Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' & The Making Of A SnobFriday, June 01, 2007
Some 7 years ago I visited eminent Vancouver rosarian Janet Wood at her Southlands garden. I spotted the rose you see here and asked her what it was. I remember distictly saying to Wood, "I am going straight home to make myself a pot of strong Earl Grey, I am going to butter (unsalted, cultured butter) two slices of toast and I am going to spread some apricot jam. I will do all this only after I place my order with you to get me Mrs. Oakley Fisher as soon as you can.
When I was a little boy my grandmother called me "el Príncipe de Gales" because of my uppity tendencies. When she wanted to pursue the matter further she would tell me I had been born to be a prince but somehow I had lost my way. My mother, all her life, would look at me and say, "Hay poca gente fina como nosotros." That losely translates to, "There are few people of breeding like us." My grandmother was a coloratura soprano but never sang professionally because people of her social standing never did stuff like that.
And so I have been saddled all my life with, "Naciste para príncipe, pero te quedaste en el camino."
How was I to know that my New Dublin born wife, Rosemary Healey, whose father was a carpenter would be just as uppity? And nowhere does this manifest itself more than in our garden. I have written here before how only recently did Rosemary allow me to have orange and yellow in the garden (all, of course, with moderation). But it was Rosa 'Mrs Oakley Fisher' that brought down the yellow barrier for her and she feels as much affection for this single (five petals) hybrid tea rose as I do.
Most of the roses in our garden were recommended by Janet Wood (seen here holding Rosa 'Dainty Bess' a classy single hybrid tea, with Dennis Yeomans, a Chilean born Vancouver rosarian who writes about roses exquisitely). Her easy going, down-to-earth manner does not readily reveal that she has not only a good eye for roses but she also has a bit of my mother's "gente fina". She has very good taste for roses.
It is most fashionable to have old roses or English roses in the garden. It is fashionable to have obscure gallica's and hybrid musks. These I have. But a true garden snob will have one hybrid tea rose. It has to be Rosa 'Mrs Oakley Fisher', of course.
She was bred by Colchester rose man Benjamin Cant in 1921. The specimen you see here I brought in from the garden this morning to scan.