If you are a rose grower in Texas, I do not have to tell you how disastrous it has been the last few years. First, there was the devastating 2021 freeze, followed by a severe drought, followed by an “out of the blue” first “frost” in the low teens. Sadly, many of the roses that perform best in the South, including teas, Chinas, banksias, and noisettes are a bit cold tender, are from moist, almost sub-tropical Asia, and possess genetics not prepared for such blistering events.

Combine that with my busy job, more than three hours commuting back and forth each day, and work on a PhD in Forestry at SFA and it all spelled doom for my once diverse little rose garden which resided in my chicken yard around my little fruit orchard. Unfortunately, most of a lifetime collection of heirloom roses which I had propagated myself now reside in rose heaven. But since we gardeners are famous for “making chicken salad out of chicken poop” I decided to squint through rose colored glasses and turn my brown poopourii into a golden opportunity.

Blue Ramblers

Blue Ramblers

Each year when I drive through the countryside, I am reminded that the first antique rose I ever collected is completely cold hardy and drought tolerant. ‘Dorothy Perkins,’ a 1901 Wichurana rambler pretty much survives anywhere she was every planted. That goes for all the Wichurana ramblers along with many of the multiflora ramblers (think “Peggy Martin”). Since it should be against the law for anybody (especially me) to not have at least some rose representation in their garden I thought I should ramble is this direction, at least until I reach retirement and have time to tend them properly.

I also could not help but think of my early rose rustling days when I was working at the newly opened Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas under the tutelage of my mentor Dr. William C. Welch. One of the first roses I brought back to the new fledgling nursery was one my Granny Ruth directed me to. It was in the backyard of her second husband’s brother’s wife in Center. When I first went to see it, I was astonished by its color…. sort of a combination of purple, pink, and gray. It was a free-standing sprawling specimen getting more shade that it liked but certainly appeared to be more of a climber without support.

At the time, nobody at the nursery had any clue to its identity. After some researching it turned out to be the old multiflora rambler, ‘Veilchenblau’ which purportedly means “violet blue” in Germany where it was bred. Although certainly not blue, it was considered the original “blue” rose and often listed as the “blue rambler.’  Like all rosarians and many gardeners throughout time, I was captivated by its blueness and enjoyed reading the early descriptions of it. The most helpful information came from an old copy of legendary Graham Stuart Thomas’ Climbing Roses Old and New first published in 1965. His entry:

‘Veilchenblau.’ Schmidt, Erfurt, 1909. ‘Crimson Rambler’ x ‘Erinnerung an Brod.’ Almost thornless green wood bearing smooth, fresh green leaves, long and pointed. It is of typical rambler growth with flowers in generous clusters. Buds crimson-purple, petals opening violet, streaked with white (not variegated, but seemingly a character connected with the central vein in each petal); semi-double, incurved, with a few small petals around the yellow stamens. White centre. The colour verges to maroon later and fades on the third day to lilac-gray. Sweetly fragrant of green apples. Excellent on a shady wall, where the colour remains fairly uniform. It flowers early in the rambler season and achieves 12 feet. (Plate II.)

Veilchenblau

Veilchenblau

If you remember my last blog (The Color Purple) you will remember that all the colors he mentions are my colors!   But when I thumbed to Plate II, I not only saw my new love ‘Veilchenblau’ but three other “blue” rambling roses that I immediately wanted and would continue to want until I eventually had them. Here are his entries for them:

‘Blue Magenta.’ This rose reached me from the Roseraie de l’Hay near Paris, but I have been unable to trace the name anywhere. This is unfortunate, since it is the largest in flower and the richest in colour of the purplish ramblers. Fully double flowers in dense clusters, darkest violet-crimson fading to dark parma-violet and gray, with an occasional white fleck. Practically scentless. Shining dark green leaves on nearly thornless green wood. An effective garden plant. About 15 feet. The last to flower of the purple ramblers. (Plate II.)

Bleu Magenta

Bleu Magenta

‘Rose-Marie Viaud.’ Igoult, 1924. A seedling from ‘Veilchenblau’ and like that variety almost thornless, except for a few bristles at the bottom of strong basal shoot. The stems are of sufficient vigour to climb 15 feet into trees and to hang down in festoons. Its lack of thorns makes it easy to manage. The leaves are broad, beautifully shaped, and coarsely toothed. Flowers in typical large bunches, fully double like little rosettes; they are from vivid cerise to lilac on opening, turning to pure parma-violet and fading still paler, giving an exquisite range of cool tones. This is one of the last purplish ramblers to flower and coincide with the flowering of ‘Kew Rambler;’ they look very beautiful when growing together. Unfortunately, it is scentless and prone to mildew on the flower stalks—but it is worth it! —and the mildew is seldom noticed owing to the colour of the flowers. (Plate II.)

Rose Marie Viaud

Rose Marie Viaud

‘Violette.’ Turbat, 1921. This flowers just after ‘Veilchenblau’ opens, early in the rambler season. Thornless and vigorous with green wood and dark green leaves, rather recurved and bluntly serrate. Large trusses of flowers with buds and freshly open flowers of intense crimson-purple, and occasionally a white streak, intensifying to maroon-purple and fading to maroon gray, with subtle brownish tints; yellow stamens; very slight scent of apples. Will attain 15 feet on good soils. (Plate II.)

Violette

Violette

With a little searching I found ‘Veilchenblau’ (it is even occasionally sold as “purple Lady Banks”) to add to my collection once again, but it took years to gradually lay hands on the others.  The mail order sources Heirloom Roses (heirloomroses.com) and Rogue Valley Roses (roguevalleyroses.com) helped me complete my quest. Although nearly 40 years in the making, I am glad to finally have Veilchenblau and its blushing blue companions. The colors in the South may not exactly fit those in England and none or as “thornless” as I would like but I am proud to finally have them.

It seems that not everyone is impressed with this color range for in is Roses (1978), another legendary English rosarian write of ‘Veilchenblau’:

‘Veilchenblau’ Climber Light lilac Summer
The ‘Violet Blue’ seedling of ‘Crimson Rambler,’ with light but handsome foliage, and clusters of flowers of an interesting, unusual colour. Those who are repelled by the so-called blue roses might well start their conversation here. ‘Veilchenblau’ has a soft, respectable colour, light but not highly reflective. Grow it where it has some shadow in the afternoon, and you will see it as its best. Raised by J.C. Schmidt and introduced in 1909.

I honestly do not care what folks think of my interesting, unusual roses. They can complain until they are blue in the face, and I will still love them all the same.