Morning Eye Candy: Mary and Alister
I thought, “Guthrie? Like Woody Guthrie?” His first wife went by the name of Mary. But it wasn’t her. I dug a little further into the root of this hoop skirt of a rose and came up with another Mary, a world away, to whom the pink thing owed its name.
It was in 1929 that Alister Clark, renowned Australian rosarian, named this rose after his own Mary Guthrie, though what relationship Clark had with the Guthrie family is proving difficult to uncover. There’s a telling anecdote from a book titled The Rose Gardens of Australia that illustrates just how important the honor was to the namesake, which I’ve included below.
Polyantha rose – Rosa ‘Mary Guthrie’ — Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen
“… We had some notable visitors to the garden. From Eve I had got a vivid pink, single bush rose which she had called ‘Ella Guthrie’. One morning a delightful, white-haired, sprightly old lady of well over eighty visited us and, without any preamble, demanded to see the Alister Clark roses. I walked down with her and, as we came through the gate, she gave a cry of delight and started to run across the grass. ‘That’s me!’ she cried. ‘That’s me!’ Then, as she read the label saying ‘Ella Guthrie’ she turned to me in disgust. ‘That’s not ‘Ella,’ she said emphatically. ‘She was my aunt, and a poor, washed-out thing, like her rose. This is me! Mary Guthrie! Alister said it looked like a wild rose, so he called it after me, because I was always the wild one of the family.’ Of course, I changed the label without delay.”
– Susan Irvine