Coming up roses

For one week in early August, it barely mattered the rain was lashing against the sashes.   The Real Flower Company had delivered Margaret Merril roses for me to illustrate and the scent of an English summer filled my London flat.    

Margaret Merril roses by The Real Flower Company
Margaret Merril rose buds by The Real Flower Company

Secretly, I was grateful for the cooler weather.   I wanted to slow the transformation from tightly rolled rose bud to blousy dame, giving me enough time to draw all the stages for my animated drawing.  


There is something reassuringly old fashioned about a Margaret Merril rose.  I can’t even think of someone who has named their child Margaret in the last twenty years?  From it’s deliciously seventies title, named in 1978 after a fictitious Oil of Ulay advisor, that iconic beauty staple.   To it’s blousy, high summer, loose form, and blushing hue.  And the scent, well, that needs to be bottled, I could douse myself in it.   They are the very antithesis of the frigid, scentless, imported roses we’ve all grown used to, in abundance.     Truthfully, I’d wanted to draw them three weeks earlier in July, but it was worth waiting for their second flush on the Hampshire farm where The Real Flower Company grows their blooms.   

The roses may have gone over weeks ago, but I still have the mint and scented geranium leaves dotted round the flat in small vases, which I like to rub between my fingers and breathe in.  In fact, I loved the geranium leaves so much, I’m currently propagating a little cutting of it! 

Green velvet x JET - Queen Anne's Lace

As I started snipping paper cuts (my latest obsession) of the roses, I couldn’t help but think of Cecil Beaton, I’m sure he would have loved Margaret Merrils trailing all over Reddish House and his chintz sofas in a reverie.  I have faith an Indian Summer might be round the corner, but if it isn’t, I know how to get my High Summer, country house fix.  

Isla Simpson illustrating Margaret Merril roses grown by The Real Flower Company