February 2nd, 2002
Dr. Leda’s Rose Tips

Dr. Leda Horticulture, aka Elizabeth Churchill, is a rosarian who worked for eight years at nurseries in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently retired and moved to a beautiful old Victorian in southern Louisiana. If she told you how much room she has for new roses, you would hate her.

Words of humor and wisdom from Elizabeth Churchill.

by M Sinclair Stevens

One Response to post “Dr. Leda’s Rose Tips”

  1. From George Szirtes:

    Dear Dr Leda,

    I came across your delightful website when I was researching roses for a poem (I am in fact a poet, with some thirteen books of the stuff in the UK). I particularly loved your exchange with the man who asked if you looked like Isabella Rossellini. This may mean nothing to you but I send you the poem I eventually wrote, which consists of three sonnets. It doesn’t refer to your website, but it’s there at the heart of it somewhere. The poem below. In case the lines come out strangely, (the sonnets are fully rhymed though in an unusual pattern of twice seven lines, the first five of each seven rhyming with the first five of the next seven, each seven ending with a couplet–crazy, I guess) I put a small asterisk at the end of each proper line that might not be clear.

    Comical Roses in a Cubic Vase


    There are people who grow wobbly at the knees

    at the touch or scent of flowers, botanists

    turned erotomanes, foiled aesthetes with spots

    and bad breath, beautiful women seeking

    analogies for themselves which might explain

    their own bold beauty, people driven mad

    or just a little queer by anything petal-clad.

    Myself, I loved the way the roses could squeeze

    up against each other, like a crowd of accordionists

    at an impromptu party in an old-fashioned telephone-box.

    I loved their funny riotous colours leaking

    into the air, lost in an invisible rain

    of atoms of which I was a part, the way their fall

    could elicit from me something tight-furled, personal.


    Something about the stark voluptuous thrust

    of the flowerheads opening their mouths wide,

    makes me think of the pores of my own skin,

    and of every human orifice that allows

    the world access, billowing with colour,

    Alizarin crimson perhaps, and creamy white,

    like a Tennysonian chorus, dark and bright,

    all with the faintest coat of luminous dust

    in the light of the window, and the garden outside

    yearning for access to the garden within;

    outside, where there is a certain bending of boughs

    and the whole earth is like a deep damp cellar,

    and inside, with its carpets, tables and chairs,

    and short-lived plant forms covered in fine hairs.


    A pheasant billowed through the cemetery,

    its colours exquisite but with a comical look on its face

    in the blank red napkin where its eyes were situated,

    and rabbits in tens panicked in small white dots

    shooting over the edge, down to the railway cuttings.

    It was a glorious late afternoon. The children slept

    in their graves while the wonderful pheasant stepped

    delicately through their dangerous territory

    and everything was busily seeking its place.

    Even the roses in the glass cube stated

    some kind of claim, like the rabbit scuts,

    to their domain in the realm of incongruous things,

    their dead petals folded over the edge, vaguely edifying:

    as if our own skins could be laid out like washed clothes drying.