From the pyramids to Island Bay - Rosa sancta

We are surrounded by fascinating stories if only we knew or could hear them.  Imbued in the landscape are memories of events, often dramatic, from the past.  But plants carry stories and history too.  I grow a rose called Rosa sancta or Rosa richardii.  The flowers are single, blush pink, with a thick cluster of long golden stamens - very pretty but still quite subdued compared to the bigger brighter roses nearby.

But to me this rose is very special because it links us back to pyramids in Egypt, specifically to Hawara.  There in the late 1800's an English Egyptologist named William Flinders Petrie made exciting finds including the Fayum mummy portraits and many papyri - one, a great papyrus roll, contained parts of books 1 and 2 of the Iliad (the "Hawara Homer").  What you learn when you start reading about roses! 

But his rose-related find that links us with the Roman era in Egypt?  In tombs dating about 170 AD, he found floral funerary wreaths well preserved in the dry conditions.  And some of these wreaths included roses identified as Rosa sancta. 

Rosa sancta was introduced to cultivation in Europe around 1895, sourced from the collections of an Italian botanist in Abyssinia/Ethiopia where it was grown beside churches and monasteries.  It is robust but not a thug, and is happy as a low growing prostrate rose.  It is once-flowering and unfortunately the flowering this year has coincided with some brutal weather.  So the petals have been blown and battered, and are short-lived.  But the stamens make a lovely golden display, as befits a little treasure.