Looking back, roses played a big part in my childhood. What sticks in my mind, is the rose catalogues. Every Sunday afternoon, we visited my mother’s parents. My grandfather grew roses in a raised garden behind the garage. The catalogues aided selection of his next acquisition.
He loved his roses and subscribed to catalogues. My sister and I loved leafing through the catalogues. They were glossy and colourful. We marvelled not only at colour and scent but also the different types – climbers, standard, floribunda. And then there are the pests and diseases – endless fascination.
And the names! I’ve just found a few online (it looks like most catalogues are still on paper), names like Aphrodite, Eirene, Duchess of Cornwall …
Roses are the dogs of the plant world. There are hundreds of varieties just as there are breeds of dog. We learned from my grandfather that roses are two plants grafted together. There’s the stock, usually closer to a wild plant. The variety is grafted onto the stock. The stock provides vigour and the variety, beauty. My grandfather showed us how to watch out for suckers, which are the stock reasserting its right to life. I can still spot a sucker from 40 paces!
I haven’t specialised in roses in adulthood but still love to see them. There’s only a small climber in my garden, mostly shrouded in bindweed. They’re dependent on generations of careful selection, crossing varieties, observing the result – choosing the next cross, repeating for generations. I doubt genetic engineering ever rivals such beauty or variety.
This is the fourth in a series of stories about flowers. The last one was about Bindweed and the next is: Chrysanthemums.