Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Despite another day of horrid heat, Monday was a wonderful day here at Ashton House with the arrival of 10 new wonderful roses gifted by my friend, Luke, who is a garden magazine editor.

I often hear from people who shy away from growing these beautiful flowers. If your experiences with roses have been less than stellar, you might be growing the wrong type for your climate. A variety of roses thrive here at Ashton House with no special treatment. I long gave up on growing roses that I had to powder regularly to ward off powdery mildew or wrap in cones to protect from our harsh winters. I just don't have the time for that. Our roses do not get any sort of pampering, and they reward us with loads of beautiful blooms season after season. My favorites are the Knockout series, the Buck roses (named after an Iowa State University professor who hybridized these cold-hardy and disease-resistant varieties), and the Canadian Explorer series (such as 'Morden Blush" and 'William Baffin'). I also have a fondness for David Austin English roses. I chock it up to my love of all things English! My favorite English roses are 'Abraham Darby', 'Falstaff', 'Gertrude Jekyll', 'Graham Thomas', 'Mary Rose', 'Glamis Castle', and 'Golden Celebration' (Years ago, my Grandpa gifted me this plant from his garden and it has traveled with me from garden to garden for the past 15 years. I just can't let it go).

The yellow roses make a nice companion for the many pink and apricot hues in our garden. We mulch the beds with chocolate-scented cocoa hulls, a favorite pick of gardeners for its wonderful texture and rich color (NOTE: cocoa mulch is poisonous to dogs).

Even our blush-colored miniature Chinese rose rewards us with gobs of tiny blooms.

I recently found a wonderful little book on roses (about 6" x 6") for $5. It would make a wonderful addition to your garden library or a lovely gift for a gardening friend. It's called A Rose by Any Name: The Little-Known Lore and Deep-Rooted History of Rose Names. For a history buff like me, it's definitely an intriguing read.

You can discover the story behind some of the world's most beautiful roses, such as the antique Gallica called "Empress Josephine", named in honor of Napoleon's wife. This variety produces large rose hips, which are often used for herbal teas, jams, jellies, and syrups. My rose hips are already starting to turn a beautiful burnt orange hue and should be ready to harvest within the month.

The book also includes a chapter on the ravishing red 'American Beauty' rose named after vaudeville star Lillian Russell, who was born right here in Iowa (in the small town of Clinton).

There is even a recipe for making your own rose water.

For years, I have used Caswell Massey rose water, a popular ingredient in many baking recipes. A wonderful Victorian shop called Cameo Rose (now closed) used to carry this particular brand of rose water, and one year I gave them my Grandma's recipe for Old German Rose Water cookies to make for a special holiday open house. In my pantry (below), I also stock Caswell Massey Orange Water alongside the rose water. One bottle will last a long time! Here is a wonderful recipe for lavender cookies with rose water icing.

Hope you enjoyed this little post on all things roses today! I don't know about you but these flowering beauties certainly give me a rosy outlook on life—pardon the pun!


  1. Beautiful pink rose, lovely gardens!

  2. What a beautiful post! I love roses, especially yellow ones, but have never attempted growing them, as I thought they were quite difficult and finicky. I'm in Maine, and I'm sure there must be a few roses that will thrive here.....I'm going to check on it! Thanks for the beautiful pics!

  3. Kimber, I absolutely love to read your blogs. I really enjoyed this one as I love roses however do not currently have any in my garden as of yet I may have to plan one or more for the future. I especially like the pink but all the colors are beautiful. Thanks again. Hugs

  4. Pretty roses! I have never used rose water, always wondered how it would taste though. Have a great week! Gina

  5. Wow, you have a green thumb! Roses are one of my favorite flowers and we are supposed to be able to grow them here in the desert, but I have lost all three climbing roses I have tried to plant.

  6. So glad to read your mention of Buck roses. I used to work for Dr. Buck in the Hort office years and years ago.

  7. Your pink and yellow roses are beautiful! I'm heading over to look at the rose water icing recipe now.

  8. I love roses! I have several tree type and plan on adding a couple more to the landscape on the south side of my house. Not too many flowers can take the heat and humidity, but roses do wonderfully here giving us wonderful color all summer long! We put in a big arch over my garden gate and planted New Dawn. New Dawn has such a lovely scent, life is good!


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