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Style : GARDENS : BUDDING ROMANCE

August 06, 1995|SUSAN HEEGER

When it comes to roses, Judy Kamm likes 'em loud and sassy, the way they were in the '60s, when we barbecued on the patio and planted varieties called 'Las Vegas,' 'Tropicana' and 'Summer Sunshine.' Kamm's got them all, hundreds of them, from the brash yellow 'Graceland' to the more subdued crimson 'Mr. Lincoln.' Most, though, are bright enough to make your teeth ache.

Today, of course, electric colors have gone the way of lawn sprinklers spinning lazily in the sun. Flower borders, like living rooms, have a controlled elegance--soft pastels, formal lines and slouchy shapes. But while we've given up lots of fussy, high-maintenance perennials, we've clung devotedly to roses. As Eleanor Perenyi put it in her garden classic, "Green Thoughts": "When it comes to roses, some of us are incurable."

These days, the rose of choice is the David Austin, a winsome cross between an old-fashioned rose and modern hybrid teas and floribundas. Named for the Englishman who developed it, the Austin is perfect for gardeners who "prefer the charm of the 'old' to what they consider the brashness of the 'new,' " according to another famous rosarian, Peter Beales. The very English Austin comes in muted colors that show its breeding and look smashing with the pastels of sophisticated rooms. Unlike old roses that flower once a summer, Austins bloom from spring to fall. Their sensuous petals and druggy perfume speak of women in loose camisoles and rumpled bedsheets.

In contrast, Kamm's hybrid teas can smell like carrots, and their forms can be as stiff as crinoline. Hybrid teas, in fact, were developed, more than a hundred years ago, as much for their starched, pointed blooms as for their nonstop flowering and dazzling shades. Which is precisely why Kamm is so wild about them.

Ten years ago, when she moved to Bel-Air, she had one thing on her mind: "Roses--flowers everywhere, flowers in my house all the time." As a child, she had grown up in rented houses without gardens and had to watch as other kids brought roses to the teacher. When she got her chance, as if to confirm every day that her lot had changed, she chose the brightest flowers she could find, and even now, she can't get enough of them. According to Kamm: "They're a miracle of nature."

SIDEBAR HED: FIRST PICKS

"It tears my heart to choose one rose over another. But if I have to, my favorites are: 'Brother Cadfael,' a pink David Austin with a magnificent smell; 'Othello,' an Austin of the red class that stands alone in glory; 'Brandy,' a hybrid tea the exaggerated color of the drink; 'Winchester Cathedral,' a new Austin, our best white at the moment; 'Mr. Lincoln,' the renowned red hybrid tea, an impressive character. How could we live without him in the fall?"-- Pamela Ingram, owner of Sassafras Nursery and Landscaping in Topanga Canyon

ORIGINAL: When it comes to roses, Judy Kamm likes 'em loud and sassy, the way they were in the '60s when we barbecued on the patio and planted roses called 'Ole,' 'Tropicana' and 'Summer Sunshine.' Kamm's got them all, hundreds of them, from the brash yellow 'Graceland' to the more subdued crimson 'Mr. Lincoln.' Most, though, are bright enough to make your teeth ache.

Today, of course, electric colors have gone the way of lawn sprinklers spinning lazily in the sun. Flower borders, like living rooms, boast a controlled elegance--soft pastels, formal lines and slouchy shapes. But while we've given up lots of fussy, high-maintenance perennials, we've clung devotedly to roses. As Eleanor Perenyi put it in her garden classic, "Green Thoughts": "When it comes to roses, some of us are incurable."

These days, the rose of choice is the David Austin, a winsome cross between an old-fashioned rose and modern hybrid teas and floribundas. Named for the Englishman who developed it, the Austin is perfect for gardeners who "prefer the charm of the 'old' to what they consider the brashness of the 'new,' " according to another famous rosarian, Peter Beales. The very English Austin comes in muted colors that show its breeding and look smashing with the pastels of sophisticated rooms. Unlike old roses that flower once a summer, Austins bloom from spring to fall. Their sensuous petals and druggy perfume speak of women in loose camisoles and rumpled bedsheets.

In contrast, Kamm's hybrid teas can smell like carrots, and their unfurling forms can be as stiff as crinoline. Hybrid teas, in fact, were developed, more than a hundred years ago, as much for their starched, pointed blooms as for their nonstop flowering and dazzling shades. Which is why Kamm is wild about them.

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