As the nights draw in it is a good time to explore the many books there are on roses. Two of my favourites from the past are ‘The Rose Garden’ by William Paul (1848) and ‘A book about roses by S. Reynolds Hole (1877). The first is a real opus by a renowned nurseryman of the time which describes over 2000 varieties and includes 15 colour plates. We still list three of those illustrated, Rosa centifolia Cristata (Chapeau de Napoleon), the gallica D’Aguesseau and the bourbon Souvenir de la Malmaison. The second is a very personal account from a Victorian clergyman and gives us a real insight into his life and thoughts.The opening lines ‘ He who would have beautiful roses in his garden must have beautiful roses in his heart’ is oft quoted and gives a taste of the poetic language that follows. Hole waxes lyrical about two climbing roses in particular, Gloire de Dijon and Marechel Niel describing them as ‘ new stars of special brightness have glittered in our firmament’. I think that even he would have been surprised that over 150 years later they were still being grown.
In our rose fields on Friday we experienced an invasion of Bishy Barnabees (the Norfolk term for Ladybirds) literally hundreds and thousands of them. The adults and larvae are best friends of the roses grower, both being voracious feeders of sap sucking aphids. Bishy Barnabee is thought to come from Bishop Bonner who was rector of the Norfolk town of East Dereham in the 16th century. There is an old school rhyme:
Bishy bishy barney bee, tell me when my wedding be,
If it be tomorrow day, take your wings and fly away.
Fly to east and fly to west, but fly to him (her) that I love best.