I Want A Blue Rose

April 30, 2009 | By | Comments (17)

I’d like to be crowned King of the World. I’d like to fly like a bird. I’d like to bathe in Balvenie DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch Whisky. And I’d like to grow a blue rose. Unfortunately, none of these things is likely to happen.

Especially the “blue rose.” Plant breeders have been working for decades to introduce a truly blue rose, which is about the only color they don’t come in (there’s even a green rose). But the only place I’ve ever seen a blue rose is in those ads they run in the Sunday supplements where every single bloom has been obviously colored sky-blue by some stupid printer who has never seen a rose.

Now, there actually is something called a “blue rose.” That’s the nickname for an old hybrid multiflora rambler whose real name is ‘Veilchenblau’ (“veil of blue” in German). It’s quite beautiful in bloom and offers colors you rarely see. Trouble is, none of those colors is true blue.


Blue rose

 ‘Veilchenblau’ rose in my front garden today.

This rose bears stunning clusters of literally hundreds of blooms over a period of a couple of weeks in mid-spring. New, quarter-size blossoms of purple-maroon change to silver dollar-size blossoms of grayish-blue, a color I might also describe as varicose-vein blue or the color people turn when they foolishly decide to swim in the vast Bering Sea.

‘Veilchenblau’ is called a rambler for a reason with has nothing to do with those terrible old American Motors cars my father kept buying.


1958 Rambler. Dig those space-age tail fins and headlights that hit before the bumper does!

This rose is classified as a rambler because it grows faster than Senator Arlen Spector abandons his principles. Ten feet a year is no problem. The thing even grows during mild stretches in winter! Last year, one cane nearly pried the downspout off of my house. In a fit of pique, I cut it way back and then sprayed it with Roundup. Execution completed.

The rose suffered for a while, sending out these sickly, distorted leaves. I thought it was near the end, when whoa!! A normal shoot started growing.Then another. By the end of summer, several canes were 8 feet long. This spring they bloomed.

If you’d like a rose that reminds you of your grandmother’s legs every spring, you can order one from the Antique Rose Emporium. Or you can root a cutting or layer a lower branch of a friend’s plant (it’s easy). Meanwhile, I’ll keep searching for the true blue rose and pricing a bathtub filled with Balvenie.


  1. Grumpy Gardener (aka His Excellency)

    Or I could just give them some purple Kool-Aid.

    November 14, 2009 at 11:20 am
  2. Alison

    Just water your green roses with some super duper dark blue water. Like, REALLY dark blue water…yea, that’ll get you your blue rose…

    November 14, 2009 at 9:36 am
  3. Grumpy Gardener (aka His Excellency)

    Hmm…so when I see a large group of crows, that constitutes a “murder of crows?” I think I shall go to the animal shelter this weekend, ask for a “murder of puppies,” and see what happens.

    November 10, 2009 at 7:54 am
  4. anthony eglin

    Dear Grumpy,
    Just ran across you website noticing the “to and fro” about my books. Just to set things straight for you and your reader-just in case you weren’t aware- the opening line of The Blue Rose, “She awoke to a murder of crows,” refers not to a murder but the collective noun for a group of crows (as in a pride of lion, a gaggle of geese etc.)
    Forgetting all that, thanks for mentioning of my stories. Every little bit helps. May your roses never be blue.

    November 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm
  5. Molly Weber

    I’m reading ‘The Lost Gardens’ by Anthony Elgin right now! First line of book reads: “The clang of metal on metal resounded off the walls of the old stone house, echoing across the lawns to be lost in the dense forest beyond”. I will have to look for ‘The Blue Rose’ next.

    May 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener

    In the future, the Grump will stick to translating, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which means, “I like a warm bath.”

    May 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener

    For many consumers, A Rambler and a hearse were the same thing.

    May 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm
  8. mondo

    That’s no Rambler.
    That’s a hearse.

    May 4, 2009 at 10:17 am
  9. Lindakimy

    Veilchen is the German word for violet (the flower) and veilchenblau is the word for violet (the color).

    May 4, 2009 at 9:07 am
  10. Grumpy Gardener

    Cameron, you’re going to France. Have you been to Fayetteville, NC? How could you ask for anything more?
    To your question about the Heliotropium. Yes, it’s a great plant and part of the Soothern Living Plant Collection. To find a retailer near you, go to http://www.southernlivingplants.com, click on “Homeowners,” and then click on “Where to Buy.”

    May 2, 2009 at 9:16 am
  11. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    Oh I love it. Consider it better than blue! H.

    May 1, 2009 at 7:19 pm
  12. Frances

    Yikes, sorry I mentioned it. 🙂

    May 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm
  13. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    The roses are beautiful! How can you ask for anything more? 🙂
    Off-topic: Do you know where folks can mail-order Heliotropium amplexicaule ‘Azure Skies’ ? I grow this in my garden, but I have a local source. Gardeners in other southern states are having trouble finding it and it is a “Southern Living” plant, after all.

    May 1, 2009 at 3:11 pm
  14. Grumpy Gardener

    First line of book: “She woke up to the murder of crows.” Did someone kill the crows? Or did the crows kill someone? I can’t abide such ambiguity.

    May 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm
  15. Frances

    Hi Grumpy, Veilchenblau is fantastic. I have it growing on my shed, but after 8 years, it still hasn’t tried to eat the building. I am a little disappointed in that, but never in the blooms. It is so loaded with buds this year, another week or so should see it open. Have you ever read Anthony Eglin’s garden mystery The Blue Rose? It’s pretty good.

    May 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener

    As you know, the Grump is very clean.

    May 1, 2009 at 8:14 am
  17. Jean

    Your rose may not be true blue but its beautiful.I love any flower that is blue or lavender for outside.I have way too much shade for regular roses but planted some knock-out roses in the sunniest spot on either side of a trellis and walkway. So far so good.
    Hot tubs…whisky baths…bath fixation?

    May 1, 2009 at 6:11 am

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