Janet Wood - The Amateur Rose LadyTuesday, January 09, 2018
|Janet Wood, Dennis Yeomans and Dainty Bess|
The 19th century produced a multitude of rich idle men and not so old women like Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace and Fanny Burney who believed that working and getting paid was anathema. They called themselves amateurs. These amateurs became archaeologists, historians and of interest to gardeners they were plant finders extraordinaire who were botanists in all but name.
Here in Vancouver in the 20th century we had such amateur gardeners who did what they did for the love of it. We had the Fern Lady, the Rhododendron Man, the Dwarf Conifer Man, The Daylily Lady and the doctor who was the Clematis Man. Luckily we still have those amateur gardeners of everything, Pamela Frost and Alleyne Cook (and wife Barbara).
One of the last of those gracious amateurs we could call for good (and practical) advice was our very own Rose Lady, Janet Wood. She died on January 4.
Before you would ever see her when you would ring the doorbell at her Southlands home you would hear her say (very loudly), “And how are you?” Her voice was similar to Patricia Neal’s perhaps caused by her intense smoking habit.
Once you actually saw her in person she would welcome you in and offer whatever including good whisky if she liked you.
In 1986 when we moved to our large corner property on Athlone Street in Kerrisdale we knew nothing about gardening. We depended on all our resident Amateurs for advice. Woods was tops.
My best memory of her is one day when I visited her and spotted a bright yellow (a warm yellow) single rose. I instantly fell in love. “What’s this rose?” I asked her. She answered, “Mrs. Oakley Fisher.” I have no idea what it was that made me say, “I want to go home make myself a very strong mug of Earl Grey Tea and have it with toast buttered (unsalted) and with apricot jam.” To this day I cannot look at this beautiful rose and not remember Wood.
Watching her pile horse manure on her roses comes with the perhaps apocryphal story on how she ended up living in Southlands. It seems she went to Southlands (she was living elsewhere) to buy horse manure. She stayed.
One of the distinct pleasures of spring was to call Wood on the phone and talk roses and compare notes.
My Rosemary and I will miss this amateur rosarian. Now when I want advice on roses I look at myself in the mirror and I know I am wanting.