Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UnMundane Mundi

If a budding rosarian....interesting phrase...what exactly is a budding rosarian?  Is ProfessorRoush referring to a person who grows roses only to create flowers, rather than one who wants to promote the development of hips (a hip rosarian)?  Surely I am not referring to a rosarian who is asexually reproducing by the formation of outgrowths (buds) from their bodies?  That would be a little too sci-fi-ish even for this old Isaac Asimov fan, although it might be a useful and non-icky  method of procuring spare parts for oneself.  No, I think it can be easily surmised that I'm referring to a "new" rosarian, at "an early developmental stage but showing potential" as "budding" is defined by the Free Online Dictionary.

Let me begin again.  If a new lover of roses whimsically wants to grow a very old rose, they could scarce do better, in my humble opinion, than to grow the old Gallica 'Rosa Mundi'.  I've grown this ancient rose for a decade, this sprawling, running, short-statured clump of a bush, but I've yet to tire of it.  Perhaps it is the matchless freedom of the unique simple blossoms, each one different from another, striped or plain, as it sees fit.  Perhaps it is the understated presence of the bush when it is not in bloom, no more than three feet tall but popping up again and again as it suckers its way across the yard.  It is a stealth invader, masquerading itself within an adjacent viburnum or lilac until it announces its acquisition of territory at bloom time.  Maybe it is the history of this rose that attracts me, bound forever to the memory of a king's mistress.

The birth of 'Rosa Mundi' was not recorded, so ancient a rose that she is only referenced as existing prior to 1581.  It should be exhibited by the name of Rosa gallica versicolor, but it is known by a hundred other names.  The Striped Rose of France.  La Panachée. Provins Oeillet. R. gallica variegata. Fair Rosamond's Rose. Gemengte Rose. Garnet Striped Rose. Polkagrisrose. The "Rosamond" reference is to Rosamond Clifford, one of the mistresses of Henry II, a 12th Century monarch.  Henry's wife, his cousin and the previously-married Eleanor of Aquitaine, must have hated this rose, although stories that Eleanor poisoned Rosamond are dismissed as only legend. The Latin phrase, "rosa mundi", means "rose of the world," and was doubtless chosen instead of "rosa munda" (Latin for "pure rose") as a clear reference that Rosamund, a mistress, had her own worldly failings matched by these rose-splashed white petals. This large, hugely fragrant, semi-double rose bears all these names and the weight of history without complaint, however, growing disease-free for me in the afternoon shade of two tall viburnums to its south.  The oldest and best known of the striped roses, 'Rosa Mundi' is bushy and dense, very hardy and once-blooming, its only failing a tendency to sucker into a thicket if I turn my head for a season. She produces lots of thin canes, and it might be best to occasionally prune back the oldest canes to thin the bush.  'Rosa Mundi' is believed to be a natural sport of Rosa gallica officinalis and recent DNA analysis seems to agree.  She has some decent coloring in the Fall on occasion, and she does set hips, but I wouldn't call the hips ornamental.  They're downright ugly in fact, brown and bland, fading to black

I tried to find out the significance of the year of our Lord 1581 regarding this rose, but my google-foo was weak and it took some time.  Finally, in the Winter 2013 newsletter of the NorthWest Rosarian, and in the Heritage Roses Northwest Spring 2012 letter, I found the re-publication of Jeff Wyckoff's ARS website article, The Trails and Tales of Rosa Mundi, which states that the first reference to a striped rose, presumed to be 'Rosa Mundi', appeared in Mathias de L’Obel’s herbal Plantarum seu stirpium icones in 1581.  I can't find the original article on the web, but if you can read Latin, you can find the original text in the archive of the Missouri Botanical Garden, along with a PDF of the book..  It's simply amazing what information is available on the Web these days, is it not? 

1 comment:

  1. The web information available is unbelievable(i suppose some of it is. hah).


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