I have found myself in the garden roseraie many times this week. Just looking and thinking. I began growing roses only two years ago but I really went at the task a fond, to the maximum, by ordering 60 roses to start, with no idea what I was doing. Since, I have taken cuttings and then cuttings from those cuttings and now have absolutely no space for any others in the garden, well maybe just one or two. The same principle I use for my vintage kitchenalia collection really, as somehow there always seems to be space that can be made for the irresistibles. All the photos within today’s post are from my own rose garden, I hope you enjoy them.I am not used to growing roses at all and in fact, I hope I never become so. Their beauty is a surprise and their individuality striking. The difference in texture and colours infinite. Petals frilly or smooth, slightly waxy or richly velvety. Veined or thin like tracing paper, rolled at the edges or wispy like tulle – an upside down dancing skirt.
The palette astonishingly varied. They slide between a dark and somber deepest red edging toward black, to a gaily bright lolly pink or a kitsch yellow like a 1950s movie. Some brilliant white without a hint of colour or nudging toward cream, buff, ivory, or blanc with the faintest taint of lime. Striated fuschia and white like paint splatter. Another begins sulfur and red, spectacularly fading to lemon, pink and white as they open.
A tight fisted bud that opens gradually, when only part of their interior is visible is definitely one of my favourite moments – on the cusp of their most beautiful and the anticipation at its greatest. The petals still folded perfectly smooth and flat, snuggled together, before they unfurl into a configuration that is so often enchanting and I am not quite able to believe how so many can actually fit inside.
Some are so hardy and resistant to disease, others that seem to develop every maladie and one so fragile that it has all diseases at once each spring and I implore it just to give up entirely. Varieties some so choked with aphids that I feel alarmed, others not an insect to be found. Some deliciously fragrant to make me swoon or others without the hint of a perfume. There are climbers that race ahead at a speed that puts them above the fence before I have even attached a guiding wire, others slow to even put out the slightest hint of growth. Single strong stems that just shout out to be collected to make a long stemmed bouquet, or those who cluster together on the branch to make beautiful, rustic bunches exactly as they are. There are thorns so vicious that I want to slap the branch that yielded the spike, and I have learn’t quickly which will still be throbbing the next day.
For almost two hundred years Lyon has been at the heart of rose growing in France. The names Guillot, Meilland, Laperriere and Ducher are synonymous with rose creation and these names have cemented the city of Lyon and surrounds as a major influence in the world. Generations of lyonnais rose growers have created more than 3000 rose varieties!* La société française des roses was created in 1886 in the city and still publishes its revue, Les amis des roses, the friend of the rose.** Below is the Ardoisée de Lyon, created in 1858. With its pinkish purple, quartered flowers, a somewhat floppy looking interior, it would seem like a most comfortable place for an insect to rest. I love to peek in to see if anyone has taken it as their home.
One morning of February more than two years ago I visited a retired church building to collect an art deco cabinet and was more astonished by the huge pink rose that was blooming furiously on the wall outside, in the bitter cold! I asked for a cutting and was given secateurs without an idea of what I was doing. I have since managed to grow seven plants from this one branch. The first time a hint of a little pink button arrived on it’s branch, signalling success, was tremendously exciting. I don’t have any idea of this rose’s name and neither did it’s owner. So it has been titled The mystery rose of Chateaurenard. I like to imagine it as one of the most ancient french varieties and one day when I have a moment I might actually try to find out it’s real name. Or perhaps not, for it’s story with us is already quite sweetly wrapped as is in my memory.
I remember once having a cutting that grew a bud almost instantly and I naively imagined it may open to bloom, but a friend scoffed that it ‘had no support system, it would collapse almost immediately’. Yes is did. Then came a cutting that I put aside for an acquaintance with a very impressive garden – as if by knowledge that she was destined for a fabulous new home, she opened a lovely red flower rapidly and I was simply astonished. Obviously she didn’t doubt in the slightest if she was ready and able, she knew all by herself that she just could.
Springtime in my garden is a kind of slowed down feu d’artifice, a fireworks display of vegetal origin. At the moment in the midst of the first beautiful flush, we have vases of roses everywhere inside and more than enough outside. Eventually losing the force to hold their pretty faces erect, the roses collapse, their heads withered and bowed low. Yet still so beautiful even as they droop, I collect petals for drying or more deliciously, have rose petal fights with my daughter. How I hope she remembers when she is older these multi-coloured, scented confetti battles with her mother. I love to catch miss Rose Madeleine by surprise and fling a handful of petals over her head and in her face!
The roseraie that is my garden has served to reinforce to me that so often the most beautiful aspects within our lives, the utterly superb, are fragile and fleeting. Please take the time to appreciate the delicate, small beauties in your own life and enjoy them whilst you still can, today.