A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The First Rose - Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
Saturday, May 19, 2007

The two Maries were not taken to a ball until they were sixteen years of age, and then only four times a year in special houses. They were not allowed to leave their mother's side without instructions as to their behavior with their partners; and so severe were those instructions that they dared say only yes or no during a dance. The eye of the countess never left them, and she seemed to know from the mere movement of their lips the words they uttered. Even the ball- dresses of these poor little things were piously irreproachable; their muslin gowns came up to their chins with an endless number of thick ruches, and the sleeves came down to their wrists. Swathing in this way their natural charms, this costume gave them a vague resemblance to Egyptian hermae; though from these blocks of muslin rose enchanting little heads of tender melancholy. They felt themselves the objects of pity, and inwardly resented it. What woman, however innocent, does not desire to excite envy?

A Daughter of Eve (Chapter 1)
by Honoré de Balzac


The first rose of the season in our garden (and I almost missed it) was Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'. I didn't miss it because of its scent which is exactly like my mother's old Pond's Cold Cream. That first flower (there are over 25 buds) opened on Thursday and by the time I scanned it yesterday in the afternoon it was past its prime and the edges of this startlingly white rose were yellowish. But I like it as it is, reminiscent of my favourite flower that of the Magnolia grandiflora. I have been patiently waiting for Magnolia grandiflora to bloom since I planted the tree 12 years ago. Both flowers are equally fragrant if different in fragrance.

Blanc Double de Coubert, sometimes called the muslin rose, came to my garden as an accident 18 years ago when I bought her in a North Vancouver nursery off Mountain Highway. I lost the label soon after and forgot about it. One day I noticed this tall bush with strange foliage. I had to look the rose up and once it bloomed I knew I had a hybrid rugosa. Rugosa roses are extremely hardy (Zone 3) as they originate in eastern Siberia, northern China, Korea and Japan. Rugosa refers to the beautifully crinkled leaves. What is special and extraordinary about rugosas (most are extremely fragrant and have very nice hips, except for Blanc Double de Coubert) is that they are disease free and actually resent being sprayed with anything. They are remontant, which means that they bloom most summer and into fall. For potential rose gardeners who may be intimidated by the apparent complexity of rose pruning, Blanc Double de Coubert is never pruned. I leave it alone.

My Blanc Double de Coubert is also shade tolerant. At 11 ft high she is tall and elegant. 19th century British gardener Gertrude Jekyll (rhymes with treacle) wrote that Blanc Double de Coubert was the whitest white of any flower. I would argue that the white (and also fragrant) flowers of my Hosta plantaginea are as white. By coincidence Hosta plantaginea is the only species hosta with fragrant flowers.

Blanc Double de Coubert was hybridized in 1892 by Frenchman Cochet-Cochet who lived in Coubert. He said it was a cross between the species rose Rosa rugosa and the tea rose Rosa 'Sombreil'. Nobody really believed him and most suspect that Blanc Double de Coubert might be a sport (mutation) of Rosa rugosa 'Alba'.

As I scanned my first rose yesterday its perfume filled my living room. That perfume reminds me that late May may be the best month in the garden. You can notice how plants grow from one day to the next. My hostas have no slug holes and look pristine. The buds of my roses will soon fulfill their promise.

But Blanc Double de Coubert has one "flaw". Like all rugosas its stems have extremly thin and sharp spines. If you don't handle this rose with gloves the spines get into your fingers and break off. They are extremely painful.


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The Ramans Do Everything In Threes

Hers & Mine

Kimberly Holcomb

A Study in Blue

Indiana Luna - Supreme Elegance

The Love Of A Mother

Waltzing In With Style

Model Protocol

CBC Group Show

Rebecca's Improper Fractions

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