The Snow Witch Sisters

The Snow Witch Sisters

Weirdness Manager’s Note: Amid the cold of winter we don’t often think of roses (except perhaps for a certain “flow’ret bright”). But maybe in this week when much of North America is buried in snow, you’ll enjoy Gigi’s story about the Snow Witch Sisters.

By G. S. Norwood

I love roses—specifically antique roses that grow as beautiful, low-care bushes and produce lovely flowers with rich heady scent. I also like modern roses that have those same qualities.

So, when I bought a house that had a very sunny front yard, I didn’t think “Trees. Must plant trees!”

I thought, “Yeah! I can plant roses!”

The Snow Witch

The fragrant white Snow Witch rose had a chance to bloom in Gigi's yard.
The Snow Witch bloomed in Gigi’s yard (Photo by G. S. Norwood).

One of the first roses I planted was a white rose originally bred by the Kordes company in Germany. Established in 1887, Kordes managed to keep itself afloat through five generations of family management, two world wars, and all the other tumult of the 20th century.

The delicate, pure white rose I bought has a light, lemony scent. In the United States it’s called “Iceberg,” but its German name is “Schneewittchen,” the snow witch.

A shocking loss

I loved my Snow Witch rose, and tended it gently until one day I came home to find it gone.

Just . . . gone.

The bush had been about a foot tall, out in the middle of the yard, when I left for work. But when I got home, it was nowhere to be seen. My grass was also extremely short, even though it was not the day my yard guys were scheduled to come.

Here's the sad stump they mystery yard crew left.
The Snow Witch was GONE.
(Photo by G. S. Norwood)

In a frantic call to my yard guy, we finally figured out that some other yard crew had apparently showed up to mow at the wrong address and mowed right over my little Snow Witch before they discovered their mistake.

In an apparent attempt to cover it up, they took the mangled bush away with them, as if they thought maybe I’d forget I’d ever had a white rose at that spot in my yard.

I was furious and heartbroken, but I knew a secret about roses: most roses are hybrids—they don’t grow true to the parent plant if you try to grow them from seed. The only reliable way to get the same kind of bush, time after time, is to grow them from cuttings from the original parent bush.

In recovery mode

If I ordered a new Snow Witch to replace the one that had been mowed down, I would actually be getting another part of the same plant. An identical twin Snow Witch sister.

I ordered my replacement immediately but, during the two weeks I waited for it to arrive, I discovered another thing about roses. They are hardier than we think.

I grew up in the era of the hybrid tea rose—a thin, finicky, ugly stick of a plant that needed to be pampered and pruned and sprayed and fertilized, just to produce one or two spectacularly beautiful blooms.

They might be great for the garden club show, but they sucked as a landscaping plant. Not only were the plants themselves fussy, they were grafted onto a hardier rose’s rootstock. If you mow over a hybrid tea, you have no idea what will come back from the roots.

The comeback rose

The Snow Witch Rises Again!
The Snow Witch Rises Again!
(Photo by G. S. Norwood)

But my Snow Witch was grown on its own rootstock. So about the time my replacement bush arrived my original bush shot up a strong, sturdy, green new shoot—sort of a middle finger to that mystery mowing crew.

I was thrilled to see my original bush bounce back, but now I had a second bush that I hadn’t included in my landscaping master plan.

Ah, well. Never mind. The second bush went in near the first, and I found myself with the Snow Witch and her Clone Sister—two copies of the original bush with indistinguishable DNA. What you might call Snow Witch Sisters.

They’re also definitely Weird Sisters. Like my own sister and me, the elder is tall and relatively thin, while the younger is shorter and rounder. Both bloom beautifully, and would probably do even better if I’d feed them now and then.

The Clone Sister–the second Snow Witch–is also thriving now. (Photo by G. S. Norwood).

The white roses stand out nicely against the apricot brick of my house, and I smile and shoot up my own metaphorical middle finger every time I look at My Snow Witch Sisters.

IMAGE CREDITS: All photos in this post are by G. S. Norwood. Re-post or re-blog, but only with a link-back and an attribution, please!

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