picture above: Rosa Gallica
A chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell. (Anon)
There's an old story of a chap with a garden filled with wonderful flowers who was asked the names of several plants. 'Oh, I don't know... I just call 'em all Amnesias!' Garden visitors in general divide themselves into various camps when it comes to plant names and going around with specialist groups is always fun from the side-lines. A mislabelled plant or nameless variety sets them off. They love a challenge to get their knowledgeable teeth into, changing spectacles to peer more closely into the botanical context, humming and hawing contentedly among themselves for minutes on end. On a visit to a private garden full of wonderful roses the group was faced with a spectacular display cascading over a tree of a white rambler in all its summer glory. 'That's Wedding Day,' declared our hostess. Much polite throat clearing, tactful teeth sucking and shaking of heads on the part of the rosarians. Was it a multiflora? It's certainly got brunonii in there somewhere. What about Seagull? Or Bobbie James? La Mortola perhaps? Could be… Everyone proffered an opinion to the point when my wife threw a playful spanner in the works by suggesting American Pillar, that vibrant pink rambler which shouts for our attention at this time of year.' Ooh no, no …' Finally, off we all trooped with someone saying, 'At least we know what it's not and that is Wedding Day.' Of course, inevitably, our hostess ignored all this expertise and stuck to her guns by calling it Wedding Day. Which, for most of us, is the crux of the matter.
In our garden we grow an old Gallica rose purchased from David Austin Roses of Shropshire. It's named Jenny Duval, 'a subtle mixture of rich purple, violet and grey with outer edges fading to lilac', said the catalogue. However, it has been identified by wiser gardening heads than ours as President de Seze, purple, crimson, lilac pink at the circumference. Spot the difference. We call it Jenny Duval. Having studied Romeo and Juliet for a national exam in English Literature, one pupil brought out the quotation: 'What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweat.' Yes, it has been a hot summer which has benefited some plants more than others, ourselves included. The Gardening Club has successfully visited Compton Acres near Poole and the lovely gardens of Stogumber in the Quantocks. Both splendid days. The new season of talks will kick off in September with Timothy Walker of Oxford University, one of the best lecturers on the circuit. Mark 8th September in the diary.