Saturday, 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
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.
Dr. Huey Makes House Calls
Friday, May 15, 2020
|15 May 2020|
In youth, in my gardening youth which began around 1986 when
we moved to a large corner garden in Kerrisdale, I was obsessed with the proper
identification of all my plants. It started with hostas.
Someone might have
told me, "I have this green hosta with a white edge…” I would not have let them
finish as I would say, “There are at least 300 hostas with that appearance.”
Now in my dotage I do not find it all that important. I like
(we like as I must include my Rosemary here) to keep our plants looking as good
as they can. We identify most of them with metal labels.
There are some
There is this floriferous rose in bloom right now. The
blooms are red, very fragrant and they soon open up to show yellow stamens.
With that in mind there are many (as in many) roses with those characteristics.
There is one procedure that this rose will perform. It will either bloom again
later in the season (this will define it as a remontant rose) or it will not.
That should help in narrowing the gap for a possible identification.
Brenda Viney (very active she is) former President of the
Vancouver Rose Society has opined that the rose could be Rosa ‘Doctor Huey’.
This rose (much like the picture here) was used and is still used as a root
stock to graft other roses. For some years the roses some of us would buy in
Vancouver (which might have come from California where the doctor was popular) would die because the Dr. Huey root stock would have trouble with our
Viney believes that this rose which we liberated from our
former garden (Rosemary likes to return) may have been the root stock of a
plant that did not make it. Dr. Huey is not remontant.
Time will tell. But it really is not that important. The
rose is healthy, beautiful, well scented. What more can I ask?
Rosa 'Benjamin Britten'
Thursday, May 14, 2020
|Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' - 14 May 2020|
O Rose, thou art
The invisible worm
That flies in the
In the howling
Has found out thy
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret
Does thy life
It has been my experience after having grown roses since
1987 that roses are like babies and cats. They never perform on demand. They do
as they please and often they can surprise you when you are not looking.
The David Austin English Rose Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’ is
ample proof that I may be right. This year, a month ago, the leaves that
emerged all had some sort of black spot. I sprayed the rose with the only BC
acceptable fungicide Safer’s
Defender. I pulled
a few of the infected leaves. The plant looks terrible.
And yet today I found this glorious bloom. It reminded me
that Benjamin Britten wrote a work for that William Blake poem. And here it is.
Naked & Nude Observed
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
|Left to right clockwise - Rosa 'Leander', Shropshire Lad, Souvenir du Docteur Jamain, Jacquline du Pré, Sir Thomas Lipton and Zephirine Drouhin - 13 May 2020|
In Spanish we have the word “desnudo, desnuda”
translates (and I will be careful here to without
clothes). The reason I am being careful is that there is only one word for that
state but in English there is nude and naked. There is also the accepted term
by the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, undraped.
The famous painting by Goya at the Prado in Madrid, La Maja
Desnuda is perhaps incorrectly called in English The Naked Maja.
Why am I writing all this and yet showing scans and
photographs of roses?
On April 24 NY Times Opinion
had an essay called The Nude Selfie is Now High Art
that explains a fundamental difference between naked
(nothing on) and nude (nothing on as an art term).
|Rosa 'Shropshire Lad' - 13 May 2020|
With that all out of the way I must write here that last
Saturday I took my aging PC to be looked at by Bensen at Powersonic Computers
who advised me to stay with Windows 7. He cleaned the computer up and I picked
it up this morning.
Until today I have felt naked without my computer. In these
weeks of May our roses start to bloom and I want to scan them. I cannot without
Now with my computer back in operation I can comfortably
write that I do not feel naked anymore.
|Rosa 'Chapeau de Napoléon' 13 May 2013|
Peeling the Onion of our Diminishing Identity
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
|Left- Christopher Gaze|
I didn’t write that your picture was not of me.
I said that it wasn’t me.
Email from George Bowering
Just a few years ago I photographed George Bowering, Canada’s first Poet
Laureate, wearing my mother’s red shawl.
In his latest book, a lovely book of
essays called Writing and Reading,
Bowering has dedicated in one of the essays,
Look at That
to refuting in a epistemological way that the picture is not him. It
is an interesting essay that I will at a later date argue (pleasantly) with the
man, Canada's Great Contrarian.
But that essay has set me to thinking (one of Bowering’s
talents as our intellectual gadfly) and I have for a few weeks been spending time
re-reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography
and Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida
to see if I can figure about
my identity and that of others.
To further add to what now seems to be an obsessive
concern, is the idea that I have lost contact with friends either because of death
or simply their elimination of a land line or not being on any social media.
I would say that if you cannot be reached or found, you
are dead. If you fell in the forest and I was not there to see or hear you fall,
then you never did fall. And that, of course, is absurd.
Sometime in the early 70s in one of my high school classes
(I was the teacher) I told my students of an experiment that I thought could be
done at a much later date when some sort of super computer was built.
The idea was to position any of them in a neutral studio
with a neutral background and to have a camera, on a tripod, locked at a
position. Then their father, mother, intimate friend, a teacher, the postman,
the plumber, a cousin, a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc, would each snap a picture.
I told the class that each photograph was a combination
of what the person taking the picture saw in you and that you would be showing
what you wanted that person to see in you. The idea is that these different
photographs with some degree of skill, or if the computer were properly
programmed, would be identified as to who took each one. Then if all those
photographs would be fed into the computer and one button were pressed to “combine
and merge” a portrait would come out that would represent a more universal
portrait showing more diverse aspects of the person photographed.
A few years ago I came up with the idea of a project that
I never began. This was to place Bard on the Beach’s Artistic Director Christopher Gaze in my
neutral studio with my camera locked in one position and I would tell Gaze," You are Hamlet, etc."
and he would instantly transform himself into each one of
those persons without any kind of props or costume.
But last night this whole idea of each one of us being a
layer of different personalities much like the different layers of an onion
brought me to another aspect that troubled me a tad.
If just as every “snapshot/portrait” of us as perceived
by our friends, relatives and strangers represents a part of who we are, when
one of those persons dies or disappears then we are diminished by that loss and
we become thinner in substance, like the inner part of that onion.
I was thinking of my friend journalist, writer SeanRossiter
whom I would have consulted after the crash of the Snowbirds's Tutor in Kamloops. B.C.
Rossiter would have known when the last one of these jet trainers was built and
if metal fatigue could have played a role. It is this loss of communication
that makes me think that if I had been a good man before, as years progress I
become a lesser one until I will just fade away as the thickness of my self becomes
the size of a quantum.