My English rose “Abraham Darby” sits in a pot and looks ugly for most of the year. It’s an awkward bush, with long stems jutting out at weird angles, covered by huge thorns. You have to navigate carefully around its pot or spend minutes untangling your clothes from the branches. And not only is this bush particularly ugly and lacking in grace, the foliage is prone to blackpot and burns in the sun. That said, “Abraham Darby” is probably the most oft-photographed and oft-smelled single plant in my garden. Why?
This picture is from some time last year, probably around March or April 2007. This rose’s stems are too thin to support the huge, heavy flowers, so I had to give them a little help to get a good picture. You can also see how much the color and form varies from flower to flower over time, starting out very saturated and then fading to blush pink and the palest yellow:
“Abraham Darby” is without question happiest in cool weather, and rarely blooms in hot weather, as it did in the summer of 2006. Here, the flowers are much smaller and paler, and no color variation is present:
Winter blooms are the most saturated, with distinct yellow and pink areas. This flower was produced during the ice storm in January 2007. I hauled the pot against the outside of the house protected by the covered deck, threw a blanket over the bush, and then snuck outside every few hours to take a nice hit of its incredible rose-and-citrus scent:
This may be an ugly bush that is constantly unhappy with our Texas climate, which bursts fully into bloom maybe twice a year if I’m lucky, but when “Abraham Darby” flowers, I am mesmerized.