Some Museum images

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Some Art Gallery Images

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Rose books on my shelves

Rose books on my shelves Read More »

A List of Lists

The title ‘A List of Lists’ does not conjure the most thrilling of reads but after buying the catalogue listing the postcards of Catharina Klein at auction recently I realised how many lists relating to roses there were in the library. I love them and have purposely collected lists of roses, books, people and even rose gardens. I also make my own lists for the library which include lists of rose artists, rose bibliographies, biographies and, of course, the rose books.

Catharine Klein Postcard Catalogue
Postcard Album

Let us start with lists of roses and the dedicated rose historian Brent C. Dickerson who in his book ‘Old Roses: The Master List’ listed every old rose known to the Western World. In the second edition published in 2007 he lists 23,355 which is an increase of 1,603 over the first edition. He admits that this list took more than a quarter of century to compile. A work of dedicated research. Others have attempted it but not as successfully.

Brent Dickerson Rose Books
Two of Dickerson’s many books

There are a number of rose lists to be found which catalogue personal collections such as those grown by Jules Gravereaux in Paris, in his beautiful rose garden Roseraie de L’Hay and published in his catalogue in 1900 or the list of roses grown in the garden at Nymans compiled by Leonard and Muriel Messel and published in their ‘Garden Flora’ in 1918. The early catalogues published in the 19th century, by rose growers such as Thomas Rivers or William Paul list many of the roses they grew for sale and give us a wonderful record of the development of rose varieties. Throughout the years of the National Rose Society they published regularly ‘A Selected List of Varieties’ which was of use to the amateur rose growers of the day.

Yellow rose illustration
A page within an 1880s catalogue of William Paul.

Lists of roses for sale in catalogue form have been published for over 200 years and remain popular today. In one or two cases they resemble sizeable books which gives some indication of the thousands of rose varieties there are available. It is doubtful whether any attempt could be made to list all roses that have been grown during the last 100 years as so many thousands have come in and out of production.

Rhododendron illustration
Leonard and Muriel Messel compiled a list of all the plants and trees in the gardens at Nymans. Alfred Parsons provided the illustrations.

The lists of books are the most obvious lists to be found in the library. Not only is there a list of all known rose books published since the first in 1789 and the list of those books which are in the library but there are also several bibliographies of rose books published at various times during the last century which have been compiled by enterprising people such as K.L. Stock or Werger and Burton. The lists of rose books include those compiled by William Paul and Jules Gravereaux mentioned above and Claude Anthoine Thory who wrote the text for ‘Les Roses’, the book of paintings by Pierre -Joseph Redoute. These lists of books are interesting to read especially when you realise you have collected many of them.

Botanical Literature Book
There can only be one rose book in this Bibliography!

Rose bibliographies are central to the library lists but as a result of the nature of rose research and the collecting habit of the librarian other bibliographies have found a place on the shelves. Bibliographies of Herbals, Horticultural and Gardening Books, Botanical works and even a list of books that were in the extensive library at Nymans before the dreadful fire which destroyed the library and much of the house in 1948.

Magnificent Botanical Books
Nearly as good as a bibliography of Botanical books is this Sothebys catalogue produced when they sold the library of Robert De Belder in the 1980s.

It is not surprising that lists of people feature too. Jack Harkness wrote his very readable book, ‘The Makers of Heavenly Roses’ in 1985 and Brent Dickerson once again published a well researched ‘Roll Call: The Old Rose Breeder’ a gazetteer of Breeders, Introducers and their roses up to 1920. Surely it will not be long before a modern list is published. A number of rosarians have had their biographies written so it will not be surprising to know that a collection of these has been made for the library and a bibliography written!

A few biographies and an autobiography.
A few biographies and an autobiography.

It has been possible to compile a list of over 100 professional rose painters, past and present, for the library and collect several published dictionaries and compilations of flower painters and illustrators. During the tedium of the last few months it has been enjoyable researching the early rose postcard painters and collecting information about their lives so a list can be produced for a publication which includes the early 20th century rose art postcards and their contribution to the horticultural and social history of the rose. This brings me back to the beginning of this article as Catharina Klein is one of these artists. Her list of paintings is over 2,000 long!

A List of Lists Read More »

Two rose lovers: one painting

I have been inspired to find out about one of my lovely rose paintings by watching the short daily talks given by Philip Mould OBE, the art dealer, researcher and writer, on youtube about the paintings he has in his home. I cannot aspire to owning similar valuable paintings but research into this particular rose painting and the painter behind the picture is something I have wanted to do for a while. It is a painting that I purchased at the time I bought the library of the Royal National Rose Society but I have never been able to read the signature. Recently, however, a very kind gentleman from Bonham’s auction house was able to get it identified for me. The artist was well-known in her day and her paintings occasionally come to auction. The story behind the painting (the reason I love Philip Mould’s talks) is worth more to me than the sale value but, as is often the case I have only uncovered part of the story.

The painting of Roses by Anna Van Heddegham.
The painting of Roses by Anna Van Heddegham.

Anna (Alice) Van Heddegham loved to paint flowers. Being Dutch but living in central London, away from her homeland, in the early 1900s she would venture to Covent Garden flower market each morning to find the seasonal flowers of England, Italy or France that she could bring home to study and paint. It was said that she “carried her dreams into her home with her flowers”. She avoided the exotics and stiff stemmed flowers preferring the garden roses that she could capture in their casual glory. She would paint these scattered over a ledge or tumbling from a vase. She did not uphold the view that a flower painting should be a still life as did her previous generations but that her paintings should be natural without uniformity and the need for props and artefacts.

Presentation plaque on the frame of the painting.
Presentation plaque on the frame of the painting.

Alice exhibited in London and throughout Britain during the years 1906 – 1927. She exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries of the time including the Royal Academy, the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, the Abbey Gallery that was in Westminster and Baillie Gallery, formerly in Baker Street. At some point in time this particular painting by her was bought by another lover of roses and was presented by him to the National Rose Society on his departure from its presidency during the two years 1961 and 1962. Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C., a lawyer by profession and a recipient of the Military Cross for bravery in World War 1, dedicated many years of service to the Rose Society being on several committees prior to becoming the society’s president.

'Wild Roses in Two Vases' by Alice Van Heddegham. Another example of her work.
‘Wild Roses in Two Vases’ by Alice Van Heddegham. Another example of her work.

Ernest Royalton-Kisch must have liked the glorious painting by Alice Van Heddegham just as I do. As his retirement from the presidency of the Rose Society coincided with its move from Westminster to St Albans he possibly thought that it would be a fitting gift that could grace the walls of the Society’s new ‘home’. Where the painting was prior to that date I do not know but between the early 1960s and 2017 it was in the headquarters of the (Royal) National Rose Society and since 2017 has been looking beautiful in The Rosarian Library where it will stay for the time being. Thank you Alice Van Heddegham for painting these roses a century ago and Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C. for your symbolic gift to the society.

Signature on painting
Now I know the name it is easier to make out the signature.

Two rose lovers: one painting Read More »

Eleanour Sinclair Rohde; a spiritual friend

Eleanour Sophie Sinclair Rohde (1881-1950) is one of the most interesting women I have met through the pages of my library. How I would have loved to sit down to tea with her and perhaps her friend Maud Messel or even her acquaintances Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Willmott to discuss the roses of the day. These women must have been a force to be reckoned with in the horticultural world at this time and I know their love of roses was a driving force in their lives.

Eleanour Sinclair Rohde. (Courtesy of The Mary Evans Picture Library)
Eleanour Sinclair Rohde. (Courtesy of The Mary Evans Picture Library)

Eleanour must have lived and breathed horticulture; the thirty books she wrote in the thirty-five year period bewtween 1913 and 1948 surely prove this fact. Strangely only one of these ‘Rose Recipes from Olden Times’ is dedicated to the rose but the chapter ‘The Old Roses’ from her book ‘The Scented Garden’ is the piece of her rose writing I love so much. It makes up for the rose books she didn’t write!

Another piece of her writing I am so grateful for is the article she wrote for the September 1933 edition of ‘The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society’ about the Garden Library at Nymans. Knowing this library burned down in 1947 her article is the nearest thing to a bibliography of all the books it contained.

Some of Eleanour's horticultural writings.
Some of Eleanour’s horticultural writings.

It is not surprising that Eleanour used her education from Cheltenham Ladies College and St Hilda’s Hall Oxford together with her love of herbs and flowers to write about horticultural issues which interested her. Her career began with a number of articles about gardens and gardening in magazines such as The Field, The Queen and My Garden. She also wrote for The Cornhill Magazine and the RHS Journal among others and became the president of the Society of Women Journalists.

Eleanour was an innovative gardener and grew and tested old and obscure flowers, herbs and vegetables in her garden at Cranham Lodge in Reigate, Surrey where she lived most of her life. On several occasions she collaborated with friends to design herb gardens, notably for the Chelsea Flower Show in 1919 and for Lullingstone Castle in Kent. Herbs were a major interest for her with ‘A Garden of Herbs’ being one of the first books she wrote in 1921.

Painting of old roses by Patricia Dale taken from 'The Scented Garden'.
Painting of old roses by Patricia Dale taken from ‘The Scented Garden’.

It is known that Eleanour often visited the Messel family at Nymans where Maud had her rose garden and I believe it to be the garden to which she is referring when she wrote

” . . .If you do not grow the old roses, look at their beauty as depicted in the paintings of the old Dutch flower painters; or look at those glorious roses portrayed in the three great rose books of a century ago – Redoute, Andrews and Miss Lawrence. In their masterpieces, the beauty and the glorious colouring of the living flowers of over a hundred years ago are immortalized. But best of all, see them as I see them now, loved and tended in a secluded enclosure. This garden is famed, yet only a minority of those who come to see the treasures it contains visit the rose garden, which is filled with the beauty and fragrance of the old roses. This morning I got up very early to see what is surely one of the fairest sights in the world – the roses ‘spreading themselves towards the sun-rising’.”

The Scented Garden (1931).

Eleanour dedicated this book and at least one other to her friend Maud. It is likely that she used the library at Nymans for some of her research and perhaps her book ‘The Old English Herbals’ (1922) was inspired by Leonards great collection or at least she possibly used his library for research for this book. It is known that Leonard Messel proof read some of Eleanour’s work for her. It was possibly this friendship with the Messels and her knowledge of the library that prompted the RHS to commission Eleanour to write the article about the Garden Library at Nymans. Whatever the reason thank goodness they did; no record of the library at all would have been devastating. A 1973 reproduction of the book.

Although comparatively little of her writing is about roses I have a great admiration for her work. To write thirty books in as many years is a feat in itself but the nature of some of her books would have meant hours spent in research in various libraries and a tremendous amount of dedication. Not only did she write the bibliography of ‘The Old English Herbals’ but also a bibliography of gardening books through the years ‘The Old English Gardening Books’ (1924). These must have taken many hours to compile. Even ‘Rose Recipes from Olden Times’ would have meant considerable research in old texts. Other titles are ‘The Story of the Garden’ (1932), ‘Shakespeare’s Wild Flowers’ (1935) and ‘Herbs and Herb Gardening’.

Book by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde
A first edition.

I have a good number of Eleanour’s books because I admire her dedication, her intelligence and her life. To live through two wars cannot have been easy but I do not know how they affected her personally. As with all my research there is always so much more to be done and this brief story about Eleanour is no exception. As far as I am aware there has been no autobiography written.

Eleanour Sinclair Rohde; a spiritual friend Read More »

A great addition to the list

I love treasure hunting; searching for Rose memorabilia for the library. This time, at an antiques fair, the treasure discovered was a postcard album; a collection of stunning paintings, in a very full but disintegrating album. It appeared to have been collected with love and care by a cartologist during the early years of the 20th century. Not famous paintings but ones that had been commissioned by the postcard publishers of the day. The hundred plus paintings revealed many of the Cornish coast by H.B.Wimbush, portraits of old Scottish characters by H.J.Dobson, a number of unattributed still lifes of flowers and fruit and among others a few glorious paintings of roses and rose gardens.; the reason I bought the album.

A postcard painting from the album.
A postcard painting from the album.

Two of the stunning rose paintings I had not seen before. They obviously belonged together, featuring a similar subject, individual rose stems and buds and showing the same colour tones. Whenever I buy a postcard I like it to have the name of the artist or at least the publisher. If there are neither it has to be a really beautiful card. In this case there did not appear to be an artists’ name but the publisher was Stewart and Woolf, a company who produced cards between 1900 and 1940. The series number was 468. I soon discovered that my two cards had been published in 1906 or before but still did not know the artist.

The matching postcard painting from the album.
The matching postcard painting from the album.

I searched each card under the scrutiny of my magnifying glass and saw large blurred lettering to one side of one of the cards, ‘M Nyl’. I recognised the name from a set of postcards I had seen previously on a publishers website, not Stewart and Woolf but TuckDB. I returned to the website and found the set entitled ‘Fragrant Flowers’; six different cards, two of vases of roses and the remaining four, vases of other flowers. Beside each vase of flowers there were individual flowers that had fallen to the shelf. It was then I realised why my signature was large and blurred, the two paintings were a small part of a larger work. They were not part of either of the two paintings in this set and I have yet to discover from which paintings they were taken.

A painting from the postcard set 'Fragrant Flowers' published by TuckDB
A painting from the postcard set ‘Fragrant Flowers’ published by TuckDB

They could have been taken from one or two of many because Marie Nyl-Frosch (1857-1914) was a well known German painter of flowers. She was born in Munich and seems to have spent most of her life there, dying there too. One can only speculate why she died at the age of 57 in 1914 as I cannot find out any further information about her life and work. I know that her paintings, many of which are of roses, have been sold at auction houses, including Christies, throughout Europe and command prices between one and two thousand euros. They are beautiful works, usually roses or other flowers in a vase or container of some kind with additional detail around the base, either fallen flowers or ornaments. Two additions I have seen are a small framed silhouette and a model elephant.

The second postcard painting from the set 'Fragrant Flowers'.
The second postcard painting from the set ‘Fragrant Flowers’.

This brings me to the reason for the title of this article. During my rose journey I have been compiling a list of professional artists who are known for painting flowers, particularly roses. This list now includes 115 artists. Although I know little about Marie Nyl-Frosch I have seen images of many of her paintings, which I adore, so will include her on my list. (She will be company for Catharina Klein, another painter for postcards from the same period who worked in Berlin. I wonder whether they knew of each other.) It is always good to discover another great artist who appreciates or appreciated the rose. I will continue to try to find out more about her and her work.

Another beautiful painting by Marie Nyl-Frosch (1857-1914).
Another beautiful painting by Marie Nyl-Frosch (1857-1914).

A great addition to the list Read More »

A tatty but inspirational pamphlet

This is one of the reasons why I love collecting rose books and memorabilia. While sorting through my catalogues and annuals, in prepararation for a possible further intake, I nearly discarded a nondescript pamphlet covered with a bulb advertisement. By chance I looked inside; to find the programme for the 1909 National Rose Society (NRS) Summer Rose Show. Not only is there a plan of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Regents Park showing the siting of the marquees etc but also the list of entrants and judges. To cap it all there is an article written by ‘The Late Rev. H. Honeywood D’Ombrain VMH’ entitled ‘The Life History of the National Rose Society’. I think perhaps I am missing the cover of the programme, unless of course, they wanted it to exist incognito, but I doubt it!

Plan of Royal Botanic Gardens
The siting of the NRS Summer Rose Show in the early 20th century.

Having recently bought a ticket for the Chelsea Flower Show I began to wonder about the history of the NRS national rose shows and what had happened to them. I knew the very first national show had been organised in 1858 by a group of rosarians, including the Rev. Samuel Reynolds Hole, Thomas Rivers, Charles Turner and William Paul. It had taken place in St James Hall, Westminster. The show continued annually at various locations under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) until the late 1870s.

William Paul
William Paul – a rose grower and writer who helped organise the first rose shows.

At this time it was considered that the rose was at a low ebb and the shows were not flourishing. One rosarian, namely the Rev. Henry Honywood D’Ombrain decided that it was time to act. He had a vision of a National Rose Society which could promote the rose, its popularity and exhibition. He called a meeting of all the rosarians he knew and, on the day, waited with trepidation to see who would respond to his invitation. He could not have been more pleased at the turnout and “when Canon Hole came in most of those present felt the day was won.” (A quote from the article mentioned above. He continues by listing all those present at the meeting.) The society was formed to encourage the cultivation of the rose and to promote national exhibitions of the rose in London and the provinces.

Rev. Samuel Reynolds Hole
Rev. Samuel Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester – influential in the rose world – joint founder of the first rose shows and the first president of the National Rose Society.

In the Rosartians Yearbook of 1886 the Rev. Honywood D’Ombrain reported on the success of the first rose show ” . . . as it was, every available space in the large conservatory at South Kensington was filled with roses and crowds of visitors thronged around the stands all day.” The NRS shows continued to flourish in both London and the provinces. Queen Alexandra became Patroness of the Society and attended the London Show Annually. Thousands of blooms were exhibited both growing and as cut roses.

At the turn of the century the shows were still flourishing. A description of the 1907 London show appeared in the September issue of ‘Journal des Roses’ of that year. (It was translated from the French for the 1908 edition of the NRS annual).

“Several large tents, 5 or 6 measuring perhaps 50 to 80 metres long and 20 to 30 metres wide are entirely decorated with cut roses and rose trees. All these tents (except the groups of roses in pots and the accompanying stands of cut flowers in vases, hidden with moss, and placed on the ground itself) are arranged with tables either set against the sides of the tents or placed by themselves down the whole length of them. There are also generally in each tent three large central tables, as well as tables running round each side of the tent. Many nurserymen and innumerable amateurs show each year at this great competition in separate classes.”

The author, Ms Turbat, then goes on to explain how the English way of doing things encourages amateur rose growers to become involved which allows for greater popularity of the rose among the people.

National Rose Society Flower show luncheon menu
There was always a good lunch on offer!

For many years the summer annual rose show flourished in the botanical gardens, Regents Park. It was only in the 1970s that it was held at the gardens of the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS) as a rose festival where it continued for a number of years. In the intervening years the shows travelled via the Royal Hospital Grounds, Chelsea and the RHS halls in Westminster. Currently the nearest event we have to a National Rose Show is the Rose Festival which is incorporated into the Hampton Court Flower Show.

National Rose Society Programme of Music
At the early shows they enjoyed a brass band.

The Chelsea Flower Show, the Hampton Court Flower Show and the other shows presented by the RHS have abundant roses on display. The rose is still a popular flower in Britain but the dreams of those rose pioneers in the late 19th century have come to an end. There is no national show dedicated to the rose.

This is a sketchy and unsatisfactory history of the rose shows and needs more thorough research to be done. The information needed should be in the Rose Yearbooks and Annuals, a full set off which are in the Rosarian Library. A report of each show is usually included in each edition.

To think that one little tatty but invaluable find could spark such interest but this is one reason I collect.

Rev. Henry Honywood D'Ombrain
Rev. Henry Honywood D’Ombrain. A founder member and first secretary of the National Rose Society.

A tatty but inspirational pamphlet Read More »

The garden painters as illustrators

Imagine a warm summer’s day early in the 20th century. You are sitting in the sunshine under a parasol, gazing at a glorious rose garden. The fragrance of the roses is in the air and you know that with your skill and paints you are going to recreate this amazing, colourful scene on paper. You do not know, however, that a century later your paintings will still be giving pleasure to many rose enthusiasts, gardeners and artists; that they will still be admiring ‘your garden’ on a chilly January day over a century later.

Painting from Roses and Rose Gardens
“Dorothy Perkins over Trellis Work” Ernest Arthur Rowe. Taken from ‘Roses and Rose Gardens’ (1911) Walter P. Wright.

A small number of rose and gardening books from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were illustrated by garden artists. In this way their paintings have been preserved for a wider audience other than the individual owner. The development of photography, however, made the widespread use of painting gardens for illustration unnecesary and the increasing number of rose books feature the cheaper drab monochrome photographs. The colourful beauties from the painters ceased within a few years. Fortunately the enterprising authors and their few dedicated illustrators can still be appreciated.

Rose Garden painting by Beatrice Parsons
“Evening Light in a Rose Garden” Beatrice Parsons. Taken from ‘Roses and Rose Gardens’ (1911) Walter P. Wright.

Many individual roses have been painted as illustrations in the rose books but rose gardens are much fewer in number. It was fashionable in Victorian and Edwardian times to have ones beautiful garden painted by an accomplished artist and a good number of these have been used to illustrate various publications but rose gardens in the books at this time were few. This reflects the nature of garden design and the subject matter of rose books at this crucial period. Penelope Hobhouse and Christopher Wood explore the painters and their commissions during that period in their book ‘Painted Gardens: English Watercolours 1850 – 1914’. The painting of gardens professionally as opposed to landscapes now seems to have gone out of fashion.

A climbing rose painting
“A Climbing Rose” by George Elgood. Taken from ‘A Book about Roses’ (1901 18th edition) Samuel Reynolds Hole. There are several paintings by Elgood in this book but sadly they are all monochrome.

Most illustrations of gardens for books have been contributed by three artists: Beatrice Parsons (1870-1955), George Samuel Elgood (1852-1943) and Ernest Arthur Rowe (1862-1922). These three have the joint accolade of being regarded as the best garden artists of their day. Beatrice Parsons painted glorious gardens, often with roses; six of these illustrate ‘Roses and Rose Gardens’ (1911) by Walter P. Wright. In this book there is also one painting by Ernest Rowe. George Elgood illustrated the later editions of ‘A Book About Roses’ (1869) but sadly these have been produced in monochrome which does not do them justice. Their paintings can be seen in a number of other books of the period and, of course, their works were sold to art collectors of the day, often the aristocracy including royalty. The interesting lives of these three artists are partly documented and it is likely they may appear in future articles. There is a biography ‘George Samuel Elgood: His Life and Work (1995) by Eve Eckstein. This includes many of his paintings.

Alfred Parsons postcard.
Painting by Alfred Parsons. Taken from a postcard; courtesy of TuckDB.

There is a short list of other garden artists of the period; two others to be noted for painting Rose gardens are Alfred Parsons and Helen Allingham. Alfred Parsons was a prolific painter of gardens and landscapes, later becoming a garden designer. He is well known for the 132 meticulously executed roses for the publication Genus Rosa (1910-1914) by Ellen Willmott but does not appear to have received the fame he deserves. Helen Allingham is virtually a household name with her exquisite paintings of Victorian Life some of which feature roses in the cottage gardens she loved to paint. Two books in the Rosarian Library collection are ‘The Happy England of Helen Allingham’ by Marcus B. Huish and ‘Helen Allingham’s England’ by Ina Taylor. Both books, especially the latter are beautifully illustrated by Helen Allingham herself. There is little formal documentation about the life of Alfred Parsons but recently a thesis written in the 1990s was located which gives many leads for further research. A painter well worth investigating.

Painting by Flora Pilkington
A garden painting by Flora Pilkington. Courtesy of TuckDB.

Paintings of rose gardens feature on early 20th century postcards, many of which are stunning works of art and very collectible. Beatrice and Albert Parsons (no relation) contribute to these but there are other artists worthy of note: Flora Pilkington, Sidney Shelton, W.G. Addison, Ellen Warrington and Annie Pressland are a few. There seems to be little known about these artists apart from their signatures on the bottom of the cards. This needs to be remedied as such skilful artists should be remembered.

The Rose Walk painting
‘The Rose Walk, Finchcocks.’ W.G. Addison. Courtesy of TuckDB.

(All postcards are in the Rosarian library.)

Spring and rose garden visiting time will soon be here but in the meantime it is great to know that these colourful, attractive gardens can be ‘visited’ by looking at books and postcards. Sitting in the sunshine painting was not and still is not a lucrative career but thankfully some people had this vocation all those years ago allowing us to appreciate and enjoy their work. Although there were relatively few professional garden painters they contribute significantly to the story of book illustration.

A painting by Sydney Shelton
A beautiful painting by Sydney Shelton. Courtesy of TuckDB.

The garden painters as illustrators Read More »

Into 2020

220 years have passed since the very first book was published in English dedicated to the rose. In the first half of the 19th century there were few books published: rose varieties were few in number, their popularity was limited and printing was less accessible. As the decades passed, numbers of rose varieties increased, more people had disposable money for gardening and printing developed. The numbers of rose books increased reflecting the growing popularity of roses. During the 20th century roses became increasingly popular with more books about roses being published each decade apart from the 1940’s war years. The peak of rose book publication was the 1990s when, according to the library calculations, 20% of all books dedicated to the rose and written in English were published.

Victorian Rose Books
A few rose books from Victorian times.

Rose research and information gathering continues across the world. There have been and continue to be serious scientific studies, into the growth and nature of rose plants, in a number of academic institutions. There is much learning being gained from the hybridisation, propagation and growth of roses within the rose nurseries across the world. There are also people, like me, who wish to make the full story of the rose known by researching her history, exploring her fame and documenting the stories they discover. The accumulation of all this information has created a vast range of published works documenting the rose.

19th Century Rose Books
A number of the 50+ 19th century rose books.

However, in the two decades since the millenium it is evident there has been a decline in the number of rose books published. Perhaps this is not surprising as the rose is having to hold her own among the myriad of other glorious plants that are easier to grow or take up less space in our smaller gardens and less time in this busy world. During the 20th century the ‘Queen of Flowers’ was at the peak of her reign; could it be time for her to relinquish the throne. She will never leave the court; there are too many supporters wishing to keep her notoriety alive by growing roses in their gardens, exhibiting at rose shows or buying cut roses for the house. The rose is also a useful commodity in the perfume industry.

Flower illustration
Could any flower ever dethrone the rose?

The Rosarian Library is working towards collecting the complete set of all the rose texts, written in English, from the last 220 years. The detail, accumulated to date about the rose, must be gathered together and preserved in one library. Although there must be many copies of each text on shelves throughout the world it is clear that some of the books are proving difficult to find and when they are found they are expensive.

A rare and expensive rose text.
A specimen part of a rare and expensive text.

It does not seem possible that any one flower could take the place of the rose but it may be that the 21st century will see the rose’s glory fade a little. Rose research will become more important than ever. It is hoped that scientific research will continue, documenting information for horticuturalists, botanists and other scientists. The Rosarian Library and others will continue non-scientific research which covers a huge field of both historical and contemporary detail which contributes to the commentary on our social history. Whether it be the roses of the Greek and Roman Temples, the English Monastery Gardens, the early 20th century rose gardens of England or the roses of Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Rachel Ruysch or Albert Williams the research is crucial and should be recorded.

Rose of Heliogabalus
The Roses of Heliogabalus an 1888 painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema depicting a Roman banquet.

As with most research the Rosarian Library research has led to more books being collected, not only those dedicated to the rose but also a wider collection of horticultural, art and literature books. The Library now has a growing separate horticultural section. A shelf of Bibliographies seems to have accumulated and a group of Biographies together with a stack on art and illustration. All the texts by various authors such as Eleanour Sinclar Rohde and Gertrude Jekyll are creeping in. They loved the old roses which are still popular with many rose lovers today.

A chapter on Old Roses in Eleanour Sinclair Rohde's
A chapter on Old Roses in Eleanour Sinclair Rohde’s ‘The Scented Garden’ (1931)

The Library will certainly play its part in keeping the rose alive and flourishing. A book of short stories will be published portraying the rose and hopefully giving a flavour of the library itself. A more serious text about the British books dedicated to the rose is being researched and hopefully will follow soon after. Lists of rose books, rose artists and rose gardens will be printed to add to the publications already available; a leaflet about the library and a booklet detailing 19th century literature. Of course a second edition of rose stories is being researched.

British Rose Literature
A Library Publication.

The Rosarian Library is a significant resource in its specialist field. In 2020 the intention is for this to continue and for the library to grow. The numbers of books will be increased, further knowledge discovered and more information shared. Regardless of what happens with the popularity of the rose the ‘Queen of Flowers’ will always reign supreme here.

Painting by Albert Williams

This painting by Albert Williams was used to illustrate a Christmas card by the Royal National Rose Society. I will use it to say Happy New Year.

Into 2020 Read More »

A Rosy Coincidence

Do you like visiting second hand book shops as much as I do; I love it even if I do not have a particular book in mind except, of course, a different rose book. This time my visit was unusual; I wanted a specific book, a copy of the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I had always thought that his poem ‘Maud’, which inspired my favourite Waterhouse painting, began with the line ‘Come into the garden, Maud’ and ended after a romantic message with the line ‘And blossom in purple and red’. How wrong was I? As some of the more literate readers among you will know this is only a very small vignette of a much larger story.

The soul of the rose
‘The Soul of the Rose’ (1908) John William Waterhouse.

Strangely I had discovered this previously unkown to me fact when I was researching ‘The Soul of the Rose’ by Waterhouse. I needed to find out more about the painting because it and others by Waterhouse feature on my website and will also be included in the anthology of rose stories ‘The Soul of the Rose’ which I am collating. I always knew that it had been inspired by the line from Maud ‘ And the soul of the rose went into my blood,’ just as other of his paintings had been inspired by the poetry of Shakespeare, Keats and Herrick but little realised the length of the poem, so I felt the need to read the whole poem.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
One of two paintings by J.W. Waterhouse entitled ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May’ (1909) and inspired by the line from ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time’ by Robert Herrick.

I looked on line for a copy of Tennyson’s poems but they all seemed glossy, new reproductions. These are not my style; I like the old and tactile with an interesting front cover if possible. What a good excuse to go to my favourite book shop where I may be lucky enough to find a gem. The shop did not let me down, I found what I wanted; not Victorian as I would have liked but very pretty and inexpensive, first published in 1954 and including the whole of ‘Maud’ together with some of his other poems. He was a prolific writer so I had to make sure that Maud was in the book I bought.

Poems of Tennyson
A bargain at £4.00 and just what I needed.

Job done but after a decent lunch and an invigorating walk by the river the antique warehouse beckoned, which inadvertently triggered this story. One of the first things which caught my eye was a book ‘Pre-Raphaelite Portraits’ and on opening I found a sketch by Rossetti entitled “Maud” 1855 of Tennyson reading ‘Maud’. He had apparently drawn it while Tennyson was reading the poem at the house of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. What a coincidence! It is true; I have a witness.

Painting by J W Waterhouse
The second painting by J.W. Waterhouse inspired by the line from John Herrick’s poem.

Within the book there are also sketches of several of the beautiful models featured in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. John William Waterhouse, who was born at the end of the Pre-Raphaelite era, was known in his later paintings to embrace the Pre-Raphaelite style. I don’t believe the model in ‘The Soul of the Rose’ is known by name but to me she looks very much like Alexa Wilding who modelled for Rossetti fifty years before. Looking at some of Rossetti’s work there is definitely a similarity between the graceful woman in Waterhouse’s painting and Rossetti’s auburn haired model.

A painting/sketch (1879) of Alexa Wilding by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
A painting/sketch (1879) of Alexa Wilding by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

After reading the many pages of the poem and looking once again at my favourite Waterhouse paintings I cannot believe how my love of roses has forged this particular link between art and literature; it is inspirational for me. My research into the rose brings me joy and satisfaction daily. I will definitely leave the cultivation to others and focus on the intriguing stories that I have yet to discover. The rose is mentioned frequently through Tennyson’s ‘Maud’ and is featured in a number of Waterhouse’s paintings. They must, like me, have wanted to celebrate the rose.

Another painting by J.W. Waterhouse that features roses, 'The Shrine' 1895
Another painting by J.W. Waterhouse that features roses, ‘The Shrine’ 1895

A Rosy Coincidence Read More »

‘Liquid Gold’ from the Valley of the Roses

This scenic valley, about 100 kilometres long and up to 15 kilometres wide, in the centre of Bulgaria, provides the world with more rose otto (rose essential oil) than any other nation. The huge perfume industries of France, the United States and Japan absorb the majority of the oil which is of the highest quality.

One type of rose is the ‘queen’ in this story; the beautiful pink damask rose R. damascena trigintipelata. Virtually alone, row upon row, she fills the hectares of land between the mountains of Stora Planina which hold back the cold North winds and Sredna Gora which check the hot and dry air from the Aegean in the South. The tonnes of petals from this ideal landscape fill the stills which conjure this amazing ‘liquid gold’ as if by magic.

The Valley of the Rose, Bulgaria
The Valley of the Roses – Bulgaria. The famous rose fields in the Tracian Valley near Kazanlak, Bulgaria

The towns of Kazanlak and Kordova provide the nuclei around which the fields have steadily extended and continue to extend. The town of Kazanlak has given its name to the region, to the valley and to the rose. The R. damascena which in Bulgaria has become R. damascena ‘Kazanlik’ was introduced to the region in the 17th century from the Middle East. As a result of the favourable soils and drainage, the ideal climate of moisture and warmth and the enterprise of the local people, with their unique propagating methods, the roses introduced have become an independent type of their own. R. damascena ‘kazanlik’ produces the high quality, fragrant oil which has made the area world renowned.

Damask Rose
A beautiful damask rose similar to ‘Kazanlik’.

There are over 7000 varieties of rose worldwide yet only a few are recognised as oil producing. These can be found in quantity in Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, France and Iran. There are only a handful of regions in just the two countries, Bulgaria and Turkey that provide the ideal conditions to grow roses in quantities large enough to produce rose otto on a commercial scale.

Rose otto is acquired by the distilling process and requires three kilograms of rose petals to make just one millilitre or twenty drops of rose oil. A second method of obtaining oil is used in other countries by liquid solvent extraction of the oil from the rose petals. This results in a rose absolute rather than in rose otto and is not of such high quality although it too is used in the perfume industry.

Postcard of rose harvest, Bulgaria
Roses have been harvested in Bulgaria for many years.

For a period of about three weeks around the beginning of June the roses are gathered from 4am through to 9am before the sun becomes hot as the oil in the petals decreases as the temperature rises. The roses have to be processed in the stills almost immediately to prevent any oil evaporation from the petals. Regular checks are kept on all the rose oil, its quality and quantity, by the Research Institute in Kazanlak so that Bulgaria can remain the leading producer of the best rose otto in the world. It is of extremely high quality and it is important to Bulgaria that it remain so.

Since 1990, after a long period of state ownership, there are now independent land owners and distillery owners who are keen to improve their methods, increase their production and extend their fields. Rose production is thriving. The perfume houses of Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, Jean Patou, Givenchy, Kenzo, Gucci and the like have little to fear if they continue to use natural and organic rose oil in their perfumes.

‘Liquid Gold’ from the Valley of the Roses Read More »

Provins and the Provins Rose

How I would love to be transported back in time to find myself in the centre of the medieval fair town of Provins, not in medieval times but in the 16th century. I would be surrounded by bustling businesses trading in scented sachets, candied rose petals, medicines and balms and other products made from the flowers grown in the surrounding acres of rose fields. The main street of Provins was dominated totally by the men and women who traded in rose products.

The rose used was Rosa gallica ‘officinalis’, a highly aromatic rose that had been appreciated for its scent and beauty since Roman times and is still recognised by those who continue to grow it for its fragrant and colour retention qualities even after the petals have dried. It is still grown throughout Europe where it is an important item of commerce in the pharmaceutical, perfume, liquor and soap industries.

Rosa gallica 'officinalis'
Rosa gallica ‘officinalis’

Though we seldom consider the use of roses in modern medicine, this species does contain tannin, oils, sugar, wax, cyanin and quercetin. As a result it has astringent, bactericidal, bile-removing, and anti-inflammatory properties which were thought to ease headaches, control vomiting, help dysentery and fever, heal wounds and act as a restorative, a tonic for the liver and as a mild laxative. Cures for many ailments but which I understand are grounded in scientific fact.

The double form of Rosa gallica 'officinalis'
The double form of Rosa gallica ‘officinalis’ is more popular for commercial use.

From this rose, which became known in France as the Provins Rose the people of Provins throughout the years have made a number of products including medicinal syrups, skin lotions, jams and sweets and sachets of dried petals. Through several centuries until the 19th century there were more apothecaries on the main street of Provins than any other type of shop. Outside each a rose was planted at the entrance. The druggists dispensed remedies that reportedly aided digestion, sore throats, skin rashes and eye maladies. Women believed that rose petals would reduce their wrinkles! The fresh petals were also strewn in abundance during religious celebrations. It is believed that when Marie Antoinette stayed in Provins she slept on a bed made entirely of roses.

Dried rose petals
Background of dried rose petals as herbal tea

Provins lies approximately 60 kilometres South West of Paris and is today a World Heritage Site enabling the preservation of the medieval buildings that were standing in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was a well-known trading centre of up to 80,000 people. It was at this time that legend suggests that Thibault 1V, the Count of Champagne, brought back from the Crusades in the Middle East a rose bush that was to become the ancestor of all the roses which have bloomed in and around Provins for centuries. This rose, Rosa gallica ‘Officinalis’ often called the Apothecary’s Rose, has featured prominently in the trading prosperity of this now small town and is a significant part of its heritage.

A view of Provins today - a well preserved medieval town.
A view of Provins today – a well preserved medieval town.

Provins has many visitors each year who are attracted by the medieval architecture and its commercial heritage. In addition, now there is a 3 hectare garden which features many beautiful roses. Rose jam is still made in Provins as well as honey perfumed with rose petals and rose candy but sadly there is not the bustling high street where all those wonderful rose products are sold!

Map showing Povins

Provins and the Provins Rose Read More »

Roses – Deltiology

I didn’t know what it meant until I added to the library postcard collection after a recent visit to a local antique shop and then decided to write this article. Deltiology, the study and collection of postcards. According to Wikipedia the world’s third most popular hobby. Can you guess the first two? (Clue – they involve small items!) I didn’t regard myself as a collector until I realised two albums full of small but beautiful rose art, mostly picked up inexpensively at antique fairs or in antique shops, probably meant just that. As with the rose books and paintings I can’t help myself when I see a rose work of art.

Rose postcards
A few of the postcards in the library – mostly paintings which are sadly not signed by the artist.

Of course, I have only ever collected the rose postcards I like and realise many of these are by the artist Catharina Klein so I have dedicated a separate album to her. This is not full so there is a good reason to hunt! I have written about Catharina before as there is a copy of one of her paintings in the gallery. Her art work is unique, largely dedicated to flowers, specifically roses. Fortunately her signature remains on the postcards. Many other artists’ works are unattributed sadly but I do have one or two that are signed e.g. R.W. Bates, Madeleine Renaud and T. Corbella.

Catharina Klein postcards
Some of the Catharina Klein postcards in the library. Many more can be seen on the library Pinterest Board ‘Rose cards’.

Some rose postcards feature reproductions of the great painters such as Manet and Fantin-Latour. I would like to find more of these, especially from the early 20th century but they seem to have been published later. One or two precious cards do not feature roses at all but are early photographs of rose related subjects. My most prized postcard is one featuring the inside of the now non existent rose museum at La Roseraie de l’Hay which, although it bears no date must be from the early 1900s. Another shows a view of the rose fields of Bulgaria in the early 20th century.

Inside the Rose Museum
As the postcard says, the museum at La Roseraie de l’Hay.

As well as rose paintings rose photographs became available from the end of the 19th century.. First there were the black and white photos which have often been tinted or painted and gradually coloured photographs appeared as the 20th century progressed. The popularity of postcards declined, however after the first war as the telephone became more widespread. The years between 1902 and 1914 are known as the golden age for postcards with thousands being issued bearing a huge array of messages. Next day delivery was guaranteed! The number and range of cards to be found is still huge and occasionally it is possible to see the same rose with a different background or even a different colouring. Who knows what antics were played by the printers and publishing houses!

These are some of the cards which feature black and white photos that have been painted.
These are some of the cards which feature black and white photos that have been painted.

Apparently some collectors confine themselves to one publisher of which there were many. The two most notable publishing the older cards I have found to be Meissner and Buch and Raphael Tuck. Meissner and Buch was founded in Leipzig in 1861 but then opened offices in other European cities including London. They seem to have had the monopoly on publishing the Catharina Klein postcards I like so much. Raphael Tuck and Sons started in 1866 with a little shop in Union Street London selling graphic art printing which included chromo and black and white lithography. Sales included the Victorian greeting cards available at this time.

Photos or paintings of roses
I originally thought these were one or two of the first coloured photos but I am not so sure now. It is difficult sometimes to distinguish between a photo and a painting!

Dating postcards can be a tricky business because few of them have a date printed. Perhaps the best guide is by the stamps on them but not all cards have been used or the stamps have been lost. It was not until 1894 that British Publishers were given permission by the Royal Mail to manufacture and distribute picture postcards which could be sent through the post. These first cards were mostly of landmarks and scenic views. Cards with messages had been sporadically created by individuals since the beginning of the postal service in Britain (16th century) and the Post Office since 1870 had issued postcards without images which had a stamp as part of their design. The card recognised as the worlds oldest surviving postcard was sent in 1840 by the writer Theodore Hook to himself in Fulham London. It was a hand-painted design bearing a penny black stamp. In 2002 this card sold for £31, 750.00.

A card from before 1902
A card from before 1902 which only had space on the back for the address so the messages were written around the illustration. (Sadly no Queen Victoria stamp!)

My aim is to find a postcard depicting roses which has the head of Queen Victoria on the postage stamp, which could date it between 1894 and 1901. At this time cards had only space for the address on the back and no other writing was allowed so messages were written over the pictures. The divided back, space for the address and message, did not happen in Britain until 1902. Other countries soon followed suit. The cost of sending a postcard for some years was one half penny. I have compiled a list of dates, stamps and prices for my own interest but will not bore you with that here.

A postcard showing a black and white photo of roses.
A postcard showing a black and white photo of roses.

I have not collected many of these as I have not found them of much interest but that will change now as I have become fascinated by the early printing and publishing of rose books and other material. When looking for cards I have seen some great black and white photos of rose gardens from the early 20th century. It would be interesting to collect these and see if the gardens still survive today.

There is so much more to be said about old postcards, especially their contribution to our social history. The true deltiologist will be ashamed of me as I have only touched the surface when referring to my postcards of roses. So my apologies to them.

A more recent but very pretty card by the artist Mary Brown and published by the Medici Society Ltd of London.
A more recent but very pretty card by the artist Mary Brown and published by the Medici Society Ltd of London.

Roses – Deltiology Read More »

‘Beauties of the Rose’ (1850-1853) and the author Henry Curtis (1820-1889)

Perhaps it is not surprising that many books about roses have been written by the nurserymen who cultivate roses for their livelihood. They are the people who have the knowledge to share with others. Can you imagine though what it must have been like in the 19th century drafting a book by hand? I find it difficult to imagine how these authors, and in some cases artists, were able to find the time and the inspiration to draft a knowledgeable tome, especially after they had been out in the elements all day propagating roses. In this beautiful book ‘Beauties of the Rose’ Henry Curtis, as well as writing the text, drew all the illustrations on stone so that they could be lithographed for this book, which has two volumes and thirty-eight hand coloured lithographic plates.

Beauties of the Rose by Henry Curtis
The Frontispiece from ‘Beauties of the Rose’ by Henry Curtis.

The library has two copies of ‘Beauties of the Rose’, in different bindings but whichever you saw you would know instinctively that within there were exciting treasures. Whether you chose the green and gold elegant binding with gold page edging or the plain green binding with marbled edging you would not be disappointed. The two books in the library are similar inside; a page of text followed by a tissue covered illustration. Comparable in format to the great works ‘Roses or a Monograph of the Genus Rosa’ (1805) by Henry C. Andrews and ‘Rosarium Monographia’ (1820) by John Lindley. Fortunately the text and illustrations have been protected well by the substantial bindings and the platesremain vibrant and clear.

Bindings of rose books
The two different bindings of the books in The Rosarian Library.

It seems that Henry Curtis drew the roses he sold in his nursery and wrote about them from personal experience. He admits to choosing them “to sit for their portraits when in their best trim” because he wanted to “pourtray our National emblem and Flora’s Pride” in its truest form. He suggests that “its many beauties of form and color have hitherto been so variously described, as to tend rather to confuse than to explain” and that “faithfully-drawn and colored portraits must convey a much better idea of this flower than any verbal description, however correct, more particularly as the catalogues of the four principal rose growers vary in most instances.”

Tea Noisette Rose Cloth of Gold
Tea Noisette ‘Cloth of Gold’.

These four principal growers he named as Rivers, Lane, Wood and Paul and before each of his descriptions he quotes from their catalogues the colour they attribute to the rose to show the variation. This does not appear to be a criticism by him but more a desire to justify why he has drawn each rose to accompany his text; so that he can offer a true likeness. Thomas Rivers and William Paul are two well-regarded felllow authors and it seems they knew of each other. Thomas Rivers recommends a rose, introduced by Henry Curtis, in his book ‘The Rose Amateur’s guide’ (1837) – the small but informative book solely dedicated to the cultivation of roses.

Hybrid Perpetual - Geant Des Batailles
Hybrid Perpetual – Geant Des Batailles.

Enjoying social history I love the way that the developments in printing and illustration can be followed through the succession of rose books from the beginning of the 19th century. The printing press at this time was still much as it had been when developed in the 15th century, with the size and style of type being limited. The press was of wood and this restricted the size of page and the pressure that could be applied. Change came around 1800 when the iron press was invented by Lord Stanhope. With more force and range possible a larger sheet could be printed. Further presses followed and a variety of printing styles made possible.

Hybrid Perpetual - Geant Des Batailles.
Text size and style could be varied when ‘Beauties of the Rose’ was written.

During the 18th century there had been a significant increase in the number of printers setting up outside London. This had been helped by the printing trade becoming separate from that of the publishers many of whom were still located in the capital. Each town had their own printers. The mechanical developments, the revolution in transport, the spread of literacy, the reduction in certain taxes all made possible a variety and complexity of printed matter. By 1860 the trade had divided into three with book printing being only one strand with newspapers another and posters, leaflets etc being the third.

Hybrid Perpetual - Caroline de Sansal.
Hybrid Perpetual – Caroline de Sansal.

The usual method of illustration was by printing with woodcut blocks but during the early part of the century changes were being made and engraving on metal plates became more usual. By 1850 lithography had become the norm for producing illustrations. It required the design to be drawn on the surface of a slab of a special limestone using ink or crayon with high grease content. The stone absorbed the grease, making the image water repellant. For printing the stone was sponged with water which was accepted only by the non design areas, then rolled with ink, which repelled by the damp stone, adhered only to the image.. Paper was laid on and the stone taken through the press. The designs were then coloured by hand. Lithography was the process which Henry Curtis used to illustrate his book whereas nearly 50 years before H.C. Andrews had engraved his designs on to copper plates to print his illustrations before colouring them. This in turn was a development from the woodcut illustrations that had previously been used but continued to be used in a number of books throughout the 19th century. As black and white prints they can be seen in a good percentage of the books about roses in this period, in particular the three books written by William Paul- ‘Roses in Pots’ (1844), ‘The Rose Garden’ (1848) and ‘Roses and Rose Culture’ (1874).

Rose illustration
An illustration from a woodcut block.

Although Henry Curtis drew all the designs himself he needed a printer to reproduce his work and for that purpose John Lavars of Bridge Street, Bristol was employed to be the printer of ‘Beauties of the Rose’. I do not know at which point Curtis’s skills met with the skills of John Lavars as on all the illustrations in the book it says “Drawn from Nature and on Stone by Henry Curtis, Roseries, Moorend, Bristol.” but it also says on the bottom of some of the illustrations “Lavars, Lith, Bridge St, Bristol”, indicating that printers became involved in the lithographic process. Although printers and publishers had been and were still occasionally one of the same in the case of ‘Beauties of the Rose’ the publishers were Groombridge and Sons of Paternoster Row, London. Volume One was published in 1850 and volume two in 1853. I presume, but do not know, that at this point they were bound as one volume.

Hybrid Perpetual 'Robin Hood'.
Hybrid Perpetual ‘Robin Hood’.

As can be seen from the details at the bottom of each illustration Henry Curtis, at this time, had a rose nursery near Bristol at Moorend. He later went into partnership with F.W. Sandford and opened a rose nursery in Devon, outside Torquay. He became well-known as a rose grower introducing the climbing ‘Devoniensis’ in 1858, a sport of the bush form which had been introduced earlier in 1841. There was some controversy surrounding the introduction of the climbing variety with some questioning whether it was really distinct from the original form. In an article ‘Climbing Devoniensis and Rose Sports’ written for the ‘Journal of Horticulture’ in 1865 Henry Curtis defends his introduction of a ‘new’ rose. His defence seemed to be partly triggered by the fact that after reading about the rose not being a distinct climber a customer had returned a package of 52 rose plants to him!

Hybrid Perpetual 'Baronne Prevost'.
Hybrid Perpetual ‘Baronne Prevost’.

From the horticultural literature of this period Henry Curtis seems to have become quite an influential rose grower. In 1877 the ‘Gardeners Chronicle’ reports that his nurseries exhibited a magnificent display of ‘Francois Michelon’ at the National Rose Show in St James Hall which was awarded a first prize. Also at this time his nurseries, The Devon Rosery, were offering a range of Standard and Dwarf Perpetual Roses, also Teas, Half Standards and Dwarfs budded on their Celine stock. It seems that the nurseries continued with his name up to and beyond his death in 1889. A rose catalogue from the nursery was published in 1894 but after this I have no further information.

Tea Scented 'Vicomtesse De Cazes'.
Tea Scented ‘Vicomtesse De Cazes’.

Sadly after having written and illustrated such a beautiful book Henry Curtis seems largely to have been lost to history. Unfair, I think, as William Curtis , the first editor of ‘The Botanical Magazine’ and a relative is comparatively well known and well remembered. There is even some discrepancy as to whether William Curtis was Henry’s grandfather or great uncle. Both suggestions have been documented but a historian at the Curtis Museum in Alton, Hampshire has convinced me that Henry was certainly not the grandson of William Curtis, the botanist. I cannot be sure of the relationship between the two only that the two were related.

It appears that Henry was the son of Samuel Curtis and the grandson of James Curtis, an apothecary. His great grandfather, John Curtis was also an apothecary. Samuel Curtis married Sarah Ann Caustin in 1801 and had thirteen children, number eleven of which was Henry, born in 1820. His birthplace is documented as Gamston in Nottinghamshire. With several apothecaries in the family (William Curtis, the botanist also started out by being apprenticed to an apothecary) it is not surprising that he had an interest in plants and flowers.

Hybrid Perpetual 'Amandine'.
Hybrid Perpetual ‘Amandine’.

As the writer and illustrator of this well loved book and for my research into the 19th century rose literature I would like to discover more about this man and the contribution he made to the horticultural world. I would like him to settle in history with William Curtis, the botanist, and not let him be over shadowed by the relation who started’The Botanical Magazine’.

‘Beauties of the Rose’ (1850-1853) and the author Henry Curtis (1820-1889) Read More »

A Garden of Rose Books

As each and every rose book in the Rosarian Library is about roses you could be forgiven for thinking that one book is very much like another. A closer glance at the books, however, reveals that they are as different as the roses that grow in a rose garden.

The Rose Book
A rose book with a unique cover illustrating a rose garden.

The old books of the early 19th century, written by the first rose nurserymen, with their detailed text about rose cultivation and few, if any, illustrations are as different from the glossy books of today as the old Gallica or Damask roses are from the modern shrub or bush roses.

Two rose books.
21st century and 19th century texts.

Time has moved forward; the books, like the roses have become more diverse with a far greater range from which to choose. Although roses have been blooming for many centuries it seems it is only within the last two centuries that nurserymen have focused solely on the rose encouraging a change in their habit, colour and fragrance until we have the thousands of varieties that are available now. Similarly with the books; although books with information about roses have been written for many years the first book written in Britain dedicated solely to the rose was printed in 1799 and throughout the ensuing two centuries the number and variety have escalated.

Rosarium Monographia
An illustration from one of the first texts dedicated solely to the rose ‘Rosarium Monographia’ John Lindley (1820).

From the five petalled species roses of the wild and the Old Roses which hybridised from them we now have the many classes of roses bred in the 19th and 20th centuries. Roses have developed not only in form but also from a limited colour palette of pink and white to the rainbow of reds, golds, yellows and purples of our roses today. Increasingly too their fragrance has developed from the old rose scent to a range of scents that include those of fruits, herbs, resins and flowers.

David Austin Rose Book
A modern book written by a well known rose breeder who developed a range of fragrances in his roses and also wrote many books throughout the last fifty years.

The rose books too have taken on a different guise. There is a huge range of genre from the horticultural texts that documented the ideas of those first writers right through to encyclopedias, history books, story books, bibliographies, art and poetry books, biographies, rose lists and coffee table books that are currently on the shelves. The books have become as diverse as the roses themselves. They also come in a range of sizes and formats which would challenge any librarian’s skills of display.

Popular rose book
A first edition of the most popular rose book written in the 19th century. (There were no protective dust covers in those days.)

Improving techniques of planting, budding, pruning, propagating, fertilising and hybridising have allowed our roses to be developed into the vast and diverse range that we now have whereas the improvements in illustrative techniques, printing, photography, technology and publishing have enabled the growth and diversity of the range of books that fill the Rosarian Library.

Illustrations used to be few in number; black and white woodcuts only. (In the 19th century any printed colour was often prohibitively expensive.)

The roses and the books have advanced hand in hand. With the developments in rose growing and the ever evolving number of varieties there is more to record, more to photograph and more to illustrate. With the advances in printing and publishing roses have been introduced to a wider audience. More people have become interested in and more confident in growing roses and there is generally a greater awareness and appreciation among the public, which, in turn, encourages more books to be written. This seems a simple theory but to some extent it must be true. Of course there are other factors which have impacted on the development of roses and rose books but it is significant that during the last two centuries they have both developed in range and number at a similar pace.

Colour photographs of roses
Colour photographs or paintings are now found in many books about roses.

In the Rosarian Library there is a range of genre written by a range of people. It is this diversity (or eclectic mix) that makes the Library a useful resource and the books interesting to collect. Currently the number of individual texts, of a variety of genre, dedicated solely to the rose is nearing 600; rising slowly but so too is the number of books to be collected. Sadly the definitive number is unknown; new and older titles keep emerging. I expect, like the list of roses it will never be complete.

A Garden of Rose Books Read More »

The ‘New’ Rosarian Library

At last my books and I have a new home! When I wrote my last blog/article in August last year I did not realise it would be six months before my next. It is great to be back ‘at the drawing board’ so to speak.

Rose tiles
Part of the new library (note the rose tiles on the fireplace!).

The move from one house and county to another has been a logistical challenge but one that seems to be working out well. At least the books do not seem to have suffered from a month or two of storage and during their sojourn they acquired one or two other companions as a result of their owner suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

Rose library
More of the library (I already need to tidy it, it would appear).

It has been a challenge but a privilege to be able to build, with the help of a few good artisans, a small bespoke library for the majority of the rose books and a great study where I have located the older precious books and all the paper ephemera such as catalogues and articles that this collector has amassed. I would say I started from a blank canvas but the canvas wasn’t particularly blank with a 1980’s fireplace (in an Edwardian house!) and carpets and curtains to match.

Out with the old. . . . . . . . .sorry, someone loved you.

At one point I thought it would never happen and just when the end was in sight the boxes arrived! Wow – I could hardly move but it never seems to amaze me how quickly circumstances can change, especially when you have a couple of family members with strength and spirit and a huge amount of positivity. Hard work and sheer determination to see it through made us fitter and me wiser. Never again!

Rose paintings
The study will have a number of paintings.

With this story unfolding I needed to use the time profitably so a fair amount of time was spent reading and researching, also searching for rose books I did not have. I must have acquired 20 or so to add to the shelves; a number through but also one or two from second hand book shops which I love to visit.

Many of the French and older books are going in the dresser.

The total number of unique books, dedicated solely to roses, on The Rosarian Library shelves now stands at 580. If I counted duplicates, triplicates and so on there would be well over 1000. As I have had the time I have been through the list of titles quite rigorously deleting any repetitions or catalogues and articles that have crept in. The number of titles dedicated to the rose I currently believe to be 962 but, of course, I cannot have found them all so I would still like ‘to hedge my bets’ and suggest it may be nearer the thousand mark.

I realise that as a result of the research I have been doing I have collected many books on rose related topics such as the history of gardening, rosarians and gardeners, art and artists, the history and nature of books as well as many books with sections on roses. I love them all so have filled all my old book shelves with these. They reside in the studio on the first floor.

Book shelves
It didn’t take long to fill these!

I don’t expect one can go through such a radical move without any traumas at all but I have had only one, namely British Telecom. In their efforts to keep me very secure I have been unable to use my email address so have had to change it, which has meant changing it on my website too. If you have tried to contact me through my previous email address I am sorry for my lack of response. Please go through the contact page on my website.

Dr Elizabeth Perks
In my element – surrounded by beautiful books.

Please keep the requests for research coming in. I love to deviate from my own research in which I invariably get bogged down!

The ‘New’ Rosarian Library Read More »

The Glorious Rose of the Nineteenth Century

Edme-Henry Jacotot could not have been more proud when the Societe d’Horticulture de la Cote d’Or proclaimed that the strong and beautiful Tea Rose that he had created had captured their exhibition’s top prize. The large translucent blooms of rose, salmon and yellow mesmerized the eyes of the jury and the scent in the air thrilled their noses with a unique and powerful fragrance. There was no question that this new rose would be named ‘Gloire de Dijon’ in honour of the town where it was born.

Gloire de Dijon
‘Gloire de Dijon’ taken from ‘The Amateur Gardener’s ROSE BOOK’ Hoffmann J. (1905)

The year was 1853 when this little known nurseryman from the rose growing area of Dijon in Burgundy, France ventured forth to exhibit the very first rose that he had bred himself. He did not know for sure who its parents were. He was pretty certain that the pollen came from a Bourbon Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ but he only thought the receiving parent was ‘Desprez a Fleur Jaune’, a Noisette Rose, which gave his glorious new rose the characteristics of the climbing Noisettes. Although it was a climbing Tea Rose it would often be classified as a Noisette.

Gloire de Dijon cigarette card
‘Gloire de Dijon’ Wills cigarette card No. 32 (1912)

‘Gloire de Dijon’ was one of many roses bred in France and sold to British nurseries but once here it began to make a name for itself in the newly designed catalogues dedicated solely to roses. The catalogues and books of Paul, Rivers, Cant and Cranston, to name but a few, exclaimed the virtues which appealed to the innovative and growing numbers of gardeners in Victorian Britain. This glorious rose became very popular with a climbing habit, a vigorous nature and beautiful blooms that were an unusual buff yellow tinged with a touch of salmon in the centre and which had a strong and enticing fragrance.

Gloire de Dijon on trellis
Taken from ‘The Rose Book’ Thomas H.H. (1913) P. 49

Throughout the literature of the second half of the century there seems to be no other rose to rival ‘Gloire de Dijon’s existence. Recommended for garden walls, for growing in pots, for forcing and for exhibition it was included in the lists of the finest roses and did not seem to lose ground as other varieties came and went. Championed by nurserymen, writers and laymen alike it found favour with Dean Reynolds Hole, perhaps the most influential rosarian at this time. He declared this rose to be the best climbing rose with which he was acquainted and suggested that although classed with the Tea-scented China Roses it more closely resembled the Noisette family in robust growth and constitution.

Gloire de Dijon
Gloire de Dijon (taken from ‘Les Roses’ Jamain and Forney (1873)

‘Gloire de Dijon’ made it to the twentieth century unscathed in reputation. Gertrude Jekyll in ‘Roses for English Gardens’ 1901 included it in her list of best roses and believed it to be the most free flowering of all climbing roses and suggested that for general usefulness there was no equal. Little did Edme-Henry Jacotot know that his one and only glorious new rose variety would become so embedded in the gardens of Britain and that it would survive there for over a century. It certainly seems that Edme-Henry Jacotot deserved that accolade in 1853.

Taken from an old French text of ‘Rare Roses’ . Author and date unknown.

“. . . . and if ever, for some heinous crime, I was miserably sentenced, for the rest of my life, to possess but a single Rose-tree, I should desire to be supplied, on leaving the dock, with a strong plant of Gloire de Dijon”.

S. Reynolds Hole. ‘A Book about Roses’ Ch.8 P.113

(Gloire de Dijon is listed in many of the rose catalogues we have today. It may not be the strongest and best of all climbers as other more modern varieties have, as one would expect, surpassed it in this respect. It, however, remains I believe at the top of the list for unusual colour and fragrance.)

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Wow! Three articles published . . .

Wow! Three articles about the library published in as many months. The Rosarian Library is reaching a wider public! I am thrilled as I know, for the rosarian, it is a great resource and for me personally it is rewarding to see the library grow and its many books providing information for people with an amazing range of projects.

The first article appeared in the February 2018 ‘Rose Society UK’ Newsletter, the second in the Spring 2018 ‘Historic Roses Group Journal’ and the third in the July issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’ all of which I enjoy reading myself. I would like to thank the editors of these three publications for recognising that the theory behind the pratice is worthy of promotion and for including The Rosarian Library among their pages..

The Rose Society logo

An organisation promoting the rose across the UK.

I hope that many rose enthusiasts enjoyed the articles and appreciate the great diversity of subject matter that can be contained in the books about one particular flower. I know most rose enthusiasts prefer growing roses rather than reading about them but I do think that many of the books that have been published in the UK since that very first one in 1799 can enhance our love and appreciation of The Rose.

My great love is for the 19th century rose books which I still find inspirational and informative today. In my research into 19th century rose literature including not just books but catalogues, periodicals, articles and pamphlets I am pleased to discover that other like minded people have gone before me and have left behind articles about rose literature that are useful for my own research. I hope that I can build on these by gathering further information that will be useful to the researchers of the future.

Articles which I have found useful include:

  • Arthur William Paul ‘The Literature of The Rose’ The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1913-1914) Vol.39.

  • Mrs H.R. Darlington ‘Rose Literature of the Past Fifty Years’ The Rose Annual of the National Rose Society 1926 (pp. 79 – 101).

  • Theo Mayer ‘Victorian Rose Literature’ The rose Annual of The Royal National Rose Society 1970 (pp. 139 – 170).

Historic Rose Journal logo
The journal of The Historic Roses Group, an organisation promoting timeless roses.

Then, of course, there are those dedicated individuals who have collated all books and articles into Bibliographies. These are incredibly useful when researching book titles, authors, publishers, dates etc as much of the tedious work has been done for you. A concern is that the most recently published bibliography of Rose Books, that I know of, only collates books written before 1984. I hope there is an entreprising person who is taking on the challenge for the last 30 years and as we go forward.

The work of the library flourishes and the books increase in number. Books dedicated solely to the rose are the main focus but the gardening books with some rose information and those discussing garden history I find difficult to ignore, especially the older ones. My research about 19th century rose literature is slowly coming together but still has a fair way to go. I am always pleased to put my personal research aside for various projects that come in. Other peoples research seems so much more interesting than mine. Perhaps because I usually know little about the subject and have to use the Rosarian Library literature to find out, which is ‘the object of the exercise’, of course.

Gardens Illustrated logo
One of the nations favourite Gardening Magazines.

Wow! Three articles published . . . Read More »

A Rose Museum?

Not far from where I live, in a little market town, there is a shop/gallery for sale with plenty of living accommodation and a garden too. Regardless of financial issues am I courageous enough and do I have sufficient energy to open a long dreamed about museum?

Painting of Jules Gravereaux
A painting of Jules Gravereaux which was hung in his museum.

Of course I could not aspire to the dizzy heights of the numerous and beautiful artefacts gathered together by Jules Gravereaux at the end of the twentieth century at La Roseraie de l’Hay near Paris but perhaps I could work towards the more compact and personal “House of Roses” that was lovingly collected by Jean Gordon in the 1960’s in the small town of Augustine in Florida. These two museums and the recently opened Rose Museum in Beijing are the only permanent ‘monuments’ to the rose of which I am aware. Please tell me if you know of others.

Rose Garden, France
Illustration taken from a magazine ‘L’illustration’ (1907) found in the depths of France. The article is entitled ‘Le Paradis Des Roses’ and tells the story of the gardens at Roseraie de l’Hay.

The Roses in the gardens of La Roseraie de l’Hay must be coming into full bloom at this time and looking beautiful. It was the ambition of Jules Gravereaux, on his retirement from the Bon Marche department store to indulge his passion for roses. In 1892 he bought the property at l’Hay and began his magnificent collection of roses by contacting collectors at the botanical gardens all over the world. As his collection outgrew its allotted space a landscape architect, Edouard Andre was commissioned to design a special rose garden. As well as being able to boast a vast collection of roses Jules Gravereaux also wanted to display them in as many ways as possible to maximum effect. With his variety of arches, pergolas, tunnels and trellises he succeeded and achieved one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.

Drawing of portico at L'Hays rosery
A drawing showing some of the structures.

By 1900 M.Gravereaux had amassed approximately 3,000 different roses with this number growing to 8,000 in 1906. 500 of these were species roses which he called his ‘Collection Botanique’. The varieties i.e. the cultivated roses were his ‘Collection Horticole’. I am lucky to have in my library a Catalogue entitled Roseraie de l’Hay and dated 1900 listing the 3,000 species and varieties he had collected by this time. This little Catalogue also has many black and white photographs of the gardens showing the beautiful structures many of which still exist today.

Catalogue of rosery l'Hay France
A page from the Catalogue.

As the garden grew so did his collection of rose artefacts. His house as well as his garden was full of roses asa well as images of roses. He had an office and laboratory housed in a building in the centre of the rose garden where he also kept an ever increasing collection of books, drawings, paintings, scultures, textiles, pottery and porcelain, stamps and coins. How tremendous it must have been to see this collection in its day but sadly it is no longer as the majority was stolen in 1980. Fortunately there survives a list ‘La Rose Dans Les Sciences Dans Les Lettres Et Dans Les Arts’ (1906) which catalogues the amazing collection. I have to satisfy myself with a reprint; an original must be extremely rare.

The Rose Museum at Roseraie de l'Hay
The Rose Museum at Roseraie de l’Hay.

Jean Gordon’s Museum in St Augustine, on the other hand, has been reopened I understand. Jean, author and rose historian, founded the “House of Roses” in 1956 and ran it from her home until 1966. It was only after her second marriage and widowhood that she began to write about rosesand to collect a vast array of rose memorabilia. She wrote several books dedicated to the rose including ‘Immortal Roses’ (1959) where I read about the existence of her rose museum, ‘Pageant of the Rose’ (1953) and ‘The art of Cooking with Roses’ (1968).

Inside the rose museum
Inside the Museum at Roseraie de l’Hay (taken from an old postcard in my collection.

“To mention a few of the displays there are: stamps incorporating a rose design from many nations, English coins showing the Tudor Rose, desert or rock roses, a gold metal rose from France and a spray of wrought iron roses from Germany, and antique rose-shaped butter molds. In addition, there are six complete exhibits featuring the Rose in Symbolism, Religion, the Orient, England, France and America. Wall panels display pictures that show the use of the rose in medicine, art, music; the fascinating genealogy of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose, and rose fossils estimated to be 35 million years old.”

Taken from ‘Immortal Roses’ by Jean Gordon.
100 Rose Stories

Jean Gordon’s Rose books are in The Rosarian Library and I gain inspiration from them regularly. There must be other museums like hers that have been in existence or continue to be in existence now. Please tell me about them.

I know little about the Rose Museum in Bejing apart from it was completed in 2016 and opened on the day of the World Federation of Rose Societies Convention held in Beijing. It is huge covering an area of 30,000 square metres and is made from stainless steel complete with perforated rose designs. A number of displays are dedicated to the history of the rose and rose breeding. Although I am piqued that it is heralded as the world’s first rose museum; I feel that accolade should go to Jules Gravereaux and his wonderful collection, I would very much like to make a visit!

Whether I will open my own museum or not I am not sure; watch this space. . . . .

Also watch out for the July issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’!

A Rose Museum? Read More »

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