Mary Rose & That Hamilton WomanThursday, June 04, 2009
Early in the spring after our terrible recurring winter we lost most of our New Zealand hebes, our Ceanothus and at least 10 roses. Some of my dead roses were classic favourites of mine like Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’, 'Bishop of Darlington', Chinensis x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, William Shakespeare, Ballerina, the Fairy, Sally Holmes and the rose that reminds me most of Rebecca Mrs Oakley Fisher. I purchased replacements (not all were available). I should have known better. Death isn’t quite as final in the rose kingdom. I cut the dead roses to the ground and hoped. All came back with the exception of the 'Bishop of Darlington' and 'Reine Victoria'. 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' is about to bloom and every day that I venture into the garden in the morning an old friend is likely to pull a botanical Lazarus.
I have written before that Nick Lowe’s great pop song, Cruel to Be Kind should be the anthem of rose care. Roses must never be allowed to have aging canes or very tall ones. I have left these canes grow year after year until the canes brown and there is a restriction of sap to the new shoots from where the new roses will bud. The solution is to be heavy handed and to be brutal (cruel) and cut them as far down as one can. This forces the rose to fight for its life. It protects itself by forming new shoots from the base. This was the case even with a rose that looked as dead as it could be like Mutabilis. It had grown to about 26 feet and the canes were bigger in thickness than a walking cane. The new shoots are already four feet. It will bloom soon.
The rose here is an English Rose. It is Rosa ‘Mary Rose’. When I saw her this morning it was like seeing an old friend come back from a vacation. I had missed her without knowing and there she was beckoning to my sniffing sense. She smells of myrrh. She is named after Henry VIII’s flagship that sank before it even sailed. Not too long ago she was found and brought back up and boxes and boxes of long bows were found. They were dried. They then were re-strung and tested. One needed a 100 pound pull to get the string to the cheek.
Rebecca will takeover the narrative and explain here that the several yews in my garden (Taxus) were much the same as the English yews from where they made the long bows that English and Welsh bowmen used to penetrate the French armour and defeated them at Agincourt and Crecy during the 100 Year's War.
My point being that historical association is what has made Rebecca ultimately so interested in growing roses. One of my new roses is Horatio Nelson. Perhaps in a few weeks Rebecca and I will watch Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in Alexander Korda’s 1941 film That Hamilton Woman. When Horatio Nelson blooms he will seem like an old friend to us both. And of course we will not forget to be cruel so as to be kind.