Monday, May 20, 2013

A Rose By Any Name

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 one little 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 BlushJardins De BagatelleYork 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. It turns out that Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the poet's greatest admirers and she presented him with a silver rose. 

Pierre de Ronsard 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. This book is a great read and you will devour it from cover cover. It is filled with all kinds of fascinating trivia and tantalizing delights, including a recipe for rose water.

 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, my favorite garden writer Beverley Nichols wrote:

"... a garden is a place for shaping a little world of your own according to your heart's desire."

An inspiring thought for all the gardeners, garden lovers, and garden dreamers out there!  


  1. Sunday, you may have a small garden but it is fabulous! I cannot believe you roses are only three years old, they are so lush.

    I would love to see more of your beautiful garden.

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I will do a post on the rest of the garden. You made me realize that actually the roses were planted before much of the new garden was planted, and they may be four or five years old.
      xx Sunday

  3. What a beautiful rose arbour,love the double Pierre de Ronsard.I second Elizabeth would love to take a walk
    around your garden.Do you open your garden?
    June is the month the villages here open their gardens,and I find something to delight my eye in each one.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Judith, I love the idea of the villages opening their gardens to the public in the month of June! My garden was part of a small garden tour once and getting ready for it was so much fun!

  4. Sunday, I love you post on roses. Your arbor is beautiful I have one spot in the back garden with just enough sun (I pretend) for my climbing roses. I walked out this weekend and found the arbor groaning with the weight of the roses blooming. I look forward to seeing your gardens.

    I love the quote. It is exactly how I feel. Have a wonderful week. Bonnie

  5. Your roses are gorgeous! I love Beverley Nichols books and have collected most of them. I'm getting ready to plant a red climber, Don Juan, over the porch gable where we walk into our house. We have a metal roof, so in our hot climate it may get fried! We'll see...

  6. Beautiful, beautiful in every way, Sunday. Love the Cecile Brunner especially.

  7. Beautiful photos of your beautiful garden. I have such a fondness for Cecile Brunners. They always remind me of my grandfather who loved and planted them. I may have to add one to merge with my other climber. I do enjoy a beautiful a combination.