grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Saving Dr. Huey

This is the rose bush I've jokingly called The Terminator because it seemed to have just appeared one day after the area it's planted in was destroyed by a backhoe ripping out an old chain-link fence.  I have never liked it.  Sure, the flowers are cute, deep red.  But I like those roses where the petals are packed in really densely.  Like english roses!  God! They're beautiful!  This one opens so wide it's bare in the center and I'm always feeling sorry for it that it doesn't have enough petals to go around.  Plus, the stems grow very crazily.  Impossible to control.  And it only flowers once.  Then it gets black spots on the leaves and sits around looking homely the rest of the season.  My mother had one just like it that she got rid of years ago for all the same reasons.

So the other day, even though it had more buds than ever before, I decided after it finished blooming this time, I was removing it.  But then I posted a picture and complained about it on twitter and Annie said "is that a Dr. Huey?"  And my love affair started.

The Dr. Huey rose was introduced in the United States around 1920 by a man named Captain George C. Thomas Jr. who named it after Dr. Robert Huey, his good friend, mentor and rosarian.  It's a a vigorous climbing rose with a very hearty rootstock.  So hearty that it is often used to graft hybrid tea roses.   These grafted tea roses, much fancier than Dr. Huey are bought and planted all over the country.  And once the hybrid rose dies (of old age, or freezing or neglect), Dr. Huey takes over again.  There are some funny stories online about folks with rose bushes growing half yellow and half red roses.  It's usually Dr. Huey regaining control.  So in a sense, I was right to call this rose The Terminator in the first place.

Because Dr. Huey lives on after its fancier grafted rose dies, it is often found in old gardens.  It blooms on old wood which explains why after last year's neglect, this year it's more beautiful than ever.  I've spent 3 years hacking at this thing thinking it was some wild mutant rose when in reality, it is a reliable old climbing rose determined to win the battle over me.  Boy, do I feel stupid.  Uncle!

Now that I know Dr. Huey's story, there's no way I can get rid of it.  In fact, I'm going to move it to a location where it can be the focal point, properly trained along my fence.

The next time you pass one of these really common roses, take the time to notice it.  Appreciate its strength and vigor.  Tell your friends about it.  And, if you've got one, be proud of it.


  1. Dr. Huey! I _love_ Dr. Huey!

    When we moved into our new house, there were no hybrid teas conveniently suckering, so I actually _paid money_ for a plant of Dr. Huey. It was hard to find - by the time it shipped, my one hybrid tea was merrily spewing Dr. Huey branches, but that just means that I have two, so that's fine with me.

  2. Wow, that's a really interesting story! The picture is very pretty, I am glad you are going to keep it.

  3. It's hard to deny a plant with that kind of stamina. So glad your commentor recognized it. I hope Dr. Huey does even better for you with a star location.

  4. You have solved one of my garden mysteries! Honestly a few years back my hybrid tea rose (yellow/pink) started sprouting this entirely different rose bush that won't stay on the ground. This resolves my decision to move mine. A climber doesn't work where the old hybrid tea rose was.

    It's nice to get a name to the rose!

  5. I wonder if that happened a long time ago with one of mine. It had two very different types of magenta roses, one on very old wood and the rest on new very long canes. I always thought it was a rambler. I'll bet it's a climber. My other mutant 8 foot tall rose with trunks and not canes pretty much died from a very cold spell this winter.

  6. I had a very similar experience. I planted a fragrant rose only to see it die off. Then suddenly it began to grow and grow and grow!! It has encompassed my front light post, as if wrapping it's arms around it. I also felt like some mutant rose had invaded my yard, but once I heard it's name and story, I fell in love with it. I call it by name, I tend to it and care for it. Yes, it grows like crazy, and the more I trim the faster it grows. It's a show piece in my front yard, and I recently discovered that I have 3 more growing in my backyard, all from other roses. My only wish was that they were a brighter color.