Canary roses

When we set up our small vineyard, I paid a visit to the local rose nursery. Have you a rose that is scented, attractive, thornless and susceptible to every known disease going? The nurserymen looked at us and asked us to run the information past him again. So we explained

Roses in a coal mine

The reason for the request was simple. Roses suffer from the same problems as vines- downy and powdery mildew etc. - only they get it sooner. Thus the sight of a rose suffering indicates that it is time to spray the vines. This to me will always be a canary rose. Miners, especially in deep coal mines, used to take a canary to the coal face with them. A high level of carbon monoxide, and the canary would become distressed. The miners would then know that it was time to get out before they too suffered. The practice started in 1911 and continued until 1986, when the canaries were replaced by carbon monoxide detectors- much to the distress of the miners who had grown fond of their companions.

Downy mildew likes warm damp conditions so that it can spread to the leafy parts of the vine. Powdery mildew attacks the fruit and causes it to split and rot. The variety we finished up with is called Zephirine Drouhin, a very old variety that grows as a shrub or a climbing rose. It can be planted at the end of each row and makes an attractive display in the vineyard, apart from serving a very useful purpose.

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