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Record Keeping
From Heritage Roses in Australia journal 2016. Vol 38, No. 2, page 49.
KEEPING RECORDS, Patricia Routley.
Do you recall the film Still Alice wherein the university linguistics professor strode onto the podium to give her lecture? She was silent for a bit and looked up straight into the spotlights and pointed at them and said "pretty". All her wisdom and knowledge was gone with the dreaded Alzheimer's and there is nothing you can do about it.......
Records will enable us to pass on these rose names to our children or new house owners, or people who would like a cutting. I do hammer out metal labels as well, but the ducks and guinea fowl dislodge them and then the mower eats the labels for breakfast. I will concentrate here on keeping records so your great grandchildren will know what treasures you left them. There is also clarity when emailing. I usually don’t just type in the name, but copy-and-paste my entire two-line listing for the rose so the recipient knows exactly the rose I am talking about.

You could keep just a listing of the name of the rose and where it is in your garden. But with a little more effort, you are amassing material which will be the basis of a vast interest and fascination with old roses. There is the information that astounds, when you realise (through your listing) that that tall pink rose on the left 'Texas Centennial' is actually a sport of that tall yellow 'President Herbert Hoover' on the right? And the reason that 'Elite' is so tall, is that it was a child of 'President Herbert Hoover'. You can actually see the connection, not only in your records, but in the garden bed. There is so much more interest when records are kept.
Overall Garden Map. One of the first things in recording your roses, is to get a sheet of quarto - ordinary plain paper - and pretend it is your garden block. Turn the paper sideways and consider whether landscape or portrait format would suit your garden. Know where East and west is and place a tiny E, N, S and W on the edges of the paper garden. Now draw in a tiny house, approximately to shape, and roughly where it is. In pencil, draw in your beds - have an eraser handy.

Photo of the Routley Overall Garden Map
Caption: This is our five-acre garden.

To help those still-sobbing rellies pinpoint your old roses, you need to name your beds. There is not very much space in a listing, so give them a distinguishing name which can be abbreviated to just three or four letters. I use Ult for the Ultimate garden, GS for the Great Southern garden, TT for the Tractor Track, Bon for the Bonbon garden, etc, It is probably best not to chop and change the names. So that is your first and basic overall garden map. Keep it in a page protector as the first page of your garden records.

Landscape format Photo of a Bed Map listing, (Tractor Track garden bed)

Individual Bed Maps. If you have a tiny garden with 25 roses, you can probably make one map do for the whole garden. If your garden is bigger, have a separate page for each bed. The way I map them is I go for a walk in the garden, put my arm out, and the very next rose on the line of sight, is typed up on the very next line on your keyboard bed map and should reflect on paper exactly what is out there in the garden beds. List your roses in order of the most logical way you would walk around your garden. A new line can be inserted in the appropriate place whenever a new rose is planted – or deleted should the unspeakable happen. It really helps if you add one of the words front, mid, or rear, abbreviating the words (f m r) in lower case to your location. In a wide bed I use inner and outer (i and o) often. An example for a narrow bed is ROS-I-SW-e which means the rose is in the Rosary (ROS); in one of the four inner beds (I), rather than the outer beds; and of those four inner beds, it is in the south west one (SW); and then I have a choice of adding in lower case e, w, n or s. Keep this location as brief as you can. There is not very much space to add “behind the washing line and just to the south of the pole”. Know where east and west is and use the compass points to help list your roses. If the location really won't fit, reduce those last few words down to 8 point. It is still readable. Once this page is printed out, I double over a piece of sticky tape on the back of a tiny two-inch cutout from the Overall Garden Map. This cutout can be simply lifted and added to a newer version of the page as the years go on. A yellow highlighter will further define exactly where this particular bed is.

Technology has far outstripped me, but this is how I did it. A recommendation is to do just one rose at a time, and make it as thorough and as correct as you can. Even add the rootstock – you might as well – and years down the track it will show what stock suits your soil. I put the rootstock words in red print so it really stands out. The maps for the first rose beds I made here in 1987-88, are just littered with red print. Beds I have made in recent years contain nearly all roses on their own roots and their maps are black with own-root roses. Once the rose is listed, you never have to worry about it again.

Set the tabs first. Either of the following might work:
Portrait orientation. First line: 0.0 Foundling number. 0.6 Name & class. 5.0 Parentage. 11.0 Breeder & Date.
Second line: 1.5 Provenance. 13.0 Year planted & garden location.
Landscape: 0.0 Foundling number. 0.6 Name & class. 5.0 Parentage. 12.7 Breeder & date. 16.5 Provenance. 22.0 Year planted & location. (Use small margins.)

I chose to use landscape format as I could fit more information in. But it is difficult out in the garden to juggle the printed-out book on its side. A portrait format could have everything about the rose itself, its breeder, date* & parentage (seed parent x pollen parent) on the first line. The second line is reserved for as much information as one can gather, more or less after it left the breeder. This includes its provenance, the year it was planted it and where in the garden it is planted. (*I see a growing trend not to list the breeder and date in catalogues and I lament their absence. I simply must have them in my listing.)

I add the year I took the cutting or bought the rose. Just two digits - for example, 97. In a whimsical situation, in 2051, when my grandchild is trying to work out if that old stump of a rose is ‘Pink Iceberg’ 1997 or ‘Brilliant Pink Iceberg’ 1999, they will know that it could not possibly be ‘Brilliant Pink Iceberg’ 1999 because they have that old photo of me planting the rose in a 1997 dated photo, or they may have an old dated letter from me saying “I planted a rose today near the statue”. Very whimsical – for my grandchildren will have my list, therefore the name, won’t they? I don’t really know why I keep the year. I just do. At the very least it shows the history of the garden.

I have seen peoples' listings containing things like "red, pink, or tall, or short" and I really don't think there is much value in having a column for this, unless you have very similar roses alongside each other. There is often an additional third line I will add to a foundling rose for possible contenders for the identification. If I come to the conclusion that it cannot possibly be something-or-other, I put a line through the name. That will remind me that I’ve considered and rejected it. Each rose is separated with underlining.

Numbering the foundlings. In the beginning when one finds a rose, you would swear it is one thing and so it goes into your records book as such. Then later you discover it is another thing and so you change the name. Then, oopsadaisy, it can't be as it is thornless - and before you know it, you are completely bamboozled and don't know what's what any more with this yellow, pink-tinged tea rose foundling - there are a lot of those around. The way around it is to assign the rose a number. If there is ever going to be any doubt at all about the veracity of the rose, give it a number that will stay with it until death do us part. Start at 001 in case you end up really being hooked and get up over 100. At least your bed maps are going to look neat and lined up. In my computer garden records I keep a yellow folder called Foundlings. Within are other folders listed numerically – i.e. 328 “Peace’s Best” where all photos and a word document for this rose is stored.

Study names. Theoretically the first “study name” should take precedence, but that is not always practical – witness “Kew Cemetery Pink” (Victoria) being also found in WA and SA. One HAS to give a founding a “study name” because you don’t know its real name and you have to call it something as you usually have another 35 similar foundlings out the back in the pot ghetto. A rose you buy from the nursery has ‘single quotes’ – it is a named rose. A “study name” for a foundling has the internationally recognized “double quotes”. If you see a name with “double quotes” it is unlikely you will find it in any rose book – so that will save you heaps of time looking for it. Contrarily there are some oldies like “Fantin-Latour”, “Sophies’s Perpetual” and even “Octavus Weld” that are in the books without the double quotes. The editor of the book was an ignoramus who didn’t realise he was more-or-less closing down the search for the real name. Readers will just accept that name and there will be nobody searching in the future for its true identity. So give the foundling a name, perhaps not just “Mrs. Brown’s 1”, “Mrs. Brown’s 2” or “Mrs. Brown’s 3”. Those numbers do tend to get mixed up later on, so add a colour or something distinctive. If it is an oldie which balls like ‘Perle des Jardins’ or ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, then dream up something distinctive like “Mrs. Brown’s No. 3 Crown Jewels”.

Provenance. Keeping a record of the provenance is important. Provenance is "where it came from", even if that was Target, Mistydowns, or 5.3kms south of Bridgetown on the west side of the SW Highway, in the paddock. When buying, tell your nursery you keep good records and ask them where they got their stock from. I have developed a technique of showing the provenance in just a few inches. Let's take the foundling "Peace's Best".
Photo 328 004 of “Peace’s Best” bush
This used to be known as " Peace's Best Gallica" until we found it was no gallica, so we just dropped the misleading word gallica off the study name. Through correspondence, I've learnt that Rob Peace found this rose in the Melbourne Cemetery in the 1980s. Theoretically he should have given it a study name of the grave name, but Heritage Roses in Australia had just been formed in 1979 so he is quite forgiven. At the very least, he collected and saved the rose and passed it on. In my records the cemetery became caretaker-1; Rob when taking the cutting became caretaker-2; he passed cuttings on to Esmond Jones who actually "study named" it "Peace's Best Gallica". Esmond was caretaker-3; He passed cuttings on to Pat Toolan-4; who in 2004 passed cuttings on to me, caretaker-5; and I show it in my records as:
328 “Peace’s Best” Hybrid bourbon or china. Smooth hips, dappled colour, tiny thorns (Melbourne Cemetery-> Rob Peace in the 1980s-> Esmond Jones-> Pat Toolan-> 04 ROS-O-WSW-m
(That location translates to the Rosary garden bed, the Outside circle, West South West, in the middle of the bed)

If - and with these really old roses it doesn't happen very often - if we ever decide that "Peace's Best" is undoubtedly somethingorother, then Rob, Pat, I and all the other members who are growing it, will be able to put a name on this old rose because we all know we are growing the same thing because we kept records. (Esmond, up there on his cloudy pillow will already know, because up there, all foundlings are labelled with their correct names).

If it came to you with an obviously incorrect name, add to the provenance “Came as …whatever it was called” I have one which came to me as “Magenta purple on drive – source lost” and that mouthful went into my records. But the previous owner will know exactly which rose you are talking about because you are using her study name. It really does beat….. “You know – on the drive, up on the left, it was a double purple”. She has 50 roses up in that section!
Another example of the importance of provenance. Eileen Giblett in Bridgetown, W.A. is 93 now and was growing a rose her mother had planted. They had both kept the name 'Cloth of Gold'. When this rose came to me I was a little suspicious because it was such an evocative name, that many old yellow roses were dubbed 'Cloth of Gold'. Later when Rose Marsh sent me cuttings of "Bilney's 60-year-old Yellow Climber" and it flowered, I could see that both roses were the same. A foray into the books (I love doing that!) showed me that 'Cloth of Gold' was a synonym of 'Chromatella' and in an 1864 reference, it was said to have purple new stems. I am now convinced that my pale yellow roses are indeed 'Chromatella'. So convinced that last year I suggested to John Hook in France that his photo of a rose might be 'Chromatella'. Nope - he already has "the Australian 'Chromatella',” but it apparently was sent with no provenance. So we have missed the chance of a nurseryman confirming the veracity of Eileen's clone - or did John get Bilney's clone - or even the South Australian “Ma Lovelock” clone - or Walter Duncan’s clone? Keeping provenance records is one of the most important things a Heritage Roses in Australia member can do. It is our duty and it helps people to stop building on shaky assumptions and get to the truth instead. Ideally, nurseries should take a leaf from the Vintage Gardens catalogues and include the provenance wherever possible.

The Cemetery. Yep – I have a file for all the dead’uns and what better name to give it, but The Cemetery. ‘Mermaid’ went in and out of the Cemetery three times over the decades as it was burnt twice before eventually giving up the ghost in this unsuitable climate. . Rather than just delete the information, copy-and-paste it into the Cemetery – it astounds me how often a rose will make one last chance at life and spring anew from a buried bud. Then you can just copy-and-paste it straight back into your records.

My Rose Book. I still find errors and misprints in my listings, or have new ideas I want to follow up, so I make pencil marks all over the pages. My book is always taken out into the garden when planting so I can mark the location exactly and it gets covered in mud, dirty fingermarks, drips of water and probably a bit of manure too. When it all gets too messy I sit down perhaps once a year to correct and print out new pages which are newly dated “as at… today’s date “. A new binder every couple of years and some new page protectors gives you a brand new edition of “My Rose Book”. I know I have gone beyond the norm in keeping my rose records, but I am in love with roses and these records are the preservation of my knowledge. Without them I cannot remember (yes, already!) and fallacies can grow like weeds in a rose bed. I cannot remember the rose’s name, but I can remember exactly where it is growing in my garden – and so I turn to my bed map and there is the name.

So – you don’t have time to make a listing? That’s OK. Life must be lived. Children must be raised and bread put on the table. But if you have time to buy, or strike a rose, then you do have time to write the details down in an accessible diary. One day…you will get to be 63 and then you will have time to delve deeper into old roses. From 63 to 93 will give you thirty years of utter bliss growing and knowing and loving old roses.
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