I think I have been going on about my favourite rose for years, and didn’t think the family took much notice, for it was a very old variety and probably not around anymore.
When I was a child, we used to make our own perfume by plucking rose petals and soaking them in water. My favourite was the one with the darkest red petals and strong scent. Years later, I discovered the name and actually had one in my garden. It had the most amazing scent and I loved it. Then we moved away and I never found another one to replace it.
Imagine my surprise, when on my birthday last month, I was presented with a heavily pruned rose stock in a pot of soil. It looked incredibly old, with quite bad die back on what remained of the branches. Just one living branch, such a small spindly effort, but it sported a dark red rose bud.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, not that I could see much at that point for my eyes were full of tears. It couldn’t be my favourite rose, could it?
There was a label sticking out of the soil and I nervously turned it over to read the name. Sure enough, it said “Ena Harkness”. I had been looking for one for years without success, so where on earth did my family find it?
We planted it with great care in a large tub, and every day I would visit it and wish it well. I made plans to get some rose fertiliser, for I knew it could do with a lot of TLC.
Every day I imagined the bud grew a little larger, then looser, unfolding the petals, until one day I saw it was starting to open. But would it smell the same as I remembered?
It took nearly a week to fully open and considering the lack of vigour in the plant, it didn’t look bad at all, and the magic perfume was exactly as I remembered.
Then one night it rained heavily, and the next morning I found the flower bent over, the weight of the water far too much for the skinny stem. I gently shook out the water, but the stem refused to straighten. I managed to prop it up, but I knew the petals would be falling soon.
It was a lovely surprise, all I hope is that it survives and blooms again…
Harkness Roses (a trading name of R. Harkness & Co. Ltd) are rose breeders based at Hitchin, Hertfordshire in England. The nursery was founded in 1879 in Yorkshire. Early varieties included a sport of ‘Heinrich Schultheis’ introduced in 1893 as ‘Mrs. Harkness’. In the 1950s, Harkness popularized ‘Frensham’ and ‘Ena Harkness’, both developed by amateur Albert Norman, and for a time ‘Ena Harkness’ was the most popular red hybrid tea rose in the world.
I found this article on the internet…
“It is about this time every year that I start to go a little weak at the knees. I’m sorry – I know everyone loves roses, but I have fallen in love with a particularly special rose. ‘Ena Harkness’, even though the name sounds a little old-ladyish, is a voluptuous, sensually-scented rose. The blooms are huge, so heavy they nod forwards a little. And there are plenty of them to go round.
It’s that old-world scent that catches me on a heady June evening, when the flowers are so full that I could burst with the wonder of it all. And then I deadhead them to keep the display going.
This is a climbing rose, and a vigorous one at that. I planted one last spring, and already it has thrown out huge branches, some 8ft long. I pruned it gently this winter, and still more branches came out.
It’s just as well really – this rose is designed to be grown so the flowers nod down at you from the top of a wall or trellis. And every evening when I get home, there they are, nodding at me gently and throwing their mind-blowing scent everywhere.”