The Rosarian Library

A collection of books and other resources

dedicated to the rose


By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Oct 21 2019 02:40PM

Do you like visiting second hand book shops as much as I do; I love it even if I do not have a particular book in mind except, of course, a different rose book. This time my visit was unusual; I wanted a specific book, a copy of the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I had always thought that his poem 'Maud', which inspired my favourite Waterhouse painting, began with the line 'Come into the garden, Maud' and ended after a romantic message with the line 'And blossom in purple and red'. How wrong was I? As some of the more literate readers among you will know this is only a very small vignette of a much larger story.

'The Soul of the Rose' (1908) John William Waterhouse.

Strangely I had discovered this previously unkown to me fact when I was researching 'The Soul of the Rose' by Waterhouse. I needed to find out more about the painting because it and others by Waterhouse feature on my website and will also be included in the anthology of rose stories 'The Soul of the Rose' which I am collating. I always knew that it had been inspired by the line from Maud ' And the soul of the rose went into my blood,' just as other of his paintings had been inspired by the poetry of Shakespeare, Keats and Herrick but little realised the length of the poem, so I felt the need to read the whole poem.

One of two paintings by J.W. Waterhouse entitled 'Gather Ye Rosebuds

while Ye May' (1909) and inspired by the line from 'To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time'

by Robert Herrick.

I looked on line for a copy of Tennyson's poems but they all seemed glossy, new reproductions. These are not my style; I like the old and tactile with an interesting front cover if possible. What a good excuse to go to my favourite book shop where I may be lucky enough to find a gem. The shop did not let me down, I found what I wanted; not Victorian as I would have liked but very pretty and inexpensive, first published in 1954 and including the whole of 'Maud' together with some of his other poems. He was a prolific writer so I had to make sure that Maud was in the book I bought.

A bargain at £4.00 and just what I needed.

Job done but after a decent lunch and an invigorating walk by the river the antique warehouse beckoned, which inadvertently triggered this story. One of the first things which caught my eye was a book 'Pre-Raphaelite Portraits' and on opening I found a sketch by Rossetti entitled "Maud" 1855 of Tennyson reading 'Maud'. He had apparently drawn it while Tennyson was reading the poem at the house of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. What a coincidence! It is true; I have a witness.

The second painting by J.W. Waterhouse inspired by the line from John Herrick's poem.

Within the book there are also sketches of several of the beautiful models featured in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. John William Waterhouse, who was born at the end of the Pre-Raphaelite era, was known in his later paintings to embrace the Pre-Raphaelite style. I don't believe the model in 'The Soul of the Rose' is known by name but to me she looks very much like Alexa Wilding who modelled for Rossetti fifty years before. Looking at some of Rossetti's work there is definitely a similarity between the graceful woman in Waterhouse's painting and Rossetti's auburn haired model.

A painting/sketch (1879) of Alexa Wilding by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

After reading the many pages of the poem and looking once again at my favourite Waterhouse paintings I cannot believe how my love of roses has forged this particular link between art and literature; it is inspirational for me. My research into the rose brings me joy and satisfaction daily. I will definitely leave the cultivation to others and focus on the intriguing stories that I have yet to discover. The rose is mentioned frequently through Tennyson's 'Maud' and is featured in a number of Waterhouse's paintings. They must, like me, have wanted to celebrate the rose.

Another painting by J.W. Waterhouse that features roses, 'The Shrine' 1895

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Sep 18 2019 09:20AM

This scenic valley, about 100 kilometres long and up to 15 kilometres wide, in the centre of Bulgaria, provides the world with more rose otto (rose essential oil) than any other nation. The huge perfume industries of France, the United States and Japan absorb the majority of the oil which is of the highest quality.

One type of rose is the 'queen' in this story; the beautiful pink damask rose R. damascena trigintipelata. Virtually alone, row upon row, she fills the hectares of land between the mountains of Stora Planina which hold back the cold North winds and Sredna Gora which check the hot and dry air from the Aegean in the South. The tonnes of petals from this ideal landscape fill the stills which conjure this amazing 'liquid gold' as if by magic.

The Valley of the Roses - Bulgaria.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jul 1 2019 11:41AM

How I would love to be transported back in time to find myself in the centre of the medieval fair town of Provins, not in medieval times but in the 16th century. I would be surrounded by bustling businesses trading in scented sachets, candied rose petals, medicines and balms and other products made from the flowers grown in the surrounding acres of rose fields. The main street of Provins was dominated totally by the men and women who traded in rose products.

The rose used was Rosa gallica 'officinalis', a highly aromatic rose that had been appreciated for its scent and beauty since Roman times and is still recognised by those who continue to grow it for its fragrant and colour retention qualities even after the petals have dried. It is still grown throughout Europe where it is an important item of commerce in the pharmaceutical, perfume, liquor and soap industries.

Rosa gallica 'officinalis'

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jun 9 2019 10:50AM

I didn't know what it meant until I added to the library postcard collection after a recent visit to a local antique shop and then decided to write this article. Deltiology, the study and collection of postcards. According to Wikipedia the world's third most popular hobby. Can you guess the first two? (Clue - they involve small items!) I didn't regard myself as a collector until I realised two albums full of small but beautiful rose art, mostly picked up inexpensively at antique fairs or in antique shops, probably meant just that. As with the rose books and paintings I can't help myself when I see a rose work of art.

A few of the postcards in the library - mostly paintings which are sadly not signed by the artist.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Apr 25 2019 01:47PM

Perhaps it is not surprising that many books about roses have been written by the nurserymen who cultivate roses for their livelihood. They are the people who have the knowledge to share with others. Can you imagine though what it must have been like in the 19th century drafting a book by hand? I find it difficult to imagine how these authors, and in some cases artists, were able to find the time and the inspiration to draft a knowledgeable tome, especially after they had been out in the elements all day propagating roses. In this beautiful book 'Beauties of the Rose' Henry Curtis, as well as writing the text, drew all the illustrations on stone so that they could be lithographed for this book, which has two volumes and thirty-eight hand coloured lithographic plates.

The Frontispiece from 'Beauties of the Rose' by Henry Curtis.

The library has two copies of 'Beauties of the Rose', in different bindings but whichever you saw you would know instinctively that within there were exciting treasures. Whether you chose the green and gold elegant binding with gold page edging or the plain green binding with marbled edging you would not be disappointed. The two books in the library are similar inside; a page of text followed by a tissue covered illustration. Comparable in format to the great works 'Roses or a Monograph of the Genus Rosa' (1805) by Henry C. Andrews and 'Rosarium Monographia' (1820) by John Lindley. Fortunately the text and illustrations have been protected well by the substantial bindings and the platesremain vibrant and clear.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 25 2019 10:50AM

As each and every rose book in the Rosarian Library is about roses you could be forgiven for thinking that one book is very much like another. A closer glance at the books, however, reveals that they are as different as the roses that grow in a rose garden.

A rose book with a unique cover illustrating a rose garden.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Feb 7 2019 02:17PM

At last my books and I have a new home! When I wrote my last blog/article in August last year I did not realise it would be six months before my next. It is great to be back 'at the drawing board' so to speak.

Part of the new library (note the rose tiles on the fireplace!).

The move fromone house and county to another has been a logistical challenge but one that seems to be working out well. At least the books do not seem to have suffered from a month or two of storage and during their sojourn they acquired one or two other companions as a result of their owner suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Aug 17 2018 12:36PM

Edme-Henry Jacotot could not have been more proud when the Societe d'Horticulture de la Cote d'Or proclaimed that the strong and beautiful Tea Rose that he had created had captured their exhibition's top prize. The large translucent blooms of rose, salmon and yellow mesmerized the eyes of the jury and the scent in the air thrilled their noses with a unique and powerful fragrance. There was no question that this new rose would be named 'Gloire de Dijon' in honour of the town where it was born.

'Gloire de Dijon' taken from 'The Amateur Gardener's ROSE BOOK' Hoffmann J. (1905)

The year was 1853 when this little known nurseryman from the rose growing area of Dijon in Burgundy, France ventured forth to exhibit the very first rose that he had bred himself. He did not know for sure who its parents were. He was pretty certain that the pollen came from a Bourbon Rose 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' but he only thought the receiving parent was 'Desprez a Fleur Jaune', a Noisette Rose, which gave his glorious new rose the characteristics of the climbing Noisettes. Although it was a climbing Tea Rose it would often be classified as a Noisette.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Aug 3 2018 10:19AM

Wow! Three articles about the library published in as many months. The Rosarian Library is reaching a wider public! I am thrilled as I know, for the rosarian, it is a great resource and for me personally it is rewarding to see the library grow and its many books providing information for people with an amazing range of projects.

The first article appeared in the February 2018 'Rose Society UK' Newsletter, the second in the Spring 2018 'Historic Roses Group Journal' and the third in the July issue of 'Gardens Illustrated' all of which I enjoy reading myself. I would like to thank the editors of these three publications for recognising that the theory behind the pratice is worthy of promotion and for including The Rosarian Library among their pages..

An organisation promoting the rose across the UK.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, May 29 2018 02:47PM

Not far from where I live, in a little market town, there is a shop/gallery for sale with plenty of living accommodation and a garden too. Regardless of financial issues am I courageous enough and do I have sufficient energy to open a long dreamed about museum?

A painting of Jules Gravereaux which was hung in his museum.

Welcome to my blog


Welcome to my world of roses. How fortunate I am to be surrounded by the queen of flowers!


Over the years I have collected many ‘rosy’ souvenirs and am now surrounded by rosy pictures, china, fabrics and my beautiful books.


I hope you will wish to follow me on a rosy journey and contribute with your thoughts and ideas. I enjoy growing roses but I also appreciate the smell of a real rose potpourri, the glimpse of a painting of roses, the discovery of a different rose cup and saucer or piece of fabric or to see a wild rose nestling in the hedgerow.


I will share with you my rose stories and will endeavour to answer any queries you may have regarding this amazing flower.

Until then. . . .. . . .

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