|Nick Leshi is Associate Director of Public Relations and Electronic Media.|
Imagine my surprise this summer when I received a handwritten postcard from Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine.
The story began in June when I received a phone call from a visitor to The New York Botanical Garden who was delighted to discover in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden a white modern rose named after a friend. That friend happened to be Joan Fontaine, best known for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), for which she won an Oscar. Ms. Fontaine also appeared in many other film classics from Hollywood’s golden age, including Gunga Din (1939), The Women (1939), Jane Eyre (1944), and Ivanhoe (1952).
I sent an image of the Joan Fontaine rose to the caller and was delighted to learn that she forwarded the photo to the legendary actress. Needless to say, Ms. Fontaine’s resulting note of appreciation made my day.
The episode inspired me to think of other roses named after celebrities. To paraphrase Peter Kukielski, Curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, walking through the Beatrix Farrand-designed beds is like stumbling upon a tea party of the famous. The soft apricot flowers of the ‘Marilyn Monroe‘ rose are near the deep pink blooms of another hybrid tea named after Elizabeth Taylor. Also nearby is the ‘Julia Child’ floribunda, the 2006 All-America Rose Selections winner, with its buttergold petals and licorice candy fragrance. Watching over them all with its double pink flowers is the hardy grandiflora ‘Queen Elizabeth.’
Other roses are named after artists such as ‘Rembrandt‘ Portland or the floribunda ‘Henri Matisse‘ or the standard rose ‘Auguste Renoir‘ or the ‘Audubon‘ shrub. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has at least two roses with his moniker, the Hybrid Musk ‘Mozart‘ and the climber ‘Amadeus.’ Famed scientists also have their rose doppelgangers, including Charles Darwin and Madame Marie Curie. And still other roses honor Amelia Earhart, George Burns, and Johann Strauss. Famous names pop out from the world of fiction as well, such as ‘Othello,’ ‘Falstaff,’ and ‘Betty Boop.’
The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is a delightful destination full of surprises, with wonderful color and fragrance right up until the first frost of the season.