La Reine Victoria


If there is any rose that could symbolise grief for me, it is La Reine Victoria. By now the story of Victoria’s shattering grief over the death of her husband Albert is a trope, a stereotype. We picture a short dumpy old woman who wore black for the rest of her life. Her rose is quite different.

La Reine Victoria.  Photo by A Barra, wikimedia commons.

La Reine Victoria. Photo by A Barra, wikimedia commons.

She is also sometimes called the Shell Rose, a reference to her cupped and curved petals and the delicacy of her colouring. I grew her in my last garden but sadly do not have room for her here. She does very well in the garden at Old Parliament House.

I sometimes wonder why Schwartz selected this rose to bear the name of the grieving queen. It was 1872 when he released this rose, and Albert had been dead for eleven years. Was it a hint to her to give up her widow’s weeds? However much I like the sound of this, it is most unlikely. Flattery and patronage doesn’t work like that. It’s much more likely that he knew it was a great rose, and selecting the queen’s name would have been a sound marketing choice in the Empire’s heyday.

Having spent the last week spontaneously bursting into tears for no apparent reason, I conclude that I must have a lot more grief to process. It has to be done, however debilitating it feels. And it does feel very debilitating right now. I’m grieving the loss of my old per diabetic life (the sugar jangle) along with just about every expectation or hope I ever had for how my life would have worked out. There are a lot of sayings about how out of destruction new growth comes. In gardening terms that’s what compost is all about. I’m sure they are true. They just tend to gloss over the actual destruction bit…

Love Potion


I discovered my Talisman soon after my last post. Her name is Love Potion, and I rescued her from the sales bench at Bunnings. I only went to buy fly wire…

Love Potion.  Photo by the author.

Love Potion. Photo by the author.

She was bred in 1993 by Jack Christensen, and released in the US the following year. She reminds me of a smaller version of Angel Face, especially the way her petals flex and ruffle like small waves. Even better than her looks is her scent. In our current very wet and humid weather she is suffering from blackspot, along with many other roses around town. I’ll have to wait until summer arrives to see how she performs under usual January conditions. But I suspect that on the power of her name and scent, she will find a home with me.

But why have I decided that she’s my talisman? It’s all in the name. In my last post I talked about how 2014 had ended badly for me. With this in mind, I approached the new year in a mindset that was, to be accurate, troubled. I’ve read a lot about diabetes now and I realise that my chances of a long and healthy life are now somewhat compromised. I’m much more likely to die younger than my friends, and I have a much higher risk of complications that you wouldn’t wish on anyone. January 1 rolled around and I wondered what do I really love? If my life is going to be shorter, I should figure out what that is and start doing more of it.

The phrase love potion suggests a power: an intoxicating, world shaking, cob web busting sense of being swept away. There’s nothing ho hum or stale about it. The question which I hope to bring to bear on the decisions of 2015 is this. Does this job/book/movie/relationship/thought/offer/whatever give me a whiff of Love Potion? In short, does this smell sweet enough to follow?

Last day of the holidays


Despite my best intentions of intending to post while I was away, it didn’t happen.  Too much happening, lots of people, not much time to think.  So it’s only now, on the last melancholic day of my holidays, that I think and reflect on my year.  I realise now its good that its been busy because my rumination on the year haven’t yielded much that was uplifting. I ended 2014 feeling sadder, sicker and poorer than I started it.

So I’m looking for a rose which can act as a talisman for a better year ahead.  And what better rose than Talisman herself?

Talisman, 1929, Montgomery and Co.  photo by Grant  Brodie.

Talisman, 1929, Montgomery and Co. photo by Grant Brodie.

Isn’t she exquisite? Helped along by Grant’s photographic skills. This is the first photo of the ones I commissioned from Grant, and how glad I am I found him. Skilful, good natured and delightfully easy to work with.

Humans have been using talismans for millennia.  Technically, a talisman is a created object which is believed to bring good luck to its wearer.  If you type the word talisman into the British Museum’s search function you’ll see a range talismans from different places and time periods. All of them have one thing in common. The notion of protection, which is probably what Talisman will end up depicting in my planned deck of cards. Many of the medieval talismans were for protection against the devil. It is instructive to ask oneself ‘who or what do I need protection from?’

As a consciously created object the rose is in many ways a talisman.  In 1929 when this rose was released it was such a new and startling colour it certainly brought good things to the breeder.  Apparently it sold at such high prices compared to other roses that it probably should’ve been called Windfall.

I could do with a windfall right now.  I wouldn’t be fussy either. Physical, material, emotional or spiritual…I would welcome improvements in any area. I’d like 2015 to end with being happier, healthier and more prosperous. Writing about roses does make me happy, so I am off to a good start with Talisman.