“Yesterday’s rose endures in its name, we hold empty names”.

The names of roses, the history, and the romanticism of the names of roses are aspects, along with playing with colour, that I love about growing roses. Nowhere else could we find so varied a selection of people linked only through a rose name. Indeed, what else would the painter Auguste Renoir have in common with; Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, James Galway, Anne Boleyn, Helmut Schmidt, Julia Child, Roald Dahl, Leonardo de Vinci, Karen Blixen, Olivia Newton-John, Charles Darwin, Ian Thorpe, Heidi Klum or Paul McCartney?

As I move around the garden taking photos on most mornings, I sometimes come across a rose that I struggle to remember the name of as I have not added tags to all of them as yet. The original paper labels are usually removed because they will not last in the garden. Memory has a habit of occasionally letting us down, which is of no concern except that once the paper label is lost, it is challenging to identify roses via websites, books or catalogues. The climate, soil conditions, weather, and season can dramatically change the features of a rose variety; colours may be lighter or deeper, and the blooms and shrubs can be much larger than expected.

One such rose is the one pictured here. It features a multi-layered, slightly cupped bloom form with pointed petals, beautiful peach, and pink to apricot shades. Although the blooms are large, they sit in tight clusters and are sturdy. It is truly gorgeous to view and also has a light scent. Elysium Fields is the name I’ve settled on for this rose after much deliberation trying to work it out, although please tell me if I’m incorrect. Diana from Silkies rose farm describes it as “Elysium Fields is a gorgeous Modern Shrub rose which is never without an abundant profusion of warm orange/apricot blooms which are filled with a swirling mass of petals – the blooms flat in all weather conditions.”  

This perfectly describes this rose I’ve had growing for several years and found it to be an easy-care rose that blooms profusely, is always healthy, and disease free, but best of all, is a beautiful rich peach colour. The blooms cluster together, hang heavily from the branches and stay in place for a long time. It is stunning. Elysium Fields is a Floribunda shrub bred by W Kordes & Sons in Germany in 2000 and should grow to 150 cm tall.

“The rose is a rose, and was always a rose. But now the theory goes that the apple’s a rose, and the pear is, and so’s the plum, I suppose. The dear only knows what will next prove a rose. You, of course, are a rose but were always a rose.”

Robert Frost – The Rose Family

Rose names are thought-provoking and intriguing. There is a myriad of unique names from different themes such as fictional characters; Cinderella, Bathsheba, Rose DeWitt Bukater ( Titanic) or places; Avignon, Birchgrove, Bordeaux, Oklahoma, Windermere, The Chateau Versaille, Camp David, Dublin Bay, La France, Nevada, Notre Dame du Rosaire, Renmark, Belle of Berlin, City of Newcastle, and Chicago Peace.

And more sentiment-style rose names; Mother’s Love, Remember Me, That’s Life, True Love, Restless, Daydream, Dark Desire, Close to you, Grace, In Appreciation, Best Friend, and New Dawn. Or there are roses named after their features and characteristics; Golden Beauty, Blue Moon, Big Purple, Buff Beauty, Blaze of Glory, Fragrant Plum, Chameleon, and Perfume Delight, amongst many more.

Royalty gets a look in, too, with; the Queen of Sweden, Queen Elizabeth 11, Princess de Monaco, Diana, Princess of Wales, Princess Claire of Belgium, Princess Anne, Princess Alexandra of Kent and Princess Charlene de Monaco, and many of these roses thrive in my garden.

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December ( or June in Australia)

JM Barrie

Roses are named to help identify the heritage of the rose and, of course, to boost sales and for marketing strategies. Originally roses were named after family members; for example, the Dorothy Perkins rose was named after rose breeder Charles Perkins. As time passed, it became popular to name roses after celebrities, Hollywood stars or famous people like Audrey Hepburn. It is the breeder that names each rose.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning. “Do you have the answers? And if you do, would you tell me?” The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,” they said. “But as you can see, we are just now entirely busy being roses.”

Mary Oliver- Felicity

So, apart from the labels and tags some of us often attach to roses, the key to identifying a particular rose includes the foliage, stems, prickles and bloom colour, shape and style. But also by looking at the structure of the plant, the way the rose grows, whether it grows upright or has arching canes or likes to bloom from the ground or is leggy and the flowers sit high on the shrub. Together all these features can help us recognise each rose when labels and memory fail.

During the 1950s, codes were introduced for naming any roses sold internationally regardless of the cultivar name. Three to five uppercase letters denote the rose breeder to prevent mistakes from the same rose having different names in various countries. The world body for naming roses is the International Cultivar Registration Authority for Roses ICRAR. So, for the Blue Moon Rose, the registration code is TANsi because Mathias Tantau, Jr. bred the rose in Germany before 1964.

 When a rose breeder has a new rose, they register it with ICRAR but don’t use a trading name. They use a code name. This is because nurseries want a sellable catchy name for marketing purposes, so the breeder leaves it up to the nursery to decide the trade name. As lovers of roses, the first letters of the word are the key to the breeder of each rose. It is always in uppercase and assigned by ICRAR, and usually is the breeder’s last name or the company they work for. This may be useful to consumers; for example, if you love David Austin roses, then the AUS at the beginning of the rose name indicates a David Austin Rose. To use an example with his Lady of Shalott, any rose sold as Lady of Shalott bred by David Austin will have the name -AUSnyson. The following extract from Helpmefind.com will describe the process of producing this rose over ten years.

“In 2001, an unnamed seedling was selected to be the mother and an unnamed seedling was selected to be the father. The resulting seed was sown in January 2002, resulting in a number of seedlings. The best of these seedlings was then chosen for further trial and development. From this plant, in July 2002, 8 buds were taken and grafted (using the ‘t’-budding method) onto Laxa rootstock outdoors. The following year, in 2003, the variety was considered good enough to be increased by grafting to 30 plants. These plants were observed in 2004 and in the following year, in 2005, the increase was up to 200, and two years after that, in 2007, it increased to 1,500 and up to 5,000 in 2008, sufficient for budding for a commercial introduction in the UK in 2009. Breeder: David Austin Roses Limited”

When admiring other people’s gardens, don’t forget to tend to your own flowers.

Sanober Khan

Roses growing in our gardens do not necessarily need to be labelled; it is always a personal choice. I’ve tried many label systems, from copper ties, slate labels in the ground and small white plastic ones, but the only tag I’ve found that does last in the weather and does not deteriorate are cattle tags. Still, the original cardboard tag will eventually fade and fall off. Therefore, a good memory is an excellent asset in knowing their names and is worth cultivating.

The title quote is from ‘The Name of a Rose by Umberto Eco’, who writes in the last line of the book

Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus

which translates literally as “Yesterday’s rose endures in its name; we hold empty names” meaning that the beauty of the past now disappeared, and we hold only the name.

Content Di Baker

Images Di Baker 2022

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