“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”
Maud Hart Lovelace, “Betsy-Tacy and Tib”
This time last year I was busy preparing for a weekend-long ‘rose initiation journey’ with Pam Montgomery, an American- based plant spirit healer¹. The journey was profound and inspiring and required the creation of a variety of tinctures from local roses dear to me, combined into an elixir that was drunk throughout the weekend. Using a combination of shamanic practices including meditation, observation, guided discussion and journeying we were led both individually and collectively to meet the Spirit of Rose. Amongst many other teachings I received during this weekend was how selfless and loving Rose is and how she asks us to learn to love ourselves as much as we can. Perhaps, without even having to go on an ‘initiation journey’ we can sense this anyway, those of us who surround ourselves with her beauty by planting roses in our gardens may notice that roses touch our hearts like no other plant.
A year has now passed and the roses are now returning, in June many will be in full flower, so in the spirit of gratitude to this most selfless and generous being I want to list three of my favourite roses.
The Apothecary Rose
Perhaps my all-time favourite, I planted this 3ft high shrub rose (Rosa gallica/officinalis) in my garden about 10 years ago and she has gently spread throughout the flower bed with her simple suckering habit. The suckers, (underground runners producing new growth) are a problem not because they can’t be removed easily, but because each new growth brings more irresistible flowers, which, for the sake of the other plants, I have to force myself to remove! She has deep pink flowers with yellow centres, highly scented, that vibrantly contrast with lime green leaves. The rose originated from Persia and came to Europe in the 12th or 13th century, via returning knights in the Crusades and was the most commonly cultivated rose in Europe until the 1800s and has many healing properties. She flowers only once, in June, but the display lasts a good few weeks and is enough for me for the whole year.
Climbing Rose “Lovers Meeting”
The name, perhaps, says it all, this well-behaved climber produces the most exquisite and perfect orange flowers borne on single firm stems; and is ideal for cutting, even a single bloom given as a gift feels like something special. Her flowers will last many days in a vase and although not scented, the rose is a prolific repeat flowerer, last year offering two very long flowering seasons. She grows in my garden against a pale pink exterior wall and the combination of the deep orange blooms with the young copper leaves is stunning in May and June.
Rose “Tottering by Gently”
This last one is a little different as I do not know her very well yet(!) but is included because of a recommendation by a gardening colleague whose rose appreciation I greatly respect. At his suggestion I recently planted five in a rejuvenated flower bed and are presently just sprouting green shoots; my colleague says she is, amongst other qualities, ‘ethereal’, ‘light’, ‘gentle’, ‘fresh’ and ‘spring-like’. The company that bred the rose, David Austin² says ‘its beauty is found in the simplicity of its single yellow flowers and the spectacular display they create when viewed en-masse. They are held in large, open sprays on a rounded, branching shrub.’ They are disease resistant, bee-friendly, with a light Musk scent. I am hoping that the repeating blooms rising out of ground-cover geraniums will add an eye-catching and enduring jewel-like quality to the front of the flower bed. Time will tell!