Gardening: A rose by any other name
A specially bred variety of garden plant can become a living memorial.
Saturday 07 November 1998
Caroline Clarke was murdered while on a backpacking trip in Australia in 1992. Her parents wanted a living memorial and an amateur breeder, Colin Horner, created the rose.
Caroline is one of hundreds of people - some, such as Michael Crawford, well known - who have been commemorated in the rose garden alone. Breeders can register new varieties through the National Rose Society, which will put details of colour, leaf characteristics, thorns and scent in an international database.
Registers exist for most types of cultivated plants. The Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley has nine lists, including delphiniums, daffodils and lilies, and they encourage breeders to register new plants, although there is no obligation to do so. They are now also trying to keep information about why a particular name is chosen, so it will no longer be necessary to consult a specialist book to find out that Mrs R O Backhouse, commemorated in a variety of daffodil was its breeder.
The naming of species and plant-types is regulated by an international system begun in 1753 by a Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus. He classified all plants known at the time, giving them a genus name, usually written in capitals, and a species; each genus is also part of a wider family. The common daisy, for example, is described as Bellis perennis, and is part of the family known as Compositae.
At the instigation of Charles Darwin, a register was begun at Kew Gardens, called the Index Kewensis, which lists all known plant names.
When a botanist discovers a new species, he must choose a name for it to distinguish it from other plants of the same genus. The species name could refer to a characteristic of the plant - a rose of the species spinosissima is extremely thorny - or to the place where it originated, hence the name sinensis for plants from China.
Often a new species is named in honour of the person who discovered it. The Director of Kew Gardens, Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, is a distinguished botanist who has spent a considerable part of his career exploring the Amazon. As a result there are more than 40 different species named Pranceii.
If you want your named variety to go into commerce, and remain there for several decades, you will need to approach a professional grower who is likely to charge a considerable amount of money to give your chosen name to, say, a rose.
This is because breeding is a long and expensive process with no guaranteed results.
An amateur grower, if he has any new varieties available, will charge you around pounds 1,000 for the naming, and you will then get a number of plants. Within reason, more can be supplied if you want to distribute them among your friends.
The Amateur Rose Breeders Association can help anyone get in touch with the nearest amateur breeder.
Acquiring your own rose does not happen as quickly as buying a new pot plant, since you will probably want to find out about its growing habits and to see it in flower before giving it your name. But it could be flourishing long after the pot plant is compost, guaranteeing its namesake a small place in history.
The Amateur Rose Breeders Association can be contacted on 01952 461333
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