Saturday, on Gardenweb.com, I learned that the great rosarian Peter Beales had passed on to a more perfect garden on January 26, 2013, at the age of 76. There are few, I'm sure, in the group of gardeners who love roses or follow rose breeding, that are unaware of Mr. Beales and his legacy of roses. Born on July 22, 1936, he started out early on a path that would lead to a lifetime working with roses, first as an apprentice at LeGrice Roses and then serving as manager of Hillings Rose Nursery in Surrey, working under the guidance of Graham Stuart Thomas and later succeeding Mr. Thomas as Foreman of Roses. In 1968, he formed Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk, a firm still in existence and found online at www.classicroses.co.uk. He started exhibiting at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 1971 and won 19 Gold medals during his lifetime, the last just in May of 2012. He twice won the RHS Lawrence Medal for the best exhibit of the year at an RHS show, and served as president of the Royal National Rose Society in 2003.
Helpmefind.com lists 23 roses bred or discovered by Peter Beales and another 42 roses bred or discovered by his daughter Amanda, who continues to run the business with her brother Richard. I'm sad to admit that not a single one of these roses has made it across the Pond to my garden, at least under their British names, but I'll make an effort to purchase at least one for his legacy in my garden. Where Mr. Beales had his greatest influence on American rosarians, however, lies in the prolific output of his pen. Helpmefind.com lists 9 books on roses authored by Peter Beales. I have copies in my library of the 1992 edition of Roses (1985, Henry Holt), and the 1997 edition of Classic Roses (1985, Henry Holt). Both are classics of the field and I refer to them often for authoritative information on old roses. As a simple testament to Peter Beales' influence in the world of roses, if you look on Amazon at Peter's author page, and then move over to the side where it lists other authors with books purchased by people who have bought Peter's books, that list reads like a Who's Who of rosedom; Clair Martin, Stephen Scanniello, William Welch, Thomas Christopher, David Austin, Graham Stuart Thomas and Liz Druitt, among many others. During a search on Amazon, I learned of his third classic work, Twentieth Century Roses (1988), which I must find a copy of and soon. Later works that I'd never before glimpsed, including A Passion for Roses (2004) and Visions of Roses (1996), also look interesting. Mr. Beales' obituaries also list a 2008 autobiography, Rose Petals and Muddy Footprints, that I can't find for sale anywhere right now, but which I'll keep an eye out for in the future.
From his obituary on the website of The Telegraph, I picked up this most interesting story; "Once, while visiting Jersey to give a
lecture, Beales was passing a garden when he spied a peach-coloured “Gardenia”,
an old climbing variety bred in America in 1899 which had been thought lost. He
knocked at the door and, getting no reply, turned back. But one of the rare
rose’s shoots had caught on his trousers, and when he got home he successfully
propagated it — one of many varieties he managed to save from extinction." Yeah, right. So there you have it; Peter Beales, extraordinary rosarian, author, nurseryman, father....and, just like the rest of us, not above stooping to a little discrete rose rustling for the greater good of mankind. A rosarian after my own heart.