Sunday, September 21, 2008
This glorious blossom of Madame Isaac Pierre may not turn out to be the very last rose of summer in our garden, but it is likely to be the most fragrant of the last, given that this variety is considered the most perfumed of all the Old Roses. With a whiff, one is transported to paradise, located presently here in dandyland.
There are around 30 kinds of Old Roses growing here on the hill. I'm not collecting them as avidly as I once did, mainly because every good spot is currently occupied, and I think that if I could fit more in I'd like to have more than one of certain varieties. I wouldn't mind having another Madame Isaac Pierre, or the lovely white Madame Hardy. My bushes of both of these kinds, originating in the glory days of Old Rose growing in France, are over 20 years old now. They were bred to be compact and modest-sized, a virtue in the formal gardens of those days. Far more attention was paid to the fragrance of roses then, and a rosarian would easily distinguish Madame Isaac from Madame Hardy blindfolded. That I can do - Madame Hardy has a hint of lemon, and is strong but light; Madame Isaac is perfect attar of rose - balanced between ravishing and delicate without being cloying.
This summer was a bit too dry (again) to lay canes. Most Old Roses are easily propagated by digging a little trench beside the bush and carefully bending over a cane, nicking it lightly and burying part of it under the earth. By fall, generally, roots will have formed where the cane was nicked. The cane can then be cut loose from the mother bush and planted as a new independent but identical rose.
There is a song about the last rose of summer, for the soprano (Air), in The Stone Man:
The Late Rose:
The late roses in the garden
fill with sweet perfume
heavy and full
of drops of rain
they bend to pour
their fragrant tears
into the shimmering puddles...
gentle pools - they are still blooming!
(Of course we're in such a drought that there are no puddles about for the late roses to practice such delicate Narcissism with. Sigh!)