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Greenmantle Nursery
3010 Ettersburg Road
Garberville CA 95542
(707) 986-7504

"A good book is like a garden in your pouch...."
ancient proverb

Th literature of the Rose is a formidable territory. Encompassing sublime ancient poetry as well as pragmatic modern prose, it spans the arc from pedestrian to transcendent. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of works about the Genus Rosa. These range from the superficial paperbacks at local garden outlets to the latest coffee table "takes" on the exhaustively explored subject of Roses; from excellent reprints of sentimental Victorian and Edwardian collectors to wonderful contemporary examples of notable scholarship, and on to the heights of such rare masterpieces as Redoute's original folios for the Empress Josephine.......... all the unfolding stages of knowledge and appreciation.

"It is purely in this intimate knowledge that the main pleasure of gardening lies.... it has been said that a man can be well-educated who knows one great author thoroughly, and so may a great gardener be made in a small garden."

- Edward Bunyard ( 1878-1939), Old Garden Roses 1937

Information from a wide range of literary sources will be valuable for anyone hoping to make full acquaintance of the Rose and her fascinating story. Each old and new viewpoint has an angle to offer, another lens through which this flower can be seen. We hope our assessment of a small batch of intriguing books will be useful - may the insight of so many perceptive authors help you to refine your own ideas......

"It is one of the great and wonderful characteristics of good books (which allows us to see the role at once essential and yet limited that reading may play in our spiritual lives) that for the author they may be called 'Conclusions' but for the reader 'Incitements'. We feel very strongly that our wisdom begins where that of the author leaves off, and we would like him to provide us with answers when all he is able to do is provide us with desires...."

- Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life 1997

My Choice

Our own rose choices were made over many years and were guided by extensive reading and research. We have devoted critical attention to affirming the genuine identity of a few historic roses. Controversy still swirls. In gathering together noteworthy plants, trueness-to-name is always a basic concern, and every effort must be made to ensure authenticity. Pursuit of this end has demanded thoughtful hours in both garden and library.....

The West Coast is fortunate to possess a truly remarkable resource in the Thomas Newton Cook Rose Library. Housed in the Portland OR Library's Rare Book Room, this magnificent collection now consists of over 400 volumes - including many of the genuine classics of rose literature: Redoute's Folio's, Curtis' Beauties of the Rose, Willmott's The Genus Rosa, River's The Rose Amateur's Guide, Prince's Manual of Roses, and Lindley's Rosarum Monographia......Our one day spent perusing such treasures with white-gloved hands (& being allowed to take photographs) was unforgettable.

An institution containing such a collection is outstanding indeed - but every library is indispensable. Our own 1975 chance encounter in the local stacks with Richard Thomson's OLD ROSES FOR MODERN GARDENS led to an immediate infatuation that has deepened into a lifelong passion. While the Internet now makes endless amounts of information available around the clock, nothing will ever replace the real weight and sensual feel of a book. As objects crafted in the material world, books express a truth about Nature, and remind us of our own inherent nature.

We - and Roses - exist as energy fields known through all the senses. BOOKS, with their highly textured aspect, partake of the vividness of reality itself. Life - like the Web - is infinite. But a life - like a book - has limits: Good books have depth, innate coherence ..... and a solid vision to convey. Check 'em out.

"Reading books about gardens is a potent pastime: Books nourish a gardener's mind in the same way manure nourishes plants."

- Mirabel Osler, A Gentle Plea for Chaos 1989


Some nominations for most useful and most inspiring:

ROSES by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix supplies a basic text, arranged around 1400 color photos of every type of rose. If you have just discovered the classic roses and would like a good inexpensive introductory paperback, picturing many varieties - Start here. This astute British duo also has a hardcover volume THE QUEST FOR THE ROSE: an account of their personalized tour of the history and geography of roses, with wonderful period illustrations and a wealth of chronological rose pictures. This travelogue cum portrait gallery should remain a favorite for beginners and experts alike.

Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, along with the eminent California rosarian William Grant, now present www.rogersroses.com. Billed as the "ultimate rose website", it offers visitors access to their remarkable files of rose photos - plus various other horticultural connections....

"archeological digs on very ancient sites have provided the rose historian with tantalizing, if inconclusive, evidence to suggest that roses were used in pre-classical cultures for the same or similar purposes as in Greek and Roman times: medicinal, cosmetic, religious, and artistic."

- The Quest for the Rose by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix 1993

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The "Lore of the Rose" constitutes a charming literary sub-group: Important historical facts, amusing gossipy tidbits, and colorful pageantry have been accumulating for millenia. Myth and legend, poetry and personages, symbolism and associations - all contribute to the lure of this world. Some favorite volumes from this genre are THE COMPANION TO ROSES by John Fisher, 1987; THE PAGEANT OF THE ROSE by Jean Gordon, 1953; and two lovely books by Peter Coats - ROSES 1973 & FLOWERS IN HISTORY 1970. Beautifully illustrated, they make an enjoyable addition to the less pragmatic section of the horticultural bookshelf

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The English nurseryman Peter Beales has produced several books on old and modern roses, each with authoritative descriptions and wonderful color photographs. He offers a workmanlike approach to the fundamentals, as befits a commercial grower who has made an extremely large number of roses available for decades. Our copy of CLASSIC ROSES  was an early purchase, and is now falling apart from countless reference checks over the years.

"Fate introduced me to roses at an early age and over the years I have built up a comprehensive collection, the greater part of which is made up of the older roses; I make no apology for being heavily biased towards them since I have fallen completely under their spell."

- Preface to Classic Roses by Peter Beales, 1985

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If the idea of reading about nearly every rose of consequence is tempting, the winner in the category of most massive tome is ...... BOTANICA'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROSES. While giving a sweeping survey of the vast rose family, this still manages to focus clearly on the details of a mind-boggling number of its current members. This work was composed by a consortium of international experts, and is meant to be an absolutely complete reference on the rose in all its manifestations. Impressive in every way - and a staggering book whether read or lifted.

"Roses are for enjoyment. They have a unique place in history, heraldry, and literature and are a symbol of loyalty and love. It is not just for these reasons that roses have earned the tribute of 'The Queen of Flowers', but mainly because they are outstandingly good garden plants."

- Ken Grapes, of the R..N.R. S. , writing in Botanica's Roses 1998


painted by Redouté 1817

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Anyone growing the old roses owes an immeasurable debt to the late British rosarian and horticultural writer par excellence Graham Stuart Thomas. His dedication to saving the older roses, and re-instating them to their rightful position, led to their renewed pre-eminence in the minds and plans of gardeners. The summation of wisdom found in THE GRAHAM STUART THOMAS ROSE BOOK ensures that, as a single volume reference, it will have no peer. Especially superb are the author's line drawings and limpid watercolors; they epitomize the sensitive artistic eye and attention to striking detail which Thomas brought to all his work.

".......We all desire as much beauty, colour, fragrance, longevity, and annual goodwill as possible from our plants, and it is the purpose of this book to try to show how roses can add to the list of shrubs available for general garden use .........What is this ROSE that enslaves gardeners?"

- The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book by G.S. Thomas, 1994

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For a profound view of the history and horticultural distinction of the Genus Rosa, turn to Brent Dickerson's companion volumes : THE OLD ROSE ADVISOR and THE OLD ROSE ADVENTURER. Truly incredible achievements, these marvelous books reveal a devoted scholar's perspective and a connoisseur's grasp. Authoritative pronouncements by the greatest rose writers in historical sources are lovingly complied... A hallelujah chorus of unsurpassed praise of the Rose.

" Roses - one of the brightest works of the Plant Kingdom, sung by poets of all nations and ages, gathered by the hands of Beauty of which it is the emblem."

The Chevalier de Lamarck 1804 - in The Old Rose Adventurer by Brent Dickerson, 1990

Lamarque 1830

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A magnificent exposition of this flower is presented in THE ROSE: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY . Peter Harkness has written a wonderful treatise and filled it with beautiful large-format color prints from a wealth of traditional sources. Highly recommended for its remarkable sweep of knowledge, visual richness, and obvious affection... A major new work on rose history, as seen through the prisms of botany and art.

"The Akkadian word sîlasar, which is inscribed on the 4000 year old tablets, is very likely the first written reference to the rose."

- The Rose: An Illustrated History by Peter Harkness, 2003

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Jack Harkess - another scion of this 120 year old family rose dynasty and himself a breeder of excellent varieties - wrote his own striking volume on ROSES in 1978, producing a strongly individual & valuable exposition on the genus in a really down-to-earth voice. The Harkness brothers have both made exceptional contributions .....

"Rose literature is an extraordinary hodge-podge of dutiful instruction, earnest research, hopeful fiction, sloppy sentimentality, confident autobiography, bad poetry, and well-intended moralizing. I think it may be said that out of the hundreds of rose books, only a few were truly worthy of being published. And the influence of those few can be seen in the lesser ones, distorted like the bottom of a swimming pool seen through well-used water. There is an imprecision of information which almost passes belief....I cannot offhand point to a rose book in which I have failed to find an error; when you write of something which comes not from your own experience you need to be careful indeed. Even the masters are not free from error; but I forgive them - as I hope for pardon in my turn."

- Roses by Jack Harkness, 1978

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A distinctive voice speaks on the Rose in another essential book from Timber Press, CLIMBING ROSES OF THE WORLD. Charles Quest-Ritson authoritatively examines every class of climber -using as his organizing principles the rose species from which they descend and the hybridizers who created distinctive families of these roses. Easily the best treatise on a complex subject.....with numerous lovely rose portraits. The final chapter on "Cultivating Climbing Roses" is just two pages: a perfectly succinct and common sense explanation of a challenging topic.

" You may wonder whether a monograph which sets out to describe so many cultivars can serve any useful purpose. The answer is yes, because no previous writer on climbing roses has had the means to undertake such a comprehensive overview. Travel, communications, and the electronic revolution make it possible to collect and analyse horticultural information as never before.......In the event, I found even more valuable the opportunity to study roses closely, one by one, so that my descriptions of them are based whenever possible on what I have seen for myself and not upon the judgments of earlier writers."

- Climbing Roses of the World by Charles Quest-Ritson, 2003

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Fragrance is perhaps the most compelling of this flower's bountiful attributes. Smell is our primal sense, but there is still no language that can adequately convey its intangible complexity. Nevertheless, there IS Roy Gender's SCENTED FLORA OF THE WORLD. This warmly evocative book is simply the best on the enticing subject of scent as manifested in plants.

"2000 roses will yield 1 gramme of attar."

- Scented Flora of the World by Roy Genders 1977

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After careful examination of rose possibilities for inclusion in heart and garden, there remains the question of how to present - and nurture - one's chosen plants. For charming ideas on utilizing roses in the landscape, see ROSE GARDENS by Jane Fearnley Whittingstall, full of ways to display your taste.

"It is not the gardener that makes the garden; it is the garden that makes the gardener."

- Alan Chadwick (1909-1980)

For sheer inspiration - three enchanting books are worth seeking out :

VISIONS OF PARADISE by Marina Schinz, 1985

CONTEMPLATIVE GARDENS by Julie Moir Messervy, 1990


Gorgeous, Mesmerizing , & Fabulous . In that order....

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Last, but not least - for technique - may we suggest Liz Druitt's THE ORGANIC ROSE GARDEN. Your roses, your garden, and your world can only benefit.......

"In Buddhism there is a wonderful image of Indra, the chief of the Gods, with a net. At each knotted edge of Indra's net there is a tiny jewel which reflects all the other jewels in the net. That is what I mean by interconnectedness. What is the effect on the whole garden of spraying a particular rose or not spraying it? Being aware of these consequences is an essential aspect of gardening. Gardening can teach us that all parts of our life are very intimately and clearly reflected in Indra's net."

- Wendy Johnson, in Gardening from the Heart by Carol Olwell, 1990

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Green Inheritance, Anthony Huxley 1985
The Principles of Gardening, Hugh Johnson 1979
The Poetics of Gardens, Charles Moore, William Mitchell &William Turnbull Jr. 1998 The Gardener's Life, Laurence Sheehan 2004

Earthly Paradises: Ancient Gardens in History &Archaelogy, Maureen Caroll 2003........ The History of Gardens, Christopher Thacker 1979
Gardening Through the Ages, Penelope Hobhouse 1992
Lilies of the Hearth: Historical Relationship of Women & Plants, Jennifer Bennett 1991 Five Centuries of Women and Gardens, Sue Bennett 2000
The Vanishing Garden, Christopher Brickell & Fay Sharman 1986

Garden Style, Penelope Hobhouse 1988
Colour in your Garden, Penelope Hobhouse 1985
The Sensuous Garden, Monty Don 1997

A Bouquet of Garden Writing - Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West,
William Robinson, E.A. Bowles, & Reginald Farrer,
Edited by Ursula Buchan 1987

Gardens of the Italian Villas, Marella Agnelli 1987
The Gardens of Ninfa, Marella Caracciolo & Guipppi Pietromarchi 1999
French Garden Style, Georges Léveque & Marie-Francoise Valéry 1990
The Chinese Garden, Maggie Keswick 1978

The American Woman's Garden, Rosemary Verey & Ellen Samuels
The American Man's Garden, Rosemary Verey 1990
California Gardens: Creating a New Eden, David Streatfield 1994
The Gardens of California: Four Centuries of Design from Mission to Modern, N Power 1995

Artists' Gardens, Madison Cox 1993
The Water Garden, George Plumptre 1993
Gardening at the Dragon's Gate, Wendy Johnson 2008................................................... Gardens of Inspiration, Ed. by Erica Hunningher 2001
Secret Gardens - Revealed by their Owners, Ed. by Rosemary Verey & K. Lambert 1994 A Gardenener's Labyrinth: Portraits of People, Plants, & Places, Traeger & Kinmouth 2002

"Gardeners are the chief inspiration of other gardeners, and the more personable and distinguished the gardener is, or was, the greater the fund of inspiration. The distinction is not necessarily in gardening terms, it is more a matter of personality. Gardening tends's to be a mature person's art, we come to it after doing other things, both for worldly and for psychological reasons. Making a garden tends to be that part of self-discovery that succeeds worldly discovery."

- Jane Brown, Eminent Gardeners 1990


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