Debbie Arrington

Seeds: ‘Downton Abbey’ lives on in rose garden

Edith’s Darling is one of the four “Downton Abbey” roses.
Edith’s Darling is one of the four “Downton Abbey” roses. http://www.brecks.com

There’s a little bit of “Downton Abbey” in my rose garden.

Long after the final credits roll, this living tribute will offer reminders of classic characters that have become as familiar to many Americans as family.

With its upstairs-downstairs drama and high jinks, “Downton Abbey” wraps up its phenomenal run this winter with its sixth and final season, which starts Sunday night on PBS. More than 15 million viewers tuned in for last year’s Season 5 premiere.

As an avid fan of the British TV series, I couldn’t resist one officially licensed “Downton Abbey” souvenir – Anna’s Promise, a “Downton Abbey” rose. It’s one of four roses created in California and named for characters from the popular show.

Anna Bates, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt, is the lady’s maid at the center of the downstairs turmoil. Her promise is to be true to husband and valet John Bates through his legal trials and tribulations (this is a soap opera, after all).

Anna’s Promise the rose is a golden grandiflora with a pink-orange blush. The underside of each petal is a darker copper, similar to About Face, which is this rose’s parent. Bred by Tom Carruth, Anna’s Promise is bigger and better than About Face and smells delicious – like grapefruit mixed with cut apples.

“It’s a very pretty rose on its own,” said Christian Bedard, hybridizer for Weeks Roses, who expects Anna’s Promise to catch on with rose lovers even without the “Downton” connection.

Roses are a natural tie-in to “Downton Abbey.” A prize-winning rose was at the center of a Season 1 episode.

Based in Wasco in the Central Valley, Weeks Roses developed all four “Downton Abbey” roses under an exclusive licensing agreement. Anna’s Promise was the first to debut last year, followed by Pretty Lady Rose, a vibrant pink hybrid tea named for Lady Rose MacClare (the Crawleys’ tempestuous cousin).

Violet’s Pride, named for the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (as portrayed by Maggie Smith), is a stunning lavender floribunda with a spicy scent. Timed to coincide with the show’s final season, it makes its debut at retail nurseries this month.

Completing this rosy quartet is Edith’s Darling, an English-style shrub rose with heavy 3-inch pale yellow blooms and a strong fruity scent. (This rose is a nod to Lady Edith’s daughter Marigold.) Because it was developed in California, this English beauty offers a big plus for local gardeners – it’s drought resistant. Expect to see it in nurseries soon, too.

Pink and blue garden

Rose Quartz and Serenity – the pale pink and blue named Pantone’s 2016 Colors of the Year – will be all over gardens this spring, according to nursery pros. These soft tones are already found in many ornamental plants and they make a natural color combination in the garden.

Tesselaar Plants, a horticultural marketing company that introduces new varieties to nurseries, spotted lots of Rose Quartz and Serenity among its 2016 plant collections. Some examples: Blush fairy magnolia (a new soft pink hybrid), Appleblossom Flower Carpet landscape rose (another Rose Quartz lookalike) and Blue Storm agapanthus.

Have fun growing these calming colors, then bring some bouquets indoors. Like those pastel shades, they’ll make any room feel more serene.

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