Frances Metcalfe first learnt to read music at the age of four and is a retired peripatetic music teacher specialising in the violin.
Roses—The Special Flower
There is something special about roses. They can be blousy, single or double, and come in all manner of colours from white through the lightest of pinks, salmons, oranges and on to the red spectrum deepening to purples.
Fragrances are mouth watering and many of us find it hard to resist passing a rose without burying our nose in the soft velvety petals to take in the heady scent. We eat candied petals and indulge in rose tinged Turkish delights and anoint baths with rose water.
Women are likened to roses in literature. Famously Robert Burns writes 'Oh my luve is like a red, red rose'. Even the word 'rosebud' has deliciously wholesome undertones. We give roses to show how much we appreciate a loved one, and are synonymous with Valentine's Day.
We joke about being a rose between two thorns. Is it any wonder that we name roses after people such is our close affinity with this gorgeous flower?
'Rosa' by Frederyk Chopin
1. 'Rosa'—Frederyk Chopin
He is Poland's darling. The country's premier airport at Warsaw is named after him¹. Think of a Polish composer and almost invariably, Chopin (1810-1849) comes to mind. In fact he left his native country early on in his life to promote his musical career and travelled to Paris where he met George Sands, the unconventional writer.²
The rhythms and melodies of Polish dances, mazurkas and polonaises, make their way into Chopin's catalogue. These popular smaller works are technically within reach of many amateurs while the large scale virtuosic pieces are mainstays of the concert pianist.
The light yellow double hybrid tea rose 'Frederyk Chopin' was registered in 1980, has a faint smell and will thrive in neutral soil.³ The rose grows to 1.50 meters and will bloom from May to October. At around 12 cms across⁴ this lovely rose makes for a showy statement in the garden. It reminds me of the composer himself, a real looker and absolute beauty throughout his music, but harbouring a fragility such that if you touch the rose it might fall apart within your fingers.
How to Take Hardwood Cuttings From Roses
A child prodigy, Mozart (1765-1791) toured Europe with his equally prodigious sister Nanerl, promoted by his highly ambitious father. Primarily thought of as a virtuoso pianist, his skills as a violinist were equally as good. Mozart's wonderful musical creations are full of crystal clear clarity, containing beautifully crafted melodic lines, both joyous and heart wrenchingly yearning, searching out every corner our inner soul. Firmly planted within the classical era, he was not so much a great innovator of the sort Beethoven was, but carried the style of the time to its highest level.⁵
Rose 'Mozart' has been gracing gardens since the 1930s. With a single bloom this densely growing medium pink rose will perform well as a hedge, growing up to six feet and for those of us who are in to making rose hip jam, this could be the one.⁶ You can gaze into the heart of this flower, a floral speaker through which Mozart is broadcast to the world
Who cannot fail to be moved by Pavarotti's performance of 'Nessun Dorma' and that glorious long held top note before it falls onto the final chord? 'Turandot' from which the aria comes was a stupendous show stopping swan song to go out on. In fact Puccini (1858-1924) died before finishing his final opera, and it was completed by Franco Alfano.⁷
If we are at all susceptible to Italian romanticism then Puccini has us wrapped round his little finger, pressing our emotional buttons with sweeping orchestral scores.
Most of Puccini's output was operatic, infused with spine tingling tunes and while he was no pioneer, those big all embracing arias have won him regular performances in opera houses across the world.
Preferring soil on the acidic side the 'Puccini' hybrid musk rose's central stamens are surrounded by a simple speckled skirt of the lighter shades of pink and white.The flowers can be expected to flourish from late spring through to mid autumn. Music to our ears.
Ravel (1875-1937) was a composer who straddled cultures. His father was Swiss, his mother Basque, however Ravel was brought up in Paris. Now considered one of France's most important composers, his early compositions were met with either hostility or found wanting.8
Ravel was a slow worker and produced fewer than 90 works during his 62 years.9 Having said that the actual number of notes on the page is huge. He crammed in intricate filigree and shimmering timbres to produce a delicate and magical sound world with uncountable sixteenth notes. His scores often resemble copious black sprinklings over the score. If we think of a dress covered in thousands of hand sewn sequins then we have an exquisite piece of Ravel, Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit being the perfect example.
Just as Ravel was interested on minaitures, the rose named after him is less than 2" broad. Yet that little blossom packs a fragrant punch, and the shrub, bushing out to 4 feet, will bear clusters of these cupped pink flowers.10 Small, as the saying goes, is beautiful.
Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was born in to a wealthy Russian family in Votinsk and studied law before making the switch to music, attending the music conservatory in St Petersburg to pursue composition.11
This popular composer has captured the imagination of many a listener, appealing directly to the emotions and writing easy melodies that can be absorbed without too much focus. The ballet scores, split up into short sections, roll out a fabulous chocolate box of fairy dusted sweetmeats. Tchaikovsky's temptations have charmed those of us who might not be inclined towards classical music to dip into his fabulous selections. They are a great starting point it we want to introduce anyone, young or old, into this world.
Tchaikovsky would not be up there with some of the great composers if he only had lightweight, if exquisitely crafted morsels to offer. Threaded through with melancholy, his heavier orchestral music, concerti, chamber music and operas have given him the status of a principal nineteenth century Russian composer.
White outer petals shading to a discreet orange, this elegant shrub rose is layered up, looking like it's been opened in a pop-up book. It has gentle points at the petals' edges for yet more interest. It is a strong contender for any garden being disease resistant and a sturdy grower.12
'Rosa'—Sir Edward Elgar
6. 'Rosa'—Sir Edward Elgar
Every year, at the Last Night of the Proms held in London's Albert Hall, Elgar (1857-1934) makes his much anticipated appearance. His Pomp and Circumstance No 1 has excited audiences since 1901. They cheerily and rowdily belt out the words Land of Hope and Glory to the rousing tune amid fervently waved Union Jacks.13
Seen as quintessentially English, Elgar's Enigma Variations and symphonies direct us to a much more reflective composer, and the cello concerto, written shortly after the Great War laid down its arms, pierces the soul as a requiem for the fallen.
As an evergreen shrub rosa 'Sir Edward Elgar' provides just that bit more garden entertainment for your money. Its wavy mid pink frou-frou petals will tolerate coastal areas and are very attractive to bees in the main flowering season of summer to mid autumn.14 An English rose indeed.
A direct contemporary of J S Bach, Handel (1685-1759) was a great traveller, unwilling to be shackled to patrons as so many other composers of the time were. Instead he learnt his orchestral craft by playing violin in the Hamburg opera house.
During a stint in Italy Handel absorbed the florid style of the country but by 1710 he had decided to make England his permanent home, becoming a naturalised citizen there four years later. Handel found fame and fortune with his spectacles such as the Music For the Royal Fireworks and the Water Music.15
The demure white blooms of Rosa 'Handel' reminds us of a young girl in her favourite party dress, its scalloped hemmed edged in pink. Against the bronze of the leaves, Rosa 'Handel' is a little stunner.16
8. 'Rose'—Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was a composer who was interested in the human condition and how outsiders were treated by communities. Perhaps this was because he himself was not exactly in the mainstream.
Britten was homosexual at a time when being gay was illegal, sharing much of his adult life with the distinctive tenor Peter Pears, and as a conscientious objector during the WWII this set him apart even more. His opera Peter Grimes and the War Requiem explore these themes in sharp and uncomfortable relief, helping to confirm his position as Great Britain's foremost twentieth century composer.17
A shaggy red rose developed by one of the world's most renowned growers, David Austin, Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' comes highly recommended as a versatile shrub. Pop it in a plot outside the back door, and be met by a whiff of fragrance every time you open it during the summer months. It would look well in a herbaceous border mixed with other cottage garden flowers18 or grown against a trellis on a wall to save space. The 'Benjamin Britten' rose also comes in handy for floral arrangements making a lovely cut flower.
Why not read about other nature subjects and classical music composers? Just click on the links.
Composers inspired by flowers.
Composers inspired by trees.
Composers inspired by insects.
¹ Airport Chopin
³ Dave's Garden
⁴ Petales des Roses
⁶ Rogue Valley Roses
⁷ Teatro la Fenice
⁸ The Famous People
¹⁰ The Guardian
¹¹ Notable Biographies
¹² Heirloom Roses
¹³ Royal Albert Hall
¹⁴ Green Plant Swap
¹⁸ David Austin Roses
© 2018 Frances Metcalfe
Frances Metcalfe on November 16, 2018:
I'm glad you liked the roses. The opening picture are our own roses, which are glorious all summer, just plain wild, but we love them anyway and they're a great haven for the birds.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 16, 2018:
A Rose is a Rose, is a Rose—-Always beautiful! And so is your article and your pictures of lovely Roses, in such pretty colours. I loved all of them.
How thoughtful to name these gifts of Nature after famous people.
Thanks for sharing this excellent information!
Bede from Minnesota on November 11, 2018:
Frances, with frigid temperatures and a snow-laden garden outside my window, it surely was a treat to read about these wonderful roses. My personal favorite is the Rosa Tchaikovsky.
Regarding Handel, I recall something about him coming to England because he was King George’s Kapellmeister in Hanover. Is this correct?
Frances Metcalfe (author) from The Limousin, France on November 10, 2018:
Hi Flourish. The Benjamin Britten rose is rather showy. I think my favourite is the Chopin rose but the only trouble with whitish flowers in general is that they go brown at the edges when they go over which isn't quite as attractive!
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 09, 2018:
I loved your descriptions and while they are all lovely (who doesn’t like a rose?) that Benjamin Britten was truly magnificent. Gorgeously flamboyant.