Roses that put on a show without prima donna needs

Q: After I read your recent rose article (Plant Life, Pacific Magazine, March 7), I went out and bought a 'Heaven on Earth,' though I haven't yet found 'Chihuly.' You mentioned you had some vigorous favorites in your garden. Could you send me a list of those you favor the most?

My favorites are 'Rio Samba,' 'Perfect Moment' and 'Gemini,' but I need some double pinkish varieties to plant. I have little success with roses with French names for some reason.

A: I'm no rose expert, but still have quite a few roses in my garden, only one of which has a French name. I've pared down to roses that thrive without chemicals, even in crowded borders. These roses aren't prima donnas, for they stay healthy on a spare regime of organic rose fertilizer in spring, mulching with manure when I get a chance and extra water during summer drought.

My two absolute favorites are species roses that have pretty flowers plus striking foliage. Rosa glauca is a cascade of pewter-colored foliage dotted in June with pale, pink single flowers followed by bright red autumn fruit. Rosa mutabilis is a carnival of a rose bush, with red-tinted, nearly evergreen leaves and blossoms that open creamy yellow then morph through butterscotch to watermelon pink, giving a spectacular multi-colored effect.

I love Rosa 'Westerland' for its fragrant, showy flowers in hot apricot-orange and 'Penelope' for its pale, pink double flowers that are wonderfully fragrant and long-lasting in flower arrangements. R. 'Sombreuil' is a sweetly scented, repeat-flowering climbing tea that drips fantastically ruffled white flowers down through the top of my pergola. R. 'Ballerina' has little pink flowers that grow in clustered heads more like a hydrangea than a rose, and R. 'Sally Holmes' is bulletproof with large, open, fragrant flowers the color of cream.

I grow a variety of tough rugosa roses in my wild border, where they scent the entire back garden with their extraordinary perfume and feed the birds in autumn with their glossy hips in shades from orange to burgundy. And for a foolproof French rose that I've grown for years in a pot, try the delicate 'Ghislaine de Feligonde,' a ruffled, pale peach rambler, which has few thorns and tolerates some shade.

'Penelope' is the only double pink rose in my garden, and should fit what you're looking for. You might also consider David Austin roses (also called English roses), which are deeply ruffled, some in lovely clear shades of pink; 'Sharif Asma' is a particularly pretty shell pink with a honey-like fragrance, which I don't grow myself but have admired in many other gardens.

Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday's Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.