Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Those Shocking Rosarians!

You would never believe it, but the Victorian world of horticulture was quite cut-throat! Over the centuries, many intrigues have occurred in the name of the rose, so to speak. Here, a few stories associated with some of the roses you may have in your own garden.

"Gertrude Jekyll": This master gardener was known for her garden designs-so many of which are still going strong today. Each spring, she would gather 11,000 flowers to make potpourri for her home. The Arts & Crafts master William Morris was acquainted with the prominent Jekylls, as was Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed their name for his novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

"Lady Banks": This popular Southern rose was discovered in China by
botanist Robert Brown, and named for Lady Dorothea Banks. It blooms well before most other roses. Lady Banks loved diamonds and dishes, prompting her husband to call her "a little china mad". She filled her barn with the world's finest collection of porcelain and china. If you are a true Southerner, you no doubt have this rose in your garden.

"Constance Spry": The world's first celebrity floral designer, she lived by the mantra "flowers are for everyone". Unforgettably fragrant, this rose was introduced by the legendary rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas (who also has a rose named for him!). It launched an English rose craze that's still going strong today. Martha Stewart beware: Constance Spry Ltd. is still operation.

Many, many other historical figures have roses named after them, and with equally compelling stories: Napoleon, Jeanne d'Arc, Jacques Cartier, Goethe, Mozart, Rubens, to name just a few. And of course, our beautiful modern roses are named after such luminaries as Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Princess Diana (my personal favorite), Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, and Queen Elizabeth.

'Who' resides in your garden?

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