‘Madame Ernest Calvat’ , the pink bourbon rose, is a tough old bird!

She lives just to the east of a 2 metre plus yew hedge, in dryish soil that is certainly rose sick.

Had the ground not been frozen for so many weeks this winter she would undoubtedly have been moved to a fresh site, which sometimes works.

However, she throws up a persistent flush of  blooms throughout the season:

Tough, but exceedingly glamorous!

Fat buds seductively reveal quartered blossoms that are a rich, passionate pink with a soft hint of purple. The scent is only apparent to me close to. It does not waft on the breeze. So its a decision to smell. To walk and to smell. And that is quite important. Its a visit – almost an appointment.

The blooms slightly nod. So you turn one up and inhale. It is a heavy, deep, and complex scent – winey, rosey, spicey – which is exotic, mysterious and intoxicating!

So who was Madame Ernest Calvat?

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ wrote Shakespeare. I.e. it is what it is and not what it is called which matters. Agreed, Mr. Shakespeare! But these plants, and roses specifically, named after people have a certain fascination. Why? Because there is the history of the finding or the breeding there in the name.

Of course these days you can google anything. We can all now know everything! We know that Rosmarinus ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ was named for an Edwardian spinster, Euphemia Jessopp, who gave some cuttings to EA Bowles. And Fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple’? Well, of course the Popples lived near Stevenage and had a fuchsia hedge which did not die down in the winter. The rest is history! Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’ was raised by the eponymous Welsh artist, who frankly said of its grungy pink flower that it was the colour of ‘dirty knickers’!

But in this case you get only the vaguest of help. It matters not that Shirley in Idaho nominates Madame EC as her ‘favourite most fragrant rose’.

Who was Madame Ernest Calvat?

We know the rose was bred from the famous Schwartz stable of  roses in 19th century Lyons. Schwartz were responsible for breeding, amongst others, the famous ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ and Madame EC was herself a sport of  ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’. We know she was discovered by Marie Louise Schwartz in the late 1880’s.

But we don’t know who she was named for!

Are roses named because they remind the breeder of someone? Tempting to think they might be sometimes.

At full stretch, Madame reveals a dense ballgown of  50 plus petals, which could have danced the night away in many a European capital. I don’t think she was an Edwardian spinster:

I think she could dance all night. She danced with the Prince of Wales – we are talking 19th century jet set here. And hunt all day. Shot big game on safari before we knew any better. Played charades. Read Zola and Maupassant. Had a happy family. But a characterful, panther like beauty, she also discretely managed a string of handsome lovers. Drank nothing but champagne. Gambled furiously.  Smoked cheroots. And wore diamonds ‘as big as the ritz’.

I think Madame EC was, in short, a bit of a goer!

Well, I have emailed a rose expert in Lyons to find out. But in the meantime what I don’t know I can make up.

After all the real Madame is long dead!

And my Madame EC deserves a move to kinder soil this winter.

R

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