Saturday, September 18, 2010

The rose of the Sweetbriar Bride

Louisa's rose was filled with lacquer red hips when I visited...
Gardens often give us a sense of belonging. When we are uprooted and thrown - voluntarily or not - into new places and surroundings, the plants we grow can link us to people we have lost and long for, and offer a living connection to places that used to be called home.
Louisa Boren Denny, the "Sweetbriar Bride" and one of the founding mothers of Seattle, was a wonderful example of this. In 1853, she was the first white woman to get married in what then was only a tiny new settlement of maybe 140 people. Louisa earned her nick-name from fellow settlers by planting the fragrant but hardy Sweetbriar roses, Rosa eglanteria, in front of the windowless, cramped cabin she and her husband David had built for themselves. In 1851, before starting from her long journey to west by wagon from Illinois, Louisa had gathered Sweetbriar seeds in the garden of her dearest childhood friend. Throughout her long life, she kept planting her rose in front of every house she moved into, like a sign of enduring loyalty to her friend whom she never got to see again.
A typically thorny cane of the Sweetbriar rose.*
I've often wondered how it would have been to leave, and not to be able to go back like Louisa and countless other settlers and immigrants have been forced to do throughout the history. I am so lucky to have the choice to revisit places and friends I miss. Even if my story is not nearly as romantic as the Sweetbriar Bride's, I still grow plants plainly out of nostalgic reasons, and as long as I live in places with a suitable cool or temperate climate, there will be snowdrops and wood anemones in my gardens...
The pictures above are of a Sweetbriar that is said to come from a cutting of Louisa's rose. It grows in the Woodland Park Rose Gardens in north Seattle. It is unmarked in the maps and not entirely easy to locate, but with some tracking, it can be found on the left side of the decorative white retaining wall at the north side of the park. Last week, when I visited, it was too late for any flowers, but bright hips filled some of the typically thorny canes of the Sweetbriar.


Ruben said...

Visst är det kul med växter som är förknippade med minnen! Jag har kommit på mig själv, läsande gamla anteckningar, att vissa växters ursprungsort har fallit mig ur minnet. Man borde kanske samla alla "minnesväxter" i en egen liten bok!
Ha det gott!

NinaVästerplana said...

Visst är det så att vi släpar med oss växter genom livet.... Jag har syren, rudbeckior, pioner, smultron, riddarsporrar o aklejor jag räddade från rabatter som skulle läggas igen i min mormors trädgård på tidigt 70-tal. De har följt mig på balkonger, uteplatser o radhustäppa innan de nu får breda ut sig i mina rabatter.
Var gång de slår ut så strömmar minnena från min barndoms sommrar mot mig....
Hoppas du får en riktigt gôrgo helg

James Golden said...

This connection between plants and people is often dismissed as unimportant sentimental blather. (Maybe I'm criticizing my own tendencies.) Your story makes it clear that connection is very important--personally--and to an understanding of that person's life in history and culture. It tells a story that resonates, through symbols, into widening circles of meaning. Those thorns! Thanks for this story.

Unknown said...

Tack för din kommentar på min blogg, vad roligt att höra att man refererar till boken italienska trädgårdar även i USA. Det visst jag inte.

Gillar verkligen din blogg, vi ses här igen.