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A Taxonomy of the Names of the Roses in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Tag yourself, we're Comtesse Festetics Hamilton.

Roses in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Roses in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Anything else by the same name would be just as weird.

It is the season of roses. In parks and planters and yards, redolent blooms burst heavy and fragrant. If you are in New York City, a good place to see a lot of roses in one place is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, whose Cranford Rose Garden has, since 1928, put a shocking number of different rose cultivars on display. The magnificent collection showcases the wide variety of roses in existence, displaying a range of color, blossom size, shape, clustering, and smell. If you are a gardener, or an aesthete, or simply someone who appreciates a  bunch of pretty flowers on a sunny day, the BBG's rose garden will delight you.

But if you are a word person, or prone to missing the point, or some combination of the two, you may find yourself distracted by the fact that every one of these varieties has a name, a name often completely unrelated to any obvious characteristic of the rose, and, in many instances, one that, if you were in the business of naming roses, would not have occurred to you. What are all these names? How do they relate to each other? Touring the garden, your pattern-finding faculties may begin to spin up, assembling the names into broad categories. 

Back home, you may find that the vision of a sea of roses, undulating softly in the saturating amber wash of late-afternoon light, is quickly fading into the forgetful void, the memory of the heady perfume of the gardens cooking off like so many volatile organic compounds. 

All that remain are the names, the names and their great sprawling profusion. You may take it upon yourself to bring some order to the chaos, and to sketch out, and ultimately publish in a local blog, a Preliminary Taxonomy of the Names of the Roses in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. 

(Hell Gate)

The names are real; the categories are a work in progress:

Self-Important: Gold Medal, Super Hero, The Finest

Weirdly Prosaic: Chrysler Imperial, Duplex, International Herald Tribune, Mom's Rose

Geographical: Kew Gardens, City of York 

Emphatically Geographical: Donau!

Literary: Tolstoi, Goethe, The Ancient Mariner, The Wife of Bath, Long John Silver

Musical: Earth Angel, Dancing in the Dark, Satchmo

Drinks You Are Unlikely to Order Twice: Tequila Supreme, Peachy Knock Out, Dakota Sun, Voodoo, Lavaglut

Drinks You Totally Might Order Twice: Lemon Fizz, Hot Cocoa

Pleasurecraft Docked at the Patchogue Marina: Easy Does It, Home Run, Summer Memories, Outta the Blue, Crazy Love, Oh Happy Day, Pure Poetry, Dee-Lish

(Hell Gate)

Terms of Address Favored by Gentleman You May Wish to Avoid: Sweet Mademoiselle, Grande Amore, Cherry Lady, Big Momma, First Crush, Freckles

Royalty and Titled Nobility: Queen Elizabeth, Princesse Charlène of Monaco, Earl of Dufferin, Lady of Shallott

Medical Condition: Faint Heart, Champneys' Pink Cluster

Ambiguously Porny: Stephen's Big Purple, Fred Loads, Fraser's Pink Musk, Wicked Sister, Dark Desire, Oso Happy Petite Pink, Oso Easy Peachy Cream

Potentially Useful Names If You Are Going on the Lam and Need a New Identity: Mrs. R.M. Finch, Hugh Dickson, Comtesse Festetics Hamilton

Henceforth please address me as Comtesse Festetics Hamilton. (Hell Gate)

Weed Strain: Pink Brick House, Aztec, High Voltage, Country Doctor

How Thomas Chatterton Williams Ruefully Refers to 4:20 p.m.: Fragrant Hour

Objectively Best Name: Climbing Belinda's Dream

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