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GARDENING : Hue Colors Debate Over '95 Rose Winners


The 1995 All-America Rose Selections seem likely to provide a never-ending debate. It has nothing to do with the winners themselves, two free-blooming floribundas--Singin' in the Rain and Brass Band--that continue easy-care domination of the competition.

But no two people are likely to agree on the coloration of Singin' in the Rain.

Officially, AARS describes it as "cinnamon apricot" and says the flowers "gently shift tempo to golden and blushed hues of apricot." The flower color is quite pleasing but seems to change by the hour.

Phil and Kathy Edmunds, co-owners of the introducer, Edmunds' Roses of Wilsonville, Ore., were asked for guidance.

"That's a tough question," said Kathy.

"It's not real easy to describe," said Phil. "I'd say it has coppery orange buds opening to a cinnamon apricot color, depending on the heat and amount of sun and changing through the season. The color definitely moves."

The firm's upcoming advertisements straddle the question, providing in a single poster four different color pictures of Singin' in the Rain, each with a slightly different hue.

Brass Band, introduced by rose-selling giant Jackson & Perkins, grows about 3 1/2 feet tall, is spreading, with dark green, glossy foliage and orange flowers. Fragrance is a moderate damask. Flowers are up to four inches across, with 30 to 40 petals. The hybridizer was Jack E. Christensen, who also produced the 1994 winner, Midas Touch, for J&P.

Singin' in the Rain is more upright and free branching, reaching as high as five feet. Foliage is dark green and glossy. Fragrance is sweet musk. The hybridizer was New Zealand's Sam McGredy; this is his seventh AARS winner. Flower size is up to 3 1/2 inches, with 30 petals. Edmunds says "it's absolutely disease-free."

Each All-American is evaluated in test gardens across the country for two years. It takes about eight years from propagation until designation by AARS, a nonprofit organization whose members produce most of the nation's roses.

Announcements are not made until two years after selection to give growers time to produce sufficient plants for public sale. So the 1995 winners will be available by next spring in most of the country and somewhat earlier in warmer areas.

In 1951 there was no winner, and some years only one is selected. Scoring is based on bud and flower form, vigor, hardiness, growth habit, disease resistance, foliage and fragrance. Originated in 1938, the competition is designed to improve the vitality, strength and beauty of roses.

AARS President Larry Burks says the 1995 winners "offer unusual, head-turning colors on good landscape plants" and calls them "the perfect way to perk up a variety of spots around the yard."

Edmunds Roses was started in 1949 by Fred Edmunds Jr., Phil's father and a former president of both AARS and the American Rose Society. Fred Edmunds Sr. had been curator of the world-famous Washington Park Rose Test Garden in Portland. Fred Jr. and Wini, his wife and partner in the business, retired in 1992, some 15 years after Phil joined the firm.

This is the company's fourth AARS winner. The others were Amber Queen, Sundowner and Cathedral.

AARS offers a 16-page brochure on rose selection, planting and care. It also includes a list of its public gardens throughout the country. For a copy send a check for $1, plus a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to AARS, Dept. 95FS, 221 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL., 60601.

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