front of their house). It was magical. No words were spoken as I stood in the rain, picked it, and handed it to Mom.

This last of our old bush roses is another survivor, in fact a bit aggressive and we’ve had our own battles keeping it from growing into our raised beds, etc. I had been given two root starts of this old rose, and both were growing like ‘weeds’.  At one point we needed to remove one to take down an old fence it had consumed, making room for a Rhododendron to grow . We transplanted it but sadly, as vigorous as it was, it didn’t do well in a new location, only a few feet from where it thrived, and it died. Again, like the pink rose at my parents, it showed up after a few years in the same location it had been. We’ve surrender. When we are old (er) and the house is over run with blackberries, morning glory and other weeds, waving their flags of victory, at least every June there will be a rose in amongst the brambles!

Related Posts:

Learn how to make a rose hydrosol from wild roses: Loving the gone-wild ones

And how to make rose jam from rose hips come fall! Spring & Rosy Jam


A Plant Story – the plant in our family tree

Our family tree includes a plant.  Once lush with many shiny, leathery green leaves, my now straggly, not-so-attractive Hoya plant has a 3 generation history. It began as a cutting from a plant of my mom’s, her plant being a cutting from my paternal grandfather’s. Grandpa’s plant, of unknown origins and age, covered the entire ceiling of an enclosed back porch in the farm house where my dad and his siblings grew up. Mom’s plant moved east with us when I was 5, living in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and eventually coming back to Washington with my parents.  At some point in my 20s I began my plant, now over 40 yrs. old. Not sure how long mom’s lived. Her’s began to have mealy bug problems in its/her later years, and though she still had a Hoya in her 90s, when she moved from her house, it may not have been her original.

My plant, though dropping lots of leaves, continues to bloom pale pink velvety stars, with centers of  red centered pale yellow stars.

The plant genus Hoya was named after Thomas Hoy, a respected plant biologist and propagator in England in the late 1700s, early 1800s. Hoyas grow in the wild throughout Asia, especially India, some species are also found in Australia. The soft velvety pale pink variety of our family plant is Hoya carnosa, and though it is sometimes called Wax Plant, I’ve never heard anyone in my family call it that. I would call it velvet plant, the pink stars so fuzzy you want to pet them, but if you do you will get sticky fingers from the sweet nectar, which is very tasty! Hoya carnosa is said to have been cultivated for 200 years. If I add up the age of my plant, my mom’s, and think of how long ago Grandpa started his, I estimate the Hubbard plant is from a very early cultivator!

Being a tropical vine, it is “natural” for the plant to get “viney”,  and perhaps drop lower leaves as it adds new growth. Over the years I’ve cut out old dead vines and it has responded by increased new leaves and blooms further up the vines. Not having a tropical forest to climb up through, its vines, trained back on themselves around a trellis, made a visual mass of evergreen leaves when it had more leaves. Hoyas are easy to grow, survivors of many conditions, not wanting too much water or attention, but often tricky to get to bloom. Someone once gave me a Hoya they had that never bloomed, I kept it for years but never could get it to bloom.  I was taught they must be root bound to bloom, perhaps blooming when stressed.  Mine has always bloomed, regardless of where it is located. I’m thinking of cutting my plant back, even re-potting it, which will mean no blooms for possibly years, but it has sent up a few new leaves from its base, a hopeful sign.

Aunt Jackie’s second generation Hoya growing in the same house Grandpa grew his. She has not let hers cover the ceiling however! (thank you Shaun Hubbard for the photo)

So what happened to Grandpa’s plant?  My cousin Shaun tells me when her parents, my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Jackie, who own the original farm house, moved the house in the 60s the plant went to a hair salon where my cousin Laurie was working at the time. Aunt Jackie took cuttings and when the old enclosed porch was remodeled into a room, Aunt Jackie’s second generation plant was reinstalled, where it continues to grow today.  Over 90 herself, Jackie continues to pass out cuttings from her second generation plant, as grandpa did with the original plant. There are no doubt extended family Hubbard Hoya plants in the homes of many family members and friends. (Any cousins reading this who have their own Hoya story, I’d love to hear it!)

When I do cut back my plant, I have someone in mind to pass a cutting on to, who I think will nurture the cutting into a fourth generation plant. And if my cutting doesn’t make it…..there’s always Aunt Jackie’s!