Roses for Esme

Mom's making greeting cards like her Christmas holiday cards featuring Esme to give her friends as gifts.

by Martok
Esme in antique rose wreath
Photo by Sue Weaver
Mom is using this picture of Esme dressed in antique roses to put on cards as gifts for her friends.

People keep telling Mom and Dad that our new adopted baby sister, Esme, is so cute. I keep hearing the phrase “little princess.” Because Mom loves photograph of animals, that gave her an idea: She’s making greeting cards like her Christmas holiday cards featuring Esme to give her friends as gifts. The picture to the right is my favorite. Mom calls it “Esme in Roses.”

Mom and Dad gathered Esme’s roses along a back road near our farm. They’re tame antique roses gone wild. Dad removed the stickers and cut the stems about 1½ inches long, then Mom used florist’s tape to attach them to a narrow puppy collar, exactly like making a wreath. Then they fastened the collar around Esme’s neck.

Lots of roses bloom in the woods, pastures and along the highways across America—not just multiflora rose and true wild roses but also escapees, like the roses on Esme’s collar. Colonial women brought them on ships from across the sea, and pioneers packed them along as they moved out West. Because antique roses are disease- and bug-resistant and also very hardy, they thrived wherever they were planted. Then sometimes birds ate the seed-containing rose hips that form on roses every fall and pooped the seeds out in new locations. Like multiflora rose, antique roses took root and grew.

True wild roses have only five petals, whereas naturalized antique roses usually have lots of frilly petals, like the roses on Esme’s collar. (Naturalized means they’re domestic plants gone wild.) Mom once had roses that looked like Esme’s, but they were yellow. Her Irish great-grandmother brought them from Pennsylvania to Indiana around 1860. Esme’s and Great-Great-Grandma’s roses are known as antique roses. Those are varieties that were introduced before 1867, when modern hybrid tea roses were introduced. They have muted colors and wonderful fragrance you don’t often encounter in modern roses. Some are bushes and some are climbers. People who love roses still like to grow them.

If you’d like to grow antique roses, you can often find them naturalized along the road, growing on abandoned homesteads or in empty lots adjacent to old cemeteries. If you find some, make sure roadside harvesting is legal where you live or get permission before gathering on private property. If you know how to grow roses from cuttings, do that, or dig a start with roots and replant it where the sun shines at least six hours a day. Dig out a flat-bottomed planting hole big enough so the rose’s roots aren’t crowded, and then add one part compost or peat to three parts of dirt from the hole. Mulching around the rose is a good idea because mulch protects its roots from extreme heat and cold. Once old roses are established, they’re drought-resistant, but be sure to water several times a week right after transplanting, then taper off to once or twice a week.

Do you know the variety name of the roses around Esme’s neck? Mom would love to know. If you do, please leave her comment!

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