Monday, 9 July 2018

Roses for Raleigh, at last!

Fairlynch Museum's volunteer gardeners Ann Hurt, left, and Odile Cook, with the two 'Sir Walter Raleigh' roses donated by Budleigh in Bloom

‘A strong growing plant that produces thick bushy growth with clusters of large double warm pink to lilac blooms that are compact and double.’  So reads a description that I found online of the ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ rose. ‘The blooms have a strong fragrance and are suitable for picking and have an old heritage rose charm.’

It sounded wonderful. In this special 400th anniversary year I was all prepared to fill my garden with such wonderful plants.

Elsewhere, on a gardening forum site I read: ‘Sir Walter Raleigh is very thorny’ – well, I know lots of people found him difficult – ‘but in my opinion one of the most stunning and fragrant roses I have, and he repeats well.’   

I was all the more convinced when I saw that this particular rose had been bred by the award-winning British firm of David Austin Roses. Surely, I thought, in Sir Walter’s 400th special year, the firm would have been breeding extra stocks to honour a Great British Hero.

How wrong I was!

Magnificent blooms of the 'Sir Walter Raleigh' rose. But the 400th anniversary had been forgotten

I was pretty shocked when David Austin’s advertising manager, Paul Constantine told me: ‘Regrettably the Sir Walter Raleigh rose is discontinued and I am afraid cannot be revived.’ He did email me a nice photo, but that was small consolation.

All was not lost however. The clever people of Budleigh in Bloom managed finally to track down a couple of ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ roses and were kind enough to donate them to Fairlynch Museum’s garden.

Actually I think that Raleigh would have been quite philosophical about this.

He did after all write these lines in his poem ‘The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd’:

‘Thy gownsthy shoesthy beds of roses, 
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten –
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.’ 


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