Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Mermaid rose

rosa-mermaid-640

 

Here it is: the best a rose flower can be.  'Mermaid' was hybridized almost a century ago and it's never been topped.  The large "boss" of canary-yellow stamens seems to warm the bases of the five ivory petals to a sunny intensity.  Such elegant simplicity is big-scale—the flowers can be five inches wide and more—as well as indefatigable: 'Mermaid' keeps blooming as long as the weather's warm.  In Honolulu that means year-round; even in New England there are flowers from June through October.  

 

Of course, there's always the catch.  'Mermaid' isn't reliably hardy North of Zone 7; see "How to Handle it" for success with this beauty in any Zone.  What's a little effort if it brings this perfection?

 

 

Here's how to grow this sumptuous, heat-loving rose:

 

Latin Name

Rosa bracteata 'Mermaid'

Common Name

'Mermaid' rose

Family

Rosaceae, the Rose family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous large-flowered climbing rose.

Hardiness

Zones 6b and warmer. 

Habit

Sprawling, with long canes that hold fast to their surroundings (be they animal, vegetable, or mineral) thanks to profuse downward-pointing thorns that can draw blood as quickly as—but much more painfully than—any syringe. 

Rate of Growth

Very fast in mild climates, but only after it's established.

Size in ten years

Potentially to twenty-five feet tall and twenty feet wide; smaller at the cold end of its hardiness range.  In any climate, actual dimensions usually depend on training, and would almost certainly be less than the free-range maximum.

Texture

Typical for a large-scale rose, with large foliage, wide-ranging hyper-thorny stems in irregular array unless they're pruned or tied-in.

Grown for

its flowers:  Five butter-to-white petals surround a large yolk-gold fluff of stamens, making a flower that is a singular mix of simplicity and drama.  Uniquely, I think, the stamens stay perky and colorful even after the petals have fallen.

 

its vigor—at least where it's reliable in-ground.  With enough sun and heat, plus a long enough growing season, canes can lengthen by twelve feet and more in less than a year.  If your 'Mermaid' is a youngster that you'd like to cover a long fence, this is good news; if your 'Mermaid' already has covered that long fence, it's not.

Flowering season

From Spring as long as the weather's warm.  Year-round in truly mild climates.  June into October here in New England.

Culture

'Mermaid' welcomes the classic culture of vigorous roses:  Full sun, rich soil with excellent drainage, especially in the Winter, and good ventilation in hot weather.  As long as your climate is mild enough that the canes can ripen enough to escape Winter-kill even when not exposed to full sun, 'Mermaid' is also suprisingly floriferous in part-shade.

How to handle it

In Zone 8 and above, 'Mermaid' is so vigorous and so thorny as to be somewhat of a terror, even a mortal threat to any neighbor, man or beast, that would consider entering your property by any other than the permitted points of access. 

 

Here in almost-but-not-quite Zone 7, 'Mermaid' isn't reliably hardy and would get a lot of die-back even if it were.  So I grow mine in a container where, even so, it's poky and tentative.  (A friend who gardens safely in Zone 7, albeit the very bottom of it, finds his in-ground 'Mermaid' to be a shy creature, too.)  I've Wintered mine dormant and in the chilly but totally frost-free basement.  Perhaps I'll put it in the greenhouse, instead, to see if keeping it active and in leaf through a Winter more like that of San Diego—down into the 50's at night but warmer in the day—is more to its liking.   Indeed, 'Mermaid' can be a slow starter even in mild climates, so in what must feel like the perpetually cold and clammy climate of New England, all possible warmth year-round will be a help. 

 

North of Zone 8, growing it on a West-facing wall would be ideal, although north of Zone 7 that wall would have to be in a greenhouse:  The afternoon sun hitting a West wall is long and hot, whereas even the comparatively weak morning sun hitting an East wall in a chilly Winter could, potentially, damage the plant by thawing the canes more quickly than they could be hydrated by roots still frozen in the unthawed soil.

 

'Mermaid' needs pruning not as an aid to increased flowering but only as a defensive measure to keep the thorny canes from snagging passersby or swarming over your entire garden.  As long as you have room for its free-range growth, you'll have that many more of the amazing flowers.

Downsides

If only it were hardier.  But one parent, Rosa bracteata, is hardy only to Zone 7 and is happy right into the steaming and frost-free tropics of Zone 11.  No surprise, then, that any plant that thrives in Honolulu would be a bit tender North of Virginia.  At least 'Mermaid' is notably resistant to the usual rose pests and diseases. 

Variants

'Little Mermaid' and 'Baby Mermaid' are, appropriately, dwarves and, hence, much more appropriate for growing in containers.  (But why take the easy road?  I'm going to persevere with growing the full-size 'Mermaid' in a container.  Stay tuned for further reports on what I hope will be its bigger and bigger success.)  'Pink Mermaid' is full-sized, but with narrower petals like those of wading bird, the roseate spoonbill. 

 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By cuttings and by grafting.

Native habitat

Rosa 'Mermaid' was hybridized in England in 1918; Rosa bracteata itself is native to southeastern China.

 
 
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