'Big, sharp and dangerous' is how one gardening writer described rose bush Lorraine Lea's thorns. 'So don't plant one near driveways or pathways,' the writer continued. I have one in the front garden but clear of the pathway. I did, however, almost sever a tendon when pushing the lawn mower under an arched Lorraine Lea branch, and a thorn cut through the top knuckle of my clenched fist like a shark's fin cutting the water. At least it was a clean cut.
Lorraine Lea is also a climber. A few years ago, after pulling out a too-rampant jasmine, I put one in the east sideway where, once it reached the top of the fence, it could ramble. About twelve feet away, I planted another rose: Albertine. Twelve feet wasn't enough. Albertine is winning the turf war, its unusually narrow stems overtaking Lorraine Lea, and its soft, smallish delicate pink buds now appearing to grow on Lorraine Lea stems. Lorraine's are a denser pink with a faint yellow tinge. Both are stunning. Spring mornings are a sight when the blind goes up.
Lorraine Lea was a hit when released in the 1920s. Survivors remain. In this suburb, I have seen several ancient examples. There is even a house with one of those brass names that reads Lorraine Lea. Its front garden has several old examples. One has a trunk a foot wide, an ugly leafless prehistoric monster with bark like an elephant's. Then it unexpectedly puts out a pink springtime flower somewhere in its grey mass, like the monster cradling a baby. Amazing to think of some long-gone gardener planting it in the early twentieth century, and their children playing around it, avoiding its big, sharp, dangerous thorns.