A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Rose Is Not A Rose When...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009


'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.(40)
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose(45)
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,(50)
Take all myself.


I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptiz'd;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2, William Shakespeare

Just about anybody can quote or remember part of the above:

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I beg to differ in one specific exception when the rose in question happens to be called Rosa ‘William Shakespeare’.

Perhaps Shropshire rose hybridizer, David Austin, wanted to get part of the action associated with Shakespeare and roses by naming one after the bard. The rose is a beautiful but as David Austin writes about it in the Varieties That Have Been Superseded section of his book David Austin’s English Roses, New Edition, 1996:

William Shakespeare (AUSROYAL) can produce some of the finest crimson Old Roses that anyone could wish to see. Its colour ranges from crimson to purple, to violet and mauve. The growth is very strong and upright. Sadly, it has shown tendency to rust and blackspot and would not pass our stringent tests we have today. Rich fragrance. W 90cm (3ft) x H 120 cm (4 ft). Breeding: ‘The Squire’ x ‘Mary Rose’. Introduced 1987.

In 2000 Austin introduced an improved version, unpoetically called 'Shakespeare 2000' and as far as I am concerned it is not as sweet because of its name.

Ealry this spring I noticed that my William Shakespeare was languishing and it was near death. I took it out of its spot and put it into a plastic pot and placed it in the middle of my stone path were it would get full sun and bake a bit. It prospered and I was so happy! Shakespeare was not dead. It was going to survive. Had it died there would be no replacement except for Shakespeare 2000 (ugh!). But that was not to be. My Lazarus-like plant had a but and the bud was orange red. When it opened I knew it was another plant I never really cared for in spite of its beautiful name. It was Rosa ‘Ainsley Dickson’ a rose we never suspected to be salmon pink and a colour that Rosemary dislikes. I had relegated the rose to an out of the way spot around other roses. It had somehow survived. I gave the rose to my friend Paul Leisz who loves the colour.

Now if this wasn’t William Shakespeare…. I immediately went back to my rose bed and there he was, nice, strong and vigorous and, in my garden, all the rose that its maker says it isn’t!

When a rose is called William Shakespeare, it has to be more than a rose. It has to be a special rose that both Rebecca and I especially love. We saw the display of a brand new Shakespeare 2000 in our rose bed. We liked the blooms but we are snobs and as far as we are concerned only William Shakespeare (the rose) is the real William Shakespeare.

The picture you see here is what Rosa 'William Shakespeare' looked like late afternoon today when I scanned it.


Previous Posts
Maurice Chevalier Would Approve

Fractals, Nodal Points & The Beauty Of Imperfectio...

An Agave, The Fairy & The Comedy of Errors

Falstaff - Fat, Big & Red

That Recurring Leaky Tank Problem

A Nightmare Of Books

Emma Peeles For Me

Tamsin Gilbert & Her Two Poet Fathers

Tracy & Gillian - Charmers They Are

A Beautiful Day In Richmond

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