Duchess of York changes her name

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The Independent Online
ROSE growers have inflicted the most embarrassing indignity on the Duchess of York since the snatched topless holiday snaps: they have withdrawn her name from a variety after only two years. In the new season's catalogues, the showy red and yellow patio rose formerly listed as Duchess of York appears instead - with a smidgen of irony - as Sunseeker.

It is extremely rare for roses to be renamed, even when the people they honour are dead or forgotten. Ingrid Bergman, a sultry red hybrid tea, still flourishes. And who on earth was Madame A Carriere, immortalised in a white climber that graces thousands of gardens?

Whoever she was, it can be assumed she did not let herself be photographed on holiday with her financial adviser. For it was the furore surrounding those pictures that persuaded the growers to expunge the Duchess from their catalogues.

They were motivated not by concern for family values but by commercial reality. The rose, bred in Ulster by Pat Dixon and introduced in 1992, had become the third most popular patio rose in its first season, according to the Cants of Colchester annual rankings.

But when the revealing pictures were published in August 1992, sales slumped and in the 1993 rankings, out last week, it had lost its place in the top five.

Last spring Mr Dixon polled rose growers about a change. A narrow majority believed that a rose by almost any other name would sell more sweetly. Mr Dixon is upset that the news has come out.

'I admire her,' he said. 'She has had a hard time and deserves to be left in peace.'

Altogether it has been a poor year for royal roses. The apricot Princess Royal has dropped out of the top 10 hybrid teas. One consolation is that the red Royal William ('good stiff upright grower') creeps into the hybrid tea list at eight.