April 8th, 2012

My two banksiae roses have flowered nicely just in time for Easter greetings to our readers.

They are not actually in my garden; they grow too big for that. The rose advertised as the world’s largest is a banksiae, curiously planted in Tombstone, Arizona, by a Scots lady in 1883, not long after Wyatt Earp’s zero-process gun control policy had made the streets safe for the likes of her.
I planted this and a white one on rough common land, against a dilapidated fence between the estate tennis court and a golf course. They have a good chance of surviving. Banksiaes look delicate hothouse plants, with lots of cute little cherry-type blossoms and finely decussated leaves – an adaptation to dry conditions. In fact they are tough and thuggish near-to-species roses on their own roots. The common cultivars are double and thornless, the result of mutations selected by Chinese gardeners long before the rose was “discovered” by European botanists in Canton in 1807, and named in unattractive flattery for Lady Banks, the wife of the eminent director of Kew and Cook’s sometime botanist Sir Joseph Banks.
There is a dog-rose against the apse of the cathedral at Hildesheim that is attested to be over 700 years old. If you seek immortality in this world and can’t write a great poem, your best bet is a plant.

8 Responses to “More roses”

  1. Keith Humphreys says:

    What a lovely thing a rose is. There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers. – S.H.

    • Ken Rhodes says:

      Amongst the various depressing topics, here is a short post that brings a smile, followed by a short reply that reinforces it.

      And who, pray tell, is S.H.?

      • Keith Humphreys says:

        In terms of guessing who S.H. is, if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

    • Mark Kleiman says:

      He was wrong, of course. The color and odor of flowers are fundamental to the Darwinian strategy of the species: they attract insects that spread pollen. And cultivated flowers such as modern roses are the products of human ingenuity, not of nature or Nature’s God.

      • Keith Humphreys says:

        What do you expect? As a close friend of S.H.’s put it, his knowledge of botany was “Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.”

      • James Wimberley says:

        Mark is of course right: Darwin’s work showing that flowers are devices to attract insect and other pollinators would have guaranteed his place in scientific history if he’d never written The Origin of Species. But what is the adaptive explanation why humans, who are not insects or even pollinators (except for a few odd plant breeders like James Jesus Angleton, a rather arachnid counterintelligence chief), find flowers and their scent beautiful? It can’t be the promise of fruit – we like the flowers of poisonous plants like datura and daphne.

        Human selection isn’t essential. The attraction of roses like my banksiaes is that they are close to the wild species, in size, toughness, aggression, and short but spectacular flowering period. You can go the whole hog and plant an untinkered-with rosa filipes “Kiftsgate”, which will cover a shed or old fruit tree in no time.

  2. Bruce says:

    The first owners of my 1950s California ranch house planted a cedar tree and, next to it, a yellow Lady Banks rose. The tree grew — oh, maybe 50 feet high — and the rose grew up right along with it. Then it grew into the ornamental plum next to the cedar and swallowed it hole. The spring bloom was an amazing show, but when we had to cut down the all but dead plum, the wife put her foot down. Unfortunately, after cutting the vine at the base, we now have a 50-foot spire of dead vine for the neighbors to enjoy. At some point the cedar will fill in. Right?

  3. James Wimberley says:

    The ancient Hildesheim dog-rose has a tag on its oldest stem labelled “1945″: the plant was burnt to the ground in an Allied air raid in the last winter of the war, but sprouted again from its roots. I pass on whether cedars can regrow from a bare trunk. Ezekiel is I fear an unreliable authority.