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Lost and Found Old Garden Rose

Lost and Found Old Garden Rose
Look what I found growing in the weeds.

This time of year, my morning ritual usually includes several cups of coffee, the reliable warmth of Buddy (my bulldog) laying at or on my feet under the kitchen table, and a walkabout to greet the day, the garden, greenhouse, chickens and orchard. Some days I meander, other days I peruse my weedy kingdom from the porch and quickly move onto the tasks, chores, duties and dalliances of the day.

Look closely. Do you see what caught my eye?

A few days ago I was heading down to the orchard to check out fruit-set on my apple trees and to do a little watering.  Buddy was unmoved (on so many levels) and chose to stay put and guard his bed and food bowl in the house. As I made my way to the water spigot, I dodged brambles, tall grass, and cottonwood saplings that had taken over the pathway in a few short weeks. I think Prince Phillip may have had an easier time finding Sleeping Beauty through a maze of thorns, than I did locating and accessing a mere orchard faucet. If only my apple trees grew as quickly.

Two garden flares escape the thicket.

Heading back to the orchard, I spied two reddish orbs poking up through an overgrown thicket. Upon closer inspection, I was amazed to find an abandoned potted rose bush fighting its way skyward through the blackberry canes, bracken ferns and lush undergrowth. I said, “Well, hello old friend. What a pleasant surprise.”

Not quite sure how this rose survived the cramped and depleted conditions of a plastic pot for so long.

About seven years ago, I kept my potted treasures behind the deer fence in this area. Apparently I left an old garden rose behind when I moved things up to my greenhouse. And not just any old garden rose, but my friend Karin’s favorite rose, which she had originally planted near the house in an area unfortunately favored by grazing deer. She selected this rose for its pure rose fragrance, adding “A rose should really smell like a rose.” And this one did; so lush a fragrance it reminded me of hugging my grandmother and being enveloped in the warmth of her embrace and the rose scent of perfume and dusting powder.

Buds break the surface and find the sun.

In trying to protect this precious old rose, I had unwittingly abandoned it. The poor little tangle of twigs survived six or seven years without supplemental water in a plastic pot choked with weedy interlopers. The plucky little plant’s roots must have escaped the pot via drainage holes, which likely saved it. For now I will take cuttings, clear the area, keep it watered, and wait for the shrub to go dormant in the fall before moving it to a better place.

What ‘lush’ looks like.

I’m not sure what cultivar the rose is, but I have two guesses, based on bloom, scent, color and thorniness: Mme Isaac Pereire or Rose de Rescht.  What matters most to me is that this lovely souvenir of my friend, the former lady of the house, survives and even thrives in the wilds of a neglected swale. In taking time to smell the roses, this rose, I revisit a friend and am given a second chance to cultivate her memory and bring back her rose to her beloved gardens.

If you have a guess as to what rose it may be, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Buddy sends his love, and tries to contain his excitement about my garden discovery.


  1. What sweeter moment then to reclaim what was thought lost.. especially in ourselves.. and our gardens. Kudos dear rose for sending up those flares of hopes and dreams, fulfilled!

  2. My book of French folk tales includes a story of the unexpected appearance of a rose which leads to, well, everything else that happens after (the story is an early version of what we know as “Beauty and the Beast”). In my own rather unruly garden things sometimes just appear–I often say that what I plant is only a suggestion–and when they do, I claim naming rights. I wish I knew your cultivar but alas do not; whatever its name, I’d be tempted to follow the old story and call it “Last Daughter Rose.”

    • I love that, Anne – “What I plant is only a suggestion.” I’ll remember that! With a fairly small lot you’d wonder that things could get lost in my garden. But they do – some of the most unfathomable items in some of the oddest places.

    • Lovely thought Anne, and now I ask myself, what would I name the rose if given the chance. I think “Little Gemma” or perhaps just “Gemma” as that was Karin’s nickname from her time spent living in Italy.

  3. I always wait for your report of your beautiful surroundings thank you for brightening our days. I have what appears to be the same rose. Sorry i don’t have a name, gift from previous owner. Please post if you get it’s name. And a very good morning to you and Buddy. He knows how to begin a nice Sunday morning.

    • Thanks Betty, and I think the jury of rosarians and rose fanciers is in; the rose seems to be Madame Issac Pereire. Mystery solved, my gardening super sleuths!

  4. My guess is MIP as a more popular and well known variety. I think it also grows taller so once it’s planted that should be another sign. Either one is wonderful-love the big old fashioned varieties! When some folk say roses are fussy, I think they need to give these old favorites (and some new tougher ones) a try. Buddy is containing his excitement very well. He’d do great at poker!

  5. Ironically I grew both during my years on Vashon, of course I still miss living there. For me RDR was shorter but with a strong constitution and darker. It was the nicest scented of all. MIP was taller and a little more prone to disease. What a delightful find!

  6. I’d put my money on Isaac Pereire. I had one tortured for years under a massive barberry bush. This year I finally moved the barberry, hacked back the rose severely and replanted it. Now it’s only the first week of June and it’s happy as a clam with no less than 8 fat buds on it. Whoever thinks roses are fussy just hasn’t found the right varieties.

  7. I have a gardening friend who refers to roses as ‘lovely, high-maintenance bitches’! Your mip certainly defies that!

  8. Great story, and discovery, Tom! I remember when I first tried a few roses, I made so many mistakes I thought surely they would die – but thank goodness, they are as tough as they are. And your pink one is a beauty. Thanks for telling the story of its loss, re-discovery, and blooming. I’m reminded of the resilience of living things, and grateful for it.

  9. I think you should rename it based on it’s amazing tenacity. The botanical name would be noplantemtherium. The common name is Tom’s Surviving Lady. What a gorgeous find!!


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