Except My Roses

You steal my roses, the things I love most in all the world. . . You could have taken anything – except my roses. ~ from Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast

A perfect first day of summer, the solstice, the longest day of the year. The roses are celebrating, having a raucous party in the garden while they soak up the sun and feed the bees. The height of rose bloom always brings to mind one of my favorite movies, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 masterpiece “Beauty and the Beast” (La Belle et la Bête). In a magical film that still delights and intrigues me with its whimsical imagery and cinematic beauty, the scene that comes to mind is when Beauty’s hapless father plucks a rose from the Beast’s garden as a gift for his daughter and is immediately confronted for his crime.

How ironic that I moved here twelve years ago so that I would have more gardening space for roses, and all of the roses I planted the first year died over the winter. The daylilies that I brought thrived in the heavy clay soil and shrugged off deer and rabbit attacks. Not so the lovely English roses, who were far too genteel to survive this robust and challenging garden microclimate. To be without roses was unthinkable, so I began a long experimentation with roses safely ensconced behind garden walls – who was sassy enough to survive in an organic garden with no spraying and no artificial fertilizer?

Old roses, a few of the hardier English roses on their own roots, stalwart Griffith Buck roses, a few Canadian and shrub roses – all became part of the garden landscape, surrounded by geraniums, lambs ear, and other gentle plant companions.  The summer sun triggers the rose perfume; each morning begins with thousands of petals of color, heady fragrance, and the songs of bees nestling in for a little more pollen. You could take anything from me- except my roses.

All images ©2013 by Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved.

Remastered and released by Criterion, La Belle et La Bête is now available on DVD and Blueray. (B&W, in French with English subtitles)  A film treasure.

I buy most of my “own root” roses from Roses Unlimited, they are shipped in pots in beautiful condition. Wonderful source!

38 thoughts on “Except My Roses

  1. Your roses are gorgeous, and this post is beautiful. Thank you for the film clip. I have not seen that movie, and will look for it. The clip left me wanting more. 🙂

    • Robin, I think you would love this movie. I put in my top 5 favorite films of all time. A lot of it is on YouTube, cut up, but it is worth seeing in its entirety on Netflicks or ordering the DVD. Let me know know if you watch the whole thing – I think Cocteau was a genius who really understood film as a medium, rather than recording a stage play as was so common at that time. Lots of mysterious and marvelous scenes in this film 🙂

  2. A lovely post with some beautiful pictures of roses – and I like your reference to Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”. There is something special about roses, isn’t there?

    • Thanks for stopping by, Otto! I agree, there is something special about roses. I have always thought it interesting how many artists like to paint them; apparently Renoir thought painting roses was excellent training for painting rosy skin tones.

  3. Somehow I almost forgot that June is the month of Roses – thanks for the remainder. You have a wonderful collection – I really like the Darlow’s; first time I heard of them actually.. Thanks again!

    • Glad you enjoyed, diversifolius! Darlow’s Enigma is a little known hybrid musk rose that grows big enough to cover a 6′ fence and climb into the trees. It could also be grown as a large arching bush. An easy grower, it never has blackspot, blooms multiple times in a season and is sweetly fragrant. None of the other hybrid musks are hardy enough for my zone 5b/6a garden, so I really appreciate D.E. A few specialty nurseries carry it; a great all around rose with an old-fashioned look.

      • Thanks for the info – sounds like a very good rose for our area too. I found its flowers very special, a bit different…

  4. What a lovely collection of roses you’ve got there. It must be wonderful to spend a lovely morning sipping coffee and savoring the scent of those roses. 😉

  5. “Hi, my name is Eleanor, and I’ve had my heart broken by roses and let them go 5 years ago” (that is why I plant Hibiscuses). I practically had to go into therapy and like Hudson, I couldn’t tarry too long in your garden. It is so beautiful, it breaks my heart! Sigh! 😦

    • Hmm, maybe I need to put together a support group for former rose lovers! I think it is all about choosing the right roses; I did lose dozens of them the first year here. But I couldn’t bear to be without them, so I just kept experimenting until I found hardier ones that were disease resistant too. At any rate, Eleanor, you are always welcome to visit my virtual rose garden 🙂

    • So nice to hear from you, Nancy! D.E. is a wonderful rose, but not very well known. Its the only hybrid musk that is hardy enough to grow here and what a show it puts on! Love it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. Oh, goodness, I can just smell them all!!! So lovely. With last summer’s drought came black spot and Japanese Beetles; gad, I felt like Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments…what next? So, for now, I’m done and done with roses…but your photos surely do tempt me. Thank you for reminding me how much I love Cocteau’s film, too.

    Joy in your beautiful, beautiful garden!

    • Kitty, you cracked me up – though your weather last summer did sound a bit like a biblical plague. Most of the roses here are the hardy sort; I don’t spray, so they have to resist blackspot or they’re gone. Haven’t had many Japanese beetles for the past few years, not sure why – most of the damage is leaf cutter bees and I can tolerate that. I really do appreciate the Carpet roses and the various versions of Knock Out. Maybe just one little sturdy rose? 🙂

  7. Oh to put those two together wonderful!
    I had forgotten that part if the story. (I’ve seen the Disney version too many times)
    Now I have to put this on my video list. Thanks for the rose tour. Mine are all done for a while. They will come back in September I hope. Do you have to take them inside for the winter?

    • Glad you enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast clip; it is a wonderful movie, one of my all time favorites. All of my roses are hardy here – they have to survive and thrive in the garden or they are gone. Since most are on their own roots, a few of the more tender ones die to the ground in winter but spring back up from the roots in spring. This is the garden of tough love 🙂

  8. I fell out of love with roses. Had my heart broken to many times. Even had one I nic named Ugly, a definite mutt, so ugly it was kinda cute (which is a good description of myself), splotched with flecks of white, pink and yellow -it too went to greener pastures. I still have roses, but I don’t tinker with them, nor give them much attention. I steal peeks at them from time to time, out the corner of my eye. Not going to let them heartbreakers do it to me another time. Smiles. Did I convince you?

    Enjoyed your roses though. But I best skedaddle before I begin to weep.

  9. How lovely, each one! And if we are persistent and able to adapt, we will have what we want.

    I, too, miss my roses in my damp and shady yard, and even lost one of my hardy climbing roses in an ice storm. Even my multiflora quit blooming in the dappled shade of the dogwood. But I have a brilliant pink pasture rose, a really old breed, that has only five petals and will grow anywhere, and the last dark red rambler. But I miss my big pink and yellow cabbage roses.

    “Our lives shall not be sweetened
    From birth until life closes
    Hearts starve as well as bodies
    Give us bread but give us roses.”
    ~ James Oppenheim, for the textile industry strike of 1912

    • Bernadette, I love that quote – thank you for including it! Sorry to hear you are losing your roses; I love the old ones. Even if they only bloom once, like Veilchenblau, it is spectacular and worth the space. That one might do well for you, as it is shade tolerant and very hardy. “Give us bread but give us roses.” Yes.

  10. Based on the images, it appears as though you’ve more than overcome the problem of rose sustainability in your garden, Lynn. The Beast (La Bete) would be proud.

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