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Named after Tom Thomson painting, ‘Campfire’ rose blazes until hard frost

‘Campfire’ rose

There's a new rose in town. "Campfire" honours Tom Thomson, and like his masterpiece of the same name, the rose glows with fiery yellows and reds. This shrub rose is the fourth and last of the cold-hardy Canadian Artists series of roses first developed by Agriculture Canada's rose-breeding program based at Morden, Man. Although the program was disbanded in 2010, it has risen from the ashes and is being championed by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland, Ont., and the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association.

That's good news for gardeners. Building on the Canadian Artists series, the new program is developing roses that not only stand up to our harsh winters, says Jim Brandle, CEO of Vineland Research, but offer a broader range of colours, have beautiful foliage and are resistant to diseases such as black spot. And according to Vineland plant breeder Dr. Rumen Conev, the new program also strives to create a rose that deadheads itself, relieving gardeners of the thorny task of removing spent flowers.

Until these super-roses are released in a few years, there's plenty of bloom left on the Canadian Artists series. "Campfire" is "the No. 1 pick" for home gardeners out of the more than a thousand roses that were bred in the program, says grower John Bakker of J.C. Bakker & Sons, a wholesale nursery in St. Catharines, Ont., which grows more than 150 varieties of roses. At a little less than a metre tall, "Campfire" is a compact shrub rose that fits nicely into any landscape. The flowers open yellow, and the petals develop deep, rosy pink edges that become more prominent later in the season. They're also low maintenance and great for beginner gardeners – given lots of sun, these striking flowers will bloom all season, Bakker says. In his Niagara-region nursery, the petals of "Campfire" blaze right through until hard frost and often into December.

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Other hardy roses to look for in the Canadian Artists series include: "Bill Reid," a lightly scented, single-flowered yellow rose; the rich, red-flowering "Emily Carr"; and "Felix Leclerc," a climbing rose with deep pink blossoms that can reach almost four metres.

Insider tip:

When planting a new rose, long-time rose grower George Pagowski recommends planting it in a cardboard box buried in the ground and filled with fresh soil. That's because of something he calls "rose-tired soil." For unknown reasons this phenomenon can impede the successful establishment of new roses. "Be sure to cut the rim of the box," Pagowski advises, "so it sits slightly below the surface." Otherwise, water will wick away from the roots.

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