Richard II 2
Richard II, thinking of the Wilton Diptych, is also one of the roses in my backyard, which started out maybe 40 years ago in my parents' garden, got too big, was moved to a lot in the woods on the Cowichan River where, one winter, it accidently had a woodpile built over it. Several summers later I found a thin branch struggling out of the woodpile with a beautiful pink rose on it. Unearthed, it then struggled for lack of sun and water, and I eventually dug it up again and moved it to Calgary, where Richard II thriveth.
Why he became known to us as Richard II is because the original tag had RICHARDII on it, which I now realise is rosa richardii, also known as rosa sancta, the holy rose because its five petals corresponds to the five wounds of Christ. It is ancient, thought to be a cross between rosa gallica and rosa phoenicia and still grows around graves in Ethiopia, where it is known as the Holy Rose of Abyssinia.
In an Egyptian second century tomb excavation in the 1880s a dried wreath of roses was found, which when soaked in water for some strange discontinued archaeological practice, became fresh again: the rosa sancta.
Richard II has fearsome thorns that point back along the stem, each thorn with a tiny lethal hook at the end which will rip open a long gash in the skin if one brushes against it. Perhaps this has something to do with its historic longevity, this powerful anti-social mechanism. It explodes into flower in the week between June 21 and Canada Day, very lovely, the rest of the time it is a great green bush on the attack.
In this intangible world of electronics and consumerism I quite like that ground level is full of ancient things that have travelled the world for centuries and arrived in our back yards. That they survive each winter here is always a surprise, and the source of my great affection for them.