“June is bustin’ out all ovah!” So Shirley Jones sang out in Carousel back in the 1950s when Broadway musicals made their way into Hollywood films. No less so this morning in my June gardens, traditionally the month of roses. Leading the show are the three Old Roses in my herb garden. Although a bit late, they are making up for it, now.
(1) Cicero’s rose began the color show first, finally opening the first of June. Known as Rose of Castile, it is an autumn damask, rosa x Damascene Bifera dated c. 50 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). Cicero cultivated this specimen in his own garden outside his well-stocked library in Rome. “If you have a garden in your library, you will want for nothing.”
Inside the library? Not outside, as my gardens are? Not in ancient Rome.
A bibliotheca, stacked with papyrus rolls or even wax tablets, may simply have been plain stone and wood rooms in one wing of a building. And enclosed by these buildings stood an open square surrounded by colonnades, often with Greek sculptures and temples. This was where the hortus, the garden, was planted and enjoyed — topic for another story.
(2) “Empress Joséphine” was next to open fully and now has all but taken over its quadrant in the peristyle herb garden. I don’t mind. It is a romantic rosa Gallica (c. prior to 1770) from Malmaison where Empress Joséphine gathered together the largest collection of roses ever established up to her time. The Old Roses are divided into two categories: Summer Flowering Old Roses and Repeat Flowering Old Roses. This one is a repeat bloomer, usually in September.
(3) At first lagging behind but finally catching up with herself is the Red Rose of Lancaster (c. prior to 1300) ~ not quite all that red but more like a dark rose. I suppose it’s called a red as opposed to the White Rose of York.
Also known as “Apothecary Rose,” the Lancastrian rose is a gallica, Rosa gallica officinalis. A rose gules was the heraldic badge adopted by John of Gaunt, first duke of Lancaster (1340-1399. A lot of English history and literature is represented here in this rose, both glorious and tragic. Because my paternal ancestral lineage is Lancastrian, I wanted it represented in my garden.
(4) Since my favorite horticulturalist — and one of my favorite garden writers — is the late Gertrude Jekyll, of course I had to include her namesake rose bush in my English borders. But she did not introduce it herself; David Austin did, in 1986. In fact, I think it’s one of his first. My husband calls her “Gertie,” as in “how’s old Gertie today?”
She’s doing quite well with her rich “old rose” fragrance of fully opened blooms of a gorgeous deep pink of this flower form, typical of a David Austin rose. Yet unlike the Old Roses, Austin’s roses have the repeat flowering habits of modern rose varieties, the best of both worlds. My only regret is that I planted mine at the far end of the garden, giving it plenty of space for its five feet height and wide girth, instead of close to the front door so we could enjoy the fragrance without making a “pilgrimage.”
(5) The little Hermosa rose bush we planted later in front of “Gertie” adds a cascading effect of pink roses. I notice only if I walk down to the end of the herb garden and peer over the boxwood hedge.
We found it in the garden of a historic pioneer place “way out in plum nelly,” as my mother would have said. A small group of gardening ladies were holding a garden sale, trying to preserve as much of the garden gone wild before the transportation folks bulldozed everything down for a new road.
Hermosa is a china rose introduced in 1840 by hybridizer Marchesseau. According to Antique Rose Emporium, “many rosarians suspect Bourbon influence in its breeding [because, I suspect, of its characteristics]. It was long popular as a container plant for European window gardens and its low, compact form is well suited for any small garden or for a massed effect in a larger border.” Because of its low height of two to three feet, I wish I had bought more — but it was the last one left.
(6) Dainty blooms of single petals have begun opening on climbing rose Evangeline making her way up one side of an arbor that separates the English borders from the Asian garden. The name reminds me of my youngest granddaughter, my son’s sweet dainty little girl.
Introduced in 1906 by hybridizer Walsh, Evangeline can reach 20 feet or more, producing single blossoms of one and a half inches. We’ll see about that height this year as this climber is making a painful comeback from a sad heap after house painters nearly destroyed it three years ago.
If this renewed month of June continues with daily alternating spells of sunny days and summer rain showers, well into July, I shall be quite contented as I continue to recover from the stroke of a year-and-a-half ago.