A former classics student turned horticulturalist leads the reader on an entertaining hunt for samples of some hardy,...



A former classics student turned horticulturalist leads the reader on an entertaining hunt for samples of some hardy, unusual, and often lovely breeds of ""old roses."" Classicist Christopher was first apprised of the joys of gardening while reading the works of Marcus Porcius Cato, a citizen of ancient Rome who urged his neighbors to abandon their dissolute life and return to the simple pleasures of the soil. Inspired by Cato's words, Christopher eagerly dropped Latin in favor of a horticultural training program at the New York Botanical Garden. Roses became his personal weakness. The myriad long-neglected strains that he began to discover in abandoned gardens called out to the former academic to be formally identified and placed in their proper historical perspective. But even this was not enough. Soon Christopher found himself tramping through gardens, cemeteries, and rural neighborhoods all over the US and England, searching for more types of old roses--whose ancestry often led back to ancient China, India, and Rome. Fortunately for the reader, it was a fascinating and often surprising trip. In the US, Christopher found rare species of old roses in sites as unlikely as the gold-rush towns of the West (where they were planted in bulk by the newly rich), the backwoods of Texas (where they marked frontier homesteads that have since disappeared), and the poorest neighborhoods of the Deep South, whose black women gardeners did not have access to the more modern, nursery-bred versions of what is now our national flower. The author points out the unique characteristics of each strain, and goes on to interweave the rose's ancestry, its historical significance, and the amusing eccentricities of its past and present caretakers into a serious yet remarkably engaging tale. Graceful and charming as the flower it honors, this is sure to become a classic among gardeners, and may well inspire a new generation of old-rose collectors.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1989

ISBN: 0226105962

Page Count: -

Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1989