Friday, September 24, 2010

Ravishing Madame Hardy

Over forty posts into this blog and I am remiss by not admitting that while I don't, as a general rule, pick favorites for most things, I do, however, have a favorite rose.  I confess publicly that I love the delectable purity of Madame Hardy.

Madame Hardy
'Madame Hardy' is an 1832 Damask rose that is probably one of the most unique and recognizable roses of all time.  The first indication of her delicate nature is the unique fringed sepals that surround the developing blooms. The blooms open flat and completely, normally revealing a fully double rose of pure white petals around a central green pip, but  in cool weather Madame Hardy seems a little embarrassed about revealing so much of herself at one time and there will be a slight cream or pink blush when she first opens.  Those perfectly formed blooms are held above a light matte green foliage on a bush completely unlike that of modern roses.  Instead of coarse, thick-caned, thorny and stiff legs, Madame Hardy has a perfect vase-like form, with thin long canes that seldom branch, but run from foot to head, and her thorns are reserved and ladylike in their lack of aggressiveness.  And the fragrance!  Sweet honey with overtones of lemon, Madame Hardy has a perfume that is strong and at the same time light upon the senses.  She doesn't beat you with fragrance like an Oriental Lily, she entices you, she lures you, and finally seduces you into worship.  If I were to chose a single word to describe this consummate lady, it would be "elegant."  She blooms only once a year, Madame Hardy, but when she blooms the angels have come to earth and blessed us with a glimpse of heaven. 

Madame Hardy was known to be a special rose from the beginning.  Her breeder, Monsieur Jules-Alexandre Hardy, was the Superintendent of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and an acknowledged expert on fruit trees, dabbling in roses on the side.  Some references, including Michael Pollan in Second Nature, a Gardener's Education, state that Monsieur Hardy was the head gardener for the Empress Josephine's rose collections at Malmaison, but the timing seems a bit off to me since Monsieur Hardy was born in 1787 and would only have been 25 years old by the time Josephine died in 1812.   All sources agree that Monsieur Hardy named this rose after his own wife, a testament to his devotion for eternity, and if that was his intention, he couldn't have chosen better.  One source states that the original name for this rose, after his wife, was 'Félicité Hardy', while another source gives the wife's name as Marie-Thérèse Pezard, but regardless, the rose has come to us down the ages as 'Madame Hardy'. According to Alex Pankhurst, in Who Does Your Garden Grow?, "by 1885 there were over six thousand varieties of rose available....that year a French rose journal recommended 'Madame Hardy' as one of the best..."  More recently, the celebrated British rose expert, Graham Thomas, wrote, “This variety is still unsurpassed by any rose.”

Alas, for all rose fanatics, Madame Hardy remains chaste in the garden and won't form hips or contribute pollen to other roses.  She would have undoubtedly been a great source for breeding a line of fantastic modern roses, but leaves us with no rivals, only her own beauty to be admired.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to give you informations about This rose and Alexandre Hardy. Please give me your @ address.
    vincent.derkenne@wanadoo.fr

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous "noresponse@blogger.com". And thanks again for reading!

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