TV gardener Carol Klein embarks on an epic quest to uncover the history behind some of the nation’s beloved blooms.
In this pioneering four-part series, TV gardener Carol Klein explores the botanical history of four of our favourite garden plants: the rose, the tulip, the iris and the water lily. She traces each plant’s epic journey through time, revealing how evolution and mankind have conspired to create unique characteristics.
The first episode looks at the rose as Carol takes us on a very British plant odyssey. The rose has always meant so much to the British; it is embedded in our history, our fairy tales, and our hearts. To understand the origins of our most cherished garden flower we need look no further than the hedgerow. Our native dog rose – rosa canina – has changed very little in 37 million years. Its prickles, acting like tiny crampons, allow it to climb above other plants and even harbour bacteria to fend off hungry assailants. The Romans adored its simple flowers, but they adored densely-petalled mutations even more and soon began to develop these by taking cuttings.
We love roses for their perfume as much as their beauty, but the scent a rose produces is not for our benefit. Professor Jeff Ollerton explains where in the flower the wonderful smells originate and how odour plumes spread in order to entice passing pollinating insects. These aren’t the only chemical messages that the rose can broadcast; when under aphid attack, they release an aroma that acts like a distress beacon to summon in ladybirds and other insects for an aphid meal.
The rose has come to be so much more than just a collection of cells and chemical reactions. At Exeter Cathedral Carol sees what an important symbol it has been to religion, and we discover that it was in the eighteenth century that a chance meeting between two roses on the Island of Reunion created a whole new class of rose. One that would lead to a passion for breeding the exquisite, voluptuous blooms that we know and love today.
A visual feast, Carol Klein’s Plant Odysseys will take everyone – from the green-fingered to those who simply appreciate the beauty of a bloom – on an unforgettable journey.
Tune in on Monday 27th July, 7pm, BBC Two.