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GARDEN Q & A

'Old' Roses Available From Area Suppliers

March 19, 1989

QUESTION: Perhaps you can help me find a rose I had many years ago. The rose was called "Evergreen Mermaid." It was a vigorous climber with shiny small foliage and bore a beautiful, single yellow rose that was fragrant and in clusters. The flowers were 4 inches in diameter and long lasting.

ANSWER: This rose, developed in 1917, is now considered an "old" rose and there are two sources for these heritage roses in Southern California: Country Bloomers Nursery, 20091 E. Chapmand Ave., Orange, Calif., 92669, 714/633-7222; and Limberlost, 4303 Forbes Ave., Van Nuys, Calif., 91406, 818/902-1482. Both have Mermaid, a very interesting rose.

It is a strong grower--a natural climber--and in mild climates like ours, tends to flower and grow year round, with the handsomest of leaves. Peter Beales' "Classic Roses" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York) says, "It is vigorous and the dark brownish marroon wood is armed with cruel thorns.

"The rewards from the flowers, however, give ample compensation for the scratches received whilst pruning, which should be done sparingly." He notes it is "quite at home on most walls, including those facing north," which I would have to see to believe, but it apparently inherits a great deal of shade tolerance from one of the parents, Rosa bracteata .

Q: My gardener just planted rows of Aptenia cordifolia outside my house. I know it is a perennial that bears small red flowers in spring and summer, but what is the translation of the botanical name and the proper way to care for them?

A: Aptenia is one of the many ice plants, though it looks less like an ice plant than most because it has leaves that look like conventional leaves, though they are succulent. Like all ice plants, it tends to be short-lived, though it will last several years. For a planting of ice plant to continue to look good, individual plants need to be replaced as they die. They get by on minimal water after their first year in the ground. Too much summer water could bring on root rots. Weeds easily invade plantings of iceplant, so keep an eye open for intruders.

The botanical name of Aptenia means "wingless." Most botanical names are a little obtuse to the non-botanist because they describe parts of the plants that are not usually paid much attention, in this case, the valves of the seed capsules; cordifolia translates as "heart-shaped leaves," a characteristic a little easier to see. In general, botanic names are not meant to be enlightening, they are simply a way to classify plants.

The "Dictionary of Plant Names" by Allen J. Coombes (Timber Press) explains their derivation and meaning and tells how to pronounce these sometimes ponderous names. Botanical names are often changed, when more is learned of the plant's botanical characteristics or history. Aptenia , like many other iceplants, used to be a Mesembryanthemum before it was renamed.

Q: Can you identify the flower known in Spain as "Dama de Noche?" If my memory serves me correctly, it is a shrub and blooms profusely in southern Spain in late summer. It has white flowers which open at night and exude a fragrance sweeter than jasmine.

A: "Powerfully fragrant at night. Too powerful for some people," is how the Western Garden Book describes Cestrum nocturnum . It is common all along the Mediterranean. Here it is commonly called the night-blooming jessamine.

It is a rangy shrub that sends up long whip-like branches taller than a fence that then bend almost to the ground in late summer when they are covered with creamy, tubular flowers. In winter, these flowers are followed by plump, blueberry-sized fruit that are uniquely white in color. The legendary fragrance is said to be so strong that it can be smelled at sea, and I for one think it quite delightful from a similar distance, from the sidewalk for instance, on a summer night's stroll.

In one's own garden, I find it so strong as to be almost sticky, leaving one feeling like they need a shower, but thank goodness, others tolerate it so it can be enjoyed on those evening strolls. It is quite common in Southern California, though seldom sold at nurseries since it comes up from seed dispersed by the birds. Some consider it a weed of formidable proportions and it is certainly as easy to grow.

Questions should be sent to "Garden Q&A" in care of the Real Estate section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, 90053. Questions cannot be answered individually.

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