As a writer and gardener, I find it hard to resist roses with a connection to a much loved book, or its author. Perhaps my favourite would be the beautifully scented David Austin rose called Jude the Obscure, named for Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel.

It’s appropriate that when I took the photo below the garden was wreathed in a heavy, Blue Mountains mist and there were ‘tears’ on the soft apricot petals.


Remember Karen Blixen and her wonderful memoir Out of Africa?

The hardy Karen Blixen rose is snowy white with a hint of pink on the buds. I grow it below our deck, where it thrives despite my blundering efforts at pruning.

Karen Blixen rose

There is one rose I really should try to find, especially as one of my nicknames is Miss Marple. It’s the gorgeous pink climber called Agatha Christie.


I’m not sure about that colour though. I think they should have chosen a blood red! By the way, was the scratch of a rose thorn important in Sad Cypress or was it a red herring.

Jude the Obscure roses,

Some years ago my husband and I walked the Thames Path from source to sea. I was researching literary associations as we went, in preparation for a travel book. Slough, in Berkshire, has lost most of its historic architecture and is known for its giant trading estate. Rob was amused when I recited John Betjeman’s famous, derogatory lines about the town back in 1937;

Come friendly bombs and rain on Slough,

It isn’t fit for humans now.

Oh dear, and the town is still pretty unattractive. The solution could be a beautification scheme, with mass plantings of John Betjeman roses.

John Betjeman roses

On to London, and the wonderful world of my all time favourite author, Charles Dickens. As a social commentator, Dickens often wrote of the dark side of humanity in the city, but in his seventeen books the rose is mentioned ninety five times as a noun, plus on numerous other occasions as a simile or metaphor. That surely deserves a rose and recently he was awarded one! It was personally chosen by his g-g-granddaughter, Marin Dickens.

Charles Dickens roses.
Definitely in full bloom Mr Dickens!

Perhaps Shakespeare should have appeared first in this piece.

And here is the William Shakespeare rose, isn’t it lovely? Of course it has a strong, old fashioned perfume.

Finally, my all-time favourite garden is Sissinghurst, created by writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. Vita insisted that her roses thrived on neglect and that she pruned them as lightly as possible. I’m not sure I believe it, but oh how I’d love to.


Plant more roses and read more books I say. Oh yes, and finish my own work-in-progress.

I don’t think there is a Vita Sackville West rose, which seems a glaring omission, but her combination of writing and gardening drew me to SISSINGHURST.

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