Since roses, and particularly Old Roses, are the major focus of my blog this year, I thought it would be useful to discuss a few of my favourite rose books, as a start to my monthly posts on books this year, as well as to provide a reference point and future reading material for those readers, who share my passion or whose interest is piqued! Note: The name Old Roses refer to Heritage or Old-Fashioned Roses, mostly hailing from the pre-1900s, rather than chronologically old or new bushes! First up,
‘Classic Roses’ by Peter Beales 1985 and 1997
This thick heavy book is THE Old Rose bible and if you can only ever get one rose book, this is it! I could not manage without it! In fact, I actually have two copies: My much-battered original 1st edition hardback from 1985 (photo 1) and an updated, revised and enlarged 2nd edition paperback (photo 2) given to me by my Mum, from whom I inherited my passion for roses (passing it on in turn to my daughter Caro!) in 1997. The first edition includes chapters titled: the History and Evolution of the Rose; Roses in the Landscape; the Cultivation of Roses and a detailed Dictionary of all the major rose cultivar groups and their members; as well as having an appendix of all the major rose gardens in the world at that time.
The 2nd edition is very similar in content, but includes different photographs, more roses including ground-cover or procumbent roses and extra information. For example: the Early Development of the Modern Rose; the Mystery Roses of Bermuda; and Rustling Roses, as well as a World Climatic Map, Height and Colour Charts and lists of Rose Societies and Rose Producers and Suppliers throughout the world in the back.
I consult these books constantly when planning new rose gardens or ordering new roses, though do be aware that Peter’s height and width specifications are for the cooler British and Northern European climate. I find my roses are often much taller and wider here in sunny warm Australia. For example, Mutabilis, my ‘butterfly’ China rose is specified in Peter’s book as 90 cm tall and 60cm wide, whereas I have seen huge shrubs of it here in Australia. Walter Duncan has a bush at least 2 m tall and 2 m wide in his Heritage Garden (photo below). Having said that, Peter Beales (1936 – 2013) was, and still is (through his books), THE Old Rose authority in the United Kingdom, having grown them from the age of 16 years. He has a wonderful nursery in Attleborough, Norfolk and has been awarded 23 Gold Medals by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from 1989 to 2016. See: https://www.classicroses.co.uk/ . Even if you (like me!) cannot visit the nursery, it is well worth exploring this site for its wealth of information on roses and their cultivation. I would have loved to wander round his beautiful, romantic display gardens, but I do have a delightful old VHS video produced by Peter Beales called ‘A Celebration of Old Roses’ , set to the dreamy music of Elgar. While no longer available, the Peter Beales website does sell a DVD called ‘Growing Roses with Peter Beales’, which is out of stock at the moment. Peter also wrote a lovely large coffee-table book titled ‘Visions of Roses’ 1996, which explores a large number of exquisite rose gardens in the world, including La Bonne Maison in France; Helmingham Hall and Nymans in England; and Ninfa in Italy (see photos below of its front and back cover). The photography by Vivian Russell is superb and there are boxed descriptions of specific roses. It is a beautiful inspiring book with some wonderful ideas and of course, stunning roses! I would dearly love to purchase his autobiography, ‘Rose Petals and Muddy Footprints’, published in 2008.
David Austin is the other BIG name in roses in the United Kingdom and is possibly even better known to the general public than Peter Beales through his breeding of English Roses, beautiful constantly- flowering roses with all the best attributes of Old Roses. Fortunately, he is still with us, now the ripe old age of 90 (born 1926)! He too has his own nursery on the other side of the country at Albrighton, Wolverhampton in Shropshire, and has won 22 Gold Medals from the Chelsea Flower Show. See: http://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/. I have two of his books :
David Austin’s English Roses: Australian Edition 1996 by David Austin
The English Roses: Classic Favourites and New Selections 2009 by David Austin.
I love these books for their photography alone, as well as background information about the different varieties.
They are such beautiful roses and form the basis of my Moon Bed. I would love to visit his display gardens one day, but in the meantime can enjoy a taster through his wonderful photographs in the 2009 book !
Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix are also very well-known authorities on all things to do with the garden. In fact, they have produced a wonderfully informative series of books on garden plants from shrubs to perennials and bulbs and … roses!
Roses: The Garden Plant Series by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix 1994
The Quest for the Rose by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix 1993
A more compact rose encyclopaedia than Classic Roses, the Rose guide contains colour photographs of the cut flowers, as well as rose shrubs and their landscapes. I also find this book useful, as it has a large section on the more modern roses : Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and Miniature Roses.
The Quest for the Rose is a BBC book, which was made into a film, about their research into the history and origins of the rose, including their journey to the foothills of the Himalayas in Western China to find wild relations of China and Tea roses. It also has interesting snippets about all the important rose breeders, an area about which my knowledge is fairly sketchy!
The other rose encyclopaedia, which I should, but do not have in my rose library is : the RHS Encyclopedia of Roses by Charles and Brigid Quest-Ritson 2011, described as: ‘the definitive A-Z guide to over 2,000 species’. For a look at the cover, see : https://www.dk.com/uk/9781405373852-rhs-encyclopedia-of-roses/. I have borrowed this book from the library, but as the number of new rose breeds increases exponentially every year, I suspect this five year old publication is already outdated and since my major interest is Old Roses, I feel I have it adequately covered by the books that I already have! Maybe, I will access the online version, found at : http://www.b-alexander.com/encyclopedia-of-roses.pdf.
My next book hails from across the English Channel in Lyon, France :
La Bonne Maison: Jardin de Roses Anciennes by Odile Masquelier 2001
La Bonne Maison is a beautiful old rose garden, developed by Odile Masquelier, a French authority on heritage roses , over the past 50 years. As she recounts in her book, she spent the first six years of her life toddling after her mother in this old orchard and vegetable garden high on a Lyons hillside, before rediscovering it and buying the old property in 1966 as the mother of two young children. Over the years, the city has expanded and it is now a residential area, dwarfed by a huge block of flats behind. While it is highly unlikely, I will get to visit her garden in the physical sense, my daughter Jen acted as my proxy on her first European trip in the Spring of 2012. Unfortunately, it was a little too early for the roses, but she did get to see some beautiful Spring blossom and bulbs (mainly tulips, narcissi and early peonies) and the bones of the garden, as well as meet the charming Odile with her 13 year old grand-daughter, who did speak English and gave Jen a guided tour of the garden. She bought me her book as a much-desired and hinted-for birthday present. Unfortunately, unless you are fluent in French or can get it translated, this beautiful book is for French readers only! I spent a wonderful week translating it all and it was well worth the effort! Fortunately, Odile does have a website with an English version. See: http://www.labonnemaison.org/ and click on the English Version link.
This wonderful garden is also described in The Secret Gardens of France by Mirabel Osler 1992, along with a chapter dedicated to the rose garden of Andre Eve, a very prominent French rose breeder in Pithiviers, SW of Paris, famous for ‘Les Roses Anciennes de Andre Eve’. See French website: http://www.roses-anciennes-eve.com/epages/rosesanciennes.sf .
While on the subject of French rose writers, Eléonore Cruse has a beautiful wild rose garden called ‘La Roseraie de Berty’ in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Southern France, and has written a number of books including: Roses Anciennes and Les Roses Sauvages. For information about these books and Eleanor’s garden, see : http://www.roseraie-de-berty.com.
And now to a number of books by Australian collector, Susan Irvine, who used to own Bleak House, a Victorian nursery from which I sourced many of my old roses in our old garden at ‘Creekside’ in Armidale.
Garden of a Thousand Roses: Making a Rose Garden in Australia 1992
A Hillside of Roses 1994
Susan Irvine’s Rose Gardens : Garden of a Thousand Roses with A Hillside of Roses 1998
Fragrant Roses 1996
Rose Gardens of Australia 1997
The Garden at Forest Hall 2002
Rosehips and Crabapples: A Rose-Lover’s Diary 2007
These are all delightful books, in which Susan writes about her long-term love affair with roses! The first book describes the garden she developed at Bleak House, Malmsbury, Victoria, while its sequel ‘A Hillside of Roses’ follows the formation of her second garden at ‘Erinvale’, Gisborne, Victoria, which also housed her collection of Alister Clark roses (photos and description in the appendix).
In 1998, both titles were published in the one book: ‘Susan Irvine’s Rose Gardens : Garden of a Thousand Roses with A Hillside of Roses ‘.
In ‘Fragrant Roses’, Susan discusses 62 of her favourite roses (including modern roses), many of which I also love. It is always interesting comparing notes about favourite roses with other rose lovers and wonderful when you meet people with a similar taste and selection of favourites!*‘Rose Gardens of Australia’ is a particular favourite, as it has formed the basis of many of our Australian pilgrimages like David Ruston’s Garden in Renmark; Red Cow Farm in the Southern Highlands (https://candeloblooms.com/2016/12/20/a-garden-weekend-in-the-southern-highlands-part-1/); Carrick Hill and Heide (https://candeloblooms.com/2016/02/09/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-historic-homes-and-gardens/) ; and Bolobek and Cruden Farm (https://candeloblooms.com/2016/08/02/part-2-favourite-private-gardens-historic-gardens-part-2/), as well as Walter Duncan’s Hughes Park, though by the time we visited him, he was living in his new garden at the Heritage Garden, near Clare. We still have plenty more places in the book to visit like Ruth Irving’s Al-Ru Farm at One Tree Hill in South Australia and Heather Cant’s florist garden at Gowan Brae, near Bowral, NSW ! All in all, it is a lovely browsy coffee-table book like Peter Beales’ ‘Visions of Roses’. There is even a Select List of Roses for Australian Gardens with landscaping suggestions, descriptions and comments for each rose in the back.
By the time Susan wrote ‘The Garden at Forest Hall ‘ (1996), she had moved to a beautiful old derelict Georgian sandstone mansion at Elizabeth Town, near Deloraine, Northern Tasmania, where she restored the house and revived the neglected garden, the experience documented in her diaries from 2003 to 2005, the basis of her book ‘Rosehips and Crabapples’. She collaborated with photographer Simon Griffiths for her last three books and his photographs are superb. In 1994, Susan received the Australian Rose Award from the National Rose Society of Australia and in 2001, became a Life Member of Heritage Roses Australia. She even had a rose named after her in 1996 : the Hybrid Gigantea rose called ‘Susan Irvine‘, which is very fitting given that she has had so much to do with the collection and conservation of Alister Clark roses, many of which involved R. gigantea in their parentage. While it is unlikely any more books will be forthcoming (Susan is in her late 80s), she has certainly left a legacy of beauty in both her gardens and her writings. I particularly loved the antique-looking thick paper and presentation of her final diary.*With reference to the preferences of different rose lovers, especially when it comes to favourite roses, I really enjoyed reading Roses: A Celebration by Wayne Winterwood 2003, in which 34 gardeners and rose lovers write about their favourite rose. Contributors include: Peter Beales, Graham Stuart Thomas, David Austin, Christopher Lloyd, Mirabel Osler, Ken Druse and Dan Hinkley.
Growing Old-Fashioned Roses in Australia and New Zealand by Trevor Nottle 1983
This was one of my first rose books- in fact, it was published the year we were married (so it’s a very old book now!), but it did the job and was very well-thumbed at the start of the increased popularity of Old Roses in the 1980s, before all the luscious rose books came into print.
Trevor Nottle is a South Australian rosarian, garden historian and heritage consultant, who has written 17 gardening books, many about old roses and Mediterranean and dry-climate gardening, including another book we own : ‘Plants for a Changing Climate’. See his blog at : https://trevornottle.wordpress.com/.
Two more definitive influences in the development of my rose passion and knowledge were : Gardening with Old Roses: An Australasian Guide by Alan Sinclair and Rosemary Thodey 1993 and Climbing and Rambling Roses: A Guide for Cultivation, Selection and Care by Sally Allison 1993.
The authors of both books hail from New Zealand, a country well-known for its beautiful rose gardens. Alan Sinclair has a huge private rose garden and nursery ‘Roseneath’ , north of Auckland in the North Island, while Sally Allison has been a past President of Heritage Roses NZ and has a 10 acre country garden Lyddington, near Rangiora, 27 km north of Christchurch on the South Island. Alan’s book is a very useful reference on landscaping with Old Roses, as well as their care and history and has lovely photographs by Rosemary Thodey. Sally’s book is an excellent guide to climbing roses and ramblers with good notes on their history, cultivation and care, and support and display, and has a terrific dictionary, backed up with her photos, as well as a list of rose gardens to visit in New Zealand.Another early guide (and somewhat soiled copy!) was The Book of Old-Fashioned Roses by Dr. Judyth A. McLeod 1984, a very simple publication, which relies solely on its written descriptions to entice the reader and is more like a catalogue than an illustrated guide. Judyth is a passionate garden historian, who has written a number of books on Old Roses, lavender and heirloom and cottage garden plants and also had a nursery at Grosevale, in the Lower Blue Mountains, near Richmond called Honeysuckle Cottage, from which we bought some of our old Armidale roses, unavailable through Bleak House, back in the 1990s. Unfortunately, the nursery has now closed, but you can see a video clip about the nursery from 2012 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQm1rlhG_Hk.
Through the Rose Arbour: Notes From a Gardening Life 2001 by Rosemary Houseman is a delightful little book, into which to delve headlong, her prose rambling amongst stunning photos, which document her journey into the world of Old Roses. She started her own nursery The Rose Arbour in Melbourne, Victoria in 1982.An even tinier rose guide is the pocket-sized A Little Guide to Old Roses by Hazel le Rougetel 1992. It is a sweet little book with hand-coloured illustrations of 28 iconic and favourite Old Roses. Hazel le Rougetel (1917 – 2010) wrote and lectured about old roses and was a founding member of the Historic Roses Group. Ros Wallinger wrote a piece about Hazel’s life on Page 4 of the Spring/ Summer No. 4 Newsletter for the Hampshire Garden Trust. See: http://www.hgt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Spring-Summer-newsletter.pdf.The Old Rose world is a close-knit community and it was not surprising to learn that Hazel was good friends with Peter Beales and Graham Stuart Thomas, another foremost authority on Old Roses in England. He wrote the foreword to her book A Heritage of Roses 1988, as seen in the photo above. Graham Stuart Thomas himself wrote the definitive Shrub Roses of Today back in 1962 , reprinted in 1963, 1967, 1974, 1980 and 1985. He has written a further 13 books on Old Roses and gardens and can lay credit to being responsible for the revival of interest in Old Roses. Graham Stuart Thomas (1909 – 2003) was heavily involved in the restoration of National Trust properties like Hidcote Manor and Sissinghurst Castle and their gardens, his pièce de résistance being the establishment of the National Collection of Old-Fashioned Roses at Montisfont Abbey : see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/5819075/Graham-Stuart-Thomas-and-the-Mottisfont-old-roses.html. He actually met the renowned Arts and Crafts garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (1843 – 1932), revising her 1902 book Roses for English Gardens by Gertrude Jekyll and Edward Mawley in 1983. While bought more for its historical interest, it is still a worthy addition to my rose library, representing a very different era in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when old roses were merely the garden roses of the day and Hybrid Teas were just starting their ascendancy to world domination. Famous writer and gardener, Vita Sackville-West (1892 – 1962), was also a passionate admirer of Old Roses, planting 194 different types of old roses in her garden at Sissinghurst Castle by 1953, and while she did not publish any specific rose books, she does refer to them in her more general garden musings like my copy of V. Sackville-West’s Garden Book 1968. See : https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/roses-are-blooming-part-1-2/ and http://www.gardensillustrated.com/article/plants/15-roses-sissinghhurst-castle.Two more English books on Old Roses with beautiful photography are:
Designing With Roses by Tony Lord 1999, a sumptuous book with stunning photographs of roses and their gardens and
The Rose Gardens of England by Michael Gibson 1988
Michael Gibson (1918 – 2000) was a well-known author and passionate rosarian, who specialized in roses and rose history and even though a little out-of-date, many of the rose gardens mentioned still exist and are open to the public, so it is definitely worth consulting if you are planning a tour of English Old Rose gardens in June and then googling your choices on the internet to confirm their continued existence and opening hours. He also wrote The Book of the Rose 1980, another great find from the secondhand bookstore with an excellent section on rose history and lovely illustrated plates. He once described the rose Fantin Latour, which was rediscovered and named by Graham Stuart Thomas, as “ one of the most beautiful roses of all”.
See: https://www.countrygardenroses.co.uk/about-us/rose-gardener/2011-03-04-rose-of-the-week-7/, a link which leads me very neatly to the books of Antonia Ridge (1895 – 1981), specifically The Man Who Painted Roses about the life of French artist Fantin Latour (1836 – 1904), who painted many still-lifes featuring roses (see: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Painted-Roses-Pierre-Joseph/dp/0571105548 ), and my very favourite For Love of a Rose, a delightfully written, slightly old-fashioned and quaint story of the creation of the Peace Rose and the Meilland and Paolino families behind it. It is a lovely happy read- everyone is decent and hard-working and it just makes you feel good!I could not finish this blog without referring to one of the most famous French rose painters of all, ‘the Raphael of Flowers’, commissioned by Empress Josephine between 1817 and 1824, to paint all the roses in her famous rose collection at her chateau at Malmaison : Pierre- Joseph Redoute (1759 – 1840). Redoubte’s Roses is one of the largest books in our library and contains full-page reproductions of colour plates of 167 roses with a brief description of each rose and its history.
And finally, Naming of the Rose : Discovering Who Roses are Named For by Roger Mann 2008 is a fascinating read and gives more insight into the romance behind this beautiful flower.
Next week, I will be discussing my favourite Old Rose websites. Till then…!
Postscript: I am adding in The Rose by David Austin 2012, a belated Christmas gift and the most beautiful and comprehensive book with chapters on Species Roses; the Old European Roses; Hybrid Teas and Floribundas; Polyanthas, Patio Roses and Miniatures; Shrub Roses and Ground-Covers; Climbers and Ramblers; and his own English Roses (with details and photos of 18 new roses), as well as information on how to grow these roses in the garden, companion plants for roses; maintenance of roses; and flower-arranging in the home. The photographs are so sumptuous and would be enough to convert any rose sassenach into a true believer!