Okay, this seems like an obvious choice. Of course I like the rose named after my mother, but my affinity for the variety runs a little deeper than maternal allegiance. I first came to know this rose in the late 1980’s. It cropped up in our family garden in Denver as yet another rose that my mother was trialing for “Ralph”. By Ralph, I mean Ralph Moore. You may know him as the Godfather of miniature roses, or the owner of Sequoia Nursery, or simply as a rose industry icon, but in our house he was just Ralph. He was a kind and generous man who always had time to chat and always had a new rose that he wanted to know exactly how it performed in Colorado.
This time, the rose trial was a little different. Ralph and my mother had bonded over a mutual affinity for miniature roses. Through out his career, Ralph introduced hundreds of unique roses, mostly miniatures, into commerce. (We have an entire section of the website devoted to his plants.) My mother was an fervent grower, exhibitor, and judge of her beloved minis. She particularly loved parading around rose society meetings sporting her “Equal Rights For Miniatures” button. After years of friendship Ralph let my mother know that he wanted to name a rose after her and he was sending some varieties to test out. As I recall, two unnamed miniatures and a curious hybrid rugosa shrub went into the garden to choose from. One of the miniature roses would have been the obvious choice, but it was the hybrid rugosa that awed my mother and she fell in love with it. With that, two miniature rose aficionados combined forces to bring a hybrid rugosa rose named Linda Campbell to market.
The rose itself results from an unlikely cross between Rugosa Magnifica and the miniature Anytime. Rugosa Magnifica clearly gives the roses its size, habit and crinkly rugose foliage. Anytime is the source of the brilliant red color that looks like it belongs in a Crayola box. The red color comes in waves too, I’ve never seen another rose “bloom in bouquets” the way Linda Campbell does. The show of blooms repeat well all season long and even into the fall. When the winter arrives, Linda Campbell is hardy and tough with minimal die back. We list it as a zone 5 plant but I have several customers that report success in colder zones. It’s a brilliant landscape rose that won’t disappoint in your yard.
With all of that said, the real gift of the Linda Campbell rose to our family was its timing. Around the time the rose was released into commerce, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had just turned 40, had be married to Dr. Campbell for just 5 years, had just earned her Masters degree, was moving into leadership with the American Rose Society, and had two teenagers at home. Life became an incomprehensible blur of memories from that point as she battled the disease for nearly two years. In the end, my mother’s respite and sanctuary was walking through the rose garden and resting in the gazebo. Central to it all was that brilliant red rose, HER rose.
A rose is a wonderful way to remember someone. Each year I see it as a beautiful, flower filled hello. Not surprisingly, Linda Campbell roses seem to crop up everywhere in our family. I’ve had it planted in every home I’ve ever lived in. My horticulturally challenged uncle runs over his with the lawnmower and somehow it always snaps back. The rose community in the Denver area honored my mother with a gazebo surrounded by her rose at the War Memorial Rose Garden. Even my son took one with him to college. Although I have to say, my children have changed the name just a bit, to them the rose is called “Grandma Linda.” It’s a nice way for them to know a grandmother they were never able to meet.
Disclaimer: All rose stories are dependent on my personal recollections, which get hazier with time, and any corrections or updates are welcome.