Rosa ‘Shropshire Lad’ — An Idea of Imperfection

Rosa ‘Shropshire Lad’ 8 May 2020 — plant scan — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Friday, May 08, 2020

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, men chained to a stone bench in a cave face a flat rock wall. Behind them is a fire and behind the fire a long tunnel that leads to the outer world.

For Plato that particular outer world is the world of ideas, the world of essences, the world of perfection. The men in the cave only see imperfect shadows filtered by the fire.

We humans like to strive for this perfection in a world that is far from it. Yet in our imagination, those of us who have seen Velászquez’s Las Meninas (I have) think that painting is perfection.

When a rosarian (one who enthusiastically grows roses) exhibits in rose shows the most important requirement is to get a bloom that is as close to that particular rose society’s benchmark of perfection. This is their standard.

I have never entered any of my roses in rose shows here in Vancouver even though I am am a member of the Vancouver Rose Society. I don’t like to see my roses away from the garden, away from their parent bush to be seen surrounded by other roses in rose vases.

This particular bloom, the first one of English Rose, Rosa ‘Shropshire Lad’ is far from the standard of what a rose should look like. For reasons that we humans could not possibly figure out (in the same way we would not know why a baby might be born with an extra finger in a hand) this rose has a flower that is distorted to one side. I like it.

As I scanned it I thought of those men chained to their bench. If I were one of them would I suspect that outside in the world of reality there would be a perfect, imperfect rose?

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