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Plant of the month – French rose

Rosa gallica var. Officinalis

This month’s chosen plant is Rosa gallica var. Officinalis, a beautiful rose that has a semi-double light crimson flower that fills the air in the garden with a heavy classic rose scent. It can be found in the Bishop Compton borders.

These beds consist of species that Bishop Compton collected, which brought botanical fame to the garden in the 17th century. The border we see today was planted as part of the restoration, part-funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund.

One might wonder why this rose, which is one of the oldest roses found in Europe, is planted in a border that highlights plants collected by Bishop Compton, whose taste was predominantly for exotic plants, largely from America.

The reason for this is its historical significance. This rose was adopted as an emblem of the House of Lancaster in the War of the Roses (1455-1487). The result of this conflict saw the Tudor line ascend to the throne. One notable descendant of the House of Tudor is, of course, King Henry VIII, who formed the Church of England. Religious tensions in the country would build to become a factor in the English Civil War (1642-1651).

The legacy of the conflict would come to define Henry Compton’s time as Bishop of London (1675-1713) as he worked to depose King James II and help install a new protestant leader, King William III.

Matt Weston, garden apprentice