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SHE PROMISED HERSELF A ROSE GARDEN WHEN SHE'S NOT DISPENSING MOTHERLY ADVICE ON `THAT '70S SHOW,' DEBRA JO RUPP IS TALKING TO HER ROSES.

Byline: Barbara De Witt Staff Writer

On TV, Debra Jo Rupp is the high-strung mom trying to keep the family together on Fox's ``That '70s Show.''

At home, she's a laid-back lady of leisure who likes to talk to Cary Grant. Well, actually, the orange-and-yellow rose named for the late actor.

``Yeah, it's just me and Cary Grant,'' she says with a chuckle, as she puts one of the colorful roses behind her ear. ``I've never seen another one like it, and I don't get a lot of blooms, so I don't cut them. Instead, I just lay in the pool (on a rose-print float) and look at them.''

The Glendale-born actress says she's not as neurotic as her characters, but she does admit to talking to her roses - and also her pet silky terriers McCallister and McPheeters - while gardening. ``It's my morning ritual, and it prepares me for work,'' she explains.

The veteran of several failed TV sitcoms, Rupp confides that if it weren't for the success of ``That '70s Show,'' which Fox just renewed for the fall season, she wouldn't have a rose garden.

``I'd been living in apartments for years, and every time I started to buy a home, one of my series would get canceled. ... So finally I've got a home and a rose garden, even if it is small,'' says the actress during a recent interview at her ranch-style home in Studio City.

Rupp is seen weekly on Fox TV's popular sitcom as the endearingly sweet but stressed-out mom living in suburban Wisconsin in 1977. The season finale of ``That '70s Show'' airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Rupp also lends her voice to Disney's Saturday morning animated series ``Teacher's Pet'' on ABC as school teacher Mrs. Helperman.

A familiar face on numerous TV shows, Rupp played Phoebe's ditsy sister-in-law on ``Friends'' and Jerry's booking agent on ``Seinfeld.''

Laughing as she pulls off her gardening gloves and takes a cookie-and- iced-tea break in her garden of gardenias, camellias, jasmine and roses, Rupp sums up her TV career by calling herself the ``queen of the neurotics,'' then adds, ``Kitty is my favorite role because the show is about my era, when I graduated from college, and I feel comfortable with her.''

Then she starts introducing some of her roses by name, pointing out Passion, a sturdy rose bush with huge red blooms, and then snips a coral-colored rose called Spice Twice and inhales. ``A really pretty fragrance,'' she says, before pointing to a pale lavender rose called Sterling.

``I just love Sterling roses, and they're in one of my favorite movies, called 'Bed of Roses.' It's a sappy, sentimental story with Christian Slater, but there's a really romantic scene where he brings this girl a bouquet of Sterling roses.''

But back to the basics of roses.

Rupp says she reads a lot of gardening books and then figures out what works best for her - and she says she prefers hybrid tea roses because they have big blooms and long stems for cutting.

Does she have any gardening secrets to share?

``I'm not an expert,'' she points out, ``but I start at the nursery by looking for roses that I think are pretty - and no, I don't follow any rules about the meaning of red, pink or yellow roses. I also look for roses that have been approved by the All-America Rose Selections (the AARS is a nonprofit organization that tests roses for two years in all climates before introducing them to the public) to make sure they're going to be sturdy and healthy.''

According to Rupp, she also waters her roses deeply. For those in huge pots, she counts to 35 before moving on to the next one. ``Roses love water, but not on their leaves. When it's really hot - over 80 degrees - I water everyday, but right now I'm just watering every third day and feeding them rose food every 10 days.''

The Rose Society book ``Ultimate Rose'' (DK Publishing; $19.95) recommends deep watering to keep the soil and roots of the rose moist and recommends regular fertilizing, although the frequency of feedings depends upon the type of fertilizer used. Area garden-supply stores and nurseries can help gardeners choose the right fertilizer for their gardens.

Another secret to great roses, says Rupp, is clipping a rose as soon as it starts fading.

``I cut it off to energize new growth because otherwise all that food and water is going to roses that are almost gone anyway. And it's important to cut roses at an angle, just above the first branch on the cane with five leaves on it so that a new shoot will grow between the cut and the leaves.''

``Ultimate Rose'' recommends the same method for cutting off fading blooms. And remember to clean your gardening clippers after each use, so you don't pass on diseases from one plant to the next, Rupp advises.

Because Rupp has very little space for ground-planted roses, many of hers are in huge pots - the size often used for dwarf citrus trees. The Rose Society recommends planting roses in pots no smaller than 15 gallons and miniature roses in 3- to 7-gallon containers.

``A lot of people don't realize roses can do well in pots, as long as the pots are big enough so that the roots can grow,'' Rupp says, ``and then you have to make sure the ball or base of the plant is above the soil or you'll kill it.''

The actress also says that instead of aerosol insecticides, she prefers the systemic type that is fed and absorbed by the roses to ward off diseases and insects such as aphids. However, she says, those first springtime buds often attract aphids before the systemic plant food starts working, so she just ``squishes'' them with her fingers.

Of course, Rupp loves floral arrangements and has a few quick tips. She advises putting roses in water immediately after cutting them, or the ends will close off. If you wait too long, you'll need to recut them. She also suggests recutting roses purchased at the market, and dropping an aspirin into the vase to keep them fresh longer.

Stop & smell the ...

Looking for a rose garden to inspire your own gardening plans? Here are a few of the best in the area:

Arboretum of Los Angeles County: 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; phone (626) 821-3222. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Christmas. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students, $1 for ages 5-12 and free to children under 5. Tram tours are an additional $2.

Descanso Gardens: 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge; phone (818) 952-4401. At 10 a.m. June 16 will be a talk on the various rose species. Open daily except Christmas. Hours are 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.

Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; phone (626) 405-2100. Open noon to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $8.50 per adult, $8 for senior citizens, $6 for students age 12 and up and free to children under 12.

Words of rosedom

Daisies are sweet, and orchids are elegant, but they've never had leading roles like the rose. To demonstrate their notoriety, we plucked a few facts from ``The Book of Roses'' by Sylvie Girard-Lagorce (Flammarion; $30) and ``Rose Gardens'' by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (Henry Holt; $39.95).

The rose is the national flower of the U.S. and Great Britain.

George Washington was an avid rose gardener.

Roses were often sent to indicate one's feelings: red roses to indicate undying love and passion; white roses to signify purity (still used for bridal bouquets); pink roses represent a lover's promise and the yellow rose signifies infidelity.

Sleeping Beauty was guarded by a thorny hedge of wild roses.

In the 11th century, the pope blessed a golden rose, symbolizing the resurrection and awarded it to a prominent personage. You can see an example at the Andechs monastery in Germany.

The English have had a thing for roses, using them as an insignia on helmets, shields and ruby shirts. One of their darkest conflicts was the War of the Roses, and the red-and-white Tudor rose is a symbol of reconciliation between the House of Lancaster and the House of York.

The most fragrant roses are damask roses.

Rose petals can be eaten, are used in liquors and perfumes and were used in ancient tonics for all kinds of ailments.

- B.D.

ROSES IN FILM

Debra Jo Rupp loves the film ``Bed of Roses.'' Here are a few other memorable rose movies or scenes:

``Rose of Washington Square'' (1939) - Tyrone Power, Al Jolson and Alice Faye star in this musical about a lovely girl named Rose.

``The Rose Tattoo'' (1955) - In this film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, Burt Lancaster is the truck driver with a rose tattoo who romances Anna Magnani, who earned an Oscar for her performance.

``The Rose'' (1979) - Musical drama starring Bette Midler as a Janis Joplin-like performer, singing ``The Rose.''

``The Purple Rose of Cairo'' (1985) - Bittersweet comedy starring Woody Allen and Mia Farrow about a Depression-era movie fan whose latest idol walks off the screen and into her life.

``The Rose Garden'' (1989)- This post-World War II drama stars Liv Ullman, Maximilian Schell and Peter Fonda and the setting is a rose garden.

``War of the Roses'' (1989)- A dark comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, who are Mr. and Mrs. Rose. It plays off the English War of the Roses.

``American Beauty'' (1999) - There's a memorable fantasy scene of a girl in a bed of roses in this Oscar-winning film.

- Barbara De Witt

CAPTION(S):

9 photos, 3 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Rupp is surrounded by newly planted Paris D'Yves St. Laurent ever-blooming hybrid tea roses, noted for their pale pink petals and ruffled edges.

(2 -- color) no caption (Debra Jo Rupp)

(3 -- color) Rupp demonstrates how to properly cut a rose to allow for new growth.

(4 -- 5 -- color) no caption (pink and yellow rose)

(6 -- color) no caption (pink rose)

(7 -- color) Debra Jo Rupp, who plays the matriarch of the Forman family on Fox's ``That '70s Show,'' takes a break after potting her newest acquisitions, the coral-colored Spice Twice, left, and Paris D'Yves St. Laurent, right.

(8 -- color) Show Ballet roses exude rustic charm in twig baskets from the ``Book of Roses.''

(9) ``The Book of Roses features this garden in which landscapist Louis Benech integrated rose bushes into the shrubbery.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer

Makeup by Cindy Gardner

Hair styling by Terrie Velazquez

Box: (1) Stop & smell the ... (see text)

(2) Words of rosedom (see text)

(3) Roses in film (see text)
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 19, 2001
Words:1825
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