Penelope Rose, an Antique Rose for the Organic Garden

English clergyman Joseph Pemberton introduced the Penelope rose to the world in 1924. Pemberton's roses are also called hybrid musk roses, and Penelope has a delicious fragrance that is a blend of musk and fruit. With large clusters of medium to large, semi-double blooms on a sprawling frame, this antique rose has a unrestrained, romantic appearance.

The flowers are a pale peachy-pink, fading to creamy white. The hotter the weather, the paler the blooms. Penelope is a rebloomer with a large flush of blooms in late spring and then another flush in early autumn as the weather cools, with sporadic flowering in-between. One can encourage repeat blooms by deadheading the earlier blooms. Later blooms should be allowed to mature on the shrub, as lovely coral pink hips follow the flowers. 

Like all roses, Penelope likes loamy soil. Clay is fine as long as generous amounts of organic amendments are added. Penelope has lustrous, healthy foliage with little need for spraying or fertilizing. I feed mine in spring with fish emulsion, and I usually treat it, along with almost everything else in my garden, with a summer tonic of 2Tbs epsom salts and 2Tbs fish emulsion per gallon of water. In late winter I spray it with a dormant oil. That's it, and Penelope probably would carry on just fine if I did nothing at all.

Growing in hardiness zones 6-9, It will reach 5 feet by 5 feet or larger but can be pruned to maintain a more moderate size. It could be considered a semi-climber. My own Penelope grows amidst perennials and other carefree roses, but I think it also would look wonderful growing along a wall or fence. Penelope is one of the few roses that will bloom in semi-shade and will do well along woodland edges.

My humid, hot climate is not kind to most roses, and I use a low maintenance, organic approach to everything I grow. I am happy that Penelope has done so well for me. The American Rose Society rates Penelope 8.7 on a scale of 10. That means it is an excellent rose that is recommended without hesitation. I heartily agree.


You may also enjoy Red Cascade: A Favorite Low-maintenance Rose and Summer-Proof the Garden.


Passing in a Flash

I thought I was being attacked the other day. I heard shrieking, and I looked up to see three hawks zooming down toward me. They were about ten feet above my head when I realized two of them were chasing after the third. They swooped low over me, then soared in a huge arc back into the sky. With their wings spread wide, the sight reminded me of a dogfight between fighter planes! I am sure I witnessed my resident hawks, whose nest is nearby, chasing off an intruder. Of course I did not have my camera! I will remember it as the picture that flew away.

I had better luck with this more sedate bluebird:

April has passed in a flash, just like those hawks. Spring was so late in coming, I wish it would stay a while! But already we are having temperatures well into the 80's. The garden is transitioning to deep green. The pastel blooms of redbud and dogwood trees are gone. Most azaleas are spent. Soon the brilliant spring foliage of Japanese maples will assume more sedate tones. Meanwhile, there is plenty yet to enjoy as April comes to a close.

Philadelphus coronarius, or mock orange, is blooming. My friend Nancy dug up an off-shoot from her own mock orange and gave it to me in 1990, after a tornado took out almost everything in the center of our property. Her gift has grown and prospered, and I think of her kindness every spring when it blooms. Japanese maples glow in the background in the first image. On the lower left, the shrub to the right of the mock orange is Chinese snowball viburnum, still blooming and looking great after several weeks:

Rose buds are beginning to open:Clockwise from top: Bee is enjoying the last of a rugosa 'Alba'; Rosa mutabilis, also called Butterfly Rose; Rosa mutabilis; Penelope rose; Penelope rose buds; Knockout rose; Rugosa 'Alba'.

Here are more flowers. Notice the poinsettia at the top. It is not left over from this past Christmas. That is a 2012 poinsettia! It spent 2013 outside, and its foliage was so beautiful I brought it back inside for the winter. I did not expect Christmas blooms, and I did not get them. Imagine my surprise when it began to bloom in April! So it's back outside for 2014. Clockwise from top left: Poinsettia; Poinsettia to right of a potted arrangement; Clematis 'H.F.Young'; Calycanthus floridus 'Athens', a type of Carolina sweet shrub with creamy flowers that smell like bananas; Lonicera sempervirens, a native also called trumpet honeysuckle; Variegated weigela.Above left: Bordeaux Rose Salvia. Above right: Variegated hosta, coleus and coral impatiens in a crusty old urn.

Native woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), hybrid columbine and Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' grow around the blue bench in the front garden. In this scene one gets an idea how the front garden wraps around the front lawn. The house is beyond the camera on the upper right:

Some more scenes from around the garden:

Fatshedera 'Angyo star' is a new viny shrub with large, ivy-like leaves. It grows to about 6 feet:

Clockwise from top left: Sambucus 'Lemon Lace'; Variegated Winter daphne is putting out new growth; Cornus florida 'Cherokee Sunset'; Heuchera 'Green Spice'; Autumn fern; Hosta 'Empress Wu'; Heuchera 'Citronelle'; Pieris japonica.

Finally, with warmer weather, I planted most of my summer veggies, and look what I already have:

And most exciting, one of those tomato blossoms has turned to this!

Grow, tomato, grow!