Everyone was so reassuring about my unseasonal blue poppy / TARDIS post that I’m sharing a few more pictures from earlier this summer – this time of roses. Portraits of roses are still one of my favourite subjects for photography, so I’m a little spoilt for choice (I’m not sure how widely that idiom is known outside the UK – basically it means I had quite a few pictures to choose from). I couldn’t say why I’ve decided on pink(ish) ones: perhaps because if you’re being unseasonal, you might as well be really unseasonable. Red would be much more Christmassy.
Long-time readers may remember I have a theory that some varieties of roses are more photogenic than others. I like the way that each bloom has a different pattern or arrangement of petals. Fresh roses have a purity that I love and a particular type of luminosity. I even find the slightly more battered ones appealing these days, like this little cluster.
Digging these pictures out to share reminded me of the day two summers ago when my sweetheart and I took some American garden-loving friends to a 6 acre rose garden. Our visit was perfectly timed as I’d hoped it would be. The weather was good – a little too hot, if anything – and the garden was at that first, and most joyful, peak of flower.
Antique roses, climbers, ramblers and shrub roses tumbled together in intricate, layered costumes, in soft and bold colours. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were secretly vying to outdo each other, like a bunch of bouncing Strictly Come Dancing contestants, crowded round Claudia Winkleman, wondering who’s going to win the competition. I don’t often panic, but having just a few minutes to wring out all the pleasure possible made a Claudia-like tizzy a distinct possibility. Chances were, I was going to drop the rope as in one of her arch snippets of post-comedy business only the British could love.
Spoilt for choice was an understatement.
Gardens are never designed for hurried people. I don’t even like walking in a business-like fashion in a rose garden. I’ve done it often enough during my career to know it feels all wrong. You don’t want to shatter the mood for visitors, for one thing. The other thing is that hurrying is completely counter-productive. Your determination to make progress and relative lack of rapture outs you as an insider. You might as well be wearing a rotating, flashing light on your head plus a big placard saying ’ask me anything’.
For one human being moving in a fixed direction with obvious intent in a rose garden appears to everyone else as a stroke of luck. Someone to whom tricky, technical rose questions might usefully be addressed. Heads turn to you wearing such eager, friendly smiles that any hope of progress is thwarted unless you’ve got a heart of stone. A small queue will form before you’re half-way to your destination.
A measured sidle, eyes fixed on the blooms is the top speed any employee can hope to get away with. But those days of belonging are behind me now. My visits to rose gardens can counted on one hand per year, rather than being a daily pleasure. (In case my sweetheart is reading this, and in the interests of veracity, I had better confess. Two hands. Make that two hands.)
This visit with friends had been squeezed in to a crowded schedule – we could only spare half an hour, max. While everyone liked plants and gardening, I was the only one on a mission – to capture a few photographs for my blog. It’s surprising how long photography can take and how quickly time can fly when you don’t want it to.
I eventually tore myself away and presented myself back at the car on time, flushed with excitement from dashing from one flower to another.
It gave me a moment to finger comb my hair, more in hope of tidiness than expectation. What is it about taking pictures in gardens that’s guaranteed to get your hair disheveled? Straying from the car, I was surprised to discover everyone else relaxing in the tea room, finishing off their drinks. They hadn’t wanted to appear to be hurrying me. My sweetheart explained that it’d only taken a little while to look round because, to them, it was ’all just roses’.
All just roses? So many different responses flicked through my mind, but I suppressed them with a sigh. They had probably just been thirsty. And, as I often say, it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same.