Garden Diary - June 2021

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Rosa, the story of the rose
A book review
Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Roses in gardens, in bouquets, roses in song and story. And with

Rosa, the story of the rose Peter E. Kukielski, with Charles Phillips
share a diversity of entertaining and informative history and details.

Roses are everywhere. In a mixed border garden

featured in combination with herbaceous perennials

image courtesy New York Botanical Garden, Ivor Vermuellen photograph
perhaps given a garden all of their own, such as the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden
at the New York Botanical Garden where Peter Kukielski was curator from 2006 to 2014

This book is about growing roses. What it is filled with is stories, lore, legends about how beloved roses have been throughout history. The first chapter, every page illustrated with luscious pictures to start the reader off with discussion of antique and modern roses, and a look at botanical nomenclature. Then back, back, back into ancient times - fossils of roses (their leaves, actually.) The importance of the rose in Chinese culture. Roses in Asia from India to Turkey and ancient Egypt. Rose water. Rose oil. The Greeks extracted the fragrance of roses by immersing large quantities of petals in oil.

Discussion of archeological sites follows the rose into . . . Knossos. The discovery of the Blue Bird fresco offered the earliest known painting of a wild rose bush. But opinions vary as to which species it might be. Roses were important to the Greeks. Lore and legend and adornment - floral garlands, associations with gods and goddesses. The concept of gardens for ornamental use begins here, rather than utilitarian food and crop production. Illustrations of a scattering of rose petals across a page, here and there, adds a delightful embellishment to the text. Then from the Greeks, on to the Romans - their gardens, as decorative embellishments to banquets (Nero had ceiling panels that could be slid aside to shower quests with rose petal.) Frescoes uncovered at Pompeii show gardens of the wealthy and the ordinary, vegetables and flowers, and roses.

The rose continues in the religious world of Christians, with the thornless roses that symbolized Mary's virginity, and garlands of roses that only virgins might wear, red roses symbolizing the blood of martyrs, roses in the specialty gardens of plants symbolic of Mary with, of course, roses. The sturdy foundation upon which this information is laid has been thoroughly, carefully researched, the references provided should the reader wish to delve themselves. Paintings that incorporate roses add richness to the text.

Then, for three hundred years beginning in the mid 14th century roses became a feature of every day, secular life. The red rose and the white of Lancaster and York. Dutch paintings of the Golden Age. Poetry and words that still resonate today

Sometime in the 1590s, in Romeo and Juliet,
Shakespeare wrote "that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet"

Weaving through the centuries, each chapter with a theme. Read from front to finish. Or dip in, and enjoy piecemeal. The passion for the fragrance of the rose.

Rudolphe Ernst's painting of The Perfume Makers
Basket after basket of roses, petals gently teased off the stem.
Notice the copper distilling apparatus in a niche at the back.

The romance of the rose.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema painted the blind servant Nydia weaving a rose garland as a present for her beloved master Glaucus. Then, delve deeper, and learn the painting is based on Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's enormously popular historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii, which was published in 1835.

Botanical art, Redoute's Rosa damascena

Vincent Van Gogh's painting of a Vase of Rose.

hybrid tea rose Tiffany
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" wrote Gertrude Stein in 1913.
and as this book so beguilingly relates, the rose is so much more.

Rosa, The Story of the Rose
by Peter E.ukielski with Charles Phillips
published by Yale University Press
Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0-300-25111-1
published 2021, $30.00

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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