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Jackie French on the good old, faithful Iceberg rose

Posted by on 29/06/2018

Helen Reddy sang of needing “bread and roses”.  I’d rather have spring asparagus and artichokes with my spring roses. Though good bread is welcome too, to sop up the leftover vinaigrette or hollandaise.

This is the most magic spring, more roses out every time I turn round, fat fragrant Papa Meilland climbing over the wood shed, thornless yellow Banksia rose rambling 20 metres up a pittsoporum, white Banksia spilling over the front fence and the single petals of Rosa Mutabilis fluttering like a thousand butterflies blooming on the three tall thornless bushes, too twiggy for the possums to climb or for the wallabies to bother to pulling down.

Soon the nearly black Guinea will be blooming and the hybrid musk, Buff Beauty, the perfume robust enough to float down the bank and scent the entire living room on a hot day. There will be Madame Alfred Carriere and the vast hedge of Climbing Albertine, Climbing Ophelia and the ever-hardy hedge of rugosas.

But through it all the Icebergs will be blooming. Good old, faithful Icebergs. They seem to have been around forever, but actually they were bred in Germany in 1958 which, come to think of it, is more than half a century ago. I forget that I am aging, just like Iceberg.

Iceberg (or Schneewittchen in German) was one of the “new” floribunda roses, almost ever blooming, though with short floppy stems that meant they weren’t much use in vases, though sweet as a posy in a bud vase or narrow-rimmed cream jar. Iceberg may be be the world’s most popular rose, with its lime green, disease-resistant leaves and general hardiness and extreme floriferousness. The only thing that really knocks Iceberg back are possums, which appreciate the regular sweet tender flower buds even more than gardeners do.

Iceberg is, of course, pure white, but Blushing Pink and Brilliant Pink sports originated in Tasmania, and Brilliant Pink in turn gave forth the sport Burgundy Iceberg. They are commercially available but I haven’t tried any of them yet – our possums are well enough fed already, and our three Icebergs are enough for me and them. (Thorny roses are far less attractive to possums, though still not possum proof –especially if they are near a wooden fence or a low shed roof that they can use as a non-thorny platform).

There is also a Climbing Iceberg, though too often it doesn’t much. I’ve put in four.  Two of them failed to climb in any fashion and were eventually eaten by the wallabies when I grew sick of protecting them in wire enclosures waiting for them to grow out of paw reach. The third one grew into a tall handsome bush, not quite a climber, but at least with a determination to reach for the stars, or at least out of the way of peckish macropods. Only the fourth turned out to be a true climber, growing up its post and along the pergola, as perfectly obedient as a rose grower could wish.

It blooms for 10 months of the year, much longer than our standard Iceberg, that blooms about eight months of the year, partly because it’s climbing next to a warm, sunny, stone wall that may help it bloom into winter and start again in early spring, and also because  it has bushy branches that are too long for the possums to get to, even when they use the pergola as a possum highway.

NB:  If you don’t want to put in a possum highway, place your pergola on a rocking platform that will shake when the possums climb it. Possums like firmness beneath their paws. You can also put in a “possum guard” metal ruff that they can’t climb over, a bit unsightly, but  a vigorous unchewed rose bush should more than compensate.

Otherwise treat Iceberg as you would any rose. Feed lavishly. The better it’s fed the more roses it will put out. Trim off dead blooms, though Iceberg’s vigour means you’ll get blooms no matter how you neglect it, just not as many nor as long lasting. Hungry roses drop their petals earlier than well-fed ones, which is one of the reasons the florist’s roses may last longer than yours. (Refrigeration, life-extending solutions in their water and roses bred for cutting help too.)

Iceberg is the rose to grow if you want flower after flower, with no care whatsoever, and don’t mind that they are white. They are sometimes derided as boring, possibly by gardeners who are proud of cosseting Bourbon and other fussy roses into true splendour. Icebergs may be a trifle predictable when grown by themselves and as standards, all in a neat row. But surrounded by other more gaudy roses – Albertine, Mutabilis and that pink one that has lost its label and I’ve never known its name – its simple white and bright green freshness is a welcome foil.

Faithful should never been seen as boring.

This week I’m:

* trying not to count the cherries before they are ripe;

* watching the choko tendrils climb up the wire around the vegie garden – it survived last winter;

* realising I need to buy more lettuce seed if we are to have lettuces cropping regularly over the next 12 months – Buttercrunch, I think, which are a good size for one or two;

* picking the first vase full of massive and fragrant deep red roses;

* scraping scale off the coffee bush yet again; and

* cutting the frost-bitten leaves from the native ginger.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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