Heirloom Roses: The Fairy
Not all heirloom roses are huge bushes. The Fairy is a tiny shrub rose with tiny blossoms that is just the right size for a fairy garden.
The Fairy rose was introduced in 1932 in England by the famous rose breeder, J.A. Bentall. Many roses have been bred from it but The Fairy remains popular and is still used extensively.
The Fairy is a polyantha rose meaning that it produces its flowers in sprays or bunches. It blooms continuously from spring until fall. The flowers are only 1 inch in diameter. They open pink but fade to near white in the heat of summer. The blossoms have a light apple fragrance. Deadhead by removing the spent flowers to keep the bush healthy and blooming.
This rose will grow to a height of only 2’ to 3’ with a spread of 3’. It is spreading, rather than upright, making it ideal to spill over the edge of a large container or a raised bed. It can also be used massed along a walkway.
It is hardy from zones 4 through 9 and like most old roses, disease resistant. Unlike most roses, old and new, it can be grown in full sun or part shade. It does best in well-drained soil.
Propagation can be done in the spring or the fall. In the spring, you want to propagate with soft wood cuttings. Soft wood cuttings means that you use the middle part of a branch. Cut off the ends that are woody near the plant and at the other end of the branch where it is soft and green. You want to use the middle part that is neither woody nor green. Remove all the leaves from one end and dip that end in rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Insert your cutting in a container filled with soilless mix. Roots should start to develop within just a few weeks. When the roots start to grow out of the bottom of the container, your cutting is ready to be transplanted outdoors.
In the fall, you want to propagate by hard wood cuttings. Hard wood cuttings are taken during the late fall through early winter when the plants are dormant. Ideally, you want to take your cuttings right after your rose has dropped its leaves in the fall. Cut off the soft, green end of the branch. Then cut small slits in the other end to expose the interior cambrium layer where the roots will develop. Dip that end in rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Then you can either place the cutting in the ground outside or root it indoors like you did the soft wood cuttings in the spring. The outdoor cuttings won't be ready to transplant until the following fall.
In the late winter or early spring, remove all dead and broken canes. Then cut back the remaining canes by one quarter to one third to maintain the shrub’s shape. Remove side shoots completely.
Renovation pruning can be done by removing one third of the oldest canes each year. Removing old canes will not affect flowering. The Fairy blooms on new wood.
More heirloom roses
© 2014 Caren White