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Forgotten Treasures

by Robert Burns

Looking back over the subjects of my past columns, I realize that I really haven't talked very much about dark red Hybrid Teas, and they are, after all, the epitome of the rose for many people.  With the constant deluge of new red Hybrid Teas, each promising to be the "ultimate" red we've all been waiting for, it's easy to see why many fine, older reds languish nearly forgotten.  Of course, not all of the great reds from the past have disappeared, for one routinely runs into old, very healthy plants of 'Mr. Lincoln',  'Crimson Glory', 'Mirandy', and 'Chrysler Imperial' in gardens around this area.  All four of these can satisfy even under conditions of neglect; give them a little care and they are spectacular.  In addition to these four, however, there are a host of others equally deserving that are far less commonly encountered, including 'Nocturne',  'Zulu Queen', 'Black Lady', and 'Will Rogers'.  the latter, especially, has impressed me, for it seems to be constantly in bloom, producing very fragrant old-fashioned blooms whose only drawback is that they occasionally burn to black underneath our intense summer sun.  Nevertheless, one red rose the Hybrid Tea 'Avon' from 1961, stands out above all the others in my garden.  This rose seems to have been designed specifically for our climate, for even in the peak of summer the blooms are large and a very wonderful, rich shade of red in color.  Nor is it one of those reds that teases and the disappoints, for the flowers area as fragrant as they look like they should be.  Fragrant red Hybrid Teas are suppose to be extra susceptible to diseases, but somehow 'Avon' seems never to have heard this, for even in periods of bad weather or when other calamities throw my spray schedule completely off course, it remains one of the cleanest bushes in the garden.  the bush itself is strong and upright, and the blooms sit atop nice strong stems for cutting.  I know that this all sounds like catalog hype, but you'll have to trust me on this one, for this is a completely accurate description of how 'Avon' performs in my garden.  It is a mystery to me how this one slipped into obscurity.

'Avon' was bred by Dennison Morey, who was at the time the head of the breeding program for Jackson na Perkins (and who bred the still highly regarded yellow climber 'Royal Gold').  It's parentage includes two fabulous earlier reds, 'Nocturne'  and 'Chrysler Imperial', which occasionally "blues" ( and effect that I find quite attractive, by the way).  'Avon', fortunately is still available from a couple of sources.  One is the fine Canadian nursery Martin and Kraus, from whom I have consistently received the finest grafted plants I've ever seen.  they have a web page at www.gardenrose.com or can be reached by telephone at 905-689-0230.  Closer to home, 'Avon' is also available from Roses Unlimited in Laurens, South Carolina, whose web address is www.roseunlimitedownroot.com  and whose phone number is 864-682-7673.  Please fee free to email me at rjburns@mindspring.com if you have any questions or have a suggestion of a rose that you think I absolutely have to try.