Martyn Falconer, the AELTC Head Gardener, knows all about seeds, blossoming talent and rampant climbers. In this series, he nominates his Plant of the Day.
“The theme you are aiming to recreate is English Country Garden.” So says Head Gardener Martyn Falconer when asked by green-fingered tennis fans how to replicate Wimbledon’s floral feast at home.
And that means a generous sprinkling of sweetly scented roses within a scheme that features ‘structure’ in the form of masonry walls, yew hedges and topiary shapes, ‘natural abundance’ in an extensive planting of perennials, and splashes of colour from annual blooms in a palette of purple, green, white, interspersed with subtle flashes of pink, yellow and even red.
Like tennis players, roses divide into those who maintain consistent flowering form (climbers, like the household-name players who consolidate a position at the top of the rankings) and those who prove to be one-show wonders.
“Our traditional rose arbour features two nice climbers. Unlike ramblers which only flower once, the climbers continue to bloom through the summer,” says Martyn. “We have two types: Madame Alfred Carrière, which is very fragrant with double, creamy-white flowers and New Dawn, which has darker foliage and slightly smaller, pale silvery-pink flowers.”
The roses took a bit of a battering in the heavy rain during qualifying week, dropping petals everywhere, but, like players with winning credentials, they have shown an innate resilience and begin The Championships with plenty of buds poised to blossom.
The rose has significant associations with tennis. Several players have had roses named after them. In 1992, Gabriela Sabatini was the first – a fiery orange-red bloom.
The theme you are aiming to recreate is English Country Garden
Chris Evert is honoured in a hybrid described as “cantaloupe-orange that blushes to red” while Victoria Azarenka inspired the ‘Va Va Victoria’, a rose whose tiny pink flowers have lovely yellow centres.
The rose has inspired personal ornamentation too. In 1965, Italian player Lea Pericoli, later a fashion journalist, caused a buzz with her flamboyant white 3-D rose-embellished dress designed by the legendary Ted Tinling.
Li Na, two times a Grand Slam champion and three times a quarter-finalist on the grass of Wimbledon, was considered a renegade for taking a red rose on to the court each time she played in the form of a tattoo on her chest.
In the Venus Rosewater Dish (the ladies singles trophy since 1886), the rose and its historic associations lie at the heart of The Championships. A rosewater dish is a ceremonial platter or basin used after eating to catch the rosewater that, in a daily tradition, was poured over hands to wash them.