My rose-covered arbor
I went to a spectacular garden tour over the weekend. It was a feast for the senses: masses of old-fashioned hydrangeas, lavish displays of perfumed roses, pergolas covered in vines, neatly trimmed boxwood hedges, and stately garden ornaments and fountains. There were sights, smells, sounds and textures to enjoy. Spending the day walking through beautiful gardens is a spirit-lifting experience. As Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." The beauty we saw over the weekend was inspiring and will stay with us forever. Ultimately a garden tour is a personal experience and each person takes away something different and uses it in their own special way. I found myself drawn to the pergolas and arbors clad in roses and vines.
I came home and thought about my own small garden. It has been growing for three years. Some plants have thrived, others have not. As every gardener knows, a garden is a series of trials and errors. Vita Sackville-West wrote: "The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied." But planting it and watching it grow is one of the joys of life. One part of the garden that has finally taken hold are the climbing roses on the arbor. Each year at about this time they come into bloom and turn this small part of the garden into an enchanted place. The two roses that have happily merged together and bloom at the same time each year are Cecile Brunner and Pierre de Ronsard, also known as Eden. Even their names are enchanting and I discovered that I had the perfect book to find out how they got them.
I have always been curious about the names of roses -- many of them are so beautiful and romantic-sounding. A Rose by Any Name tells the fascinating history behind rose names. Maiden's Blush, Jardins De Bagatelle, York and Lancaster, Constance Spry, and Apothecary's Rose are just a few of the names explored in this book. The stories about roses are endless. Did you know that roses in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were mainly raised for medicinal purposes; that Empress Josephine did away with stuffy botanical names and championed rose names that were romantic, flirty and personal; and that English poets such as Keats, Spencer and Shakespeare loved the Eglantine rose so much that they frequently mentioned it in their poetry and plays?
I decided to do a little research on the origin of the roses on my arbor
Cecile Brunner rose
Cecile Brunner, also known as the Sweetheart Rose, was a French-bred rose that entered horticultural history in 1881 under the formal name of Mademoiselle Cecile Brunner. "Mademoiselle Cecile," born in 1879, was the daughter of Ulrich Brunner, a rose-grower from Lausanne, Switzerland. Cecile Brunner is a fabulous climbing rose with small, pink flowers. It blooms profusely throughout the summer.
Pierre de Ronsard (Eden) rose, on the right
The rose that I have always known as Eden was originally named Pierre de Ronsard. It seems that only in the United States is this pink and white French climber called Eden.
Pierre de Ronsard (Eden) rose
Its namesake Pierre de Ronsard was a sixteenth-century French poet who wrote a sonnet called Roses. In the sonnet roses symbolize fleeting amours. Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the poet's greatest admirers. This rose is another wonderful climber. The dark pink flowers are tinged in creamy white and are full and beautiful.
If you love roses and are interested in the history behind their names, be sure to get this book. The stories are far from dry and actually read like chapters in a romance novel. There are tales of tragedy, mystery, and scandal. The story about Empress Josephine and her obsession with roses is one of my favorites. The book is a great read and you will devour it from cover cover. It is filled with all kinds of delights, including a recipe for rose water.
You will need four cups of loosely packed fresh rose petals (not sprayed with pesticide), preferably picked early in the morning when the flowers are just opening. Among old garden roses, those with red and deep pink flowers tend to have the strongest perfume.
Place two cups of petals in a three-quart saucepan. Reserve remaining two cups petals in a large heatproof bowl. Boil approximately two quarts water. Pour enough over petals in saucepan to cover. Cover pan tightly with lid or aluminum foil and let steep for 15 minutes. Do not heat.
Place a strainer over the bowl of reserved fresh petals. Pour liquid from saucepan through a fine-meshed strainer onto fresh petals. Cover bowl. Discard first batch of steeped petals.
After contents of bowl have cooled, pour liquid through strainer into a glass or jar. Use the rose water immediately or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
By the way, the wonderful garden writer Beverley Nichols wrote:
"... a garden is a place for shaping a little of world of your own according to your heart's desire."
I love this quote because it is true for anyone who loves their garden and is also an encouragement for anyone who is thinking of planting one.