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GARDENING : New Roses Suited to O.C. Are Just a Drop in the Bouquet


There is a parade of roses vying for your attention this time of year that has nothing to do with the elaborate floats on the streets of Pasadena. This parade is the newly unveiled work of rose hybridizers who work year-round in their quest to produce the ideal rose.

Their quest leads to new rose introductions, and this year at least 33 new hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda will tempt rose lovers. Add five new David Austin English rose varieties and many dozens of miniatures, and the selection can be overwhelming.

By narrowing the list to what local experts say will perform best in Southern California's climate, the choices become easier.

According to Tom Carruth, hybridizer for Weeks Wholesale Roses in Upland, the big news for '94 is fragrance. In Carruth's opinion, one of the new AARS winners, a pale pink hybrid tea named Secret, is one of the best AARS winners ever.

"Secret is gorgeous," Carruth said. "It's extremely productive and has an intense honeysuckle fragrance. Each bush can produce 30 to 40 flowers during a bloom cycle. This will be known as a great rose."

Jack Porter, an avid rose hobbyist whose Yorba Linda garden contains more than 300 rose bushes, agrees. Despite already owning such a large number of roses, Porter watches the new introductions with great interest and carefully selects a few that will replace a bush or two that no longer interest him.

"Of the new roses for '94, Secret is the one that has tweaked my interest," said Porter, a past president of the Orange County Rose Society. "This is a rose with a lot of potential."

Each year, three or four roses are honored by the All America Rose Selection after two years of evaluation in test gardens throughout the United States. In addition to Secret, Midas Touch and Caribbean earned the coveted designation of AARS winners for 1994. But that title doesn't guarantee that AARS winners will flourish here (the winners rack up the highest scores nationwide).

A rose that needs hot summer evenings to open heavily petaled flowers and thrive will sulk in our hot summer days and cool evenings. But this year, all three AARS winners can safely be planted in Orange County gardens with expectation of good results. Porter also plans to add Midas Touch to his collection.

"This is a yellow rose that will hold its color even in our hot climate," he said.

This bright yellow rose produces long, pointed buds of classic hybrid tea form. It's also a fragrant rose, with a musk scent.

The third AARS winner, Caribbean, is another brightly colored grandiflora. Orange blooms with yellow reverse make this vigorous, disease-resistant rose a standout in a garden.

Not all the new roses are AARS winners, but that doesn't mean that they aren't worth notice. If you enjoy fragrance, consider French Perfume, a pink/yellow blend, hybrid tea rose that produces large, heavily perfumed flowers.

Local nurseries stock the AARS winners, and the two largest wholesale growers, Jackson & Perkins and Weeks Wholesale Roses, sell through local nurseries, too. (J&P also offers a catalogue for mail-order service.) But you may have to obtain some of the new varieties from smaller specialty rose nurseries that sell through their catalogues.

Rose exhibitors and seekers of the unusual pore over catalogues from more than a dozen different growers. One of the most popular is Edmunds Roses, a family-run nursery established in 1944. The Wilsonville, Ore., company's color catalogue includes 125 varieties for exhibition or outstanding garden display. While it's always wise to read catalogue descriptions with a little skepticism, Edmunds is inclined to tell it like it is. If a rose is listed as fragrant, you expect the flower to be just that.

Another mail-order source for heritage roses, Austin English roses, climbing roses and shrubs is Heirloom Old Garden Roses in St. Paul, Ore. Its 104-page color catalogue features 600 varieties, enough to provide selections for every taste. If you enjoy the Austin roses, developed by English hybridizer David Austin to combine old rose form and fragrance with smaller shrubs suited for today's smaller properties, this company offers a very wide selection.

Some of the other noteworthy new rose introductions are:

* Bride's Dream. Light pink hybrid tea; elegant flowers on long-stems; some mildew near coast.

* City of London. Light pink shrub with fountain-like archinganes; fragrant; disease resistant.

* Elina. Pale yellow hybrid tea; long stems; easy to grow; bountiful blooms.

* Lady of the Dawn. Pale pink and white blend floribunda but here produces 10-foot long, fountain-like canes so it grows as a climber; flowers in clusters; no fragrance but impervious to rust and mildew.

* Lucille Ball. Named to honor the late star of television because the apricot-colored flowers match her celebrated hair color; moderate fragrance emanates from the pointed flowers produced by this tall bush.

* Maiden Voyage. Pink blend floribunda; easy to grow; disease resistant but not fragrant.

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