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Hallo again to all.

Gardens (even those without roses) are very Anglican, as we observed a couple of years ago.

In 1867 a French rose grower named Jean-Baptiste André Guillot began offering rose plants that he named La France. Working patiently at his nursery, he cross-bred a reblooming hybrid rose plant with a tea rose plant. He described the result as hybride de thé, or tea rose. Its French-language wikipedia page says this:

Cet hybride est le résultat d'un croisement entre un hybride remontant, 'Madame Victor Verdier', et un rosier thé, 'Madame Bravy', d'où l'appellation d'hybride de thé.

(This hybrid is the result of a cross between the reblooming hybrid 'Madame Victor Verdier' and a tea rose, 'Madame Bravy', from which comes the name hybrid tea rose.)

Reblooming hybrid roses dominated Victorian England even though they were developed by the French. Yorkists and Lancastrians notwithstanding, rose hackery was something about which the French were both passionate and expert. French rosarians had previously cross-bred China roses with French Bourbon and Noisette roses to produce the hybrides remontants. The English, ever unwilling to learn French or even how to pronounce it, mistranslated the phrase as 'hybrid perpetual' as they imported thousands of hybrides remontants. Those varietals were so successful in the early parts of the 19th century that their very existence begat flower competitions.

The 1867 introduction of the hybrid tea rose changed the world of roses forever. Though they have fallen slightly out of favour among rose enthusiasts (who look more to floribunda and grandiflora and polyantha varieties), the hybrid tea rose remains dominant in the marketplace 150 years later.

Everything before 1867 is now called an 'old rose', and they are increasingly hard to find. You can find a handful of old rose growers in every country where people spend enough money on old rose plants to keep old rose growers in business. But their ranks are dwindling. The one-time giant rose nursery Bobbink and Atkins, occupying 150 acres '9 miles from Times Square', sold the land just before World War II. Thousands of houses were built on the land, and there are streets named 'Bobbink Terrace' and 'Atkins Terrace' just around the corner from Scotty's Liquors.

Though almost everyone buys and sells hybrid tea roses now, there is something haunting about an old rose. To quote a British vendor of old roses,

'Our continued passion remains with the Old Roses. We feel they possess unparalleled qualities quite unlike most modern varieties. The huge variation in shape and texture of both flower and foliage married with their wonderful scents and more subtle hues make them still an excellent choice for the gardens of today.'

Old roses are also called 'heritage roses', and there are societies and fellowships and guilds devoted to them found all over the world. For example, Heritage Roses in Australia Inc, located in Tasmania, shepherds the growing and propagating of old rose varietals in that country.

Old cathedrals are one of the treasures of our Anglican heritage, and cathedrals have for centuries had a close association with flowers, often roses. While there are often lilies set out at Easter and poinsettias set out at Christmas, and many other varieties used Sunday to Sunday, the highlight of the North Portal of Chartres Cathedral is not a tulip window or a carnation window or a crysanthemum window. It is a rose window.

There are some beautiful modern-day cathedral buildings, but we like the ancient cathedral buildings best. There is some beautiful modern liturgy, but we tend to like the ancient liturgy best. There are some gorgeous hybrid tea roses, but we like the old roses best. Their presence in a church, even a modern-style church, carries a stronger sense of eternity.

See you next week.

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8 September 2013

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