Vin Ordinaire In My Garden
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Sometimes I wonder about the French, after all they invented Champagne and the concept of high cousine. The French Meilland International Company
grows some of the best roses in the world and have been doing it for at least 100 years. I would have never suspected that such a venerable company would invent the concept of roses to display in freeway medians. That's exactly what Meilland did. One of these roses, Rosa
'Pink Meidiland' never stops blooming in my garden. It never gets any diseases. It is a cast iron plant designed to survive in a city environment and thrive in spite of automobile emissions. My Pink Meidiland does not have much scent and this is perhaps its only flaw. But right now it is blooming and it is just about the only rose that is giving my cool hydrangeas (see yesterday's post) a run for their money.
The Blue Tit & The Boxing Kangaroo
Friday, August 01, 2008
While watching a baseball game in Mexico quite a few years ago (I may have been 15) there was a fly ball out and I heard the announcer call it a braguetazo
. I thought about the word and smiled. A bragueta in Spanish is a man's fly. When some Mexican with either a sense of humour or a shaky command of English translated the term fly ball he did not opt to use the Spanish verb to fly which is volar
. A braguetazo would loosely translate as a powerful swat with a man's fly! I will just add here that a left fielder in Mexican baseball parlance, jardinero izquierdo
, translates as left gardener.
When learning English at an American School in Buenos Aires I was puzzled by many American terms including those from sports that were alien to me. One of my teachers kept using the term "life is a three ring circus". I had no concept of this. Circuses in Argentina were plentiful and all had only one ring in the middle. Why would anybody want to be distracted with more action? Particularly as my favourite circus came with a real boxing kangaroo.
Since I have no editor here the above will serve as a long-winded introduction for my love of hydrangeas at this time of the year. The remontant roses are having a well deserved rest. The once bloomers are growing long canes in preparation of new wood that will be next spring's old wood and source of my favourite gallica and alba blooms. My roses, even though they are spread about in the garden, somehow seem to be a one-ring circus. When they are around their beauty and their scent prevent me from noticing anything else. With them gone I look around as if I were in a three ringer and I notice all those dark corners and the wonderful deep blue hydrangeas with their clean, crisp and mostly serrated leaves. They are disease free and they don't have to be deadheaded. I must simply make sure they get adequate watering as they are the shrubs in the garden to suffer a drought.
Today, tired from my last 6-hour class (editorial photography) at Van Arts I walked around the garden with Lauren and I enjoyed the calming coolness of the blue hydranges. The bluest of them all is Hydrangea macrophylla
'Blaumaise'. It is a hydrangea developed in the 60s in Wädenswil, Switzerland and it is one of several called Teller series. It seems that teller is German for plate and the Germans and the Swiss do not call lacecaps, lacecaps. but plates! The Teller series are all named after German or Swiss birds so my very blue hydrangea is Blue Tit in English.
As I walk around, my head turns and I imagine I am in that three-ring circus I never saw but somehow the vision fades and I remember why Argentines call bad music, circus band music and that cute kangaroo that was the undefeated champion in my circus book of favourites.
The Wrist Man After The Fireworks - Gets A Headache
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Yesterday I went to a fireworks party at Marv Newland's. Like a good snob that I am I arrived early so I could enjoy pleasant conversation with people I had not seen for years, like broadcaster David Wisdom and his pal (strictly friends should anybody wonder about Wisdom) artist Neil Wedman
whom I have really missed. He moved out of my studio floor some months ago. I arrived early so that I could leave exactly when the fireworks began. As a snob, I feel that fireworks, rose slide shows, sunset slide shows and caves, are fine, one time around. It didn't take two minutes into the fireworks when over the radio I could hear Celine Dion. I looked at magnificent illustrator Bernie Lyon and saw a kindrid snob spirit. We left.
Now, Lyon is very adamant about many things. She does not like to have parking problems so she parked some 15 blocks away. She made me walk extra fast as she did not want to have traffic problems. She mentioned how people should allow free access through city property sidewalks. While she loves plants she thinks the folks at Kitsilano (a place she knows intimately) should prune and control their vegetation for unempeded congress through those sidewalks. So as to leave quickly she made a U-turn on 12th Avenue while citing its perfect legality at that time of the evening and place (something about it not being a commercial area).
Today I taught at a new school (for me) called Van Arts. It was grueling and intense day. Halfway through it I was hit by a migraine (I thought they were history with me but I was wrong). Driving home, while holding my head with one hand (Rosemary came to pick me up) I was thinking, "What about that blog. Will I be able to get up from bed when the headache has receded to post it? And what will I post? Will it be something token?"
Not quite. Above is a photograph of Nane's
legs. And as I stare at it here I discover, that as strange as this might seem, I have become a wrist man.
Gaze on that wrist. And that migraine is almost gone.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In my profession I have the pleasure of being able to record the passing of time. And here is Alice (Rebecca) again.
Curiously she is posing in the same place with the Cedrus deodara
'Snow Sprite' behind her. She is holding the exact same rose, Rosa 'William Shakespeare'. In the picture taken five years ago the cut rose was past its prime so the originally deep red bloom had faded to purple and opened more. That's why it looks bigger. Will I be able to do this five years hence?Another Alice
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I have tried to answer the above question twice and here
you can read about it. This time around I have a far simpler reason and perhaps even more satisfying one. On Thursday Lauren and Rebecca's bespoke dresses from Jan Donaldson Designs
arrived in the mail. We made the mistake of giving the girls the opportunity to pick the patterns and Lauren picked a pattern that mostly clashed with many of the plants in my garden. But on Saturday afternoon it became partly overcast and the contrast level in our garden was ideal for portraits of the girls with the roses. I gave Rebecca my secateurs and she proceeded to select the roses for our photos.
There were many pictures that I like and I was able to narrow them down to 9. Rebecca told me, "Moma said that I should pose for you with the condition that I at least think about smiling for some of them. " This she did and I picked some of them, although if I were given free rein I would pick all the serious ones.
The magazines that I work for would never consider the idea of running pictures of little girls with semi exotic old roses or English Roses. Even if they did, the display of photos would be a maximum of three.
But in this blog I can run as many as I want and write what I want. That is why I blog.
Who shaves the barber? I had to explain to Rebecca the term and she immediately offered to photograph me with Lauren even though I had not shaved that morning. I was able to explain to her how to focus my large Mamiya RB-67 ProSD and maneuver with the cable release. And here is the picture with Lauren Stewart (6) taken by Rebecca Stewart (almost 11) with Papi holding a hybrid tea rose from the 30s called Rosa 'Crimson Glory'
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart & Rosa 'Fimbriata'
We thought it was going to be tough to find roses that would not clash with Lauren's bright green dress. I remember back in Mexico Chrysler Mexico made a variant of the Dodge Super Bee and called it the Plymouth Super Bee. The colour of choice for most Mexican road runners was a ghastly green that matches Lauren's dress.
Rebecca and I figured out that white was a safe colour. And it just so happened that one of the most exotic of my rugosa hybrids
'Fimbriata' was in bloom. Notice the ruffled edges of the petals and how the flower resembles a carnation.
'Mme. Pierre Oger' was sold to me by John Tuytle as Rosa
'Louise Odier'. Both are Bourbon Roses
and I eventually secured Louise Odier. But John Tuytle's
surprise roses can be very pleasant ones. Rosa 'Mme. Pierre Oger' is not the kind of rose you can find anywhere. Verdier hybridized it in France in 1878 and Peter Beales describes her thus:
A sport of 'La Reine Victoria'. Very pale silvery-pink, translucent, cupped flowers with the form of small water-lilies, sweetly scented.
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart & Rosa 'Green Ice'
I believe that most miniature roses, with such names as Red Patio Wonder are the toy poodle plants of the garden. No garden should have either of them. The only botanical dog I would tolerate would be the species rose, Rosa canina
. But there are a few miniature roses that are "good garden plants" as my friend Alleyne Cook
describes the plants he likes. The bush after a few years (as mine) can actually spread about four feet wide and high. It has masses of tiny white flowers tinged with bits of pink/red on the edges. As the flowers age (they do not fall off and manage to look fresh) they get an attractive green tinge. And the rose re-blooms during the summer. When Hilary arrived that Saturday evening for dinner, Lauren ran up to her and said, "We found a rose that looks good with my dress. It is Green Ice!"
Rebecca Anne Stewart & Rosa 'William Shakespeare'
Rosa 'William Shakespeare'
is an English Rose. It is supposed to be such a terrible rose (disease prone) that hybridizer David Austin delisted it (removed it from the list of his available roses for world-wide distribution). He introduced an improved version called Rosa 'William Shakespeare 2000'. I don't think that the Bard would consider that name to be poetic nor do I. And, besides my William Shakespeare, while not being terribly floriferous is healthy, fragrant and extremely beautiful. I took two pictures of Rebecca with this rose. This first picture is my choice. But Rebecca's other relatives would surely opt for the one below. Rosemary says it reminds her of the Mona Lisa.
Rebecca Anne Stewart & Rosa 'English Elegance'
This English Rose, Rosa 'English Elegance' has come back from the dead. Some 6 years ago Rosemary thought our garden squirrels were cute. She talked to them and called any one of them Mrs. Squirrel. To make matters worse she fed them. We might be watching TV and we would suddenly be startled by a Mrs. Squirrel staring at us forom outside the window. Or she and her offsfring would snatch food from the kitchen when we left the door ajar and we were in the garden. Our cats believed in détente and lived and let live. Mrs Squirrel felt so at home that she decided to set up housekeeping in the interior space between the outer roof and inside roof of our garden gazebo. To my horror, one spring four years ago I spotted the young things nibbling on the upper shoots of English Elegance which is really a climbing rose. The little vegetarians found the tender young shoot close at hand. They munched and there was nothing I could do. I had no roses that summer. In the next summer I figured that if Rosemary did not feed Mrs. Squirrel, she would go away. But she didn't and her offspring had a memory for the delights of English Elegance in their genes, perhaps? By the time I cooked the idea of walling the outer roof and inside roof with a chicken wire version of Edgar Allan Poe's A Cask of Amontillado
, the damage had been done and English Elegance withered away to one sickly short cane. I was at loss as to what to do. I could not replace her with a new English Elegance as David Austin had given her, her marching orders (like Rosa 'William Shakespeare') and she was no longer available. Peter Beales came over from England to talk to the Vancuver Rose Society a couple of late summers ago. I went up ro him and told him of my tragedy. His advice was as follows:
This late fall cut what remains of the rose to the ground. If you pray and you are lucky you will be rewarded with a new shoot in the spring."
He was right! Last year that is what happened but the bush did not bloom. This last Saturday I noticed that one single, almost open bloom and here she is with Rebecca.
Lauren & Rebecca Stewart With Rosa 'Crimson Glory'
For a while now I have had a terrible time taking pictures of these sisters together. Lauren is much more sensitive to light and she tends to squint. And sometimes when she faces my camera she will blink her eyes in perfect harmony with my Mamiya's shutter. Sometimes Rebecca will lose patience and she will smack her and tell her to keep her eyes open. But of late, Lauren has been more cooperative and I am pretty happy with this one, even if I cringe at the two dresses clashing together. When we finished with this picture, Rebecca said, "Make sure you send it to John Tuytle."
Since I am accused by my relatives and friends of taking stark serious photographs of my granddaughters I attempted at getting a few almost smiles. But with this English Rose, Rosa
'Brother Cadfael' I decided to really lighten up. It makes an excellent book end to today's series of rose portraits. And I will be sure to send the link to this blog to my ex teacher friend and mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio CSC
in Austin, Texas.
With the exception, perhaps of English Rose, Rosa
'Mary Webb', English Rose, Abraham Darby
is the largest bloom in our garden. And with the possible exception of Rosa
'Gertrude Jekyll' and Rosa
'Evelyn', both English Roses, Abraham has the most powerful and sweet (in a refreshingly fruity manner) scent.
Rebecca has a few roses in her back patio garden (and some hostas, June, Mildred Seaver, Halcyon, Praying Hands, Blue Boy and Feather Boa). She has one fairly exotic exotic rose I don't have that came from John Tuytle, Tuscany Superb. She also loves her Mrs. Oakley Fisher
. But she is no longer allowed more roses, and indeed more plants by her father. Just like sometimes Rebecca's mother has to clean up and feed Rebecca's Guinea pig, her father Bruce ends up watering her thirsty roses. Because they are in pots they dry out more quickly in the full sun. Now Rebecca has her eyes set on Rosa
'Felicite Parmentier'. But the only way she can have one is for me to buy one for my own garden and she would then enjoy the plant on her weekly visits.
She tried a new tack this Saturday (I am not sure it will work). When her father brought Lauren and her to our house she asked him to accompany her to the back garden. She showed him the huge blooms of Abraham Darby and asked him to take in the perfume. He must have been impressed because he asked, "Is it an easy rose?" Rebecca did not answer as she did not know. She is an easy rose but she is a rose that will bully for more room. She is a climber that sprawls. I presently have two Abraham Darby bushes. Will that be the situation next year?
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' in my garden|
A few weeks back Rosemary, our granddaughters and I went to stay at a nice resort in Parksville, BC. We visited the nearby Milner Gardens
which was created by British socialite Veronica Milner. There weren't too many roses in the garden as I was told, "Veronica did not care much for roses." Tucked into an area where a venerable Master Gardener stood watch over plants that visitors could purchase I spotted a very large rose bush with a myriad of blooms each containing 60 or more rose-pink petals, each with a deeper reverse and shadings of magenta. Best of all they were very fragrant. I enquired what rose it was but the venerable mum did not know, "If you could tell me I would be most thankful as everybody asks, " she replied. I did the obvious, I got on my knees and searched for a label by the thick stock of canes. And I found one that proclaimed the rose to be Rosa
'Aloha'. Can you imagine this plant snob (me) with a rose by that name? If I were to accommodate Aloha, then Tropicana would soon follow! And who knows would Red Patio Wonder follow suit? I put my nose into Aloha again and I was hit by a familiarity that was to obvious to discount. And I remembered. In 1985 Shropshire rosarian David Austin had created Abraham Darby by crossing a rose called Yellow Cushion with Aloha. The very old fashioned looking offspring had inherited Aloha's striking perfume and simply pulled the stops on intensity. I left Milner Gardens with more respect for David Austin and his roses.
Peter Beales, the expert British rose expert grew up admiring and smelling the Alba rose Maiden's Blush. Its perfume is unequivocal. It is the perfume of Maiden's Blush. The quality of the pinkness of this rose has given rise to many names besides Maiden's Blush. Consider La Virginale, La Séduisante and Cuisse de Nymphe. But after a few weeks in Spring she retires until the next year. David Austin gave us an equally romantic Sweet Juliet with an identical perfume. This rose is in bloom today and will be continue until the fall.
David Austin's English Roses combine the mystique, beauty, perfume and wonder of the old roses with a liberal dosage of botanical MSG. We get more of the same, for a longer period of time.
And here is a rare (in my situation) photograph of Abraham Darby in my garden that is not a rose scan and Rebecca and Lauren are not holding her. But then she can hold her own.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Since March 9, 2008 I have been haunted by an image that was published in the New York Times Book Review. I removed it and put it on my bedside table. The image is a modified Edward Hopper painting. It made me think of a couple of painter friends who seem to be interested in that period of American art. Both my friends Tiko Kerr
and Neil Wedman
have an affinity for Thomas Eakins and the latter also loves Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent. And I would suspect that the three of us would include American painter Winslow Homer
in our list of American favourites.
A month back Tiko Kerr and husband Craig Shervey visited Philadelphia and made it a point to go and see the paintings, sculptures and photographs of the city's favourite son, Thomas Eakins. I wonder if they saw his wonderful but disturbing Crucifixion (1880).
The painting with Christ's facial features obliterated by shadow makes it the most lonely ever interpretation of the fact that we all die alone, even God.
Much has been written about Hopper's near obsession with displaying solitary figures in his paintings. His paintings remind me of Neil Wedman (and some of his own work) who lives a reclusive life. I've seen him every once in a while, smartly dressed, walking on South Granville. He lives nearby. Wedman dresses in the clothing of the 50s and 60s and almost looks like one of Hopper's figures in 3D. I once commented to Wedman, that dressed as he was he could be on the street selling apples and looking very much the part of the apple sellers of the American Depression.
All the above serves as a long winded introduction to my theme for today's blog which has something to do with sharing an opinion with David E. Corbin from Omaha who sent the letter to the New York Times Book Review.
My friend Nina Gouveia
, an ex photographic subject of mine who now lives in Spain insisted I become a member of facebook so that I could see her photographs. I resisted for a long time. I had no interest in becoming a member of a social networking site. In the end I joined under my legal first name in Spanish and my mother's maiden name. Within hours I was getting friend requests from Spanish men who were intrigued by my mother's Basque surname. Of course I did not respond as I have no wish to make friends with people I don't know (as strange as that may sound).
These social networking sites like facebook further disturb me by the fact that I am able to see who Nina Gouveia's friends are. I am even hinted at the idea that I might know some of her friends. This of course is a distinct possibility as she lived in Vancouver for a few years. Both she and I know animator artist Danny Antonucci. I don't have to resist and urge to communicate with him by sending him a facebook friend request. He would not know me by my surrogate name. I can simply call him up with a telephone.
I have been thinking about the internet, social networking sites and communications in general for some time. Recently I broke a friendship (He told me, accurately I would suppose, that I could not do it)that began when both of us were 21 and in college. The final nail on the coffin was when he told me that he hated phones and my attempts to talk to him via Skype. He told me that it was sufficient for him to read my blog to find out what I was doing.
After years of having lost touch with my friend Felipe Ferrer Junco
, the ex chief the federal police in Acapulco I located him in Houston where he survives respiratory problems (he smoked a lot) with an oxygen tube in his nose. The result of our Skype talk is that he now communicates with me via MSN and has sent me 150 very large files of Powerpoints on pink horses, Bush conspiracy theories, etc. I don't have the heart to write to him and tell him that a short communication telling me his health is better would suffice for me. I delete his sendings without even looking at them.
My participation in photography forums have resulted in accusations that I show off my knowledge in my posts (not hard in an age of photographic mediocrity). These forum back and forth communications remind me of having exhchanged a science fiction book with a neighbour in Mexico City. Months later we both discussed the book while I was certain that neither of us had read each other's book. The photographic forum postings are all one-sided.
Some years back while waiting for our airplane to take off in the very busy Chicago airport I noticed that there were airplanes in front of us and airplanes behind us. We would move up as soon as a plane had taken off. Each plane had its position. In the same way I have a friend who answers emails in the order that he gets them. But because he must have many email pals that roster of lined up emails is so long that a reply will come perhaps in a week. I sent my friend some music CDs and these were also put on a pile with their correct standby order.
All of this reminds me of the essay a woman wrote for Playboy during the pre-AIDS gay period and from San Francisco. She dressed up as a man and investigated glory hole venues in the city. Men would stick their private organ through an orifice of a private booth and someone would anonymously service them from the other side. It strikes me now as an example of intimate communication (of sorts) with a perfect stranger.
I remember in my youth writing letters to women. I had inherited not only from my father but from my Aunt Dolly the ability to write good letters. My letter relationships with these women were distanced by the time it took my letter to get to them and for them to reply. Sometimes it took me time to reply as I could not and cannot write legibly. It was frustrating to write knowing that half of what I wrote was unintelligible even to me. Or the placid machinations of the Mexican or Argentine postal services would delay or lose the letters. With Word, a computer and email it has all changed.
With email, communication is instant. And "kissing on that first date" is now more common. Within a couple of emails you are told intimate details you would be embarrased to tell anybody else. There is a paradox here of exchanging intimacies while not looking at the other person in the eye. Perhaps in all this, a reader of this blog might just understand why I loathe Flickr, facebook and the like. I can think of one image that I took of a mentally disturbed woman on the mend in front of the Vancouver General Hospital some years back that conveys the loneliness and frustration so many of us are forced to suffer.
Some 38 years ago I had a student in Mexico City with whom I have kept in touch since. Only recently this friend sent me a communication (a whimsical and lovely one) about her marital troubles. I wonder if face to face these details would have been so forthcoming? Perhaps yes because of our long record of exchanging both conventional letter and emails all these years. Here it is:I went on a date this week. My first...friend of some friends..Widower, 65, lived in Spain, Moscow, Paris..retired..sails, reads, cooks and spends time with his granddaughter for fun. Great sense of humor...which is the sexiest thing in the world for me. Asked me for a kiss which was very awkward..its like asking me if you can take my picture..."deer in headlights"...told him I needed a little more "smelling" time...we'll see if he calls again. Intimacy on the Net - Not