Patriotism expresses itself in many ways … when children — hand over heart — pledge allegiance to the flag … when soldiers in uniform are thanked by people they have never met … when we observe a moment of silence to reflect on “the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all" … when the flag flies at half-staff.
Memorial Day, celebrated Monday, is observed as a holiday weekend — a time when we gather for family cookouts and parades, anticipate the end of the school year and welcome summer which has already arrived although officially is still 28 days away (June 21).
But, most importantly, it is the day our nation remembers and honors military personnel who died in the service of this county, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
And if you attend the annual ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday at the U.S. National Cemetery, 522 S. Sixth St. in Fort Smith, you will see many examples of patriotism.
For gardeners, it is easy to translate pride in our country into our gardens. One way is to have a “patriotic” blooming plant. Research revealed there are at least a dozen roses with patriotic names. And many of these are thriving in gardens throughout the Arkansas River valley.
And while most are not red, white or blue, their names say it all!
“Peace” is one such rose. Your grandmother and mother probably grew it in their gardens. Today, it is still extremely popular for its beauty. But it also has a fascinating history. Beginning in1935, French rose breeder M. Meilland discovered a rose seedling simply labeled as #3-35-40. It was a beautiful pastel hybrid tea, and he was working on developing it when the Germans invaded France. Fearing his nursery would be destroyed, he managed to smuggle a parcel of budwood to the U.S. on the last plane to leave Paris before France fell.
Despite the fact that the war was still going strong in Europe, American growers continued development of the new rose and selected a name that reflected the world’s most fervent desire. “The official debut was scheduled for April 29, 1945, in California. By sheer coincidence, on the same day that Berlin fell, and a truce was declared, two doves were released into the American sky to symbolize the naming of the rose. This statement was read during the ceremony: ‘We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire: ‘Peace’,” according to the blog of the Jackson and Perkins gardening website.
“But its memorable moments weren’t over. It won All-American Rose Selection honors the day that the peace treaty ending World War II was signed with Japan, and each United Nations member received a ‘Peace Rose’ at their first meeting along with a message of peace from the American Rose Society.”
This rose’s enduring message continues today, not only in our gardens but at the U.S. Post Office, where the Peace Rose Forever Stamp was issued last month and is now available. It is not surprising that this rose is sometimes called “The Rose of the 20th Century.”
But history alone could not keep rose lovers planting this beauty decade after decade in gardens large and small. We value it for its huge blooms with soft yellow petals edged in pink that deepens and spreads as the flowers mature, for its great performance in producing long lasting flowers both in the garden and once cut, and for dark green foliage that is beautiful even when not in bloom.
Other roses with patriotic names include:
• “Fourth of July,” named because its clusters of bright white, semi-double flowers are accented by deep red stripes and are considered closer than any other rose to resembling the American flag. Blooms can reach 4 1/2 inches wide and are fragrant.
• “Veterans’ Honor” is considered a “must have” by most rosarians, because it is a frequent winner at rose shows. It was developed and dedicated to veterans on Memorial Day 1999 at the personal recommendation of Under Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer “to signify the pride and gratitude that we as citizens of this country have for our veterans. Without their sacrifices and beneficence, the freedoms that Americans and many other people enjoy today would not be possible.”
From plump, pointed buds emerge high-centered bright red perfectly formed blooms that have a raspberry fragrance. It is easy to grow and a magnet for butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.
• “America,” a favorite since it was introduced in 1976 (200 years after our country was established), is a climber that deserves a place of honor in the garden. It produces fragrant double blooms of salmon with a brownish cast. It is considered disease free.
• “Mister Lincoln” is another red rose that has been winning awards since the mid-1900s. Known for its long-stemmed blooms, it is another favorite of rosarians. Impressive bright velvety red blooms often reach 6 inches across and provide a lot of fragrance.
• “Let Freedom Ring,” a poppy red rose in honor of World War II veterans, has nearly black buds that transform into strawberry red double blooms. It is a prolific, continuous bloomer throughout the season with a mild tea fragrance. It was created by World War II veteran and amateur hybridizer Ernest Earman of Virginia.
• “Memorial Day” needs no definition. However, its enormous, old-fashioned orchid pink flowers are probably not the red most folks were expecting. It too has long sturdy stems for cut flower arrangements. Some rosarians like to grow this one near an entry way so they can enjoy its wonderful classic old rose fragrance all summer.
Included on the list are a couple of David Austin English roses: “Remember Me” has fragrant blooms in tones of burnt orange, amber and topaz; and “Spirit of Freedom” is a shrub rose that produces large cupped blooms of soft glowing pink gradually turning lilac-pink. It also is fragrant and disease resistant.
There’s also a hedge rose with the name “Red Freedom.”
Two roses have connections to Sept. 11, 2001. “Stars ‘n’ Stripes” is a miniature that produces hundreds of striking 2-inch blooms of white and dark pink stripes. And “Firefigher” is a highly disease-resistant fragrant red hybrid tea whose blooms, as the name indicates, hold up to intense heat. It was the first sponsorship rose of the “Remember Me” garden fund to honor 9-11 victims.
And finally, there are a couple whose names are a bit whimsical with descriptions provided by the Weeks Roses catalog. For example, “We Salute You.” “The long-pointed buds slowly open to tones of glowing orange … but suddenly take a startling two-toned turn. As the large flowers spiral open, the outer petals wash to warm pink, giving two distinct colors in each bloom — orangey on the inside and pinky on the outside.”
“About Face” is a topsy-turvy attention-getter as the name implies. The bi-color bloom makes your eyeballs salute because the two colors are outside-in. Or is it inside-out? The golden orange color is on the inside with a darker bronzy red outside.”
Next week, the topic will be: an enduring love story and 15 Japanese maples.
Lucy Fry of Fort Smith is a level 4 Master Gardener and writes the area Master Gardener newsletter. Her column, Gardening for the Record, runs weekly in the Times Record. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.