A Rose By Many Other Names

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Zéphirine Drouhin- Antique Bourbon Rose

I’m taking a slightly different turn on my blog today. I had submitted an article a few years ago for a contest on a gardening website where we had to write an essay based on the famous lines from Romeo and Juliet about a rose by any other name smelling just as sweet. Unfortunately the contest was called off as they didn’t have enough participants. Roses will be blooming soon in my garden. They are already awakening from their winter slumber and putting out new shoots and leaves. I thought it would be timely to post the essay I had submitted pertaining to gardening but inspired by literary lines.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Juliet declares these impassioned lines in Act 11, Scene 11 of Romeo and Juliet. There is a feud between the noble families of Capulet and Montague but for Juliet, Romeo would still be perfection incarnate with a different family name and she would still love him wholeheartedly. But would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Fragrance is not exclusive to roses. We just have to smell a jasmine or a hyacinth or get a whiff of a lilac or a sweet autumn clematis to know that there are other alluring scents in the world of flowers. Besides, the scent factor varies a lot among roses. A rose can be virtually scent- free or it could have the most intense and intoxicating perfume on earth. Take a look at any rose catalog and you would think they were describing the aroma of an old wine. A rose could have a spicy fragrance with hints of cedarwood and vanilla or a deliciously fruity fragrance reminiscent of raspberries.

Fragrance is not the only quality of roses. Color, form and habit are equally important to the gardener. Nowadays we can’t really say that a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. The name rose has become generic. There are thousands of roses in mind-boggling varieties: hybrid tea roses, grandiflora, floribunda, miniature, climbing, antique and rugosa to name just a few. How do we distinguish between the different varieties of roses? By their names of course. The names are often majestic and meaningful and reveal their outstanding characteristics.

I must confess that many a time I’ve bought a rose solely for its fancy name ignoring all its other attributes like disease resistance and hardiness. Who can resist the allure of a romantic name like ‘Moondance’ or ‘ Sweet Intoxication’? Or roses that transport us to faraway places like ‘April in Paris’ or ‘Tahitian Sunset’? ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘John F. Kennedy’ named after famous Presidents would appeal to history buffs. A religious person might be inclined to buy ‘ Pope John Paul II’ or ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’. I once bought ‘Queen Nefertiti’ from the David Austin Roses catalog only because the rose sounded regal and exotic. Her Majesty has certainly lived up to her name, rewarding me every year with exquisitely scented apricot blooms.

 

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David Austin English Rose – Queen Nefertiti

I also have a predilection for roses named after famous authors and literary characters and again, it is the David Austin collection that fulfills my fantasies. ‘Jude the Obscure’ and ‘Tess of the D’urbervilles’ fit the bill perfectly as I am a big fan of Thomas Hardy. There is ‘Gentle Hermione’ from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ named after Tennyson’s poem and ‘The Pilgrim’ from The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. Then there is the crimson rose ‘William Shakespeare’ named after the Bard himself.

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David Austin English Rose- Tess of the D’urbervilles

However the sweetest smelling rose in my garden is ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’, a fuchsia pink antique French rose. It puts on a spectacular show every June in my zone 5b garden and continues blooming sporadically through the summer into the fall. The most remarkable characteristic of ‘Zéphirine’ is that it is virtually thorn- free and can grow in semi-shade unlike most roses which require full sun. The only drawback is that it is susceptible to black spot and powdery mildew. The very name Bourbon for this class of climbing roses conjures up images of powerful monarchs. 

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Zephirine Drouhin- Antique Climbing Rose

‘Zéphirine’ itself is quite a rare and unusual name. The word ‘zephyr’ could refer to a light breeze or remind us of ‘Zephyrus’ the Greek God of the west wind. This rose is also known by other names like ‘ Mme. Charles Bonnet’ and ‘La Belle Dijonnaise’ ( the beautiful lady from Dijon). ‘Zéphirine’ has the quintessential old rose fragrance. It is the distinctive scent of ‘attar’ or the essential oil extracted from the petals of a rose. I have my own pet name for ‘Zéphirine’. Madame Zeffy as we lovingly call her at home can be quite temperamental and moody. There are days when her perfume is elusive. She needs the perfect warmth and humidity to release her captivating fragrance.

I know that ‘Zéphirine’ will have an enchanting fragrance with any other name but it is her name that makes her sound ethereal. Despite Juliet’s fervent declaration, it is on account of their names that the story ends disastrously for the star-crossed lovers. A rose will always be known for its beauty and redolence but the short and sweet one-syllable name enhances the charm of a rose and imbues it with character. Could you imagine a rose being called a thistle? Somehow it doesn’t have the same effect.

~ Jayshree

Autumn, My Muse, Autumn Musings…

“That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts….” – Ray Bradbury

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Today on the blog I’d like to share some “autumn thoughts” along with poems I wrote with the season as my Muse. Photos taken by me of the beautiful New England landscape accompany each thought or poem.

A chill in the air.. a sigh among the winds.. a shiver down the pines and summer slips quietly into autumn. It’s that time of the year that evokes in us a wistful longing. It’s that time of the year when you stop to reflect no matter how rushed you are. It’s that time of the year when poetry courses through your veins and spills out of your pen effortlessly. For autumn is more than a season, it’s a state of mind.

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One leaf can be my fall
One sorrow my downfall.

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Dancing leaves
swaying to the breeze
shimmering in the light
before the final curtsy

There’s something so ethereal and magical about mirrored landscapes. It’s as if time itself has come to a standstill when you look at the still waters reflecting the kaleidoscope of colors in all their glory.  This is a tranquil spot in NH perfect for contemplation. I couldn’t help thinking of the myth of Narcissus when I saw the leaves reflect in the pool and knew that they would all fall off eventually. The fall is inevitable.

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Just like Narcissus of the myths of yore
She gazed at her own reflection in awe
and slowly pined away.

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autumn leaves floating
in rain puddles
a painter’s palette

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Harvest moon up there
in a reddish orange hue
mimicking fall leaves

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These autumn leaves that once adorned the skies in a tapestry of color are now falling gently and creating a beautiful carpet on the ground. It seems like the trees are lovely damsels, resplendent in their gold and scarlet dresses, only to be disrobed…a leaf at a time.

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In the spring I trampled upon
the flowers you had strewn down my path
Summer rushed by me in a daze
and now at the bend of the road
through the trees shine
an autumnal ray of hope
Let’s meet then, my love
before the last leaf falls
and winter ends it all.

Here’s an old-fashioned rhyming poem I composed a few autumns ago:

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Miss Maple is dressed in a fancy scarlet gown
Bedecked with bijoux, elegant belle of our town.
In glittering garnets, rubies of resplendence,
Citrine and yellow topaz that dazzle and daze.
Mr. Sunlight adds a glow to her countenance-
Setting the feverish, frantic forest ablaze.
Soon she will tire and cast off her finery,
Sinking slowly and softly into sweet slumber,
After a few moments of restless reverie-
Drifting into a dream of bejeweled splendor.
Only to be roused by spring for a new chance to preen
In fine jewels of peridot and emerald green.

Although autumn is associated with death, hope is on the horizon.  The leaves will fall off but you know that the cycle will continue. Hope springs eternal. As I sit at the computer typing, a heavenly aroma of apples and cinnamon emanates from the oven in the kitchen. Outside in the garden, a few flowers remain. The sedum has changed colors along with the trees and the bees are still buzzing around the asters. These are simple joys that I hope never to take for granted. And I make a promise to myself and my muse-  I’ll stop, I’ll savor and  I’ll reflect no matter how rushed I am.

What did you think about my musings and poems? What are your favorite things to do in the autumn? Let me know in your comments.

~ Jayshree ( Literary Gitane)

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip Down Bougainvillea Lane!

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Happiness is bougainvillea! Is there anything that fills the heart with as much delight as the sight of a brilliant bougainvillea in bloom? This tropical beauty makes such a grand and striking statement that I can even forgive it for having no fragrance whatsoever. To me it is also synonymous with nostalgia as in New England I can only grow it in containers and hope at the most for a few sporadic blooms to console my tropically deprived heart. Alas, my measly plant is nothing like the showy and striking vines that grow profusely in warmer regions of the world. This poem was written spontaneously on a trip to the Cayman Islands where I was greeted with a plethora of bougainvillea in a riot of colors- crimson, magenta, scarlet, blush, yellow, coral, orange, gold, white and cream- cascading down roofs, trailing over pergolas and spilling over fences offering a veritable feast for my eyes and satiety to my soul. The creeper evokes bittersweet memories of a bygone time and maybe even takes on the traits of a bygone beau or belle.

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Beguiling Beauty with an exotic name!
Magenta Goddess
clambering over fences
to greet me
with bright bewitching bracts,
hiding the dainty white blooms
to pose as papery blossoms.

Fluttering on my cheeks like butterfly kisses
as I reach out to admire you
but grazing my thigh with thorns.
At least the queen of flowers sprays me
with a dab of perfume
but Tropical Empress
you are fragrant free

Fragrant free but stirring memories
of scented summers by the sea
of sun -warmed villas
with inviting verandahs
and a nearly forgotten love..
A jolt wakes me
from wistfulness

and there you are again
beckoning me
in the boldest shade of pink
And I, besotted,
reach out to you,
the bruise of your spike
still on my skin.

~ Jayshree ( Literary Gitane)