This summer, a swooning, prolific bloom has finally charmed my wife, but I’m confused by a changeling
Henri has finally fallen in love with the Rosa x odorata ‘Bengal Crimson’. She was at first impervious to its charms. It has an oddly elusive scent for its name, with the dusky, cherry-coloured flowers suggested, like a lipstick a 1950s film star might wear. An Ava Gardner flower.
It was a gift from Howard, bought back from Great Dixter; a tender-seeming plant, single-flowering, skinny-stemmed, sometimes swooning, as though overwhelmed with the weight of roses. Its loose petals loll around as though exhausted from blooming through much of the winter and still pumping out new flowers, repeatedly. It doesn’t appear to have thorns. But as it has grown on Henri, it has filled out, tripling in size, maybe more, this year.
There is a mystery with another rooftop rose. It has sort of replaced itself. I bought it four or five years ago from the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the ‘best in show’. Large-ish, pale apricot, deeply fragrant (a richly spicy, almost citrus scent), it also flowers through much of the year.
Except now it is not. The heady perfume is still there but the flower is an interloper. It is smaller and tighter, in a shocking pink – like your mum has suddenly bleached her hair, had a makeover and gone on daytime TV.
I am torn. I now don’t like it much. But I feel a confused loyalty. Is it from reverted rootstock? If I had kept its name it would be easier to know. The leaves too appear to have changed, taken on a shinier, darker green. It is like the flower fairies have left a foundling and I miss the rose we bought.
Luckily there is still the reliable David Austin pale yellow, though its flowering is shuddering to a halt. At least reliable Bengal Crimson will be blooming for a few more months.
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