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May 28, 2012

Gone to Pot... Summer 2012

I wonder how much gardening has altered over the last sixty years since Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne on 6 February 1952. Well, of course the actual method of gardening has not changed - we still sow, reap and harvest. Although scarcely old enough to remember the actual event, on Coronation Day in 1953 (honest!), I do remember what seemed like a host of people crowded round a nine inch television set watching the ceremony in black and white, eating a coronation cake baked specially by my mother. I also have in mind a patriotic colour scheme of our garden - blue lobelia alternating with white alyssum, at the edge of the border backed by a row of red salvias. All these plants faithfully carried home from the local nursery (sadly now a block of flats) and planted out like Grenadier Guards on parade. I digress, but this reminds me of going to see the Trooping of the Colour in the mid 50's on a blisteringly hot day, where the highlight (for me anyway) was the sight of guardsmen dropping like flies, ram rod straight, in a dead faint.

I was lucky enough to see the coronation twice as the school took the children to see the newsreel at the local theatre with the news of the ascent of Everest by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa Norgay Tensing. Tensing was photographed by Hillary on the summit holding a string of flags which included the Union Jack, the Nepalese and United Nations flags.

With the Jubilee and the Olympics following hot on its heels, I thought I would get into the spirit of the occasion and have red, white and blue petunias in pots by the front door. As we are now facing a severe drought I shall have to be very economical with my watering and save as much water from the kitchen as possible.

I once had a hedge of Queen (or perhaps Princess) Elizabeth roses and wish they had had the boundless energy of our Queen - for many years I nurtured them or perhaps it was neglect as they reached their allotted life span and left a huge gap in the garden. The same cannot be said for their namesake who has given us continued pleasure and a tradition so many countries envy.

Roses are synonymous with June! Omar Khayyam, a poet, mathematician and astronomer, born in Nishapur in Persia, wrote in his Rubaiyat:

"Look at the rose that blows about us - Lo
Laughing she says 'into the world I blow'
At once the silken tassel if my purse
Tear, and its treasure on the garden throw"

The birthplace of the cultivated rose was probably northern Persia, on the Caspian, Faristan, on the Gulf of Persia. It spread across Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and to Greece. The Greeks brought it to southern Italy and the Romans spread it across their Europe. Roman brides and their bridegrooms were crowned with roses. I wonder if this is where the tradition of throwing confetti over a newly married couple originated?

Certainly they are biodegradable, so the Verger does not have to rush around after a wedding sweeping up all over the paper bits and the bride does not get bruised and battered having half a pound of rice flung at her. Perhaps this gives rise to the saying 'life is a bed of roses' for that is what we wish all newly weds.

Enjoy the coming celebrations!

Floreat Hortus