A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

victorian roses, candy stripe rose, tea rose

A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet–Shakespeare

But would it?

I mean would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet?

I agree with Anne Shirley; she says, “I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

Is there anything more Victorian than roses and lace? I know that might apply equally to Medieval ladies or the Renaissance.  As David Austin puts it: “The history of the rose stretches back to the dawn of civilization–and beyond–and man’s fascination with this flower has continued to the present day.”

But the Victorians really loved roses, they painted them, printed them, stitched them and photographed them, they wore them, and grew them and wrote about them. Just look at the pages of Victoria magazine, roses, roses and more roses.

Seeking Rosy inspiration

Rose Books, 1880's girl roses, victorian roses, researching roses

Library delights

Every Victorian house of any pretensions whatsoever must include a rose garden. The fictional house of Hamilton Hill in Helen’s Summer is no exception. This meant research. Actually I was looking for information on Victorian gardens generally and fell so in love with the old varieties of roses that the research didn’t go much further.

I was surprised to see during editing how little mention is made of the actual roses other than some of the most delightful names and varieties, but just looking at the sumptuous photos in these books put me in the right frame of mind for writing summer scenes. I could almost hear the insects buzzing and feel the warm rays of the sun as I entered Helen’s world, experiencing the novelty and beauty of it just as she did. The gardens of a wealthy family’s summer house is a far cry from her Manhattan print shop.

The best part about research is the unexpected places it takes you.

My favourite book was this little gem: Through the Rose Arbour by Rosemary Houseman.

Through the rose arbour

It is full of information on the history of roses and how to grow them but it is much more than that. It is a memoir and a love story about Rosemary’s gradual discovery of gardening and roses that took her around the world and led her to open a rose nursery. I checked it out to use as a reference but found it so engaging I couldn’t put it down.


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