Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Rosa 'Constance Spry' & A Happy Man Makes Me Sad

Alleyn & Barbara Cook

On Monday June 1, 1953 a 29-year-old New Zealand man in London was cutting flowers in a school for girls in London.

On Tuesday, June 2, an 11-year-old (me) around noon was called to lunch, “Alex please wash your hands and knees (I wore short pants).” I remember how I answered, “Not yet, I am listening to my queen’s coronation.”

The New Zealand man, Alleyne Cook, was a gardener in Costance Spry’s school where girls were taught manners and how to cook. He was told by Spry to cut flowers that would be floral arrangements in Westminster Abbey and along the cavalcade to the coronation.

Rosa 'Constance Spry' 1 June 2020

I have written about Cook and his wife Barbara in blogs listed below.

Yesterday I went to Barbara Cook’s home because she told me that Rosa ‘Constance Spry’ was in bloom. I told her to let me know as soon as she was in bloom. I had the intention of writing a happy blog in memory of her husband.

Alleyne & Barbara Cook - 2018 - iPhone3G

But this was not to be. I found that when I arrived that a most pleasant Barbara (she is over 90)ready to ring a couple of bells at 7pm at passing cars (they all honked) I became melancholy and disturbed at somehow being in a garden whose former owner was no longer there. It felt like going up to a ship’s bridge without asking the permission of the ship’s captain.

The garden has fewer plants as many rare specimens were donated by the Cooks to botanical gardens. But I must report that the first David Austin English Rose (1968) was mostly free of any disease. This rose is disease prone in our wet spring climates. Rosa ‘Ispahan’ also caught my eye. Cook told me that the rose might have been brought from Iran to the West by returning crusaders. The rose is fragrant and that while it only blooms once it does for a long stretch of time.

With cut roses of Ispahan and Constance Spry wrapped by Barbara wrapped in wet newspaper, I drove home in extreme melancholy. I could remember Cook’s “Eveready” smile and his wonderful New Zealand accent. His absence in that garden was salient. This is what came to mind as I drove, “Life is a distraction for death.”

When I arrived home I immediately went to the scanning. It was only after I placed Constance Spry in a vase that I finally broke down to experiencing that extraordinary (most un rose-like) scent that the English define as myrrh. I can begin to describe it as a scent that has moments of hand soap, magnolia flowers, lemon and a tad of Pernod.

Rosa 'Ispahan' 1 June 2020

To get this rose David Austin crossed Rosa ‘Dainty Maid’ with the 19th century Rosa ‘Belle Isis’. The latter had that scent of myrrh which in its past must have included Rosa “Ayershire Splendens’ a rose that grew and grows in northern England and is the only rose in the wild with the myrrh scent.
I went to bed thinking I would have to write two blogs. One would be a sad one and another a happy one.

Today I called Barbara Cook to thank her and I told her of my conundrum. What she did was to thank me for understanding why going through the garden would indeed have been a sad one. And so here is, one blog.