Leander is Back to a Hero’s Welcome

Monday, May 18, 2020

Rosa ‘Leander’ 18 May 2020 — Scans from my garden — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Hero and Leander is the Greek myth relating the story of Hero (Ancient Greek: Ἡρώ, Hērṓ; pron. like “hero” in English), a priestess of Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology) who dwelt in a tower in Sestos on the European side of the Hellespont (today’s Dardanelles), and Leander (Ancient Greek: Λέανδρος, Léandros), a young man from Abydos on the opposite side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to spend time with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

Succumbing to Leander’s soft words and to his argument that Aphrodite, as the goddess of love and sex, would scorn the worship of a virgin, Hero “allowed” him to make love to her — that is, she did not refuse any longer. Their trysts lasted through a warm summer. But one stormy winter night, the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the breezes blew out Hero’s light; Leander lost his way and drowned. When Hero saw his dead body, she threw herself over the edge of the tower to her death to be with him.


It is impossible for me not to repeat my attraction to roses over other perennials (except of course my hostas). Roses, unlike those other plants come, with a rich history. There are stories on how crusaders brought roses (one being Rosa ‘Ispahan’) from Iran back to Europe. And there are stories on how the roses from China made their way to Europe and beyond. And then there is the story of some of the hybridizers and fans like Queen Josephine. But ultimately some roses have an appeal that is not only their beauty and scent but the memories that they bring.

Some of these memories are the association of names. How can I not look at my Rosa ‘James Mason’ without thinking of the Desert Fox?

There are other memories of bygone days when a rose was in all its glory and then suddenly years later it succumbed to bad weather.

Such was the case of one of our earliest purchases of a David Austin English Rose Rosa ‘Leander’ in the late 90s for our garden in Vancouver. Our large corner garden in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood had lots of shade. Roses do not like shade. But we discovered that our Leander grew tall to get to the light in a shady spot. Rosemary adored Leander.

Four years ago we moved to our current small duplex garden in Kitsilano. We brought Leander but he did not make it. Rosemary was shattered. These days with their being less interest in gardening as Vancouverites clamour to live in condominiums being able to find Leander was an impossibility.

A friend of my Rosemary brought a pot this past fall and told us that she was not sure if the rose was Leander or a root stock.

Today it bloomed and I know for sure that Leander it is!

Link to: Leander is Back to a Hero’s Welcome



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