Tag Archive: rose

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose - Gertrude Stein

In front of him on the architect’s drawing table was a large sketchpad with rough designs for what would soon be the rose garden. It was one of his pet projects and so far he had given Jamie no hint of what he was planning. As far as he was concerned, roses would get top billing and he was spending a disproportionate amount of time making sure that both his design and his selection of shrub varieties, climbers and ramblers were impeccable. He wanted it to come as a complete surprise.

Just when he first became infatuated with roses, he couldn’t remember. Much as with one’s taste in art, music and other pleasures mature, what had started as an amusing dalliance had developed over many years to become a passionate love affair. In this respect, he was certainly in good company that much he knew. He had lectured on the subject so many times that he could still rattle much of it off by rote.


              The names of writers, poets and artists who have commemorated and eulogized the rose would fill volumes. Starting with Sappho, Horace and Virgil, the rose weaves its literary way through the centuries in the prose of Shakespeare, Herrick, Wordsworth, Yeats and the Brownings. To this day books about roses appear and will continue to appear on bookshop shelves with predictable certainty. In the history of art the rose reigns supreme . Botticelli, Manet, de La Tour, Georgia O Keefe were all enthralled by the queen of flowers.Botanists, plant biologists and historians general ly agree that roses were cultivated five thousand years ago. (Fossil evidence in North America suggests that roses flourished at least thirty-two million years ago.) Over the centuries they bloomed in the land of the Pharaohs and were cultivated in Bronze Age Crete; Grecian coins of the fifth century BC depict a rose on one side. Roses just kept growing and growing in the plots and hearts of gardeners all over the globe. By the end of the eighteenth century there were more than a thousand varieties.

Today’s would-be rose aficionado is faced with a dazzling choice of old and new hybrids. Take your pick: from chaste whites and negligee pinks all the way to peppery and damson reds. Blooms the size of a fingernail or as large as a pie plate. Many voluptuously perfumed, most bristling with thorns.Miniature, ground cover, shrub, landscape, patio,standard, climber, rambler there’s a shape and size for every space.

   Next the neophyte rose buyer has to decide what species or variety to choose. Navigating the thicket of options is a bewildering exercise, one that requires considerable study and deliberation, professional help or a sharp pin.

      Four basic groups define the genus: species roses, antique roses, early nineteenth-century hybrids, and modern roses. With in each of the first three groups there are up to as many as two dozen different families of rose, and within those families, more roses. In the last group, modern roses, the division is enormous, resulting in many thousands of varieties.Kingston had spent several weeks ruminating over his choice of roses for Wickersham. There was no shortage of space for planting so the starting list was lengthy. Winnowing down the candidates had been both a trial and a pleasure. Adding names and crossing them off conjured memories of garden visits past. He could picture the lovely single Gallica,Complicata,threading its joyful way up through the branches of the old apple tree at Graham Stuart Thomas’s rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey and the exuberant Rosa felipes ‘Kiftsgate zooming fifty feet into the copper beech at the charming Gloucestershire garden after which it was named.The few pictures they had of the original rose garden at Wickersham all showed a typical layout. Orderly beds, some surrounded with low clipped box hedges, filled with nothing but regimented rows of roses. Kingston abhorred this kind of municipal garden look, judging the practice barely one step above the use of multicoloured bedding plants designed to replicate the Union Jack or the city name.


        cute brkfast setting….luvit

The new rose garden at Wickersham would be one of the few areas that didn’t mirror its predecessor . Roses would be mixed in with shrubs, perennials and other plants, allowing them to show off their individuality and form, a technique now in common practice as exemplified at the garden at Sissinghurst. He was, however, going to make one small concession, in recognition of Britainâ’s celebrated rose hybridizer, David Austin, who created an entirely new category of roses known worldwide as English Roses. In any gardener’s dreams, the perfect rose would combine beauty of form, subtlety of colour, irresistible fragrance, resistance to disease and, above all, the ability to flower repeatedly.Such are the roses of David Austin. And Kingston was going to showcase them.                              


Heartbreak is a curable condition. And remember that your ex is only your ex because he’s wrong for you otherwise you’d still be together, right? But it’s not easy getting over someone, ‘ I went on, thinking of Ed with a vicious stab. ‘So you need a strategy to help you recover. Now were there things about him you didn’t like?’ ‘Oh yeah!’ she exclaimed. ‘Loads!’ ‘Good. Then make a list of them, and when you’ve done it, ring your friends and read it to them, then ask them if you’ve left anything out. Get them to add their own negative comments, and ask your family as well. Then ask your next-door neighbours—on both sides—plus the people in the corner shop, then post the list up in a prominent place. Secondly, get off your bum! Get down to the gym, like I did, and take up kick-boxing or Tae-Bo. Kick the shit out of your instructor, Fran— believe me it’ll lift your mood. Because it’s only when you’re feeling happy and confident again, that the right man will come along. ‘

True, Henry had never really lit my fire. He was the human equivalent of a lava lamp—very attractive but not that bright.

‘Thanks. That’d be nice. So where do you do your… star-watching?’ I asked as he got down twoglasses.’The best place is Norfolk—I used to go there with my grandparents. You can do it in London, but you have to choose your spot carefully because the sky-glow’s so bad. ‘ ‘The sky-glow?’ ‘The light pollution. That awful tangerine glare. I’m involved with the Campaign for Dark Skies, ‘ he went on as he poured out my beer. ‘We ask local councils to install star-friendly street lighting which throws the light down, where it’s needed, not up. It’s tragic that people living in cities don’t get to see the night sky—they miss so much. I mean just look up, ‘ he said suddenly. He switched off the light, plunging us into darkness, and I peered up through the conservatory roof. Through the glass I could see five, no… eight stars twinkling dimly against the inky night and a sliver of silvery moon. ‘City folk miss so much, ‘ he repeated as I craned my neck. ‘How often do they see the Milky Way and the Pleiades, Orion’s belt, or the Plough? You don’t even need a telescope to be an amateur astronomer. You can see so much just with your eyes. ‘

‘She felt I was letting her down. She’s a solicitor at Prenderville White in the city, ‘ he explained. ‘She’s very driven and successful, and she expected me to be the same. She wanted me to put everything into my accountancy career to match her success, but I couldn’t. I did all the exams but by then I’d become far more interested in astronomy than in spreadsheets. So I left Price Waterhouse and took an undemanding book-keeping job so that I’d have more time to write my book. Fi said I was being self-indulgent and that I should knuckle down to my career. She kept on and on and on about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back. So five months ago she said she wanted out. ‘ Poor bloke. There were tears in his eyes.

Everyone thinks I’m so brave, ‘ she sobbed, her face red and twisted with grief. ‘Brave Bev. Battling Bev. But I’m not like that inside. I’m not like that at all. Don’t tell anyone this, ‘ she confided with a teary gasp, ‘but I get so upset sometimes. ‘ ‘Do you?’ I said. ‘Yes, ‘ she murmured with a sniff. ‘I do. But I can’t help it because I know I’ll never—uh-uh—walk, or run again: I’ve got to sit down for the rest of my life. And I tell people that I’ve— uh-uh—got over it—but the truth is I haven’t and I never will!’ I thought again of the suppressed sobbing I’d heard through the wall and of the hockey sticks she’d burned on the fire. ‘And all these paintings of these lovely—uh-uh—women with their— uh-uh—lovely, perfect, strong legs… ‘ Bev I know you’ll be… ‘—my throat ached: I find crying catching—’I know you’ll be fine. ‘ Her sobs subsided, and she looked up and wiped her eyes. ‘Yes, ‘ she croaked. ‘Maybe I will. I’m sorry, ‘ she said, ‘I know things could be worse. The way I hit the ground I’m lucky not to be a tetraplegic, or dead. Perhaps I should go to the ball as a still life, ‘ she added with a bleak smile. ‘I mean, there is still life. ‘

I have agony aunted myself to the conclusion that although I behaved very badly I can’t put the clock back so I might as well try and forget. In any case I’m very good at not thinking about unpleasant things. I shut them away in my mind. I neatly compartmentalise them and lock the door: a skill which I learned as a child. So I’m not going to dwell on my humiliation: it’s over: what’s done is done. In any case some good things have come out of that evening and so, despite everything, I’m still very glad that I went.

There was a card from Pyschic Cynthia with my astrological chart for the coming year. Thanks to ‘generous Jupiter’ I could look forward to ‘stunning changes ahead. ‘ I don’t want any more stunning changes, I thought, I’ve had more than enough this year. I’d moved house twice and my marriage had failed. I needed only a death to complete the hat trick of traumatic life events.

. I suddenly felt that I’d been born to be an agony aunt: at last I’d found my true niche. It was like a revelation to me—a Damascene flash—as though I’d heard a voice. ‘Rose! Rose!’ it boomed. ‘This is Thy God. Thou Shalt Dispense ADVICE!’

I’ve been screwed up anddiscarded. You might find that weird, but after what’s happened to me I see rejection in everything.So to keep negative thoughts at bay I started doing the crossword, as usual tackling the anagrams first. The skill with these is not in rearranging the letters—that’s easy—but in spotting them: you have to know the code. ‘Messy’ for example, usually indicates an anagram, as do ‘disorder’, and ‘disarray. ‘Mixed up’ is a good anagram clue as well; as is ‘confused’ and also ‘upset’.Doing anagrams makes me feel oddly happy: I often anagrammatise words in my head, just for fun. Perhaps because I was an only child I’ve always been able to amuse myself. I particularly enjoy it when I can make both ends of the anagram work. ‘Angered’ and ‘Enraged’ for example; ‘slanderous’ and ‘done as slur’; ‘discover’ and ‘divorces’ is a good one, as is ‘tantrums’ and ‘must rant’. ‘Marital’, rather appropriately, turns to ‘martial’; ‘male’ very neatly becomes ‘lame’, and ‘masculine’—I like this—becomes ‘calumnies’, and ‘Rose’, well, that’s obvious. ‘Sore’.

Looking back, the only thing that gives me any solace is the knowledge that I retained my dignity. It’s only in my dreams that I throw things at him, and swear, and rage and hit. In real life I was as cool as a frozen penguin, which might surprise people who know me well. I’m supposed to be ‘difficult’ you see— a bit ‘complicated’. A rather ‘thorny’ Rose—ho ho ho! And of course my red hair is a guaranteed sign of a crazy streak and a wicked tongue. So the fact that I didn’t erupt like Mount Etna in this moment of crisis would almost certainly confound my friends. But I felt oddly detached from what was going on. I was numb.

Serena, let me tell you, inhabits Cliche City: she could win the Palmed’Or for her platitudes. She’s one of these people who are perennially perky; in fact she’s so chirpy I suspect she’s insane. Especially as she invariably has some dreadful domestic crisis going on. She’s late thirties and mousy with three kids and a dull husband called Rob (anagram, ‘Bor’).

My practised eye had already identified from the writing the likely dilemmas within. Here were the large, childish loops of repression, and the backwards slope of the chronically depressed. There the green-inked scorings of schizophrenia and the cramped hand of the introvert. While Serena logged and dated each letter for reference, I sorted out my huge index file. In this I keep all the information sheets which I send out with my replies.

At parties people often ask me what other qualities are required. Curiosity for starters—I’ve got that in spades. I’ve always loved sitting on trains, staring dreamily out of the window into the backs of people’s houses, and wondering about their lives. You have to be compassionate too—but not wet—your reply should have a strong spine. There’s no point just offering sympathy, or even worse, pity, like that dreadful Citronella Pratt. What the reader needs is practical advice. So that means having information at the ready: information and kindness—that’s what it’s about. Having said which I’m not a ‘cuddly’, ‘mumsy’ agony aunt—if need be I’ll take a tough tone. But the truth is that my readers invariably know what to do, I simply help them find the answer by themselves.

‘Of course it is, ‘ he guffawed, ‘that’s exactly what it is: other people’s problems give us all a lovely warm glow. ‘ I suppressed the urge to club him to death with Secrets of Anger Control.

‘Goodbye, Ed, ‘ I said firmly. ‘I am ex-iting from you; I am ex-pelling you; I am ex-cising you. You are ex-traneous, ‘ I added firmly. ‘You are ex-cess. I am making an ex-ample of you, because I do not want you any more. I do not want you any more.

I enclose my Confidence leaflet and the number for your local community college,and I wish you really good luck. I felt so sorry for him that, on the spur of the moment I added: PS. If you feel you’d like to, do let me know how you get on. But as I sealed the envelope I realised that this was unlikely, and that’s the weird thing about what I do. Every month over a thousand total strangers tell me about their problems and their intimate affairs. I give them the very best advice I can, but I rarely, if ever, hear back. My replies go out into the void like meteorites hurtling through space. Did what I write help them, I sometimes wonder? Are things going better for them now?