• Carolyn Thomas

Balcony roses: they're finally in bloom!

Updated: Jul 23

My row of four Drift roses (clockwise: apricot, pink, coral and red) that I planted out on the balcony in March (over three months ago) are blooming - and all at the same time!

As I wrote here, this has been a weird spring/summer so far for all gardens here on the west coast. Only seven (7!) days of sun in the entire month of May, for example. Damp cool weather is NOT a friend of roses - especially new roses growing in balcony pots!

This new balcony rose experiment has been a mix of EXHILARATION (my bare root roses are sprouting beautiful shiny leaves!) and DESPAIR (What? Black spot? Powdery mildew?) - which has affected all four roses (a surprise given that I'd specifically chosen the Drift family of groundcover rosebushes because of their excellent disease-resistant reputation). Read more on how I made that decision at "Balcony Roses: Who Do You Love?"

The culprits and heroes among my Drifts so far include the following:


1. Apricot Drift is so far the most beautifully formed of all the double blossoms, with the most exquisite apricot colour, gradually fading to pinkish-apricot petals (apparently up to 35 of them!) as it unfolds. I'd plant a whole border of of this astonishing colour if I had a big garden. It attracts pollinators and apparently makes a good cut flower for indoors as well - - although right now it seems too early to cut any of the three stems blooming so far.


2. Sweet Drift is my only true pink rose, the slowest of its three sisters to open buds which are a deep almost-red, opening to showy clusters of fragrant pink flowers with gold eyes at the ends of the branches. Apparently they also make good cut flowers for indoors. Maybe later on in the summer - as all Drift roses promise to be repeat bloomers right up until frost.


3. Coral Drift was the first of my four drifts to sport the dreaded pest known as aphids, chomping happily on its shiny dark leaves! Aphids are easy enough in a small garden like my balcony pots to flick off with a fingernail. In larger gardens I've had over the years, I just knocked them off with a short burst of water from a hose with a firm thumb held over the nozzle. Oddly enough, the other three (Sweet pink, Apricot and Red) have had no visiting aphids yet. Coral blooms have been described as "the most vibrant flowers that catch your eye and really wow!" This one was the first to show shocking signs of powdery mildew, every rose gardener's worst enemy. Despite that curse (which I'm trying to fight off with an early morning spritz of water/baking soda), it's blooming its head off - each long branch like a complete little bouquet of beautiful small roses.


4. Red Drift is my reminder that I should not panic when I see something weird going on with my roses. Remember my post called "Balcony Roses: What Causes Weak Stems?" in which I was whining about what seemed to be freakishly frail weak stems (rosarians call these "canes") that could not possibly ever be strong enough to hold up a rose? That was my Red Drift - and just look at her now! Does she seem like she's having any trouble at all holding up all those lovely deep red blossoms - described as "petite, red flowers proven to be an elegant addition to any garden"? Red was unfortunately hardest hit with powdery mildew (see CORAL above to read how I'm tackling that curse).

As mentioned, I've been dismayed to see aphids, Black Spot AND powdery mildew on all four drifts (and possibly on my fifth rarely-mentioned rose - the famous Scarlet Flower Carpet groundcover rosebush that's tucked in near the neat row of Drifts along my balcony railing. Absolutely no sign of colour from the very few buds so far on that Scarlet.

I'm trying to contain my dismay, however, having read more about WHY roses are so often stricken with annoying diseases like powdery mildew and Black Spot (and chewed on by aphids). Rose diseases flourish in the right environmental conditions (e.g. cool, damp, cloudy days). That's exactly what we've had out on my little balcony for weeks (but feels more like months!?)

Last weekend, the hot sun came out in full force and stayed for a few days, just long enough to remind us that it IS summertime. It's back to a grey cool day today - but we live in hope, right?

Meanwhile, I'll try to stay calm when I pop out to the balcony every morning to "survey the estate". I'll try to rejoice at each new gently opening bud. I'll even try to cut the odd stem or two to put in one of my vintage vases on the kitchen table. And I'll try not to scowl at the Scarlet Flower Carpet for just sitting there like a flower-free lump.

And I'll try to remember to always s-l-o-w down and smell my new little roses. . .

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