Gertrude JekyllSaturday, May 16, 2020
|Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' 15 May 2020
It is my experience (and judging by my Rosemary and myself) that gardeners tend to be snobs. Those who grow perennials look down on the bedders.
There is a particular brand of rosarian (a rose enthusiast) who will look down on those who do not grow old roses (mostly roses from the 19th century and further back). There are others who are afraid that roses are hard to grow and so they buy Knockout Roses or the romantically named Pavement Roses. Some who look down on those who like old roses (most of them only bloom once) like to parlay the benefits of modern shrub roses and hybrid teas. They especially like the perfection of that one single tea on a long stem. That it might not have scent is not all that important.
And yet for many years in our old Kerrisdale garden I treasured my Hybrid Tea Rose, Rosa ‘Double Delight’. It had a lovely multi colour and fragrance that was astounding.
My Rosemary banished from our garden anything that might be yellow or orange. It too the sight of Janet Wood’s single tea rose, the very yellow Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' and Brad Jalbert’s recommendation of that orange delight that smells of synthetic apricot jam, Rosa ‘Westerland’.
What this means is that a garden snob can be persuaded not to be one.
One look at any photograph of English gardener Gertrude Jeckyll (rymes with treacle) is enough to make anybody cringe on what obviously must have been a Snob Queen. She could have been a double for Queen Victoria. Unlike Victoria she never married but had a long professional relationship with architect, etc Edward Lutyens. I have not been able to find the least whiff of scandal. After reading some of her books I have decided that she was not a snob. She was simply Victorian.
In my search for info on the grand garden dame, I did find out that her Her younger brother, Walter Jekyll (an Anglican priest; sometime Minor Canon of Worcester Cathedral and Chaplain of Malta), was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the family name for his famous novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
In 1961 Shropshire plantsman David Austin introduced Rosa ‘Dainty Maid’ to Rosa ‘Belle Isis’. Their offspring was the first English Rose, Rosa ‘Constance Spry’. What was and is unique about this once-blooming scent is that it has the strange and wonderful (for me) scent that the English call myrrh. The scent came from Belle Isis and nobody can connect the fact that Belle Isis must have inherited the scent from the only other rose and this is Rosa 'Ayrshire Splendens' which originally grew in Yorkshire.
By 1981 English Roses where well known for being remontant, looking like old roses and having lots of scent.
One of the, and one of the first roses we bought was Gertrude Jekyll. Through the years some have died as we had too much shade in our Kerrisdale garden. But right now in Kits we have a healthy one that has just begun to bloom.
I must acknowledge that Jekyll was an observant and careful gardener. She said that the whitest white in any garden was the rosa Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'. She may have been right as we have had that rose for years and we gave it to our daughter who lives in Lilloet as rugosa roses are castiron. But I would disagree. In our garden the whitest white has been the August Lilly (Hosta plantaginea) particularly in August evenings.