originally published, Akron Rose Rambler, February, 1993 included in A Passion for Roses, 1997
I really love roses - virtually all aspects of growing and appreciating them. I think, though, that my favorite part is the hunt. The roses I enjoy the most are the ones I have read about and then had to search for, and I mean REALLY search! The Coffee Roses were the first hunt, followed by the Striped Hybrid Teas and I have truly delighted in them. Single-petaled Hybrid Teas have been another fun hunt, and that brings us to the point of this story.
Several years ago, I was fortunate to be able to trade plants with one of the most well known rose gardens in Southern California, Rose Hills. Their bed of single-petaleds contained a name plate for a rose called FLAME OF LOVE, but there was no plant and no one could tell me anything about it. Modem Roses wasn't any help as FLAME OF LOVE was never registered. What to do? I asked everyone I could think of if they had ever heard of it. The lone marker remained my only reference.
Then it hit me! Probably the best source of information I could want was already in my possession. I began searching through my back issues of Bev Dobson's Combined Rose List and found that FLAME OF LOVE, a medium red hybrid tea, was offered in 1986 by Rose Acres, Muriel Humenick's wonderful collection of classic and esoteric roses in Diamond Springs, California. I wrote her asking about it and was thrilled when she replied that she did have one plant of it available and just waiting for someone to request it, and now it was mine! She had received hers from Mr. Jim Kirk, who had been the Rosarian at Rose Hills in the early 1970s. All she could relate was that a Mr. Forrest Hieatt had hybridized it in the early 1950s, had given it to Mr. Kirk, and he in turn shared it with her. She sent me the plant and I eagerly awaited the first bloom.
The little plant grew well, but when its first bud appeared and developed into a fragrant, well formed, high-centered, silvery lavender bloom, I was a bit perplexed. Muriel and I conferred and decided it was actually SILVER STAR, a beautiful rose , but not the one which I had sought. She apologized and assured me that my plant was still there and would be dispatched in the spring. I tried not to seem disappointed about having to wait. Muriel obviously understood and said she would mail it out in a day or two. My rose arrived in great shape, as everything I had bought from Rose Acres every year before had, and was potted in a five gallon can to protect it from the rabbits.
Meanwhile, I attempted to learn what I could about the latest addition to my already crowded collection of singlepetaleds. Muriel suggested I write to Jim Kirk, as he would be about the only person who could shed some light on the rose.
Mr. Kirk kindly responded that Forrest Hieatt was indeed the creator of FLAME OF LOVE. He presented ten bushes at the San Diego Rose Society to the person who could give it the best name, that honor going to Mrs. Mabel Pillsbury. Unfortunately, Mr. Hieatt died tragically in 1957 or 1958, when, on his way home from a rose society meeting, he stepped from the bus on El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, and was accidentally run over by one of the members, who was driving home from the meeting.
Modern Roses 5 shows Forrest Hieatt had registered four roses between 1927 and 1953:
• EDMUND M. MILLS, 1927, a very fragrant, rosy-flame hybrid tea named for the well-known early 20th century American rosarian
• SAN DIEGO, 1937, a very fragrant, apricot and buff hybrid tea
• SWEET MEMORIE, 1937, a pink hybrid tea, again described as very fragrant, and
MISS KATE SESSIONS, 1953, a pink and white large-flowered climber named for the early California plantswoman.
Mr. Kirk isn't able to shed any light on the parentage of FLAME OF LOVE as he says Forrest Hieatt never labeled anything.
FLAME OF LOVE's first year in my garden was a difficult one. It was inundated by nearly three times normal rainfall; stunted by the coldest, wettest spring in memory; blistered by extreme summer temperatures which arrived as suddenly as if they had been turned on by a switch; used as a rabbit smorgasbord; and blown about by the fury of our Santa Ana winds bringing desiccation and now quite low temperatures. It's been a struggle, but it has generously given its nearly five inch, brilliant red, five-petaled blooms with their bright yellow petal bases, red stamen and yellow pollen. I've even noticed it has a sweet fragrance. It's a little sad to have such an enjoyable search come to an end, but this beautiful rose and the making and renewing of old rose friendships all make it great fun. Thank you Bev, Muriel and Jim Kirk!
1997 note: FLAME OF LOVE is still in the garden. It is still every bit as beautiful a rose as I had originally thought. The growth habit, foliage, peduncles, prickles, sepals and the wiry, flexible stems lead me to believe it has a strong dose of CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG'S genes in it. The brilliance of the flowers softens after a day or so in the hot sun, but the colors remain clean and pleasant until petal drop. It's still a favorite!