Not far into their learning curve, beginning gardeners may discover companion planting: a hardy Fuchsia planted next to a burgundy Berberis, to arch over and trail through the thorny branches; perhaps a purple-leaved ornamental grape to crawl into the dark green needles of a Mugho pine.
Likely one of the most monumental and spectacular pairings of plants, anywhere, is in England’s Kiftsgate Court Gardens where the unbelievably robust shoots of Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ have climbed and spread more than forty feet, covering three trees. It is simply called The Kiftsgate Rose. And in mid June to July when this rose blooms, gardeners, indeed, many who simply appreciate natural beauty, flock to see it, a sight well worth a trip to the United Kingdom.
But wait! Don’t buy your ticket yet. Madison Park has a plant which rivals this World famous rose. It grows up and through a venerable cedar tree. Stroll South, down 41st Avenue East, about half a block from East Lee Street. Look to the West and up. There, towering above the roofs, is the Cedar. If you catch it with rose in full bloom, you’ll gasp. Scrambling nearly to the top of the tree, the branches shoot out and cascade down, carrying masses of single blossom clusters, white with yellow stamen. So profuse are the flowers, the tree appears to be standing within a waterfall.
Almost 40 years ago, a talented and intrepid gardener planted this rose next to the cedar tree. She watered it religiously until the roots were established and could hold their own against those of the cedar. She trained the new shoots up into the branches of the cedar and then….Caboom! The rose’s inherent vigor kicked in and up, up, up it went dazzling the neighborhood for decades to come. The largest of this climber’s trunks are about six inches in diameter at ground level.
This rose is not difficult to find (or grow from cuttings). If you have the space and the spirit, you can duplicate this daring combination. The Kiftsgate rose is relatively disease and pest free. Once established you’ll have little to do but watch it grow and bloom. When flowers fade, clusters of red rose hips follow. Then the green leaves disappear into the cedar foliage and defoliate in autumn. The naked rose branches shooting out of the cedar are hardly noticeable unless you know what you are looking for.
There is an interesting bit of history to this rose, the Kiftsgate Court Gardens and the rose here in Madison Park and the garden it lives in. The gardens of Kiftsgate were started in the 1920s and have, successively, been the project of three women. The Madison Park garden and its rose were established by an equally dedicated and brilliant woman. In both cases, Kiftsgate and Madison Park, the gardens represent female know-how and spirit at its royal best. All of us are the lucky beneficiaries of the expertise of these monarchs of horticulture. So…. it must be said: God Save the Queens!