Laura Poli, story of a dear friend and a rose
Laura was a dear family friend, she was older than my mum but she didn’t have children so she’s always been fond of me and my sister. During summers, when we were children, we used to spend a couple of weeks at her house. She lived in a huge old fashioned country house, part of it was the original flat she restored when she was younger: just a kitchen/living room downstairs, a bedroom and a bathroom upstairs. Later on when she got married for the second time she restored a bigger part of the house, keeping the old restored part as a guest house. We slept there during our stay and there was a unique scent in the old part of the house, something reminiscent of seasoned timber, dust, old books, cooking and Chanel n°5.
My sister after the first two days or so usually started to bore but she’s always been so different from me, my sister. Laura woke us up early in the morning and after a good breakfast we went out in the garden. There was a lot of things always to be done, for instance the lawn was so wide she had to buy a tractor mower almost as big as a car, or so I remember it. She had a huge vegetable garden and a big old barrel filled with soil and planted with strawberries: the red fruits were hanging from the sides and we ate them when still warm by the sun.
She spoke very well English and French, and it was her to convince me to learn foreign languages, and it was always her that convinced me to move to England the first time, against my mother will. ‘Go now, do whatever you want until you are young or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life‘ she said and she was right.
She was very fond of roses, especially old roses and she had a huge rose garden with more than 400 roses. When we had our daily walk around the garden she used to pick some rose here and there and tell me stories about that rose, or about the person after whom the rose was named. One day she realized I knew most of her roses by heart, name, position in the garden etc. and this, I think, made her really proud of me: we shared that same passion. I placed my first rose mail order (based on a catalogue), when I was 11, dad paid it for me and that was that year’s Christmas gift.
There was a wide gravel yard in front of the house, at the far end of this yard there were some stone wheels and a tall San Pietro’s pear tree which host an even bigger rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. That afternoon task was pulling weeds off the gravel but I lingered under the tree with the rose for a longer time because it was so hot that day and I enjoyed the shade provided by the pear tree. Amongst the gravel I found a tiny rose seedling, not taller than 10cm but with a bloom on the top of it. The flower was pale yellow and semi-double. So different from the single rose hanging on the pear tree but at the same time very similar. A little further there were another seedling, there were no flowers on that one. Laura was probably used of finding seedlings around her garden so she didn’t bother, for me, instead, it was like having found a treasure.
By the end of my summer week I went home with two little rose seedlings potted up. The yellow flowered died soon after, I might have cut its main root in digging it out of the gravel. The other one was planted under a cherry tree in my parents’ garden and took 5 years to bloom. It now covers a tall cherry tree and it’s as big as its parent rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ at the time.
Now that filipes rose is dead, it was very old for a rose. My dear friend Laura died of cancer some years ago too. As a grown up I think of her as the person who inspired me in most of my choices both in gardening and in actual life. I’m glad I take after her, although she’s not my mother and she never wanted to be, she was just friend of a 10 year old boy.
A cutting of that seedling is know growing nicely on a plum tree in my woodland garden, this rose could grow up to 10-12 mt. It is sweetly scented, something reminiscent of nutmeg, lemon and sugar. I try and give away as much cuttings of that rose seedling as I can, I tell people that it’s named r. filipes ‘Laura Poli’, like somebody I used to know.