I don’t know what pulled me to Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in April 2020. I moved to St. John’s Wood 1968 and have walked through Regent’s Park and the Rose Garden many times over the years. However, until lockdown in March of that year, I had never visited it so often, nor had so much pleasure in being in such a ‘flower heaven.’
In late April I was drawn to a bed of rose bushes covered with buds. I took a photo of the bed and when I saw the name ‘Keep Smiling’ I thought “That is exactly what we all need to do.”. We were just 1 month into lockdown.
As I continued my walk, I noticed that most of the other roses were not as advanced as ‘Keep Smiling’, but just before I reached the Museum Jubilee?? Gate there was another area with bushes full of rosebuds. These were “Lady of Shallot” and, next to it, “Molineux”.
Next day I entered the Rose Garden from Chester Gate. I saw a beautiful delicate pink shrub rose “Scarborough Fair” and nearby another group of “Lady of Shallot” and “Molineux” roses. Walking around the bed of “Keep Smiling” I noticed a several other beds which I had not looked at before as they were not in bloom.
May 9th gave me the pleasure of other blooms to capture on camera. I took my first photo of “Royal Philharmonic” a white rose with a slight tinge of pink, and a deep fuchsia rose “All My Loving”. The orange “Lady of Shallot”, and “Molineux” a delicate yellow, were also blooming, and looked spectacular.
Over the next few months, I walked round Primrose Hill and into Regent’s Park almost daily. I often thought “I won’t go to the Rose Garden today; I should be at home”, but it never worked – my feet carried me to the Garden, and I became engrossed in taking a photographic record of the roses. Each rose was too precious not be included and seemed to be a symbol of life.
My ‘short walk’ became a 21/2 hour walk of pleasure. The “Keep Smiling” roses were breath-taking, and I was thrilled to see the beds of “Tintinara”, a deep vibrant red/orange, and “Pink Perfection”, a pink with a touch of purple, flourishing. “Ingrid Bergman” a deep red had started to bloom and looked amazing. As I walked on, “Garden Glory” a delicate yellow with a touch of orange came into view, and next to it was the pale orange “Song & Dance”. Close by, “Commonwealth Glory”, a beautiful white flower with a peach centre, was stunning, and not far away the mid-yellow “Belle Epoque” was also in bloom.
As the days passed, I took more and more photos of the roses, but I could not remember all their names. I solved this problem by taking a photo of the name plate of each rose as I took its photo., I then filed each rose in an individual album on my computer, adding to each album daily. I named all my files, using the numbers on the name plates, and created my own plan of the beds with each rose named.
By mid- May I was spoilt for choice. Each rose was almost talking to me – “Please take my photo today it’s such a lovely day”. From “Chandos Beauty”, the most delicate of pinks to “Rachel”, pink with a slightly yellow centre, and “Charisma”, a slightly softer fuchsia to “Inspiration” a lovely pink and “Nostalgia” red with variations, I was hooked. I saw this wonderful golden yellow rose aptly named “Golden Anniversary”. An inspiration! Two of my cousins were about to celebrate their Golden Wedding, so I took photos of these roses and had them made into Anniversary cards.
“Lovely Lady”, “Dorothy House” and “Valentine Heart” were all delicate shades of pink. Nearby were the bright red colours of “Eternity” and “Hot Chocolate”. I wondered if this was named for the drink, or the band, famous in the 70’s.
I saw two flower beds with roses but no names, but at the beginning of July, a name plate, “Rock & Roll” suddenly appeared on one bed. The other remained unnamed in my files until January 2021, when Mark Elliott, Chairman of the Friends of Regents Park, told me its name was Norwich Castle.
“Southern Belle”, a canary yellow and “Britannia”, a yellow with pink edges, were stunning. The dramatic pink colouring of “Blessings” really touched me and “Donatella”, a gentle pink rose kept me photographing for a long while.
As days passed more and more of the roses bloomed. “Belmonte” and “Tickled Pink” as well as “Robert Winston” and “Natasha Richardson” blossomed. “Champagne Celebration”, “Champagne Moment” and “Silver Anniversary”, all different shades of white, so special.
I came across the rose named “Jam & Jerusalem”; and wondered who had thought of the name. Researching it, I found that it was named for members of the Women’s Institute who are known for their jam making and singing the hymn Jerusalem. Some of these roses were yellow centred, tinged pink on the edges, others were pink throughout. However, when I looked at the bed as a whole, they all appeared as one colour.
In late May I discovered the shrub roses, which are all around the outside of the Rose Garden. Some of the names were difficult to find as the bushes had covered the nameplates, but I did eventually manage to name most of them.
The climbing roses had names too, although it took quite a while to find which rose belonged to which name. I started from one end of the trellising trying my best to match name and rose – no easy task! When I could easily find a name, it meant that the rose had passed its best, and lost its flowers – maybe that’s my project for 2021.
I must mention the exceptional dedication of the Gardeners who plant, tend, and nurture these magnificent beds, as well as the rest of the Park. They have given both the public and me hours and months of enjoyment.
It is impossible for me to list here all the roses which made my Summer of 2020 so special. I feel exceptionally lucky to have been able to spend so much time in this magnificent Rose Garden. The colours and delicacy of each bloom and their names inspired me to photograph each and every one of them.
I felt that the only way to keep the memory of these magnificent flowers alive was to make a book of them. This I did, and it now sits happily on my coffee table as a permanent reminder of my “Summer of Roses.”