FIRST ROSE OF THE SEASON
All the roses of my childhood were French. Cecille Brunner, a mini poliantha bred in Lyon by Joseph Pernet–Ducher, grew in its original shrublet form in the torrid gardens throughout the Brazilian sertao. So did the Alba Amelia, released by Parisian rose breeder Jean Pierre Vibert, in 1823 and Guillot’s La France, the first hybrid tea ever, introduced in 1867. Today, I grow these and many other French Heirloom roses in West Virginia garden where summers are humid, black spot is a menace and Japanese beetles an ever present nuisance.
I would like to know how these French beauties travelled to Brazil. My sister theorizes that they arrived with immigrants from Madeira. She might be right. I prefer to think homesick Norman pirates carried them to Brazilian coast, tending them lovingly so that they could present the blossoms to a dark eyed Brazilian beauty. I admit that such a theory belongs in a romance novel complete with a picture of Fabio on its cover, but it is my theory and I am sticking to it until a scholarly rosarian out there traces the history of French roses in Brazil. As for the Cecile Brunner, in my WV garden, why, it came from The Antique Rose Emporium, in Texas. I have the climber, a sport that popped up in California in 1894. In a few weeks, I will be planting the shrub form along with Amelia and La France. I hope they come with a Norman pirate who will cosset them when they sulk. They will need him in this climate.