Several years ago, I converted a small storage area outside my office into an enclosed patio. Sloat Nursery had the perfect fountain on sale and Sunnyside offered two oversized clay pots. But with northern exposure and a ten-foot fence, the lack of direct sunlight was a major concern. I chose two ‘Sally Holmes’ and have never been happier.
I am looking out my window at bunches and bunches of clustered white roses the size of large cantaloupes, some with as many as twenty blossoms per stem. The canes, now heavy with bloom, reach way over and through the redwood lattice, much to the delight of passing pedestrians. Songbirds find refuge in the dark green foliage, dropping down to bathe and sip from the sparkling fountain.
The American Rose Society lists ‘Sally Holmes’ as a shrub but she grows like a climber. Introduced in 1976, ‘Sally Holmes’ is a cross between ‘Ballerina’ (hybrid Musk) and ‘Ivory Fashion’ (floribunda). Not many realize her hybrid Musk parentage that was popularized by the Englishman, Rev. Pemberton after World War I. ‘Sally Holmes’ is a vigorous hardy grower of large proportions, and probably not for a small garden.
Aside from seasonal aphids, which I wash off with water, neither have suffered any insect damage, perhaps because of the symbiotic bird life. My concerns that lack of sunlight would encourage mildew, blackspot and rust also have been ill-founded. These plants have been completely disease resistant. I do water regularly and deeply, much more than in the home garden, where we have two more of equal performance. And periodically, I mix in a couple of tablespoons of Maxsea fertilizer, but that’s it.
‘Sally Holmes’ is described as a white rose but you can find photos of her tight buds almost apricot in shade, unfolding into petals trimmed with a pinkish tint, ending in a perfect white. The single, five petal blooms, sometimes reach four inches in width. A simply spectacular rose.
By Gary Scales
Edited for the website by Nanette Londeree, March 2020