It’s been well over a month since Penelope and I went to Mottisfont Abbey. Just in case you’ve forgotten:
. . . I’ve been wasting time trying to find more photos of the roses at Mottisfont Abbey, for pity’s sake. It’s the National Collection of Old Roses, and abbeys and Rex Whistler and stable blocks and rivers and things are all very well but what about the roses? If I’m not careful I’m going to put Hang an Album of Photos of Mottisfont Roses on my to-do list, and like my to-do list needs more items.
But several people asked me at the time I posted about Mottisfont to say more about old roses. And I’m not good at being crisp and informative. (You may have noticed.) So here’s something that does a good job of the essential rundown:
This is the more romantic version:
These guys are a find, even if they’re still in 2007:
And anyone here in the
But there are a lot of good roses and old-roses sites out there. Mmmmmm. . . . Like chocolate, only without the calories. Or possibly like chocolate for your garden, in the bursting-at-the-seams sense.*
But I also wanted to say something about Graham Stuart Thomas, who is or anyway was sort of the mage of mages of old roses, the super-guru, the supreme maven. He more or less single-handedly kept both the roses themselves and the idea of growing old roses alive through the era when no one thought they were worth the garden space, and he also designed Mottisfont’s rose garden, filled it with the roses he’d personally saved from final destruction, and made it the old roses national collection, which by the time he finished it was a highly desirable thing, and not the expensive folly of a crank.
This is the best of the obits I can find on line.
And it does cover the ground. The ones in the Historic Roses Group and the Royal National Rose Society’s journals are much livelier and more personal . . . but I still don’t know what ‘fair use’ consists of, so I’ll decline to type either of them in.
I was/am myself a fan, and I have The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book which is the anthology of his three classic books on old roses, and I use it all the time.** (One of these days I’ll post an annotated list of Favourite Rose Books.) But while he is generally revered, there are abstainers:
I don’t know this book. I’m not too interested in the memoirs behind practical hands-on stuff like gardening—and I wouldn’t have any patience with Lady Thing and Lord Doodad either—and yes Thomas was all about historical conservation and very little about radical change. Maybe I haven’t seen enough National Trust gardens, or maybe I’m just an easily smitten American***, but I like all those old fashioned gardens, and there are a lot of modern ones I find new for the sake of newness, and absurd or ugly (or both). And that he expected garden staff to call him ‘Mr Thomas’? Please. He recently died at 94. It’s his era.
This is more the tone I’m used to:
And note it’s a review of the same book.
But I think Thomas himself should have the last word. Here’s what he says about my darling Mme Isaac Pereire:
‘Possibly the most powerfully fragrant of all roses; the flowers are enormous, of intense rose-madder, shaded magenta, bulging with rolled petals, quartered, and opening to a great saucer-face. Big, bold foliage on a fine big bush up to feet. It can also be trained upon supports with advantage. The blooms are produced in several bursts; those appearing early are frequently misshapen, but the September blooms are unbelievably fine and large. When it is well grown, on good deep soil, it has no peer.’
Tomorrow I’ll post some rose photos. Unless I get distracted, of course.
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* Which would make it/them a bad case of cholera for the wallet.
** It is also an extremely pretty book, and very pleasing to hold and read. Badly designed gardening books are positively painful, like nettle rash, and a badly designed rose book is a felony.
*** About traditional English country gardens? Guilty with knobs on.
The ME has been seriously vicious today. Bluuurg. I think yesterday’s list was a mistake: the ME had a committee meeting and said, Hey, we’re letting her get away with waay too much. New policy. Take a memo.
Getting hellhounds sufficiently hurtled has been the day’s heroic effort. Yes, they did get their two hours, but we covered a lot fewer miles than usual, and it took several tries to rack up the needful number of minutes. Other than that I’ve mostly been reading proofs v. . .e . . . r . . . y slowly.* The slowly is not great but the reading is good–proofs reading is always one of those things I put off because it’s only** reading proofs, and I was supposed to finish DRAGONHAVEN today because I have to get going on SUNSHINE.***
It’s been interesting reading DRAGON through the ME headache, and the goofyland ME headspace. Dragons? Sure. I saw one or two when we were in Australia. I remember. Although one of the ones I saw was red, and I don’t think Jake mentions red. Something in the water, maybe, or the hole in the ozone over Oz. The thing that does kinda squick me is that I wrote it before I brought the hellhounds home. Yes, I’ve been through puppyhood before, but I’ve never been outnumbered before . . . nor have I ever had dogs with some kind of unrelenting indefatigable† digestive weirdness before, where I find myself staying home all the time because you can’t really expect a dog minder to cope with sudden bouts of squirts and I’m the only person with enough authority to bully them into eating (sometimes) when they don’t feel like it. It’s not the same claustrophobia, but I get it about claustrophobia from small-dependent-creature(s) in a graphic new way.
But I’ve always done this–precogged some piece of my life from a slightly different angle in the stories I write. It began way back at the beginning, with BEAUTY: I’d never been to Blue Hill when I wrote it, but I’d seen it on the map and I liked the name. A few years later I moved there, and lived there eleven years–till Corlath, I mean Peter, kidnapped me and took me to England. Although he didn’t have to walk through any walls and I went willingly. Very. I admit I wish I had a little more control over what bit of a story gets taken up by reality: but I could at least get my screenplay finished. It’s about a famous, best-selling writer. . . .
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* And I watched some television! Golly! First I had to figure out which little buttons to press . . . although that may have been the ME as much as lapsed familiarity. After marvelling yet again at the astonishing number of channels there are with nothing on them I want anything to do with–and since I watch TV so rarely, pretty well every time I turn it on Sky has provided me with yet more programmes to flick shudderingly past: Soap Stars from the Fifties, Where Are They Now? (Soap Stars of 2008, What Are They Doing?) How to Spin Very Short Fur, Like from Your Dog, Cat or Ferret, and Create Pot Holders, Bed Socks, and Turner-Prize-Winning Collages with the Result. Cricket. Big Brother.
I watched an episode of Xena Warrior Princess. I never got into Xena–I never watched enough of them to develop the necessary momentum–and the finest Victoria’s Secret Push Up Breastplates get on my nerves, although a lot of those gym bunnies are pretty damn cute, and I’m even het. But speaking of het, a friend told me that there’s this whole great controversy about Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship. What controversy? They’re gay. There’s no way they aren’t lovers. Or if they aren’t, they’re in denial, and so is everyone around them. The last episode I saw, probably a year ago, probably on another day when the ME was grisly, was Xena pregnant and throwing up, and when she told her henchfolk the news, Gabrielle’s reaction was absolutely that of a lover who knew she had no rights but. The episode I saw today was of Xena’s grown up daughter, who just by the way looks older than Xena who has herself aged not an hour–that noise you hear is the sound of the Passage of Time being hastily torn up–being condemned to death by a bunch of irritated Amazons. After she’s rescued and she’s saying goodbye to her mum and her mum’s lover she says to Gabrielle, I’m so glad of the joy you’ve brought to my mother’s life. This is not a phrase you use to a best friend or even a right-hand swordsperson! And just by the way, when did Gabrielle learn to fight? When she signed on–I saw that episode–she could barely walk across a room without tripping over something (I can relate), let alone engage the queen of the Amazons in a tricky bout of hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot).
And do we know who the daughter’s dad was? When Xena was throwing up, she claimed not to know. Gabrielle was, I feel understandably, a little testy about this. But presumably it wasn’t Ares, since in today’s episode he had obviously been doing the daughter, and while I’m sure that wouldn’t bother Ares in the least, this is a family programme. More or less. The copy I was watching had the bad language bleeped out.
** Only! Only! Only she says! Arrrrrrgh!! Yes, it’s true, I can’t even depend on me.
*** I am praying that the UK reissue is just using the American pages and not fiddling around with them. I cannot face another set of proofs.^ On a relatively clean set–as DRAGONHAVEN appears to be–you do feel like a complete anal-retentive twit for having insisted on reading them. Lots of writers don’t: they proof the first set for the first edition, and that’s it. After that it’s up to the publisher. Such touching faith in the basic rightness of the universe, and the professionalism of professionals.^^ I bet they sleep better than I do too. But I wonder how many of them have been abruptly converted to anal-retentive twitness after the climax of Part Three, when the evil wizard falls into the pot of boiling barbeque sauce, gets left out in the paperback edition. It’s bad enough the stuff you can’t do anything about, like the third Damar novel that was in Books in Print for years.
^ And thank you to the several of you who have offered to read proofs for me. But while I can beg a spare set of pages for an old friend with professional proofreading experience, publishers will usually say, oh, tut, tut, you don’t need another reader.
^^ It’s not just publishers! Let’s talk about banks! No, let’s not talk about banks! But the idea that it’s banks that are handling my money is right up there with visions of repealing the two-term law and having the malignant Shrub for twelve years^, or that if you can’t make nine miles an hour you can’t go outdoors after dark because the vampires will get you. I’ve been through the mortgage mill twice in the last five years and I’ve never seen such direly, mind-bogglingly, hopeless incompetence! I have no idea why my hair didn’t turn white overnight! Twice!
^ Hey, he didn’t get elected the first time. Anything could happen.
† One might almost say dogged