By Jodi Torpey
Is it possible for one perennial plant to set the tone for an entire landscape? For 12 years the John Cabot climbing rose in my garden has served as a reliable barometer that signals seasonal shifts.
I selected this climber years ago when I started to stretch my green thumb by planting the backyard with hardy, water-wise plants. I wanted a climbing rose to add to the archway that leads from the patio to the garden.
The first climbing rose in the Explorer series of rose varieties, John Cabot was specially adapted for cold Canadian winters. I planted it with the hope it would do well in a warmer, Zone 5 climate. Even after all those years I still marvel at its ability to survive bitter-cold winters and hot, dry summers.
In February, when the days start to lengthen, I’m always surprised to see color return to the long, brown canes that looked dead all winter. A light-green tinge begins to slowly inch its way up each cane; then small knuckles of tight leaf buds begin to form.
By late spring the plant is in full flower and covered with vivid fuchsia roses that are as fragrant as they are beautiful. Bees visit the flowers through summer, enjoying the pollen and nectar and taking round snippets of leaves to line their nests.
After the first blast of roses, flowers bloom sporadically through summer. A smaller flush of roses appears again in August as if to say farewell to warm weather. That’s when the leaves begin to turn brilliant yellow and rosy red before they fall.
In winter the rose makes a convenient landing spot for hosts of sparrows that crisscross the yard from feeder to archway to trellis and on to the next buffet. The bare canes, still protected by sharp thorns, provide a safe and sheltered spot during inclement weather.
Which perennial plant serves as a seasonal barometer in your garden?