The roses in my garden are having a banner year, despite our hard freezes last winter. This post is the first in a series I'm starting, to sing the praises of each rose growing in my garden. Hey, it's my blog's two-year anniversary, so I had to come up with something new to celebrate!
Additionally, I'm entering the very last photo in this post in this month's Picture This photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild. The judge this month is Rob Cardillo (who has what looks to be an amazing new book on Chanticleer coming out soon, in collaboration with Adrian Higgins), and the contest theme is Let’s talk about Light.
Botanical name: Rosa chinesis 'Mutabilis', Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'
Common names: Butterfly Rose, Tipo Ideale
Habit: Large shrub
Repeat bloomer? Yes
Forms hips? No
Size: 4-10 feet
Cold-hardiness? Zone 6-9
Antique rose? Yes, prior to 1894
Earth-Kind® rose? Yes
Pests: Spider mites and aphids (rare; blast them off with a strong water spray)
Diseases: Occasional mild black spot (prune off affected leaves, or spray the shrub with milk - yes, moo-cow milk! - after spring pruning and each subsequent season)
'Mutabilis' is distinguished by its size -- it can get as large as 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide -- its tolerance to drought, disease and pests, and its large, single-petaled blooms that darken as they age, resulting in flowers of various colors on a single shrub. From a distance, this gives the appearance of a bush covered in brightly colored butterflies.
'Mutabilis' is a rose that thrives on pruning, which is a good thing, because it's not a big fan of cold winters. During our 48 hours of below-freezing temps in early February, my specimen suffered significant freeze damage to the existing leaves, which were then hit by black spot. The rose looked to be on death's door. To rejuvenate this hardy rose, I pruned it back by a third two weeks after the freeze. (I do my rose pruning each year on the weekend just before or after Valentine's Day.)
In this photo, shot roughly a month later on March 19, it had fully leafed out, with virtually no frost damage to be found, and was covered in rose buds, with a few starting to open.
The color of new growth on 'Mutabilis' is a deep reddish bronze. As the leaves age, they turn a dark green, edged in red.
This year, 'Mutabilis' started to bloom in earnest on March 27,
with its spring flush peaking on April 1. As a repeat bloomer, 'Mutabilis' will bloom lightly throughout the summer, and flush again in the fall. Since it flowers on new growth, deadheading spent blossoms may stimulate greater flowering. Because of the vast numbers of deadheads, a light tip pruning of the entire shrub with a hedge trimmer simplifies this task.
The buds start out as a deep apricot color.
As they open, the blossoms change to a light yellowy-peach,
then to a soft, baby pink,
and finally, a vibrant crimson.
This year, I noticed a few blooms with different colors on the same blossom. This occurred after a period of several warm days in the upper 80s and low 90s, followed by a cold front with temperatures dipping into the 40s overnight.
In full bloom, 'Mutabilis' looks almost tropical. Can you imagine a lei made out of these flowers?
The blossoms look spectacular when the sunlight hits them.
Backlit, the blossoms can look magical.
'Mutabilis' is not a good rose for flower arranging, as each blossom only lasts a day or so on the shrub. But because 'Mutabilis' can get quite large and responds well to pruning, it makes an excellent hedge rose. It grows in nearly any type of soil and requires no fertilizer other than compost. My specimen is five or six years old, pruned annually into a rough, squarish-shaped hedge on the corner of a flower bed around a gazebo, and measures approximately 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide.
Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.