These are the rose weeks of the summer in central New England: while newer varieties of roses are bred to be repeat- or ever-blooming the older varieties bloom now, so if you walk the streets of an older city or town you’re going to see bursting bushes behind and over fences and along porches and foundations. Often red or a very very dark pink. I’m not certain what cultivar these roses are: at first glance they appear to be of the gallica variety, the oldest type of rose to be cultivated in Europe which was brought to North America in the seventeenth century. Certainly several of the rose bushes in the “Colonial” garden behind the Derby House are gallica, cultivated for their medicinal and household uses as much as for their beauty. When I’m walking down the street taking photographs of rose bushes at this time of year and happen to spot a homeowner in close proximity, I always ask about their roses, and I nearly always get the answer: oh they’ve been there forever.
Salem was a horticultural haven in the nineteenth century, so it’s fairly easy to find out what people were growing and showing. When I look through periodicals like the New England Farmer, and Horticultural Register or the Transactions of the Essex Horticultural Society it is pretty clear that most people were more excited about dahlias than roses at mid-century, though Francis Putnam did have quite a collection of showy roses on hand, including La Reine, Duchess of Sutherland, Aubernon, Baron Prevost, Madame Laffey, Madame Damame, Mrs. Eliot, Devoniensis, Bon Silene, Bossuet, and Anne Boleyn, though he was a florist by trade. I have a pink David Austin Anne Boleyn rosebush in my garden, though I doubt it’s the same cultivar as Mr. Putnam’s nineteenth-century varietal. According to Alice Morse Earle’s Old Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth (1901), an even more storied English rose, the “York and Lancaster” striped gallica, could once be found on the grounds of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace in its original location on Union Street. Interest in the “old-time” roses was clearly reviving in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as was the lore attached to all sorts of flowers according to the “language” attributed to them, but serious garden writers always cautioned against mixing up the York and Lancaster with its similarly-striped cousin, the “Rosa Mundi” rose, which had even earlier “historical” origins.
John Ramsbottom’s “King Penguin” book, 1939, with its York and Lancaster illustration; Mrs. L. Burke’s The Language of Flowers, 1865; Rosa Mundi from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 1790s.
Enough of history and let’s see some more roses about town, including my own (first up) which are modern David Austin varieties: my house was a working (rooming) house for much of its life and I doubt there was space (or time) for a flower garden, so I don’t have any old rosebushes. I don’t like any red in the garden for some reason (though I love it indoors), so it’s pink and yellow and ivory for me. Then we have: one of my favorite pocket gardens on Botts Court, two very dependable displays nearby, and the particularly lush roses behind (not in) the Ropes Mansion Garden—just love these. It’s summer now.
June 23rd, 2019 at 7:42 pm
Hi Donna, thanks for sharing those lovely pics of June roses in Salem. Gorgeous. As the poet said, “What is so rare as a day in June?”
June 24th, 2019 at 7:02 am
As an old rose lover and grower I always enjoy seeing how these beauties compliment a house and garden. Their grace and fragrance are not replicated. They are the “real deal”. The last rose photo, the big double pink, I believe is Madame Isaac Pereire. Incredible scent. Thank you!
June 24th, 2019 at 7:13 am
Oh thanks for the id, Lisa!
June 24th, 2019 at 9:15 am
Roses in bloom in Salem, this week.
June 24th, 2019 at 10:37 am
A lot of the red roses with yellow centers (especially in neglected gardens) are just Dr. Huey rootstock, which takes over when the original grafted rose does not survive.
June 24th, 2019 at 10:40 am
Thank you, Kathleen. I did not know that! I really admire roses but have lots to learn about them obviously.
June 24th, 2019 at 10:57 am
We have a tiny lot in Cambridge, but it has four rose bushes “that have been here forever,” including one white rose bush that returned from the dead this year.
June 25th, 2019 at 4:43 am
What beautiful pictures of colourful roses, one can almost smell them from across the ocean! Thank you for the treat.
June 25th, 2019 at 7:34 am
Thank you! It’s rather difficult to photograph roses in profusion, I think–especially in the sunlight!