The Rosarian Library

A collection of books and other resources

dedicated to the rose


By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Apr 25 2020 10:03AM

I have been inspired to find out about one of my lovely rose paintings by watching the short daily talks given by Philip Mould OBE, the art dealer, researcher and writer, on youtube about the paintings he has in his home. I cannot aspire to owning similar valuable paintings but research into this particular rose painting and the painter behind the picture is something I have wanted to do for a while. It is a painting that I purchased at the time I bought the library of the Royal National Rose Society but I have never been able to read the signature. Recently, however, a very kind gentleman from Bonham's auction house was able to get it identified for me. The artist was well-known in her day and her paintings occasionally come to auction. The story behind the painting (the reason I love Philip Mould's talks) is worth more to me than the sale value but, as is often the case I have only uncovered part of the story.

The painting of Roses by Anna Van Heddegham.

Anna (Alice) Van Heddegham loved to paint flowers. Being Dutch but living in central London, away from her homeland, in the early 1900s she would venture to Covent Garden flower market each morning to find the seasonal flowers of England, Italy or France that she could bring home to study and paint. It was said that she "carried her dreams into her home with her flowers". She avoided the exotics and stiff stemmed flowers preferring the garden roses that she could capture in their casual glory. She would paint these scattered over a ledge or tumbling from a vase. She did not uphold the view that a flower painting should be a still life as did her previous generations but that her paintings should be natural without uniformity and the need for props and artefacts.

Presentation plaque on the frame of the painting.

Alice exhibited in London and throughout Britain during the years 1906 - 1927. She exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries of the time including the Royal Academy, the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, the Abbey Gallery that was in Westminster and Baillie Gallery, formerly in Baker Street. At some point in time this particular painting by her was bought by another lover of roses and was presented by him to the National Rose Society on his departure from its presidency during the two years 1961 and 1962. Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C., a lawyer by profession and a recipient of the Military Cross for bravery in World War 1, dedicated many years of service to the Rose Society being on several committees prior to becoming the society's president.

'Wild Roses in Two Vases' by Alice Van Heddegham. Another example of her work.

Ernest Royalton-Kisch must have liked the glorious painting by Alice Van Heddegham just as I do. As his retirement from the presidency of the Rose Society coincided with its move from Westminster to St Albans he possibly thought that it would be a fitting gift that could grace the walls of the Society's new 'home'. Where the painting was prior to that date I do not know but between the early 1960s and 2017 it was in the headquarters of the (Royal) National Rose Society and since 2017 has been looking beautiful in The Rosarian Library where it will stay for the time being. Thank you Alice Van Heddegham for painting these roses a century ago and Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C. for your symbolic gift to the society.

Now I know the name it is easier to make out the signature.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 24 2020 11:55AM

Eleanour Sophie Sinclair Rohde (1881-1950) is one of the most interesting women I have met through the pages of my library. How I would have loved to sit down to tea with her and perhaps her friend Maud Messel or even her acquaintances Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Willmott to discuss the roses of the day. These women must have been a force to be reckoned with in the horticultural world at this time and I know their love of roses was a driving force in their lives.

Eleanour Sinclair Rohde.

(Courtesy of The Mary Evans Picture Library)

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 5 2020 10:28AM

I love treasure hunting; searching for Rose memorabilia for the library. This time, at an antiques fair, the treasure discovered was a postcard album; a collection of stunning paintings, in a very full but disintegrating album. It appeared to have been collected with love and care by a cartologist during the early years of the 20th century. Not famous paintings but ones that had been commissioned by the postcard publishers of the day. The hundred plus paintings revealed many of the Cornish coast by H.B.Wimbush, portraits of old Scottish characters by H.J.Dobson, a number of unattributed still lifes of flowers and fruit and among others a few glorious paintings of roses and rose gardens.; the reason I bought the album.

A postcard painting from the album.

Two of the stunning rose paintings I had not seen before. They obviously belonged together, featuring a similar subject, individual rose stems and buds and showing the same colour tones. Whenever I buy a postcard I like it to have the name of the artist or at least the publisher. If there are neither it has to be a really beautiful card. In this case there did not appear to be an artists' name but the publisher was Stewart and Woolf, a company who produced cards between 1900 and 1940. The series number was 468. I soon discovered that my two cards had been published in 1906 or before but still did not know the artist.

The matching postcard painting from the album.

I searched each card under the scrutiny of my magnifying glass and saw large blurred lettering to one side of one of the cards, 'M Nyl'. I recognised the name from a set of postcards I had seen previously on a publishers website, not Stewart and Woolf but TuckDB. I returned to the website and found the set entitled 'Fragrant Flowers'; six different cards, two of vases of roses and the remaining four, vases of other flowers. Beside each vase of flowers there were individual flowers that had fallen to the shelf. It was then I realised why my signature was large and blurred, the two paintings were a small part of a larger work. They were not part of either of the two paintings in this set and I have yet to discover from which paintings they were taken.

A painting from the postcard set 'Fragrant Flowers' published by TuckDB

They could have been taken from one or two of many because Marie Nyl-Frosch (1857-1914) was a well known German painter of flowers. She was born in Munich and seems to have spent most of her life there, dying there too. One can only speculate why she died at the age of 57 in 1914 as I cannot find out any further information about her life and work. I know that her paintings, many of which are of roses, have been sold at auction houses, including Christies, throughout Europe and command prices between one and two thousand euros. They are beautiful works, usually roses or other flowers in a vase or container of some kind with additional detail around the base, either fallen flowers or ornaments. Two additions I have seen are a small framed silhouette and a model elephant.

The second postcard painting from the set 'Fragrant Flowers'.

This brings me to the reason for the title of this article. During my rose journey I have been compiling a list of professional artists who are known for painting flowers, particularly roses. This list now includes 115 artists. Although I know little about Marie Nyl-Frosch I have seen images of many of her paintings, which I adore, so will include her on my list. (She will be company for Catharina Klein, another painter for postcards from the same period who worked in Berlin. I wonder whether they knew of each other.) It is always good to discover another great artist who appreciates or appreciated the rose. I will continue to try to find out more about her and her work.

Another beautiful painting by Marie Nyl-Frosch (1857-1914).

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Feb 12 2020 11:31AM

This is one of the reasons why I love collecting rose books and memorabilia. While sorting through my catalogues and annuals, in prepararation for a possible further intake, I nearly discarded a nondescript pamphlet covered with a bulb advertisement. By chance I looked inside; to find the programme for the 1909 National Rose Society (NRS) Summer Rose Show. Not only is there a plan of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Regents Park showing the siting of the marquees etc but also the list of entrants and judges. To cap it all there is an article written by 'The Late Rev. H. Honeywood D'Ombrain VMH' entitled 'The Life History of the National Rose Society'. I think perhaps I am missing the cover of the programme, unless of course, they wanted it to exist incognito, but I doubt it!

The siting of the NRS Summer Rose Show in the early 20th century.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jan 23 2020 03:00PM

Imagine a warm summer's day early in the 20th century. You are sitting in the sunshine under a parasol, gazing at a glorious rose garden. The fragrance of the roses is in the air and you know that with your skill and paints you are going to recreate this amazing, colourful scene on paper. You do not know, however, that a century later your paintings will still be giving pleasure to many rose enthusiasts, gardeners and artists; that they will still be admiring 'your garden' on a chilly January day over a century later.

"Dorothy Perkins over Trellis Work" Ernest Arthur Rowe. Taken from

'Roses and Rose Gardens' (1911) Walter P. Wright.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jan 5 2020 01:19PM

220 years have passed since the very first book was published in English dedicated to the rose. In the first half of the 19th century there were few books published: rose varieties were few in number, their popularity was limited and printing was less accessible. As the decades passed, numbers of rose varieties increased, more people had disposable money for gardening and printing developed. The numbers of rose books increased reflecting the growing popularity of roses. During the 20th century roses became increasingly popular with more books about roses being published each decade apart from the 1940's war years. The peak of rose book publication was the 1990s when, according to the library calculations, 20% of all books dedicated to the rose and written in English were published.

A few rose books from Victorian times.

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.

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.

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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