The encounter with the shrub rose Smarty occurred in the Cotswolds in England. I was with the rose lovers from the Carolinas to see how the English grow their roses. We were on our way in our minibus to one of the many spectacular public gardens. Along the way, in a tiny village there it was. In England, every yard, no matter how small, is a garden. Eighty percent of all yards contain roses.
I spied it in front of a modest cottage. Growing and flowering free. I called out, ‘What is that rose?’ Necks craned and most everyone saw it. No one however recognized it from the bus window. Remember, these were 19 rose lovers from way back. The tour guide promised we would be returning to the hotel that evening by the same route.
Sure enough, on the way home, we passed the same town, the same cottage, and the same rose. The bus ground to a stop on the narrow roadway and 19 people piled off the bus and headed toward the rose. Still it did not look familiar to any of us. We all agreed, however, that it was indeed lovely.
First of all, it was a single. The foliage was beautiful and matte. The bush was literally covered in small pearl-colored flowers in trusses. I could visualize it in my garden at once. I already had a place picked out and the vase selected for displaying the lovely arrangement.
The next project was to identify it and then to locate a source in the United States. I had taken some reference books with me and the after-dinner project was to pore through them to locate this rose. Some looked familiar and some sounded like they matched. Uncertainty was the final feeling.
One of the next stops on the tour was to David Austin’s garden. He has a small retail sales section where he offers roses for sale in 2 and 3-gallon containers. They were all in bloom. There it was! I recognized it instantly in the sea of blooming roses. Oh, please let it have a tag that identifies it. It did. The name was Smarty. Never heard of it. Neither had anyone else but all agreed that this was it. The rose in the Cotswolds was at last identified.
If I could have figured out a way to put that in my suitcase and get it home through customs, I would have. However, you cannot bring back any plants from England. Part two of the plan was now to be executed – find a source in the United States. I had my plant locator, Bev Dobson’s bible. Sure enough, there were a couple of suppliers. All far away and all a challenge to order from. Nevertheless, it was available. It would be in my garden at Tall Oaks.
Smarty arrived within two weeks of my return. It was a small plant but looked healthy. I knew the final size (at least in England). I planted it in full sun and gave it a 6-foot circle. It grew and bloomed that year. The next year, however, it came into its own. Smarty was a medium-sized shrub with hundreds of flowers. The bees loved it too. That tells you that it is indeed a worthy plant.
Intersmart from Holland is the hybridizer. It is a cross between Yesterday and a seedling. Some of Yesterday’s gene pool is in Ballerina. No wonder Smarty is a great rose. Peter Beales lists it in the procumbent shrub rose category. Here in the United States we simply call it a shrub. The final height is four feet and it needs a six-foot circle for unrestrained growth.
The pearl-colored delicate blooms have a stamen display that adds to the charm of the bloom. The clusters of blooms will open in the house and seem to be even more beautiful when not exposed to the sun. There is even a hint of pink in these flowers.
Being a shrub, Smarty is indeed a lot less trouble in the garden than your other roses. If you have not already added shrubs to your garden, this would be a great one to start with. There are now a few more sources for Smarty. Roses Unlimited, which is right down the road now carries it.
Smarty has been in my garden for two full years. It has been trouble-free and a very beautiful addition to the rose bed. Even though it was introduced in 1979, I feel that many people are just beginning to become acquainted with this wonderful rose.