When I stepped out onto the deck after an early morning downpour this week, there it was and no mistake: a rose in bloom, kissed by rain and dishing out frothy ambrosial fragrance with abandon.
As I headed out the door into the garden in rubber clogs, camera around my neck and tea in hand, I was turning a skein of words over and over in my mind: serendipity, lunar, zephyr, solstice. I would research and ponder and write about one of them here this morning, and I was looking forward to the exercise. Selecting a word and following it all the way back to its roots is a lark and such fun to do. Litha (or Midsummer) is still several days away, so whatever my chosen word turned out to be, it was probably not going to be solstice, at least not this week.
In light of our blooming roses and their old world perfume, fragrance is the only word that will do this time around. It hails from early fifteenth century Europe, springing from late Middle English, thence Old French and the Latin frāgrāns, frāgrāre meaning "to give off an odor" or "to smell sweet". At the root of it all is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) bhrag meaning simply "to smell". Roget's Thesaurus gives us a whole bag of synonyms for this week's word including: aroma, redolence, perfume, elixir, bouquet, incense, musk, attar, balm, civet, potpourri, nosegay, scent, sachet, cologne. Potion is not one of the synonyms on offer, but I think it should be.
Rain or no rain, our June garden is enough to fill an ancient rose loving Celt, Roman, Persian or Egyptian with delight and unbridled envy. Finding adjectives for such opulence is difficult, and for a few minutes yesterday, I was completely lost for words.
The rose here this morning is David Austin's exquisite "Heritage", and the master himself describes its perfume as classically beautiful with overtones of fruit, honey and carnation on a myrrh background. Next up are the antique Maiden's Blush, David Austin's Abraham Darby, Evelyn, Gertrude Jekyll and the gorgeous once-blooming Constance Spry. Hallelujah, summer is here, and little rain in early morning doesn't matter a bit.
It is a tradition to plant a new rose around the time of the summer solstice, and this year, not one but two magnificent gallicas will be coming home: Charles de Mills and Belle Isis. I can hardly wait to hang out with them when they have settled in.