OK, so this is not a registered rose and Sequoia Gardens is not a registered rose breeding establishment. (The first three letters of the breeders name, written in capitals, traditionally start the registered name of any rose, so that regardless of the name it is sold under, the same code is used to ID it anywhere in the world.) But my heading tells my story…
20 November: I was walking along the stream, the overflow of Freddy’s Dam, when something pink caught my eye. Something completely unusual was growing in the stream. Or lodged there. I bent down to investigate. It was, clearly and unmistakeably, a rose. It seemed to have four petals, not five as most roses do. And it seemed to be growing in the stream. It was early evening and growing dark. I did not have my camera with me.
I went home and checked my books. Most roses, and most brambles too, have five petals. I went back the next day and took these photos. Top flower, four. Bottom flower, five – apparently; but each flower was less than 25mm/1in. across, shining brightly against the black stone and a good step below my feet. Clearly though, it WAS a rose, not a bramble. I stood there on hands and knees, biting my lips. (Those who know me will tell you I do this annoyingly often.) I fiddled. ‘Vroetel’ is the Afrikaans word, and I‘ve heard it used twice by British English speakers, both in a gardening context: ‘I fruitled in the garden’, meaning to dig around vaguely. Entomology, anyone? (Later: Thank you to Diana of Elephant’s Eye for pointing me at the right word. I’ve added a full explanation at the bottom of this post.) (Still later: OOPS! The English teacher is on holiday, when he becomes a bit of a naturalist. Sufficient explanation? It is one of my favourite quiz questions – the difference between an entomologist and an etymologist. An entomologist studies insects, an etymologist studies the origins of words. Mea culpa!)
I vroeteled and discovered that it was rooted in a narrow fissure, growing through one cm of fast flowing water and trailing downstream. It should never have happened. Yet here it was, barely more than a twig, growing in running water and heavy shade, and flowering. But it could never survive here… Carefully, lovingly, I tugged, I vroeteled, I removed it from its tenuous toehold.
Despite my care it came away with disappointingly little root. I put it in a vase and studied it from all angles. It had five sepals – which meant five petals; that at least was normal! It must have grown from seed washed down from higher up. I have several roses higher up, the neighbours a great many more. It looks most of all like ‘Ballerina’, an extremely vigorous Hybrid Musk which is very popular in our area. Below it is pictured on the flysheet of Stirling Macaboy’s excellent and useful standby, The World of Roses.
There my story might have ended – in fact, might it shame-facedly never have been told. But daily I drenched the dead looking plant, treating it almost like an aquatic. And then I realised that the green was not withdrawing completely. What is more, it was reviving. Two and a half weeks later I took this photo. It has not pulled through yet, but clearly it has no intention of quitting either…Look at the little shoot parallel to the edge of the pot!
With a bit of help from my friends: vroetel, fruitle and footle
Thanks to Diana of Elephant’s Eye who pointed me towards ‘footle’ as the English word I had mistaken for the Afrikaans ‘vroetel’; the Concise Oxford says the following of footle: “(usu. foll. by about) esp. Brit. colloq. behave foolishly or trivially [19th c.: perhaps from dialect footer ‘idle’]” Merriam-Webster adds “to waste time” and gives the example “spent the morning footling about whilst others were working”. HAT, the standard Afrikaans dictionary unfortunately gives no entomology, but defines vroetel (in translation) as ‘burrowing in the ground; seeking something with your hands; or, to move restlessly’
OK – I believe I was vroeteling and not footling! As I said: to be continued!