Many of the plants in our garden have a name attached to them. I have grown the Madame Hardy rose, and assumed she was a real woman. Others have a name that is less obviously that of a real person like Anemone nererosa ‘Robinsoniana’. But who are these people whose names are attached to plants. Who was Perry, or Mrs. R.O. Backhouse or the Vicomtesse Byng?
It is easy to know who is being honored when you plant the ‘Empress Josephine’, ‘and Cardinal Richlieu’, in the rose garden, but all those other names bring no personality or even an era to mind. Who Does Your Garden Grow by Alex Pankhurst and published by B.B. Mackey Books will answer many of your questions. I found out who Madame Hardy is and I plan to plant her again in the Rose Walk this spring.
Madame Hardy was the wife of Monsieur Hardy, Superintendent of the great Luxemborg Gardens in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. He was a skilled plantsman, giving talks on plant care, but he also created a new rose, possibly crossing a damask rose with a centifolia, and he named it after his wife. We know nothing more of Mme Hardy except that her husband loved her enough to honor her in this way, but in 1885, when 6000 rose varieties were available to rose gardeners, a French journal named Mme Hardy one of the 26 best roses.
The Madame Hardy rose is a beauty, growing in clusters with tightly furled petals arranged around a green velvet button. The color is pure, the fragrance sweet, and although it did fail in my garden after several years I am ready to give her another try.
Who do you want to identify? This book can be a big help. I’m also looking forward to hearing the publisher, Betty Mackey speak at the Garden Writers meeting in Boston next month. She will have news of the publishing world, which is almost as fascinating to a writer as a rose.