Jonny the Gardener in charge of Mottisfont’s Rose Garden (probably the best job in the world and he seems like a happy man) walks me around to look at the roses that were around in the Middle Ages. There are 650 species of rose in the garden. Jonny shows me seven – an act of distillation for which I am extremely grateful. The hardest thing about being an artist in residence, and a natural history illustrator for that matter, is the sheer abundance of interesting subjects. Choosing is difficult and I’m so pleased to have an expert pruner (as well as rose man) as my guide.
Rosa maxima alba : The Medieval Rose, so named because it was considered sacred in the period. It’s white petals with a red centre were used to symbolise the Virgin Mary and blood of Christ.
Rosa gallica officinalis : The Apothecary’s Rose, a red rose very popular in the Medieval period also known as the Damask Rose.
Yue Yue Yen, (Old Blush) : A rose thousands of years old from China. Unlikely to have been at Mottisfont during the middle ages but one of the most ancient species in the garden today.
Rosa Foetida : A rose that dates back to the 1400s. One of the earliest natural forms of yellow rose.
Rosa Canina, (Dog Rose) : A native, wild rose not found in the garden but grows abundantly on the Mottisfont Estate.
Rosa rubiginosa or Rosa eglanteria, (Sweet Brier) : An ancient rose from England with a simple pink flower and apple scent.
Rosa mundi versicolour, A rose developed from Rosa gallica officinalis with a distinctive red and white pinstripe.