We recently published five posts of excerpts from My Garden in Spring by E. A. Bowles dealing with the early spring flowers for which he was renowned as an authority; here we will present two posts from his 1914 book My Garden In Summer, both dealing with roses. The first, entitled simply “Roses”, deals primarily with species roses, along with some of the early roses, or Old Garden Roses – understandable in that the book was written 100 years ago. His interest in them was dominated by these species roses as well as some of the early hybrids that had not yet strayed too far from the “stud” blood of the European species and the Asian, primarily Chinese, species and hybrids that had been bred by the Chinese and were often discovered in Chinese gardens by the early plant hunters from Europe. The combination of the two has led to the astounding variety of roses that are available today.
In our first excerpt he also deals with the rather complex phenomenon of aestivation, relating to the arrangement of sepals in roses and the source of an ancient puzzle known as the “five brothers”. I once read an interesting account of this puzzle, complete with a diagram, which may be somewhere in my library, and if I can find it I will scan and post it – in the meantime Bowles’ explanation will suffice; as he says in the text, this will appeal to those “fond of mental arithmetic”.
Again, the Latin nomenclature is 100 years old, although with roses it has likely changed much less than with other plant families; Latin italization is also as in the original, as is it’s capitalization – both of which are somewhat different these days. The plants, however, are as beautiful as they have ever been.
We’ll follow that up with a second post on single roses.
Aestivation: A diagram showing some kinds of tepal aestivation in flower buds. A: imbricate; B,C: cochleate; D: contorted; E: valvate; F: open.
My Garden In Summer (1914)
Edward Augustus Bowles, 1865-1954
The postal address of this garden calls up a vision of a rose-growing country with a soil of fat, clayey loam, and the honoured names of eminent Rose specialists for near neighbours. The reality is another thing. I can drive within an hour into regions where thousands of Roses scent the air, and the finest and newest are to be seen grown to perfection by my neighbours – the Pauls on one side, and by Stuart Low on the other – but if you plunge a garden fork into the lawns here you will soon learn that this slightly raised ground that contains the garden is too bony, on account of the deposits of gravel left here by some vast primeval continental river’s mouth, to produce show blooms of Roses without Herculean efforts in the way of excavating and a corresponding filling up that would better suit the purse of Fortunatus or the pockets of Croesus, Midas, Plutus & Co. than mine. So the Rose garden here covers square yards instead of acres, and is just pretty to look at and useful to cut from but nothing to boast of or write about at any length. It consists of a central group of four formal beds for Roses and four for Carnations, surrounding the old Enfield Market Cross in an enclosed garden. This is a parallelogram, with a pergola for western boundary, several of my favourites among climbing Roses occupying its posts on the rose garden side. The southern side is the most open, and only divided from the Iris beds along the River by a wide bed for standard dwarf roses, with a row of, at present, promising young Eucalyptus trees among them. The eastern side is flanked by a continuation of this bed, backed by the Rhododendrons that line one side of the Rhododendron walk and a Magnolia or two rising above them. The Northern side is another portion of this surrounding bed, but it is divided in its midst by a narrow paved walk of old York stone paving from London streets, now passing their old age quietly and peacefully in the country. This leads into the little formal garden where my best Daffodils grow and up to the new wall and its central garden house, which together cut off the cruel winds and make this paved garden so cosy and sheltered that a list of the bold ventures in planting it must be made before long, but first I must review and dismiss the Rose beds. One of the four round ones is devoted to Frau Karl Druschki, and produces pure white, scentless flowers for an astonishingly lengthy period. They are very lovely to look at and cut for the house, where their lasting qualities are dear to my lazy soul, that likes not daily renewal of cut flowers, but would be driven to action by an off-colour second day Rose, such as one finds in most red and pink varieties. La France for pink and Rayon d’or for yellow are next best to Frau Karl for lasting in beauty when cut. So I value Frau Karl in spite of its scentlessness and its somewhat monumental marble appearance – the sort of Rose, in fact, that you might expect to see in the dress or bonnet of a member of one of those marvellous groups of sorrowing relations surrounding a deathbed, whose lace and buttons and even tears are so faithfully represented in white marble in the famous Campo Santo at Genoa. Caroline Testout fills another bed – I am not quite sure yet whether sufficiently worthily to retain possession – and a third bed pleases me mightily with its never-failing Summer and Autumn supply of single Tea-roses, for the Irish Singles and the real old single China, Miss Lowe’s variety, are its generous occupants. The fourth contains yellow and orange-coloured Roses in a mixture until I can make up my mind and my accounts in favour of filling it with Rayon d’or, which so far has proved the best of its inhabitants. It is always good to look at, with its glossy, healthy leaves that seem to be immune from the attacks of fungus pests and grassy-pillars and catterhoppers innumerable, according to the nervous curate’s rendering of that entomological verse of the Psalms.
The two beds that intervene between the Rose and paved gardens I planned most carefully, with all my notes at shows and all the catalogues of the year to help me, so as to begin at one end with yellows, oranges and lemons both, and those indescribable shades that have sufficient affinity with a yellow to be flattered in catalogues as coppery-salmon, apricot, chamois, nankeen, or straw colour. A selection of these easily filled up the right-hand bed, the only difficulty being which to leave out. The Lyons Rose and Mme. Ravary are there, and dwarf forms such as the two La Mesch roses with Canarien Vogel, Sulphurea, and Perle d’or were used to edge the front and the side by the stone path, and have grown into one of the most effective and productive of my Rose plantings. The opposite bed is edged with white and pink dwarfs, Mrs. Cutbush, Mignonette, Anna Maria de Montravel, for examples, but never a trace of the militant Mme. Levavasseur, whose tint of red, flattered in lists as crimson, is as violently combative with any decent quiet red as Crimson Rambler its horrible self. The main colouring of this bed is pink shading to real crimson, but warm salmon-pink, such as that of Mme. Abel Chatenay, Pharisaer, and Prince de Bulgarie, is admitted besides the rose-pink of La France before we reach Richmond, Liberty and, at last, Cramoisie Supérieure, which is the deepest note in crimson I care to admit in this harmony, just far enough from Richmond to correspond with the inevitable drop from the dominant to the keynote in the bass of two final chords. A-men – Sol-Do.
That sums up the poverty of the garden as far as new or show Roses are concerned, but I will not allow that altogether it is poor in Roses, for to me the various species and their forms and hybrids are the real Roses, and I have managed to find nooks and corners for a goodly company of them. Many of them are easily pleased, and will flourish among shrubs and trees in places not easy to fill otherwise with good effect. I have a very real affection for single Roses, and feel rather annoyed when I hear them called Briers — which, although it is not quite such a term of reproach nowadays as formerly, still is not exactly flattering. ” Brere ” in early and mediaeval English was any thorny bush, an equivalent of ” bramble ” and a near relative of the word “thorn.” Then in sixteenth century English it became ” bryer,” ” brier,” and ” briar,” just as “frere” grew into “friar,” and was used of wild roses chiefly, and more of the thorny bush than the flowers. So in the brawl in the Temple Gardens in Henry VI, Shakespeare makes Plantagenet say, “From off this brier pluck a white rose with me,” and Somerset’s rejoinder varies it with ” Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me,” and Emilia’s figure of the Rose and the North Wind in Two Noble Kinsmen, which ends:
” She locks her beauties in her bud again
And leaves him to base Briers,”
shows clearly ” brier ” is not a fitting name for my beloved single Roses.
Let me give you some reasons why they appeal so strongly to me. First, I do so enjoy the beauty of form in the flowers: the central mass or ring of stamens and the simple outlines of the five equal petals in their endless variations of relative positions are always worth drawing, and have an expression, a symmetry, that I can only compare with the charm of a beautiful and familiar face. Who wants to see the human object of their devotion improved by a multiplicity of noses of varying sizes, the innermost being little more than slices of nose so as to pack into the centre? Then why should a Rose need doubling? Secondly, their habit of growth can be allowed as a rule to assert itself, and so they grow into natural and graceful specimens needing little pruning and no cutting back to stumps like those of ancient Osiers. Thirdly, they are so healthy and satisfactory on rather poor soil where florists’ Roses would starve and, therefore, they are better suited to this garden. Fourthly, so many of them have beautiful fruits that carry on their charm into the Winter, and lastly they are so full of character and individuality that there is a never-ending interest to be found in studying and comparing their peculiarities.
Prickles alone would furnish a subject for a lifelong study, if not only the classification of forms were to be fully dealt with, but the use, purpose, and evolution of the different varieties. Just call to mind the strongly-hooked, down-curved sickles of the Dog-rose, splendidly designed implements for allowing a young shoot to pass through tangled growths, and so well adapted for preventing its being withdrawn and to steady it until it gets out in the free air above its neighbours. Compare them with the needles that clothe our Burnet Rose, a plant of open sand dunes and downs. In other Roses the prickles are heteromorphic, varying in shape and direction among themselves. R. reversa has gained its name from the universally downward-pointing, needle-shaped spines clothing its stems. There are two distinct forms of R. nitida: one has almost smooth stems, while in the other the young shoots, like those of R. Fedtschenkoana, are so entirely covered with crimson spines that they look like long hairy caterpillars, and even in their old age are precious prickly to touch. Again, that polymorphic eccentric R. sericea can appear with almost any sort of prickle one’s fancy can fashion. In its less inventive mood it is contented with two sorts, stout hooked ones in pairs close to the leaves, and wickedly sharp needles scattered about between them. In some Chinese forms the young shoots are gloriously beautiful in their armature of prickles, which have wings rising out of the stems an inch long, with transparent crimson skins that glow out when lit up by the setting sun like stained glass in old windows. This Rose of the winged prickles, whence its varietal name pteracantha, is worth growing for these ruby gleams alone, and if cut down close to the ground each Spring, though the small and early flowers are sacrificed, the summer display of glowing thorns is so much enhanced thereby that this hard pruning is justified. R. sericea’s vagaries lead it to appear in yet another guise as var. denudata, without prickles of any sort and as bald as a poached egg, thus going one better than the so-called Rose without a thorn, R. alpina and its many varieties and hybrid offspring the Boursaults, which have a few prickles lurking here and there ready for a soft finger, as well as plenty of bristly spines at the base of new shoots. I know I ought to call this Rose pendulina nowadays to be in accord with the sumptuous monograph Miss Willmott and her coadjutors have launched, but I have hopes that the long-delayed final number* and its index will reinstate some of the better-known names, as a period of six months is quite long enough for the discovery of a bristle or suspicion of a gland or something on Linnaeus’ type specimen that might allow us to believe it was after all the hybrid he described as pendulina. So for the present I shall call it R. alpina, which better recalls the joy its crimson flowers have given me in subalpine regions, especially in the woodlands round Airolo or leaning out across the Mt. Cenis Road as one passes those picturesque and impregnable-looking forts on the ridge that dominates the narrow gorge through which river and road have found their way.
[*It has appeared at last, but the name pendulina remains in possession of the field.]
After much study has answered the how and when and where of these questions, there will still remain the biggest query of all, Why? So big that years of travelling to see forms in their native homes, hours of patient watching to find out what unwelcome insect guest is out-manoeuvred, or what mechanical advantage is gained, by a downward curved or straight prickle, would be but the beginning of its solution. Still it is good to realise that there is plenty of work for the naturalists of the future, and that even the Roses still provide interesting points for study.
Milton states the rose was without thorn in Eden, and the familiar proverb that this has been changed, but the botanist carries us back to Paradise, for to the botanists no Rose possesses a thorn, which in their parlance is an aborted branch such as one finds on Hawthorn and Sloe, and the weapons of the Roses are only prickles, that is to say, merely outgrowths of the skin or bark, and without a woody core as in a Sloe’s thorn or spine.
The sepals are as full of variations and interest as the prickles, and are often good guides to follow in searching out the relationship of a Rose. The best example I can cite is to be found in our commonest wild Rose, R. canina, which in its own person and also in all its near relations and descendants, even unto the third and fourth generation, bears three patterns of sepals, two being bearded or ciliated, two smooth edged, and the fifth with one edge of either pattern. Many a botanist of older days has found delight in this arrangement, and it has been recorded in various ways, even in Latin verse. Here are two examples:
” Quinque sumus fratres, unus barbatus et alter,
Imberbesque duo, sum semiberbis ego.”
And the other:
” Quinque sumus fratres, et eodem tempore nati
Sunt duo barbati, duo sunt sine barba creati.
Unus et e quinque non est barbatus utrinque,”
which has been pleasantly Englished thus:
” Of us five brothers at the same time born,
Two from our birthday ever beards have worn.
On other two none ever have appeared,
While our fifth brother wears but half a beard.”
Sir Thomas Browne has partly given the clue to this division of beards, and writes:
” Nothing is more admired than the five brethren of the Rose, and the strange disposure of the appendices or beards on the calycular leaves thereof. … For those two which are smooth and of no beard are contrived to be undermost, as without prominent parts, and fit to be smoothly covered, the other two which are beset with beards on either side stand outwards and uncovered, but the fifth or half-bearded leaf is covered on the one side, but on the open side stands free and bearded like the other.”
Thus indeed it is, and the edges of each sepal that are on the outside in the closed state of the bud are furnished with beards, and so the bud is protected from some enemy, possibly roving caterpillars like those of certain noctuae and geometrae that emerge at night for a feast, and hide by day, but do not live in a burrow in the heart of a flower. These could find a nicely-prepared meal in the many free edges of these beards, and these would perhaps be enough for one sitting without boring into the flower and so destroying its reproductive organs. But that is only a guess of my own, based more on my experience of the ways of caterpillars than a needful examination of the flowers of a large number of Roses to observe how many have had their beards gnawed away; and it is better to turn to hard facts, which will at least explain how it is that five edges of the sepals are beardless if they will not tell us why the remaining five need appendages. Aestivation and phyllotaxy are the terms botanists apply to the solutions of the whole matter, and as the Dog Rose makes a very good illustration of their working, I cannot resist the temptation to enlarge on this fascinating study. Those who dislike a lesson in elementary botany, or know all about it already, will please skip a page or two while I take aestivation as my text and turn to those among my readers who, like myself, prefer to have a thing thoroughly explained.
Linnaeus invented the term ” aestivation ” to denote the folding up of the parts of a flower in the bud stage, corresponding with the word ” vernation,” which he used for leaves only; and the various methods Nature employs in this neat packing make most fascinating objects for study. Here we have to deal with a flower whose calyx and corolla consist of five pieces each, five sepals and five petals; and you can see at once that there cannot be many different ways of folding five pieces to wrap round one another. The simplest, perhaps, would be to arrange that one edge of each piece should be overlapped by the segment next to it; thus each would have one edge inside and one free. This plan is found commonly in flowers of five petals, and is characteristic of whole families such as Apocynaceae, of which the Periwinkle is an example; Onagraceae, where it is plainly seen in the petals of Evening Primroses and Fuchsias, and also in Malvaceae, Gentianaceae, Polemoniaceae, and is known as convolute aestivation. If but one inner edge of this arrangement should become deranged and develop out-side instead of inside, one of the segments will be altogether outside of the others, with both edges free, and the segment next to it on the side of its deranged edge will necessarily be altogether overlapped and have both edges inside. This is a second possible arrangement, but is rare, and has been called cochlear, spoonlike, but goodness knows why. Then should one more petal allow the edge that should be inside to escape to the outside (I hope no one is confused, and fancies they are dancing the Grand Chain figure of the Lancers), we should find two petals with both edges free on the outside, two with both edges overlapped, and one petal with one edge free and the other overlapped. This third possible arrangement is a very common one, and is called a quincuncial aestivation, and is the form always found in a normally developed single Rose in which the petals overlap at all, and also in a Primrose. Looking into the open face of such a flower we see that two inner petals that are not next each other stand up with all their edges free, and these would be wrapped innermost in the bud; two others, also not next each other, show no free edge and so would lie outermost in the bud, and the last petal, of course, must have one edge free but the other overlapped.
It is rather fascinating to look out for this arrangement in living flowers and drawings of them, and you will find that artists frequently play tricks with the aestivation of their subjects.
This brings us back to Sir Thomas Browne’s description of the calyx of the Dog Rose, and we can easily see that the slight overlapping of the edges of the sepals accounts for the absence of beard on five edges out of ten, to wit those that lie overlapped, and so must be unbearded to be packed away inside, and that it is their quincuncial arrangement which determines which of them shall have beards on both sides, or half a beard or none. You can easily make a paper model to demonstrate the variations in aestivation. I will give you a recipe for it instead of the cookery one that most writers on gardens nowadays provide. Take a sheet of paper, your own as you will spoil it, and then a half-crown, someone else’s if you can get it, place it on the paper, and use it to draw a circle by running a pencil round its edge in the usual manner, then draw by your eye another concentric circle at the distance of half an inch from the former, and trace five half-crown circles at equal distances round the outside, their inner edges just touching the outer edge of the larger circle. Cut the design out and remove the central half-crown- sized circle, and you have five petals separated somewhat from each other on a ring. Then double a fold in the ring of paper between each mock petal so as to bring them as close as you can get them, and their edges will overlap; you can then arrange them quincuncially, convolutely, or in the intermediate stage that is so meaninglessly termed cochlear, and you will find there are two variants of this, the one I have already mentioned with one petal with both edges outside next to one with both inside, which is formed by pulling out one inner edge of a petal in a convolute arrangement, which has sometimes been called sub-convolute, whereas the other variant is most easily made from a quincuncial arrangement by tucking in one edge of one of the petals that normally has both edges outside. This is called a sub-imbricate arrangement, and has one petal with both edges outside, and one petal with both inside, but in this case they are not next to each other as in a sub-convolute arrangement, and in fact this is the arrangement we find in a Pansy blossom.
If you are fond of mental arithmetic of a mild and easy grade we will go on together to find out how the quincuncial arrangement of petals is brought about and is so common in plants whose leaves are arranged alternately, that is standing separately at regular distances up the stem, and the opposite of the whorled arrangement in which two leaves (then called opposite leaves) or more than two occur all at one height on the stem.
If you take a well-grown, straight shoot of an alternate leaved plant, tie a thread to the lowest leaf and twist the thread round the footstalk of the leaf next above it on the stem, and so on to the others, each in their order of nearness, you will find your thread is mounting the stem in a spiral, and in the greater number of alternate-leaved plants, the Rose and Apple among them, it will make two complete turns of the spiral before it reaches the stalk of a leaf exactly in a line above the first one it was tied to, and that this will be the sixth leaf met with. That means each leaf in this spiral has an angular divergence of two- fifths of the circumference, and it takes five leaves and two turns to complete one spiral. Phyllotaxy is the term used to express the mode of insertion of leaves on the stem with regard to its axis — so here we have a five-ranked phyllotaxy, also called pentastichous and occasionally quincuncial, so we are now getting burning hot, as children say when playing at Hide and Seek.
This will be more apparent if you will cut out another paper model. Draw a line half an inch from, and parallel with, the longer edge of a half sheet of notepaper, and at regular intervals along it draw six leaves standing out at right angles from the line; cut the drawing out in one piece, and you have six leaves standing out on one side of a half-inch wide stem. Take a round ruler or penholder, or some other long and cylindrical body that is handy, and twine the paper stem round it, and bend your leaves to stand away at right angles from it. You will find that you can make the paper take two turns to complete a spiral in which the sixth leaf shall come exactly overhead the first and lowest, and you will have the 2/5 or five-ranked phyllotaxy demonstrated under your very nose. Suppose you could shut up the ruler like a telescope, or better still, carefully slide the spirally twisted paper down to the lower end, keeping it twisted in its spiral and the leaves in their relative places, you, as it were, suppress the internodes between the leaves, and bring all six into a whorl. One, the sixth and uppermost, had better be torn off as it now lies on the top of number one the lowest, and if you have drawn fat round leaves their edges should overlap, and as they settle down they will arrange themselves quincuncially, and you learn that that arrangement of petals, or sepals, is the natural outcome of a 2/5 phyllotaxy with the axis suppressed.
This mathematical relation between the arrangement of the petals and that of the leaves is also seen by noticing that the lowest petal, which is of course that with both edges outside, is placed at an angle of divergence of two-fifths of the circumference from the next lowest, that is the only other one that can have both its edges outside; that means, measuring round the nearest way between the two with both edges outside, or in the case of Dog Rose sepals, both edges bearded, you have one between them which must perforce have both its edges overlapped by one edge of either of its neighbours, and if we number them as we go, these two outer ones are number one and number two. Number three will be another two-fifths along, and can only have one edge outside, namely, the first edge we arrive at in measuring round the nearest way, making the last of the possible five outside edges, and therefore its other edge will be overlapped and inside, and the first of the five inner ones. Number four will lie between numbers one and two, and, as we have already seen, has its edges overlapped, and number five must lie between numbers two and three. That is, we make a double turn in completing our cycle, and we have each segment arranged just as the alternate leaves were, one at every two-fifths of the circumference.