David Austin, PBUH (this is the US link; it’s originally a UK firm) says that they’ve been shipped at exactly the right time for planting in my plant hardiness “zone.” (My zone number is somewhere between 6A and 6B–worst case indicating that the temperatures in the winter might go down to about -25F, or -32C. Looking at the zone map is eerily reminiscent of the sort of feeling I get when I look at those cellular-phone-company coverage maps; I’m usually in none of the orange, or blue, or green areas. Rather, my area is gray, and if you look at the key, it says that I receive “limited service.” Yes, Virginia, I live in the little hamlet of “Limited Service, Pennsylvania.” And my horticultural environment ain’t much to write home about, neither.)
Still, the roses are on their way, and should arrive tomorrow.
There are three of them:
- The Malvern Hills Rose: This is a yellow, ‘rambling rose.’ It’s quadruply special, as it recalls: my days at an English boarding school in the Malvern Hills; the landscape of Piers Plowman and much else of Mr. Right’s beloved Medieval literature; Tolkien’s Shire; and my mother, who loved Nat King Cole, and who stopped an energetic smoking habit, stone cold, on the day he died of lung cancer. (As I’m fond of saying: Everyone has a story. Some people have more than one…)
- The Princess Alexandra of Kent Rose: Pink, especially fragrant, good for containers. And Dad’s favorite royal! He met the lady when she was on a Royal tour of Nigeria, way back when. She was gifted on the trip with a huge ceramic vase made by Ladi Kwali, a celebrated Nigerian potter. There were two made for the occasion (in case one exploded in the firing), and Alex was given the one considered to be slightly the better; Dad was given, and his kids now have, the backup, which is currently on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art in the UK.
- The Claire Austin Rose: This one doesn’t have an extremely personal connection, but it’s billed as a “vigorous, upright rose; good climber, with pale lemon buds which gradually open to creamy white flowers.” It does well in sunny or shady areas, which is important, as I’m hoping to train it up the west wall of the barn, where it will get plenty of afternoon sunshine, but not much in the morning. Apparently, David named it after his daughter. I think that’s lovely. How nice it would be if someone named an English rose after me. LOL. The thorns, maybe.
David C.H. Austin spent his professional life trying to recreate and popularize the roses and the scents of his childhood–old garden roses–while imposing on them some of the requirements of the modern age; a wider color range, longer-flowering, and increased disease resistance.
They’re the roses and the scents of my childhood, too, stemming (see what I did there) from Granny’s rose garden, a small but lovely tiered circular display in her little urban garden, just below what used to be the emergency exit from the bomb shelter below the living-room floor, should it be necessary to exit that way if Germans ever managed a direct hit on the house in the early 1940s. Oh, how I loved the roses and their heavenly fragrances. And I suppose, in my seventh decade upon this earth, that it’s alright to indulge my memories this way.