Why We All Love a Rose; with the News That a [Pounds]20m Rose Garden Is Planned in Memory of Diana

Article excerpt


WAS THERE ever such a year for roses?

The combination of the wettest winter for centuries with a burst of rich, warm weather has resulted in every rose burgeoning as never before.

I've seldom seen such an abundance of blooms. In some cases, the weight of the flower head had lowered the rose branches to the ground.

And I've got about 150 varieties in our garden, so I won't hear a word said against them.

This week's announcement that a [pound]20 million rose garden is to be created in Hertfordshire as a memorial to Princess Diana has drawn predictable criticism from those who whine that roses are too formal, that they flower only for a short period in summer and they are somehow dated.

But what better evocation of Princess Diana could there be than a rose garden and a rose? For a rose is essentially transient, its petals unfold, reach a heady perfection and then it's over, and, crumpled, the petals fall to the ground.

What better memory of this beautiful princess who began shy and hesitant, flowered and then suddenly was gone.

And, of course, the rose is an attribute of Venus, goddess of love, and also the emblem of England. The rose is entwined into our history. Forget Neil and Glenys Kinnock camping around with their Labour red rose and recall this country's greatness in the Tudors, that dynasty which united the roses of York and Lancaster.

ENGLAND alone has had a war of the roses.

Two great families at loggerheads in the 15th century to seize the throne.

Shakespeare's history plays re- enact this saga, opening with the famous scene in the garden of the Temple, when each side plucked a rose, red for Lancaster, white for York.

The resolution of that struggle followed the victory of Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. As a Lancastrian, his first act was to marry the Yorkist heiress, Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the two roses.

You only have to visit Hampton Court today to see the Tudor rose symbolising the peace that that family brought England. It was to culminate in the reign of Elizabeth I, hailed by her sycophantic courtiers as 'beauty's rose'.

The most famous work of art from that age is a miniature of a young man by Nicholas Hilliard depicting a young man, hand on heart, embowered in a bush of white roses.

Later the white rose became the Jacobite rose - symbol of the Stuart king James II after his exile in France in 1688 and his descendants.

The rose is also enmeshed into our literature. It was Geoffrey Chaucer, father of English poetry, who translated the most famous of all medieval romances, the romance of the rose. In that poem, a knight seeks to penetrate the garden of love and pluck the rose. One of the cavalier poets Edmund Waller's most beautiful poems celebrating his mistress Sacharissima begins with the line 'Go, lovely rose!'. And what about Bobby Burns' 'my love is like a red, red rose'.

Even today, a young man will present his sweetheart with a single red rose as an expression of his passion. No other flower is endowed with such an aura of romance.

The rose is crammed with history. I love the idea that some of the roses I have in the garden are the same as those I can see in a medieval miniature. …