I am not able to get to the garden at present, but my fellow gardeners have been sending me photos of the plants as they flower, and I have greatly welcomed these. A photo of one particular plant in flower, a dog-rose. was very encouraging. It was planted in the fern bed maybe 2 to 3 years ago and this is the first time I have seen it flower. Last year It may have flowered unseen.
It was planted in the bed to add to the collection of native plants that suit that situation and which would sit happily alongside the ferns. However, it offers also a reference to a letter written in August 1838 by Elizabeth Gaskell to Mary Howett, the author, in which she describes folk customs and beliefs. Elizabeth Gaskell writes,
“The dog-rose, that pretty libertine of the hedges with the floating sprays wooing the summer air, its delicate hue and its faint perfume, is unlucky. Never form any plan while sitting near one, for it will never answer.”
Happily our dog-rose grows at the back of the bed so the chances of anyone sitting near it to make plans are slim. It is close to a group of the Royal Fern, Osmunda Regalis, planted in the bed because it was described by Leo Grindon, a Manchester botanist and contemporary of Elizabeth Gaskell, as being abundant around Knutsford.
Also close by in the same bed and now in full flower is a double Scotch burnet rose (rosa spinosissima). This was chosen as a reference to William Gaskell’s Scottish university education at Glasgow. In contrast to the dog-rose it is double and more strongly scented but provides a fine companion to the simple dog-rose.
If you want to read more about the connection between plants in the garden and Elizabeth Gaskell follow these links, https://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/charles-dickens-garden/
Chris Tucker (Volunteer gardener)