|Rosa 'Winchester Cathedral', Rosa 'Sombreul' & Rosa 'Susan Williams- Ellis' 1 August 2022|
|Buenos Aires Zoo - 2016|
As a little boy in Buenos Aires, our live-in housekeeper Mercedes Basaldúa used a tiny blue cube called azul to whiten our sheets and and my father’s white shirts. In the late 40 it would seem that bleach was not available. As I had my siesta on my parent's bed (I was 6 or 7) on hot Buenos Aires afternoons I could see through the persianas, Merceds hanging the white sheets to dry.
In Mexico I remember in the late 50 and early 60s that I could only wear a white shirt for a few hours before the inside collar became dirty because of the atmospheric pollution of Mexico City.
My most trying experience with white happened in the three summers that I wore Argentine Navy whites when I was in the Marina de Guerra Argentina.
My daily procedure was to never sit on the train or bus seats not because I was a gentleman but because I did not want to be arrested for having a dirty uniform. Part of my crisp look was due to my having the pant creases sewn. This practice was frowned upon but I never got into trouble.
For reasons that escape me, I have no photographs of me in my whites. But I remember very well a summer day (fall in Buenos Aires but it was still hot) in April 1966. I was sitting opposite the tiger cage at the Buenos Aires Zoo. I did not know then but both Jorge Luís Borges and I liked to sit on that bench. And like Borges I had no respect for a lion that waits for his mate to bring him food. Borges even wrote a poem on how he liked tigers and disliked lions.
On that bench I was reading the famous April 6 Time Magazine that had on its cover “God is Dead”. While I read the essay I was more interested in checking the body count of the Vietcong in Vietnam and to find out how many Chinese jets had been downed by Phantom fighters.
When Rosemary and I started gardening in Kerrisdale in 1986 she banned reds, oranges and yellows. She wanted whites and blues but tolerated my pink old roses. Later on she came to appreciate the more lurid orange colour of Rosa ‘Westerland’ and Rosa ‘All That Jazz'.
In our little garden in Kitsilano Rosemary approved of two of the roses in the scan here, the English Rosa ‘Susan Williams Ellis’ and Rosa ‘Sombreul’. A third rose in the scan is one she loved in our old house, English Rosa ‘Winchester Cathedral’. You mite discern that the rose on the top, Winchester Cathedral sometimes appears to be light pink. It did not make it to Kits but this year I found a healthy bush and bought it.
|Rosa 'Sir Thomas Lipton' & R. 'Benjamin Britten' 27 May 2022|
There are two other white roses not in the picture as they had no blooms today. One is Rosa ‘Sir Thomas Lipton’ (Rosemary loved it) and Rosa ‘Escimo’. This latter rose was one of three roses that Rosemary bought a month before she died and only told me that I had to get three pots and a couple of bags of dirt. In March 2021 I received a package of three roses from Palatine Roses back east. One of them was the white Rosa ‘Escimo’.
|Rosa 'Escimo' 9 July 2021|
Looking at this scan of my white roses somehow instantly transports me to that bench so many years ago and my enjoyment of looking at the tigers.
A few years ago I went to the Buenos Aires Zoo (before it finally closed) and I managed to photograph a white tiger who volunteered to look good for me.
Jorge Luís Borges - Dream Tigers