By Any Other Name: A Cultural History of the Rose by Simon Morley - review by Thomas Blaikie

Thomas Blaikie

Petal Power

By Any Other Name: A Cultural History of the Rose


Oneworld 294pp £25

In 2006 the BBC conducted a poll of viewers to find Britain’s favourite flower. The rose won hands down, taking 37 per cent of the vote. The nearest contender was the sweet pea, with 29 per cent, while the iris, lily and tulip were way behind. The rose is actually England’s national flower, though not many know this.

In the public garden near where I live in London, the ancient rose beds are in need of renovation. But the residents won’t hear of it. No amount of reassurance that the bushes will be replaced in kind makes any difference. The authorities don’t dare touch the roses.

What is it about roses? A garden might be full of tulips or magnolias, but a ‘magnolia garden’ would imply one mainly with magnolias. A rose garden, though, is something else altogether, a shrine to this one flower.

Is it because they are ubiquitous, being found originally in different

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