|Rebeca Anne Stwart & Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher'|
My Favourite Rose
For me a rose is a vision of history, continuity or of its interruption when it dies. A rose is a friend. Friendships happen and sometimes they disappear.
Because I was never a cook/chef fan (my father was a good cook) I would not find a connection with Rosa ‘Julia Child’, no matter how good it is. And as much as I like Marilyn Monroe I would opt for a Deborah Kerr rose that does not exist or a R. 'Charlotte Rampling'.
From the very beginning my snobbish wife avoided hybrid teas so we had no desire to have a red Rosa 'Mr. Lincoln'.
In fact she avoided all red roses and red flowers. We were to have white or blue flowers in our garden.
The red and the yellow came somehow through a back door. It was at Janet Wood’s garden that when I was about to leave I spotted a yellow rose. I asked what it was. She said, “It is Mrs. Oakley Fisher. She is a single tea rose.” At that moment I remember telling her, “I am going to go home and make myself a strong mug of Earl Grey Tea and accompany it with a slice of toast spread with unsalted butter and apricot jam.”
|Rosa 'All that Jazz'|
By the time I had photographed our granddaughter Rebecca wearing a sailor dress and with Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’ on her hair, it became our favourite rose. And more so through the years as this rose is tender and we have had many of them who eventually succumb.
A month before Rosemary died on December 9, 2020 she told me that we would need a few big pots and some dirt. In January 2021 the door bell rang and outside I found a box from Palatine Roses containing Mrs. Oakley Fisher and two similar ones called Rosa ‘Ecimo’and R. ‘Olivier Roelinger’. In my family we have a long history of posthumous gifts. Mrs. Oakley Fisher did not survive into the summer and I purchased three from Rogue Valley in Oregon. As I write this all three look puny and I am not sure if any will make it.
When we were living in Kerrisdale in the late 80s and early
90s many houses were being torn down. As soon as the signs would be up Rosemary
and I would visit them in the evening with our wheelbarrow and spade. In a
house on Cartier we dug out a rose. It
bloomed red/orange and we called her Rosa ‘Cartier’. Brad Jalbert visited us
and pointed out the rose and said, “Rosemary and Alex I would have never
thought that you would have Rosa ‘All that Jazz’ in your garden." That rose
ushered in all kinds of red Gallicas and Rosemary was happy with yellow and red. When I brought R.
Westerland from Brad’s, that orange rose became a keeper. And it became, as far as I can tell the first cover in Canadian Gardening that featured a scanned rose.
Some of my roses have the faces of the persons who gave me some of them. Noted New Zealand plantsman Alleyne Cook (who while working for the Constance Spry School for Girls, was told by her to cut flowers for the queen’s coronation on February 6, 1952), came to my garden with a small rose in a pot. He told me, gruffly, “If you are going to have a rose you are going to have to have this one. It is called Complicata.” Those who may have visited our Kitsilano garden may have noticed that Complicata is almost a tree.
|Rhododendron 'Golfer' & Rosa 'Complicata'|
But I cannot leave this without naming a few of my
favourites. One died shortly after I scanned her. She was my first ever plant
scan back in 2001. She was a Bourbon Rose called ‘Reine Victoria’. Somehow
having that scan and a large print in our guest bathroom makes her almost as
real as the real thing.her essence may be in that picture.
The other rose is one that has been with us, thick or thin, since he was introduced. This is Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’. This is a dependable rose with fine scent and little black spot. Its history is not romantic and what appeals to me is that Abraham Darby, a Shropshire scientist, found a method of cheaply extracting iron from iron ore which ushered in the industrial revolution.
Many who express delight at my rose scans bolt when I tell them that when I walk in the garden the roses talk to me and tell me, “Cut me now.” Or they might plead, “Not yet.”
These folks do not understand that a rose to me is a living
person. And I have not begun yet on my affection for my myrrh scented roses. That will have to be for another blog.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria'|