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Stonehenge

1 Lead-PhotoA visit to Stonehenge was high on our itinerary during our trip to England last June. Since this 4500 year-old British cultural icon draws over a million and a half visitors each year, admission is gained through a timed system best accessed through advanced booking online. We arrived a few minutes prior to our 11am admission time slot that we had booked several months earlier and found a short queue at the ticket office in the Visitor’s Center. From there, we had the choice of walking the two miles to the Stones or taking the shuttle which runs continuously all day — very little waiting. We took the shuttle.

The setting around Stonehenge has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. While it is owned by the Crown, it’s managed by English Heritage and the surrounding lands are owned by the National Trust. In recent years, a nearby highway has been removed, leaving no remaining distractions around the stone circle. Shortly after we left the Visitor’s Center, Stonehenge dramatically appeared in the distance, standing solitary on a rise amid vast grasslands. The vista was incredible.

2-VistaWhen the shuttle arrived at the stones, we joined the throng heading to the pathway that encircles the ruins. The site is roped off and there is no longer any access directly into the stone circle. Instead, there is a path around the stones which allows visitors a good look at the entire monument. Stonehenge consists of both small stones and some really big ones. The big ones are arranged in a circle and joined by lintels laid across the tops creating Stonehenge’s instantly recognizable profile.

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Stonehenge Lintels

We circled around several times and found the sight lines that the sun’s rays blaze through at dawn on the summer and winter solstices. After staying for an hour and taking lots of photos, we caught the next shuttle back to the Visitor’s Center where we had lunch in the café. (I had a decent gluten-free lunch that included a slice of  GF Victoria’s Sponge Cake, a classic English dessert that we saw everywhere in England but GF only at Stonehenge.)

 

We spent some time after lunch viewing a very good exhibition that explained Stonehenge through a series of displays and ended our visit in the gift shop where we brought a few souvenirs.

Looking back, we understand the reason for limiting access to the inner stones, but we were disappointed that we could not inspect Stonehenge more closely. We saw more of inner Stonehenge from the Rick Steve’s Stonehenge episode.

4-Stonehenge-ViewRegardless, the Stonehenge experience was more than worth the effort and we encourage travelers to visit this British archeological treasure and enjoy the experience as we did.

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1.1 -Entrance-Gate

Entrance to Queen Mary’s Rose Garden

Our visit to England this past June was timed so we could enjoy the rose gardens, none of which were in bloom on our previous trip when we traveled to London to see the Chelsea Flower Show in May. This time our timing was perfect — the 3rd and 4th week in June.

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Map of Regent’s Park

One of the gardens we planned to see was Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park, located in northwest London near Baker St. and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The 410 acre park is also home to the London Zoo, numerous playgrounds, a boating lake and Open Air Theatre. But our primary destination was the Rose Garden, created in the 1930’s, which is located in the Inner Circle of the park.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, surprisingly one of many rainless days we enjoyed while in England, when we arrived by taxi which dropped us off at one of the gated entrances to the Rose Garden. Our entrance through the gates led us to a circular path through the rose garden. While we had anticipated an impressive June Bloom, the garden exceeded our expectations.

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Ingrid Bergman

The winding paths led us from rose bed to rose bed and with approximately 12,000 roses on display, the numerous (85) single varieties planted within the garden was overwhelming. Each rose bed had mass plantings of one variety and the effect was stunning. I find that photographs don’t always capture the impact that can be seen only in person. Such was the case with not only Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a whole, but with the massive bed of Ingrid Bergman, a dark red hybrid tea in full flush, that created an eye-catching display.

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Double Delight

We saw some familiar roses like ‘Double Delight’ that was at its perfect stage of bloom and showed off its lipstick-edged petals perfectly. There was a large bed of roses that we recognized as ‘Hot Cocoa’, which we grow in our garden, but labeled as ‘Hot Chocolate’ in Queen Mary’s Garden. ‘Hot Cocoa’ was hybridized by Tom Carruth when he worked for Weeks Roses in California and we were pleased to see an American bred rose among those on display in Queen Mary’s Garden.

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Hot Chocolate aka Hot Cocoa

 

The rose bed that attracted the most attention — everyone wanted to have their photo taken in front of — was the bed of ‘You’re Beautiful’. We had to wait and wait until people finished posing in front of these roses before we could have a clear view. Mike finally got the photo below. The bed had close to 50 rose bushes of ‘You’re Beautiful’ and each was in bloom!

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You’re Beautiful

 

I was attracted to the colorful bed of ‘Tintinana’, a rose I had never seen, but if we grew hybrid tea roses, I wouldn’t mind having in our garden.

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Tintinana

Another unfamiliar rose I photographed is ‘Jam and Jerusalem’, displaying such a beautiful spray of roses too perfect to ignore.

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Jam and Jerusalem

There was a large bed of assorted David Austin Roses that contained many familiar DA varieties and I was able to capture this beautiful bloom of Lady Emma Hamilton.

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Lady Emma Hamilton

 

Some roses on display, like ‘Gorgeous’, a Poulsen rose, are not available in the United States. From information I gathered on-line, it is available for sale on web sites in the UK. This rose has amazing, multi-colored (orange, pink and yellow), very large blooms with dark green foliage. My research said that ‘Gorgeous’ needed no pesticides because of its disease resistance. We can hope that some day it will be introduced in the US, although it may be under a different name.

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Gorgeous

 

The park was filled with families and couples lounging on chairs, ready to spend the day. Benches were available, too, but many people had brought blankets to spread on the grass as well as picnic lunches. There are several cafes and kiosks available within the park and Mike and I stopped at the Boat House Cafe to get a cold drink (and ice cream) before we made another tour of the rose garden.

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Hot Cocoa, Easy Going and Me

As we strolled through the park, we were impressed, given the size of the crowd, with the cleanliness and order in the park — no litter nor stomping through flower beds — Londoners and tourists just enjoying a Saturday in the park.

The vast collection of roses and the obvious upkeep to keep them looking their best made Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s park one of the most impressive rose gardens we have seen and definitely one of the highlights of our time in London.

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Mike Gathering Seaweed

Seaweed, fresh from the ocean, is a great amendment for garden soil as well as an addition to compost. Here in Rhode Island, known as the “Ocean State” with over 400 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, seaweed is easily found along the shoreline.

Once or twice a year, Mike and I pack the SUV with muck buckets and a rake and drive to our favorite seaweed gathering site – First Beach in Newport, RI (also known as Easton’s Beach). Growing up in Newport, I spent many days here with friends, lounging on the sand. We seldom swam because chances were that the water would be thick with seaweed, a daily plague of this particular beach.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we drove to the beach a few weeks ago and saw nothing but pristine sand. Not a slimy piece of seaweed to be found anywhere. It’s an hour’s drive from where we now live and we didn’t want to go home with empty buckets. I thought of the many areas we might find seaweed and remembered a place that might have enough seaweed to fill our buckets.

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View of Newport Bridge from King’s Park

So we headed down to Newport’s 5th Ward, where I grew up, and drove to King’s Park which indeed had the seaweed we were looking for. The beach at King’s Park looks out over Newport Harbor and has a great view of the Newport Bridge as well as the shoreline along lower Thames Street. However, it’s not the kind of beach that attracts tourists. If you didn’t know it was there, right on Wellington Ave. next to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, you would drive right by it on your way to the Ocean Drive which meanders around the coast and up to Bellevue Avenue and its many mansions.

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Ida Lewis Yacht Club

We had the small strip of beach completely to ourselves and as Mike gathered the seaweed that had washed ashore, I admired the yachts moored in the harbor. I also had a view of Goat Island that once was home to the Navy Torpedo Station before it was transformed into a tourist destination with a hotel and condominiums.  Pointing out to the harbor stood the statue of General Rochambeau who, in 1780, landed in Newport with his troops after the British had withdrawn.

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View of Goat Island in the Distance

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Statue of General Rochambeau

Being at King’s Park brought back childhood memories when I used to walk to the Park from home on hot summer days. I realized that I hadn’t been back since I was 9 or 10 years old, but what a perfect place, I thought, to gather seaweed and recall times past. If you travel to Newport, you might want to discover this out-of-the-way spot with its great scenic views and free parking.

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Seaweed Ready for the Compost Bin

1-Touluse-Lautrec-and-Stars

Recently, Mike and I went to the exhibit “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and it didn’t disappoint. The posters of Toulouse-Lautrec, legendary for their depiction of the nightlife, cafes, cabarets  and celebrities of 19th century Paris, illustrated life in Paris and Montmartre during its bohemian heyday. Also included in the exhibit were other notable artists of the time, such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and John Singer Sargent. The exhibit’s astoundingly vivid visual world of Paris’ social scene transported me back in time.

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Through Toulouse-Lautrec’s art, I learned about can-can dancer Jane Avril, who was a lifelong friend of Toulouse-Lautrec and commissioned the poster above to advertise her cabaret show at the Jardin de Paris. I especially like “Divan Japonaise,” (pictured below) which shows Jane Avril enjoying herself at the club.

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Toulouse-Lautrec’s depiction of May Belfort, an Irish singer who performed in Parisian nightclubs with her ever-present black cat, can be seen in this promotional poster.

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Mary Belfort

The exhibit also included several images of Aristide Bruant, French singer and nightclub owner, in his famous red scarf and black cape.

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I loved Le Chat Noir (“The Black Cat”), poster by Théophile Steinlen which advertised the cabaret located in the Montmatre section of Paris in the early 1880’s. It reminded me of our last trip to Paris, when we had purchased a group of souvenir posters from one of the many bouquinistas lining the Seine.

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The “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” will be at the MFA until August 4, 2019. If you have a chance to see it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

1 The-McCartney-Rose

The McCartney Rose – Hybrid Tea, strong spice fragrance

David Austin, founder of David Austin Roses in Albrighton, England, was once quoted as saying that a rose without fragrance is only half a rose. What a perfect way to describe a characteristic so essential to the identity of America’s national floral emblem.

While the delicious, delightful, slightly mysterious and often fickle quality of floral fragrance is now considered a highly desirable trait most prized by rose lovers, it wasn’t always so. This quality was willingly sacrificed by rose breeders in the nineteenth into twentieth centuries. Why? Rose hybridizing is a game of compromise with one trait willingly forfeited to gain another. Fragrance was often the victim of hybridizing choices that placed higher value on superior floral form, unique and vibrant colors, increased winter hardiness and stronger disease resistance.

Flash forward 100 years and the rose buying public now long for highly scented roses and commercial rose growers know it. While fragrance is an inherited trait, the gene for fragrance is recessive and crossing two fragrant varieties doesn’t necessarily produce fragrant offspring. Due to this unpredictability of rose genetics, contemporary rose hybridizers continuously search for the right genetic combinations that will add fragrance to other desirable characteristics. Since it takes eight to ten years from pollination to retail introduction, restoring a characteristic as elusive as fragrance has taken decades.

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American Beauty

Fragrance is produced by oils in the petals of the bloom with different oils creating distinctive fragrances. The American Rose Society lists twenty-four fragrances, the most well-known is the classic ‘rose’ scent. This intoxicating old rose or damask scent can be found in many red and pink roses like the old garden rose American Beauty, David Austin’s Mary Rose, Mr. Lincoln, and Chrysler Imperial.

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Ebb Tide

Other essential oils are responsible for the spicy, clove-like scent in the floribunda Ebb Tide. Sniffing Graham Thomas yields the light and delicate tea fragrance while Julia Child imparts a strong anise or licorice scent.

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Graham Thomas

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Julia Child

But fragrance can be subjective because everyone’s nose is different. Two people may smell the same rose and each will offer different descriptions. Fragrance also is influenced by temperature, humidity and the rose’s stage of bloom. A fully open bloom will have more scent than a flower that is partially open; the intensity ebbs as the bloom goes by. A blossom may have a strong scent on a warm, sunny day; take the same bloom on a cool, cloudy, breezy day and the scent will be subdued.

Time of day also impacts a rose’s fragrance. The highest concentration of oils are found in early morning which is why roses grown for their attar of roses (oils extracted from rose petals) are harvested then. (Our experience has been that every fresh rose bloom exudes some detectable scent, however subtle, under ideal conditions.)

Clearly, rose fragrance is highly desirable and has become its own reward. The presence of discernable fragrance, or the lack of it, often determines whether a variety gets introduced or not. Each hybridizer of the genus rosa has their personal hybridizing objectives. Each is looking for that unique, exceptional variety. Each is prepared to spend a professional lifetime searching for that one perfect and fragrant rose, the magnum opus of a career.

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Mike and Angelina Chute’s Garden

After the holiday hubbub is over and tranquility returns, the new year presents itself and the gardening season begins again, as it always does, with great expectations. While the roses in our gardens are quietly resting under their winter cover, Angelina and I have been unusually busy planning for the 2019 season. We have accepted a number of invitations to present lectures and workshops, including a new home and garden show in Connecticut plus programs in area garden centers. Our entertaining PowerPoint lectures, workshops and seminars are designed to educate and make rose gardening appealing to even the most reluctant gardener. We annually review, revise, and refresh our program list as well as add new ones.

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Cloud Ten (Radler, white climbing rose)

New this year is “Radler Roses, Beyond Knock Out Roses.” This PowerPoint presentation highlights a number of attractive, disease resistant varieties that have been hybridized by Will Radler, breeder of the famous Knock Out family of sustainable roses. We describe these roses as being “beyond Knock Outs.” as they do not have “Knock Out” as part of their name. Will Radler has served as a consultant to this program and it will debut at the Boston Flower & Garden Show on March 19. (See the complete list of 2019 programs, dates, and times on the 2019 Lecture Series page.) For a description of our programs, visit our web site’s Program page at RoseSolutions.net.

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Our season opens at the Southeastern Connecticut Home & Garden Show on Sunday, February 24 at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Our event starts at 12:15 with a Meet & Greet book signing followed at 1:00 pm by our “Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening” our most popular program. This is Rose Gardening 101 where we explain how to grow great roses in home gardens in six simple steps. There will be plenty of time for Q and A during and after the program.

6 Boston Flower Show logoOn Saturday, March 16, we return to the Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center to present our new program for 2019, “Beyond Knock Out Roses; Discovering Other Sustainable Roses from Knock Out Hybridizer Will Radler.” We enjoy the high energy of the Boston show and especially the interaction with the big lively Boston audiences. (We will have our two books, Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening as well as Rose Gardening Season by Season: A Journal for Passionate Gardeners, available at all our lectures and workshops.

We are looking forward to our visit to Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, MA on Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 pm when we present the Six Simple Steps program. This event will include refreshments and door prizes. To register or for more information, go to www.russellsgardencenter.com or call 508-358-2283 x394.

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Display at 2018 Maine Flower Show

We pack up and head north to Portland, Maine on Saturday, March 30, to speak at the Maine Flower Show. We presented a program there last year on cold-climate rose gardening that attracted an audience from across northern New England as well as Quebec and the Canadian eastern provinces. This year we’ve created another customized cold-climate program titled “Fifteen Remarkable Roses for Northern New England Gardens,” which focuses on successful rose gardening in USDA zones 3 through 5.

Home Garden Flower Show (4)We present the “Radler Roses, Beyond Knock Out Roses” program at the Rhode Island Home Flower & Garden Show on Saturday, April 6 at 1pm.  We had presented programs at the old RI Flower & Garden Show from 1998 until it closed a few years ago. Now it’s back again at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence and we’re glad. Go to www.ribahomeshow.com for more details.

Join us at the RI Rose Society’s “Rose Fest” on Saturday, May 4 at Chaves Garden Center, in Middletown, RI. We again present our Six Simple Steps program but in a garden setting using real plants as props instead of a digital PowerPoint program — a fun and unique way to demonstrate rose gardening.

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Mike Chute at 2018 RI Rose Society Rose Show

Saturday, June 15 at 1 PM is the Rhode Island Rose Society’s 21st annual rose show at the Wickford Community Center in Wickford, RI. Join Angelina and me at New England’s premier display of  roses of every type and color. At 1:30, we will use real roses grown in local gardens by home gardeners as props to demonstrate how simple it is successfully grow roses at home. Free and open to the public.

In between all these events, our lecture series includes programs to garden clubs and presentations to various horticultural organizations. All this, plus time out for a trip to Great Britain, makes early 2019 another active season for Angelina and me.

We are available to speak at flower shows, garden centers, garden club meetings, symposiums and conventions and will travel to just about anywhere. We can customize programs and even produce one-of-a-kind presentations. We continue to add bookings throughout the year so keep checking in. As always, if your organization needs a program at the last minute maybe we can help. Contact me at mike.at.rosesolutions.

 

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David C.H. Austin                    (Photo: DavidAustinRoses.com)

David C. H. Austin, the founder of David Austin Roses Ltd,  passed away in December at the age of 92 in Albrighton, England, the town where he was born. He leaves a lasting legacy of extraordinary horticultural accomplishment having melded the virtues of old garden roses with those of modern roses, a daunting challenge. He had a clear vision of what could be and, through a lifetime of patience and persistence, followed his dreams and, in doing so, forever changed the international rose landscape.

The son of an English farmer, Austin’s interest was in horticulture more so than agriculture, particularly roses. As a young nurseryman in the 1950s, he loved the character and fragrance of traditional old garden roses and bemoaned their decline in popularity. While roses then were still a favorite plant of gardeners everywhere, the modern hybrid teas and floribundas with their repeat blooming ability and much broader color spectrum had pushed the once-blooming, old-fashioned roses with limited colors to one side.

Is it possible, Austin wondered, to capture the flower form and fragrance of the old roses — a rose with no fragrance, he was known to say, is only half a rose — and combine it with the remondancy (repeat bloom) and rich color palette of modern roses?

Thus, starting in his farmhouse kitchen 60 years ago, Austin began a life-long quest for his ideal rose, a quest that grew into an internationally recognized brand that is widely marketed throughout Europe and the United States.

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Graham Thomas

His first introduction was Constance Spry in 1961.  This beautiful, pink, fragrant climber is still available today but it was a once-bloomer and the pursuit of remondancy continued. The breakthrough came in 1983 when Austin introduced three varieties, Graham Thomas, Mary Rose, and Heritage, at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. Each had the desired old rose flower form, distinct fragrance, attractive colors as well as the all-important ability to re-bloom more than once per season. He referred to these three beauties as “English” roses and they shot him onto center stage in the rose world and he never looked back. His roses would go on to win 24 gold medals at Chelsea and he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for services to horticulture.

 

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Heritage

Over time, David Austin Roses developed the largest rose breeding program in the world, yielding 250,000 seedlings each year. Austin’s challenge was to balance the science of plant genetics with a vision of his ideal rose in a never ending search for certain key characteristics.  These distinctive traits include overall beauty, old fashioned floral form, outstanding garden performance, fragrance and “charm” — a British term meaning a unique difference from other roses. Achieving some of the desired characteristics in one variety is notable; achieving them all in one variety is the magnum opus of a career.

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David Austin in Hybridizing Greenhouse   (Photo: DavidAustinRoses.com)

David Austin had said, “Every day, I marvel at my good fortune to have been able to make a life out of breeding roses. My greatest satisfaction is to see the pleasure my roses give to gardeners and rose lovers worldwide.” To that we reply, “It has been our good fortune to enjoy the beauty of these magnificent roses and to have benefitted from the vision of David C.H. Austin.”

 

If you would like to learn more about David Austin Roses, including details about his breeding program, we offer a PowerPoint Program, “David Austin’s English  Roses for New England Gardens.”
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