Mothertjie growing through a blinkblaar

I have over the past months been slowly downloading material from my postings since 2006 at Mooseyscountrygarden.com (where I posted on the forums first as Jack Holloway, and then, once I’d used up my quota, as Jack Two) and I’ve been enjoying reliving old experiences in the garden and elsewhere. This is the tale of a search for identity; of great excitement and uncertainty at the beginning, of a disappointing development, but finally of  joyful affirmation in a surprise ending. I have picked it as the first of the posts I source from Moosey’s because it tells a tale. And I shall now  use only extracts from the original – which of course is where the pics also come from. 

Close up of the rose 4 Oct 2006

Did I perhaps breed this rose?

When I planted this rose to grow into a tree I thought it was New Dawn, of which I had many grown from cuttings. But it wurn’t! This year it is truly magnificent, growing happily through a medium sized tree. It looks like a rambler rather than a climber. What is it??

Of all my seedlings only one ever had promise, growing away dramatically, a climber obviously, and repeat flowering (well remontant anyway!) with a smallish delicate pink bloom. It was only a year old when I asked Frans to plant it out into a bag. Then it was lost, presumed dead… I had named it Mothertjie – Mother + Afrikaans diminutive – my pet name for me mum. Does anyone recognise this rose? I don’t suppose you could then tell me how it ended up in my nursery?? Or might it be the long lost Mothertjie???

close-up of Motherjie - do you know its real name? 6 Oct 2006

Apple Blossom?

I suspected this might be Apple Blossom – went on to Google – got a reference to a certain Moosey  😉 – checked it out – did an image search – discovered this amazing site: http://www.rosenfoto.de/LiRosenfotoFSY.html – came to the conclusion that Apple Blossom was darker on the outside of the bloom whereas mine obviously fades as it opens and is at least semi-remontant. Now I need to go walking among a near neighbour’s neglected but lovely old roses and see if I recognise it as a cutting – stolen (by me? my staff? – possible!) or even given and forgotten. Exciting!

b%20Another%20close-up%20of%20the%20flowers%20in%20the%20tree 8 Oct 2006

More about Mothertjie

Tonight I pondered and looked in all my rose books… think Noisette I thought: they tend to be well scented I read, but she is very slightly so; nothing seemed likely. So I went back to the ramblers: Dèbutante perhaps? Too pink. A sport of New Dawn, happened in my nursery? Unlikely: the flower is slighter, less full, with narrower, thinner petals.
A list for Sunday morning:
• photograph ALL details
• check and describe all details botanically (that will be a first for me!)
• compare with New Dawn
• walk across to neighbours and try to identify if it grows there
• do a colour-based internet search
Think about the history: it stood in the nursery with cuttings from New Dawn. It was planted as New Dawn – when? March 03? It flowered, months later, and was a pretty but feeble pink rose. By last summer it had grown sufficiently on the north side to need additional support. It was pretty and had me wondering. This summer it is well spread and flowering beyond the host tree – cascading from it, rather than lost in it. Flowering quite freely.
Perhaps it is a seedling – now it gets exciting. Of what? What does it most resemble? I rack my brains. I know I will never be certain, as all pollination was uncontrolled, and all heps added to a pool. A lucky dip, on the whole an unlucky dip. It looks like…aha! – Souvenir de Madame Lèonie Viennot. The same rather thin looking flowers… she grew on the wall of my house in Johannesburg… I planted her next to New Dawn…aha! Theirs were of the earliest heps I harvested, even before I started planting roses on Sequoia Farm. IF this is Mothertjie, she was one of the first seedlings I produced… Could it be? Might it be?
I add one more item to my list:
• compare Mothertjie botanically to New Dawn and Souvenir de Madame Lèonie Viennot
You see, almost imperceptibly, inevitably, the unknown rose has taken ownership of her name…

Yet another view of Mothertjie Sunday morning
I set off on a quest – to see if I can find Mothertjie growing amongst the neighbours’ old roses. In a rather neglected part up a side valley I have not visited for years, but was enthralled to discover more than 10 years ago, I find the roses I am looking for. First the white rose, which is infinitely more beautiful and impressive than when I last saw it – is it being cared for, or has the weather just been right for it this year? Then – my heart sinks – a pale pink rose. Yes, this is it. This is Mothertjie. And next to it grows another rose I grew from a cutting and identified as ‘La Folette’. I must have taken the cuttings at the same time.

Is there a clue in the information I have from the beautifully researched, photographed and produced book by the Graham Stuart Thomas of South Africa: Gwen Fagan – “Roses at the Cape of Good Hope”? She writes of Souvenir de Madame Lèonie Viennot that in 1898 a “Frenchman , Henri Cayeux, the technical director of the Botanic Garden at Lisbon, began experimenting with the hybridisation of Rosa gigantea, the wild Tea rose from China, by crossing it with other Teas. From ‘Sounenir de Madame Lèonie Viennot’ x R. gigantea he produced the pale rose-pink ‘Bela Portuguesa’ with large semi-double flowers, ‘Lusitania’ with smaller semi-double flowers and ‘Palmira Feifas’ with pale rose, medium sized flowers. All these climbers were extremely vigorous and floriferous in the warm climate of Lisbon… I have not been able to find these hybrids growing [in South Africa]…” Then she says of finally identifying ‘La Folette’: “Unlike the other Rosa gigantea hybrids which were bred by a Frenchman in the Botanic Gardens of Lisbon from 1898 onwards, ‘La Folette’ is an English rose raised in the garden of Lord Brougham by his gardener Busby in 1903. This brilliant climber (whose other parent is unknown) is seldom seen in England, however, for it grows best in a sunny, warm climate.” On our mountain ‘La Folette’ is known as the wild rose, and grows huge in many gardens. Having identified it, I must now try to identify the others, and find out if they also grow freely around here. Might I have ‘Lusitania’ or ‘Palmira Feifas’ or one of their sisters growing so vigorously and happily in sunny South Africa?

Later: the excellent search on classicroses.co.uk didn’t show anything. Paul’s Himalayan Musk seems to look a bit like it – but is strongly scented. The odd thing is it LOOKS SO MUCH LIKE THE IDEA OF A ROSE that I can’t believe I’m not finding matches left right and centre! Lusitania and Palmira Feifas I find no further record of.

To be – hopefully – continued…

Mothertjie - and on the left La Folette Mothertjie in the neighbour’s garden, and on the left ‘La Folette’

16 Oct 2006


Sunday. This afternoon I was in the nursery, selecting some plants to add to the Rosemary Borders. But first I checked on the roses to see how they were doing. There, among the ‘New Dawn’ was a strange rose, a climber in full flower. ‘And this?’ I asked old Frans. (Note:I have posted about him here towards the end of a long post.) And with the phlegmatic and unmoved certainty of illiteracy and a huge language barrier he replies: ‘I don’t know it. It comes from under the trees. You asked me to pot it up.’ ‘When?’ ‘Long ago. Many years.’ I question, he answers. How did Mothertjie survive in the nursery for years without my ever suspecting her? But the original place seems right. The flower seems right. He is certain, and Frans, in his unperturbed way, is always happy to say ‘I don’t know’. He doesn’t invent things, what he remembers he remembers, what not – well: so what?

So this time I undertake not to question too deeply. This IS Mothertjie. The flowers are smaller but slightly stiffer than the other rose, as is the growth. The pink is darker on the edge of the petal, not in the centre. The blooms are smaller, only about 6-7cm across. In fact she is more like I remember her to be than the other rose is. We will plant her exactly as THE OTHER MOTHER (her name for now, I’ve just decided!) is planted, growing into a small Rhamnus tree – this one on the edge of the waterlily pond, and part of the Beech Borders Axis. MOTHERTJIE has been identified. Amen.

Mothertjie This then is MOTHERTJIE!


  1. What an interesting read, I do like a mystery. I have a plant thats been grown from some mixed seed and no one knows what it is, I am waiting to see if it flowers to assist with identification.

  2. Jack, I was totally charmed by this tale of roses lost and found. I love the fact that you are revisiting some of your old posts and hope that you’ll be sharing more of them with us.

  3. Pingback: A TAD MORE OF MY OLD ROSES « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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