There, that’s it. Gone. Last year they got rained out, and all rotted. This year, they got burnt out, came in a gorgeous rush, and now hang, petals almost charred. Old roses. But the rush was truly that. Amazing. But…
But there wasn’t time to savour them all, let alone replenish the pantry with rose petal liqueur (it lasts for about a year, then the flavour coarsens), and my intention to use different varieties to see if they furnish a different taste. Still, the best variety of all, Mme. Isaac Pereire, which does produce a mild second flush of flowers, may yet give us enough. Ispahan, which we also use, does something similar. Both are supposed to be bushes, though here they happily climb into the apple trees, and both must be at least fifteen feet above ground.
The real rampers did us proud. Adelaide d’Orleans, in her second season, clambered over the shed roof and has practically engulfed the log store (and is getting entwined with the burgundy-flowered Clematis texensis). Sanders White plainly has ambitions to escape the garden altogether. An interesting rose: though masses of flower, no detectable perfume during the day. Yet, the other night, when I lit a fire in garden fireplace, and in between lungfuls of smoke, and as swallows gave way to bats, the air was filled with a smell almost beyond perception, clear, totally delicious.
Poor old The Garland, which Jekyll used on whopping ropes slung along her verandah, and which we used on a lovely old summerhouse in a previous garden, has languished in a pot for several season, indeed almost died, while we racked out brains for somewhere to put her. Finally, she got planted this spring on one of the walls of ‘the ruin’. She sulked, then flowered, prettily. But now, sappy pink shoots seem to grow even as we watch. Oh dear… Still, our aim it to get the stonework around the fireplace covered by her and the late flowering clematis, ‘Huldine’.
Going back to supposedly shrub roses, one, an old moss rose, that we hope to encourage to climb is something odd; the flowers, sharp pink to start with, quickly age to a rather splendid pinkish violet. I can’t wait to have enough to claim for a vase. It’s called ‘William Lobb’.
The heat had one surprising effect. Bringing the blackcurrants suddenly to ripeness, I got fed up the the blackbirds skulking around hoping for my absence. I netted the whole wall that supports the plants. I’d forgotten what I’d underplanted the currants with, for the birds must have stripped the crop before I even remembered to look for fruit: white alpine strawberries.
I’d grown them on for a garden I’d been helping design, where the birch woodland down to the lake was being underplanted with white things: white daffs, white fritillaries, palest yellow cowslips, and, yes, white wild strawberries. The Lehman Brothers fiasco put an end to all that.
So, scrabbling under the netting, I picked a whole teacupful of the tiny fruit. Juicier than their red cousins, sharper perhaps in taste, but most definitely strawberries, they are best eaten as soon as picked. A night in the fridge robs them almost entirely of taste. A new culinary ambition: white strawberry jam.