I first met Rosa Chindensis- alias the Rosa Mutabilis- aka the Butterfly Rose- at Heard’s Country Gardens in Westminster. The petals of this winsome beauty flutter in the slightest breeze.
In rebellion from convention, the five be-petalled blossoms, instead of fading with time, grow bolder. These casually displayed flowers of palest peach, coppery pink, through deep rose- bloom concurrently and in clusters. They appear so lightly attached to the shrub- they look as though they might fly away, like butterflies.
It’s a charming effect. Like when Cinderella’s gown changed colors at the ball in the Disney classic film
The first time I was in the presence of the butterfly rose, I was smitten. Wandering the path near the shed which sheltered gift items and served as sales office- there was a lightly enchanting scent- my nose hunted for a “rose”- but because I was looking for a more standard- looking variety, I missed the source of the perfume for a few minutes.
It came from two lanky roses, their feet planted “en pointe” at on opposite sides of a metal archway. Their supple arms stretched overhead, curving inward to hold hands in the center. Held in this position by unobtrusive ties, the bend was graceful. The informal blossoms in their range of colors were generously scattered from crown to feet.
Delicate in its appearance- this is a deceptive disguise for this wild child of the rose kingdom. Give it a little shelter and it can grow to 6’x 6’ – even taller in mild areas such as here and in Santa Barbara. Fortunately, it takes well to being whacked to keep it in bounds.
Mine sets at the edge of the lawn. It is the visual divider signaling the crossing point between civilized and bohemian parts of the garden.
Heard's Country Gardens was closed in 2002, after Mary Lou Heard lost her battle to cancer. But her spirit lives on in the plants she introduced to her customers and in the annual Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour held each May in neighboring Orange County.