La Belle Sultane Discovered & We Laughed
Saturday, May 31, 2014
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' May 31, 2014|
In the late 40s and early 50s my mother and
I would get on Tram 35 on Avenida Nahuel-Huapí in our Buenos Aires Coghlan neighbourhood and ride it to my abuelita’s
apartment on Rodriguez Peña in downtown Buenos Aires. Sometimes my Uncle Tony
and Aunt Dolly would also show up and the four would play music. Aunt Dolly
wasn’t all that good on her violin, Uncle Tony was a fine tenor, my mother
accompanied on the piano and my abuelita was a very good coloratura soprano. I remember
that many of the songs where from American musicals of the 40s.
My mother wrote a poem
about this here.
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' |
My youngest daughter Hilary
resembles my mother lots. She leads a busy working life and has a husband who
also has a busy working life. They have two daughters; one of them is a
I attempt to make
Saturdays a sort of tram-35-kind-of-day. I prepare a good menu and pick a film
that the four of us (Hilary, Lauren, Rosemary and me) can watch. Rebecca works
on Saturdays so we have not seen her at our dinner table since Christmas Eve
I attempt to make
Saturdays a sort of tram-35-kind-of-day by making sure the afternoon goes
smoothly, pleasantly and best of all with a film that will make us all laugh. Today’s
film was The Son of the Pink Panther with Herbert Lom, Roberto Benigni and
Claudia Cardinale. We laughed lots and lots. Best of all was the opening score
in which the cartoon Pink Panther directs an orchestra of black musicians
(headed by Bobby McFerrin) who sort of make like they are playing instruments
(but they are not) but are actually scatting. When I mentioned the word Lauren inquired and I explained. “They are singing without words and are imitating
jazz musical instruments.”
The evening ended with
laughs but it was not so all day. After our dinner of Mexican pinto beans,
barbecued flank steak (Lauren loves it and calls it chewy meat), grilled
corn-on-the-cob, and cucumber salad, I suggested we take a stroll in the garden
which looks its best in late afternoon light. It was then that Rosemary said, “Moving
or getting rid of all these plants will be very sad and terrible.”
Now my Rosemary has
been known in making a string of statements in which I count, “One, two, three
and so on…” to my initial statement of, “Rosemary you are extremely negative.” Before
we went inside to see our film I said, “Well tonight you can worry about all
those plants and you can have a pleasant insomnia.”
|Rosa 'Mary Magdalene' May 31, 2014|
The fact is that
Rosemary usually says out loud what I think and dare not say. We think alike in
many ways. We both worry about our eldest granddaughter and have sleepless nights.
I sometimes (well not
sometimes but often) wonder how people can live alone. I could not live without
Rosemary on my side and by my side.
The day went well in
other aspects in which the final resolution came about because Rosemary (am I
negative, too?) has the habit of being thorough in her fall and spring cleaning
of the garden. She uses a bamboo rake and this is why so many of my plant
labels disappear and then forget the name of the plant.
In the beginning of a
gardener’s career, know which plant is where in the garden and what it is, is
important. In the 90s we visited American hosta gardens in Maryland,
North Carolina, Washington
that felt like museums. The hostas were placed so that none encroached on each
other. They were all beautifully labelled and some extra retentive gardeners
had their gardens displayed by plants ordered in the classification of either
species or cultivars. The latter were sometimes grouped by hybridizers. The Alex
Summers hostas were here and the Mildred Seaver’s there.
Now in 2014 most of my
plants are labelled or at least I remember. Rosemary remembers her plants. But
there are some hostas whose labels are long gone and there is no way I will
ever know who (my plants are people in case you wondered) they are. And it’s
But it is important if
the members of the Vancouver Rose Society who will be coming to our open garden
in mid June to know the name of every rose.
Four years ago I
purchased a Robin Denning/ Brentwood Bay Nursery rose at UBC’s Shop in the
Garden adjacent to the UBC
Botanical Garden. My
Rosemary works as a FOG (Friend of the Garden) there on Wednesdays. At the time
my interest in once-blooming but hardy and cast iron Gallica roses was in
full-swing (still is). I bought the rose knowing it was going to be deep red
and the name was a famous one.
|Rosa 'Munstead Wood', May 31, 2014|
Four years later the
bush is huge, tall and full of buds and flowers that are a deep maroon with
golden centres. The sign is long gone. Robin Denning could not remember what
the rose could have been. I sent him scans. We compared notes on the shape of
the leaves (quite important in some cases as in this one) if the canes had many
thorns or not, etc.
At first, Denning
suggested Rosa ‘Rose Marie Viaud’, Rosa ‘Bleu Magenta’ and Rosa ‘Violette’.
I had tentatively picked a famous Gallica Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' as the one. It was
only until both of us looked up La Belle Sultane and Rosa ‘Gallica Violacea’
(aka violette), that we realized that Rosa ‘Gallica Violacea’ was another name
for the same rose.
Come mid June La Belle
Sultane will be correctly identified as well as another that Select Roses man
Brad Jalbert (who sold it to me, Rosemary swept the label) identified as Rosa ‘Souvenir du Dr. Jamain’ which is a dark red and very fragrant Hybrid
perpetual from mid 19th century.
|Rosa ‘Souvenir du Dr. Jamain'|
Of late I have become enthusiastic again in
scanning my roses. Today I scanned Rosa ‘Mary Magdalene’ and a newish English
Rose (dark red) Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’. As you might guess most of the roses in our garden are picked for scent and these have lots of that. The former is of myrrh and he second a fruity old-rose smell. Both are David Austin English Roses.
I hope that when that decision has to be
made on the fate of our plant friends that Rosemary and I will be able to make
it together. And when that happens I hope we will have had lots more tram-35-kind-of-days
in which not only will we laugh with Hilary and Lauren but with Rebecca, too.
Caitlin Legault - Art Model
Friday, May 30, 2014
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Cailtin Legault - Art Model
Once upon a time, I
was contacted by photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.
At first his name did
not ring a bell. But once I saw his work, I realized I had already seen it many
times before. To me, the depth and calibre of his photos represented everything
I hoped to be a part of.
I am an art model.
Most of my experience comes from posing for painters, sculptors and drawing
groups. I am told I am photogenic, but I think I still have a lot to learn when
it comes to photography.
Hearing from Alex was
both encouraging and terrifying.
Alex told me I
reminded him of Charlotte Corday, the assassin who stabbed Jean Paul Marat (one
of the most outspoken leaders of the French Revolution) to death in his bath.
It must be the wide set eyes I thought.
Fast forward to Thursday
May 29th, and I am parked outside his house. The plan was to do a few simple
shots for his Red Shawl project. I had just come from work, so I did my makeup
the best I could in the rear view mirror. My hair was a lost cause, but I had a
plan for that. The butterflies were in full parade.
As I opened the front
gate I stood in awe at the beautiful heritage cottage Alex calls home. I found
myself suddenly at peace. The quaint entrance and fragrant garden put my mind
I was greeted at the
door by a very sweet little lady, whom I soon learned was Rosemary, Alex’s wife
of over 47 years.
Alex was called to the
door, and that is when I was able to finally meet him face to face. No more
butterflies. After a quick chat about life, love and everything in between, I
knew this would not be our last encounter. He was funny in the cynical kind of
way, which I much prefer.
It was time to shoot,
so Alex handed me the red shawl and off I went to the powder room to prepare
myself. I quickly shed my clothes and donned my favourite blue velvet robe. The
plan I had for my hair depended solely on this red shawl, I had to wrap it around
my hair and make it stay. It was thicker and heavier than I expected so it took
a few tries. Then last but not least I pulled out my beloved ‘aqua mystic’
topaz ring and squeezed it onto my middle finger. I am hopelessly sentimental,
and this ring holds a lot of power for me. Therefore I have hopelessly been
sneaking it into anything I can get away with.Marlene Dietrich (my favourite
old Hollywood star) also had a beloved topaz ring.
Now here is the thing
about assumptions, you should never make them. I had assumed that I was to do
this shoot in the nude. As an art model I spend a large portion of my days
being naked. The red shawl project showcases an array of personalities from all
walks of life. The series often portrays the subjects wearing something that
correlates with their chosen career. My job only requires me to wear my
birthday suit. I just could not imagine portraying myself with the red shawl in
any other way.
I was ready to
disrobe, but I got the slightest feeling that I should double check. I asked
Alex if he minded if I went nude, of course he was polite enough to grant my wish. Off went my robe, and
I felt much better.
Alex took one shot and
showed me the result right away, I loved it! He said we could have stopped
right then and there. Since we were already there, we decided a few more for
good measure might be best.
They say diamonds are
a girl’s best friend, but I say good lighting is a woman’s best friend. Alex
afforded me some very flattering lighting, and I will forever be in debt to him
for making me look so beautiful.
After many more
flashes and giggles, both photographer and model were feeling happy. So the
shoot was called to an end.Lucky for me the fun wasn’t over yet.
Alex pulled out a
large box of black and white photographs for me to admire while he went off to
the kitchen to retrieve some refreshments. He returned with a tray that shouted
“Welcome!” There was a pot of Earl grey tea unlike any I had ever tasted,
complete with milk and sugar of course! The gracious host had even prepared a
round of warm cream cheese Danishes. I
was in heaven, surrounded by great art, good tea, fresh pastries and wonderful
I took deep breaths,
trying to slow down time. I could smell the old books and old wood that made up
his house. The late afternoon sun was still filling the room with light. I
could see hints of his garden teasing me through every window. I wanted to see
his garden so badly, but I did not want to be intrusive. Thankfully I think he
got the hint, and after he let me gobble back to last Danish (because art
models eat what they want) he invited me on a quick garden tour.
Alex’ garden boasts an
impressive amount of rose varieties, so much in fact that he is hosting some
kind of rose club soiree in his back yard this summer. Seriously, Alex is that
I sniffed and smiled
and smiled and sniffed. These are the kinds of moments one must file away under
It was time for me to
go, so I sniffed my last rose, thanked Alex profusely and after getting beyond
the awkward handshake I was able to lean in for a goodbye hug.
I cannot say enough
about my experience that day with Alex, he really left an impression on me. His
profound work, his beautiful home, garden and inspiring spirit, these are the
things some can only dream of having. I am so very grateful of be a part of
Model - Volunteer - Friend
Diseñadora de vestuario
Sociólogo, Investigador Histórico - Amigo
Jennifer Froese Youth Worker
Georgina Elizabeth Isles
Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC
Mentor & Teacher
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
Yeva & Thoenn Glover
André De Mondo
- Real Estate Agent
Johnna Wright & Sascha
Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt
Cat & 19th century amateur
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
That Sensational Caitlin
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Those who might read this blog with some
frequency might know of my project of taking pictures of people I know who come
from all walks of life. They pose wearing my mother’s antique, red Mexican
rebozo. My subjects then have the obligation of having to write some sort of an
essay. I have over 40 and about 12 more that ignore my pleas for submitting
Today Caitlin who calls herself an art
model promptly showed up for her red shawl session.
I must point out here that the prospect of
taking pictures of someone you know by email with no idea of voice or poise can
be quite exciting.
But I was not prepared for a tall woman
with a generous smile and a nice set of teeth who I could not fathom as she was
pleasant, gracious and articulate. Do such people exist these days? I never saw
her check her cell phone. If she had one it remained in her purse for the three
hours she was posing and having tea and cakes in the living room.
Now my Rosemary has patiently remained by
me for 47 years in spite of my penchant for taking photographs of the undraped
woman. She was expecting something more conventional as my red shawl series are
conventional in that my subjects are dressed and the poses are not in the least
You can imagine what Rosemary must have
thought when she heard Caitlin say, “You don’t mind if I pose nude, do you?” Caitlin
sat for me with my mother’s red shawl on her head but somehow managed
to cover most of herself. Rosemary saw this as she went up the stairs! When I
had my downtown studio, my homelife and my photography life somehow did not mix.
It was neat by being separate.
I took one initial picture and I could have
quit right then and there. Caitlin would move from one wonderful pose to
another so I found myself saying, “Don’t move.”
Here is the Fuji b+w Instant print scanned.
I hope that Caitlin will pose for me soon.
I tried not to sound so exuberant and kept my cool. Perhaps this might have
been the wrong technique and I should have told her she was sensational (a word
my friend Sean Rossiter uses sparingly). And sensational she was.
Flavian - Flavus - What's In A Name?
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
|Geranium maculatum 'Beth Chatto' & fern Adiantum pedatum, Fuiji Instant Print|
In a parallel history in a parallel world
to ours, Roman emperor Flavius Circinalis pushed the Roman Empire beyond the
borders of emperor Trajan and went as far as the banks of China at what is now the Sea of Japan. He and his army built galleys
and crossed the waters to Japan.
There Flavius Circinalis defeated the army of Tokudama but had to eventually
withdraw, as Alexander did, when he found himself much too far from his supply
This train of thought comes to mind every
time I look upon a beautiful hosta called Hosta
tokudama ‘Flavo Circinalis’. If you have studied Latin in your past (and
for this to be a fact you must be at least 70) you would know that flavus means
yellow but that there were in fact Flavian emperors with yellow not being the
connection. Hosta tokudama 'Flavo Circinalis' is variegated with lots of yellow.
|Geranium maculatum 'Beth Chatto' May 28, 2014|
One of the pleasures of gardening and
walking in one’s garden is to reminisce on the names of plants. In some cases
the plants will have names associated with people I have met and been friends
with. My Hosta ‘Sea Dream’ has the face (in my imagination)
of Mildred Seaver from Needham
She befriended my Rebecca many years ago when we traveled to Washington, D.C.
for a convention of the American Hosta Society.
My North Van friend Allen Cooke’s Rhododendron augustinii ‘Marion
McDonnell’ purple blue in early spring in my garden reminds me of Marion
McDonnell who used to be called the Blue Poppy Lady. I often visited her in her
Shaughnessy garden for coffee, cookies and a chat. Most of our city’s Meconopsis betonicifolia came from her
Rosa complicata sometimes listed as a
Gallica rose was originally brought to me in a little pot by Cooke who said to
me, “If you are going to have one rose in your garden is has to be this one.” Complicata
was indeed one of my first roses. Now I have around 85.
Ferns are beautiful beasts and their names
reflect that. The ostrich fern (whence fiddle heads come from) has the
unromantic name Matteuccia struthiopteris.
You have to ignore that name (in fact most easily forgotten) to love this plant
of which I have many in my garden from the one original plant sold to me by Nan
Fairchild Sherlock, aka “The Fern Lady”. I asked her at a VanDusen plant sale
if I should buy another. She smiled and gently nodded a negative.
And so I tend to gravitate to not only the
plants named for my friends such as Hosta ‘Alex Summers’ but to people I do not
know but I am still fascinated by.
Consider Geranium maculatum ‘Beth Chatto’. Chatto is an English plantswoman
(only the English could invent such a word!) born in 1923 and must still be
alive as I have not been able to locate an obituary. Her name is not in the
least romantic sounding. Consider Artemisia
ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis'. Finnis, another English plantswoman who died
at age 81 in 2006 has a much nicer sounding name. And this particular artemesia
is one of my Rosemary’s favourites. It is interesting that one of the
Artemisias in ancient history was a female naval commander under the Persian
|Rosa 'Mme. Pierre Oger' Add caption|
Going back to that Geranium maculatum ‘Beth Chatto’ which I purchased in 1990,
Rosemary says that unlike many other geraniums this one has feminine foliage
and habits (it does not intrude and stays where it is put). But Chatto? For
anybody reading this a geranium is not your ordinary potted geranium,
particularly those red ones. Those (and my Rosemary would lift her nose a tad
up into the air) are called pelargoniums which indeed are part of the geranium
genus but are not hardy as they originally came from South Africa. The
Portuguese explorers who round South Africa
brought back these pelargoniums and from Portugal
they were taken to Spain and
the Spaniards took them to the New World. The
pelargonium is ubiquitous in Lima
where they tolerate poor soil, high heat and drought.
The geraniums, Rosemary’s geraniums are
extremely hardy and a few have flowers that are startlingly blue. Blue is one
of Rosemary’s favourite garden colours because it is rare.
Of all the plants in my garden the ones
that evoke more daydreaming and curiousity are my roses. I have written before
that my favourite scent is that of the Magnolia
grandiflora (the Southern Magnolia). There are splendid paintings of the
huge white flower at the National Gallery in Washington D.C.
But there is no romatic English plantswoman or French queen associated with
this magnolia. You can imagine a huge herbivore dinosaur being attracted to the
scent and then munching on the very large and thick leaves. But that’s it.
There is no romance.
But Valerie Finnis! Or Rosa ‘Mme Pierre Oger’ hybridized by Verdier in France in 1878! This latter Bourbon
Rose a sport (a mutation of Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’)
makes me wonder who Monsieur Pierre Oger was. Could he have been a friend of Louis-Eugène-Jules Verdier?. Or could he have
been his brother-in-law. One of the loveliest dark red roses in my garden is
English Rose Rosa ‘L.D. Braithwaite’
named after David Austin’s (the hybridizer) brother-in-law.
Now here is the description of Rosa ‘Mme. Pierre Oger’ as in my rose
bible, Peter Beales – Classic Roses
Very pale silvery-pink, translucent, cupped
flowers with the form of small water lilies, sweetly scented.
To me Mme. Pierre Oger would have been a
Grace Kelly look-alike, dainty, feminine, high strung and beautiful.
I am not sure if I am doing a good job of
explaining my intention. A plant that may be millions of years old without
change (the magnolias) have less of a visceral feeling in my heart than a rose,
hybridized or found as a sport in some garden in France in the 19th century.
Millions of years is much too old for comfort. A rose that could have been
admired by Queen Victoria
has more history and more connection for me.
Hosta ‘Alex Summers’ brings to mind the low voiced stutter of my friend Alex Summers who once told me:
A garden must have sun, shade and water. Of
the latter you must make sure you can hear it. It takes 7 years to have a
garden. The first year you plan it. The next two years you plant it. The next two
years it matures. On the seventh year you enjoy it. It then declines and you
start all over again.
Our Garden May 24, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
Last Saturday the 24 of May, 2014 I took some snaps of our garden with my Fuji X-E1. I did this in the late afternoon because I wanted to have less contrast and show some of the darker areas of the garden. In the end I gave up selecting just a few. I have subjectively put up my faves. You might note that there are some near duplicates. On May 24 just a few roses were in bloom but our many rhododendrons were showing off their colour. The hostas all look pristine and not affected by either slugs or cut worms. We are getting our garden ready for a mid June opening for the Vancouver Rose Society.