It's exactly 400 years since our greatest ever writer died, and I'm off to Bankside this afternoon to join in the Shakespeare celebrations with about a million other people. We won't float off down the river like poor, sweet Ophelia though. You can see this gorgeous Millais painting in Tate Britain, along with his Mariana (from Measure for Measure) and Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott in the same room, if tragic, fictional heroines float your boat.
I used Romeo and Juliet, my favourite play, to illuminate my post for his birthday/deathday last year. Last summer, my little sister (who's autistic and has a limited vocabulary) half-read, half-listened to me reading this rather awesome version of the story as part of the summer reading challenge that children can do through their local library.
I was so pleased when I found out David Austin produce a gorgeous, scented Juliet rose (the peachy rose in the bouquet above), which opens up like a bowl (below).
But I was heartbroken when all but two farms stopped producing my favourite cut rose: the stunning and incredibly-scented Rosalind, named after the character from As You Like It (the blush-pink rose below; the green-tinged rose is Miranda, named after the character from The Tempest).
Emily (aka Shakespeare's Cymbeline) is another cut rose that's hard to find now. It has such a sweet, fruity scent. This was the first purely Emily rose bouquet I made during my short time at David Austin.
I was even more heartbroken when I found out earlier this year that the cut flower department at David Austin is no more, which is all the more heartbreaking given their wonderful new varieties, and the love and care that the florist-growers take when handling them. They know their stuff far better than urban, relatively newbie florists like me ever could. You can still buy the roses wholesale and florists like me will be happy to use them to make your bouquets, but you can't order bouquets to be made up at the heart of David Austin in Albrighton. You can still see their beautiful roses at their rose garden and they continue to grow and develop new varieties, including the new Roald Dahl rose, which will be launched at RHS Chelsea in May and which I am ridiculously excited about! I had planned to go to Chelsea this year, but as my old supervisor, Ann Saxby, is only going to set up on the first day, I won't bother - I will see her when she stays the full week at Hampton Court instead. Some things are more important than being first on the scene.
He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:
If thou sorrow, he will weep;
If thou wake, he cannot sleep:
Thus of every grief in heart
He with thee doth bear a part.
These are certain signs to know
Faithful friend from flattering foe.
Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim XVIII