April 13, 2010

Rose Parade

The roses in my garden are proudly parading all their beauty this week. Shown here is "Souvenir de la Malmaison" a spectacular Bourbon rose with a rich, spicy fragrance as large as it's lushly quartered blooms. She is new to my garden this year but still covered with big fat buds and blooms.Though she is a little more prone to blackspot than other old roses, what you see here on the leaves is oak pollen- an unpleasant rite of spring here in central Texas. This dust turns cars, decks, garbage cans- everything yellow for a few weeks every year. Achoo!
The justifiably popular but probably overused "Double Knockout" is looking dewy and radiant after a recent misty morning. Love the forest green leaves and velvety petals on this rose. New growth is a lovely maroon. You see it every where because it flourishes in our hot, dry summers like a true native. This was the plant than won me over to using reds in the garden. I always gravitated towards pinks and purple shades with a bit of yellow but she inspired me to using more hot colors and I'm liking the effect. In the bed with this rose is "Wyoming" canna with bright orange flowers and bronze foliage, fuschia "Pink Velour" crepe myrtle, "Red Velvet" Sage,orange bulbine, "Old Blush", lavendar Mexican Oregano and Texas sage, purple skullcap and a bright yellow copper canyon daisy.This will be the first year with all of it together so I'm interested to see how it all works (or doesn't).

"Old Blush" is just blooming her heart out right now. Look at all those buds still waiting to open! This plant is two years old and very vigorous.Her stellar performance is responsible for my "budding" love affair with roses in the garden. I thought they were too troublesome and finicky. Wrong and wrong. Turns out these old- fashioned antiques roses are probably one of the easiest and hardiest plants to have in a sunny southern garden. Mike Shoup, owner of the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham and San Antonio confirmed that when I heard him speak at a local nursery recently. He, too was a rose skeptic who was won over after finding so many of them thriving, uncared for in neglected and desolate settings, such as cemeteries and abandoned homesteads. "Why even the dead can grow them", he wryly stated.
These old varieties have all the fragrance and disease resistance that the new hybrids lack.

I've admired this rose from afar for sometime and finally, she is mine."Belinda's Dream", above, is an "Earthkind" rose. These roses were selected as best performing and carefree by Texas A and M after strict testing. These roses performed without fertilizing or extra water after the first year and with no spraying or pruning. As for pruning, Mike Shoup surprised many of us at the rose seminar when he stated that you could just "hack" these roses at will with no adverse effect and that in fact, the more you "hack" the more they like it. A rosarian friend confirms.She takes hedge clippers and just chops away without a care and her roses bounce right back better than ever.That's my kind of pruning.

Here are two more little charmers- Cecile Brunner, cl., above and Excellenz von Schubert. Cecile is known as the sweetheart rose and has an excellent fragrance and perfectly pointed tight little flowers. She is destined to transform my plain jane garden shed into a thing of beauty.(Shown, second below, with Miss Minx last spring before I put in the hot colored bed) . Excellenz is a polyantha with beautiful bright green foliage that promises to be covered with lots and lots of small- bloomed sprays. Both are newbies but are both putting out strong canes and lots of buds.

A rose can engage all the senses. Sight, smell and touch certainly. But taste, too. Here is a simple recipe adapted from Lindsey Shere's "Chez Panisse Desserts" that I've served many times with much success. The key is using unsprayed roses that are very, very fragrant. Florist or supermarket roses are not what you want here. Rosewater helps bring the flavor forward . I prefer the Lebanese brands over the French kind as the scent is stronger.

Rose Petal Ice Cream
4-6 large highly perfumed roses
2 c. milk
2 c. cream
1 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
rosewater to taste
Remove the petals, reserving a few for garnish and infuse the rest with the cream, milk and sugar until you like the flavor.
The liquid should be warm but not boiling.
Whisk the yolks with some of the warm liquid and pour back into the pan. Cook over medium- low heat until the custard coats a spoon.
Strain into a bowl set in ice water to chill quickly. Add rosewater, a few drops at a time to taste.
Freeze according to your freezer's instructions. Pack into a container and freeze to a scoopable consistancy.
This is unique and lovely enough to be served solo, but is extra special paired with strawberries or blackberries and some simple cookies. Garnish with some of the reserved petals.Or to really impress, sugar the petals while the ice cream freezes. Nice.

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