My Fair BiancaWednesday, May 23, 2007
Am I your bird? I mean to shift my bush;
And then pursue me as you draw your bow.
You are welcome all.
Act 5, Scene 2 - The Taming of the Shrew
During Mexican President Adolfo López Mateo's 6-year tenure he visited the orient in the early 60s. To this day I remember reading the headlines in the Excelsior newspaper, "ALM (in those days, because of JFK, it was a fashionable thing) Sleeps With Mistress In Singapore." The details were quite funny as the mistress was a very large white pillow. Before the advent of air conditioning it was an oriental custom to sleep with a large pillow between one's legs. This prevented a hot leg from sweating on the other. Because of my own oriental roots ( my mother was born in Manila) I have always had the custom of sleeping while hugging a pillow. When I check into a hotel I always ask for an extra pillow. Without it I will stare at the ceiling all night. My pillow is not my only mistress. I have around 75 more, roses.
As a gardener for the last 20 years I have parted company with many plants who did not agree on my caring services. Most disappeared without saying goodbye. So in those initial years I tended to buy plants that were easy to grow. It would take more that the freezing temperature of Yellowknife to kill a hosta but I have managed to lose one of the cast iron hostas, Hosta yingeri that I proudly purchased at the UBC plant sale, years back.
So Rosemary and I have have what our friend Alleyne Cook calls "garden worthy" plants. These are plants that perform well without much effort or care. Recently when Rosemary brought home her third (the other two died) Rhododendron quinquefolium I called up Cook and asked him what the secret for keeping one alive was. His answer was a terse one, "There is no secret. They all die!"
There are many roses that are easy. A case in point is any rugosa rose. I have at least four in my garden. But many of my others are not so easy. Some are decidedly difficult.
The Bourbons get black spot early on (by May 1) and R. 'Double Delight' (right) says goodbye every three years. One has to coax with fertilizer and lots of TLC to get Rosa 'Baron Girod De'Lain' (bottom, left) to bloom a couple (as in two flowers) of times per year.
In less politically correct times I would simply say, "My roses are my mistresses. Mistresses are difficult but then they are almost always worth it." Or I might say, "A mistress, lots of pleasure but lots of pain."
Of all my roses the most difficult is the English Rose 'Fair Bianca'. David Austin launched this rose (named after Katharina's, the shrew, better behaved sister) to the trade in 1982 and while most of his roses have detailed facts of their breeding pedigree this one is always listed as "not recorded". Austin simply does not know whence she came. Since 1990 I have bought three. The first two died after each agonized for a couple of years. But Fair Bianca's almost white flowers with a complex scent of lemon-myrrh-magnolia/soap-Pernod prevented me from dumping her. At long last in her third incarnation she is thriving and her first bloom opened yesterday.