Must say I do like the idea of a Rose Tracker, one that can keep you informed of when the roses come into full bloom at the New York Botanical Garden, where the stunning Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is considered ‘a place of iconic beauty’.
The Rose represents the ephemerality of destiny, connecting humanity with the spirit, the soul and the sounds of nature. Just inhaling its fragrance evokes an emotional response, while providing an uplifting spiritual experience.
In ancient Greek mythology, this wondrous bloom was the symbol of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and if you j’adore roses as I do too, then you must explore the spring flowering and colour of some 650 varieties which offer pleasure in abundance with their ‘totally decadent’ blooming on NYBG’s Rose Garden Weekend – June 1 and 2, 2019.
The big news is, it is also the time when the NYBG will honour ‘The Divine Miss M’, by presenting for the first time, a new rose, which they describe as a truly ‘decadent bloom’ is named for the much acclaimed and admired American singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer Bette Midler (b.1975…).
Bette belongs to my generation, and her peers have always admired her high octane energy, comedic wit and wondrous ability to belt out a bawdy number or otherwise, with truly scintillating style. Her first album, The Divine Miss M, was produced by Barry Manilow, who was at the time her accompanist and musical director. Not sure if I should admit, I remember it well. The event has been designed to celebrate not only her life’s work to date, but also the 40th anniversary of her 1979 breakout film, The Rose.
Just like a rose, Bette Midler has added her lustrous presence to any medium of the performance arts she has embraced and excelled at during a multifaceted career and as a spokesperson for the awareness of AIDS.
She is admired most especially for founding, fundraising and digging in the soil since 1995, when she established the New York Restoration Project, which has assisted in the restoration of many of New York Parks and Community Gardens.
Finding a new pathway to journey along, over the years since she has criss-crossed five New York boroughs with a determination and a vision to not only replenish and rejuvinate neglected parkland and community gardens, but also to clear trash.
She has with help, now planted one million trees in under served areas, helping to raise standards of health and wellbeing of her fellow New York citizens, championing the greater good.
An early written record of a Rose appears on Sumerian tablets from some 5000 years ago, with a sculpture of the same period depicting a golden ram caught in a thorn bush, on which blooms a rose.
The first recorded painting of a rose was on the walls of the Palace of King Minos in Crete at Knossos. The rose was the symbol of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who chose it as her personal emblem.
The ancient Greeks loved flowers and intertwined aromatic herbs with colourful blooms. In the ancient admired work The Iliad, its author ‘Homer’ described the shield of Achilles as being decorated with roses and, how Aphrodite came by night to anoint Prince Hector of Troy’s body with Rosewater after he had killed him in a contest to decide the fate of the city.
We know from six centuries before the Christ event, there were commercial nurseries. In classical Greece and Rome each God was associated with a plant,
or flower and it is interesting to muse, pardon the pun, on the Arcadia we are all seeking for ourselves through the planting of a garden.
The fascination with Flora, particularly roses has been their incredible ability in many instances, when displaced from their original environment to adapt, flourish and develop new characteristics to suit a new region.
The Romans are attributed with introducing the rose to England.
The venerable Bede possessed a copy of Roman commentator Pliny the Elder’s work on natural history, in which he states the Isle of Albion, as England was known throughout the first century, might have been named for the white roses, which grew wild all over the island.
Romans lavishly celebrated the rose and when the rose was out of season, they were unable to endure its absence and so they imported them from North Africa along with rose scent from Arabian and Indian merchants.
With the advent of Christian culture and decline of the Roman Empire in the west, the knowledge of flowers and plants only survived in the libraries and monastic gardens, where for hundreds of years only useful plants, for food or medication were allowed to flourish.
It was not until Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne in the eighth century encountered the Arabic gardens of Moorish Spain during the crusades, and once more the west became acquainted with flowers, which held a special place and meaning in many hearts.
For the Muslim the rose reputedly sprang from a drop of sweat from Mohammed’s eyebrow, becoming a symbol of God’s spirit and of a garden on earth, heralded as a heavenly paradise.
During the sixteenth century, pilgrims travelled around Europe and Greece in search of the ‘plants of the ancients’. Every flower contained a hidden message the attentive observer could interpret.
Any humble soul was able to draw a moral lesson from every rose, which exuded the sweet perfume of virtue a form of moderation, lying somewhere between extravagance and shabbiness.
Impressionist Artist Claude Monet (1840-1926) may be best known for his painting of water lilies, but he loved roses too.
He is recorded as having admired the bricklayer, who when building a wall at his home, placed a rose in front of him so he could from time to time inhale its scent as he worked and his wall progressed, moving the rose so it was always before him
Today a rose represents so much more. It stimulates exciting events of cultural exchange and inspires creativity as well as conversation with people from all walks of life and all backgrounds, who seek to attain excellence in all things.
The Divine Miss M has certainly ensured beauty abounds in New York.
So, New Yorker’s – do take the time to ‘smell the roses’ in Spring at your stunning New York Botanical Garden. Here in Australia we’re moving into winter, where the Roses are going into hibernation, and I am left wishing I could be there. Enjoy!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019
June 1 and 2, 2019
2900 Southern Boulevard; Bronx, NY
Programming for the Rose Garden Weekend includes:
§ Rose Garden Tours with Q & A At the entrance to the Rose Garden; 11 a.m., 12, 1, 2, & 3 p.m. Grow your knowledge of roses with this in-depth look at the collection and discover the best blooms to grow in your area, the amazing varieties of color and fragrance, and the history of rose cultivation.
§ Walt Whitman Poetry Readings Near the entrance of the Rose Garden; Saturday only, 12 p.m. Walt Whitman celebrated nature through verse, and NYBG celebrates his 200th birthday with live poetry readings. Presented with Urban Word NYC, young poets read selected works by Whitman, nature-inspired poems, and contemporary originals.
§ Live Music Among the Roses In the Rose Garden; 1–4 p.m. Throughout the day, catch live acoustic performances presented in partnership with musicians from the Bronx Arts Ensemble.
§ A Chance to Win a Rose Plant At the entrance of the Rose Garden; 2 p.m. Enter to win a rose plant to take home. Learn how to care for it from one of NYBG’s experts on site during the weekend. Winner must be present at time of drawing to win.