Alice, Lady Hillingdon, 1857 -1940
Origin: Lowe and Shawyer, GB, 1910
Parentage: Papa Gontier x Madame Hoste
Size of flower: 10cm
Scent: Strong, redolent of tea
Climbing Lady Hillingdon
Origin: Hicks, GB
Flower size: 11cm
Spread: 2m - or rather more in my experience
Lady Hillingdon is one of the last tea roses to be bred, and a very popular one, particularly the climbing sport, which can be seen draped in creamy yellow piles up the fronts of houses the length and breadth of Britain. The flower are cupped and slightly drooping, initially a dark melting sugar colour, which fades to cream and almost white at the edges but keeping an apricot heart. They come in clusters of three to seven, with long elegant buds, and new growth is dark crimson with a purple bloom, later turning dark green. The bush tends to be thin and ungainly, but very generous with its blossoms. The climber is very vigorous (I know this to be true, because I have a vast one flowering all over my back garden wall, and drooping in bottles on my kitchen table, as I write), and its flowers are larger and droopier, and more yellow.
Alice, Lady Hillingdon was born the Hon Alice Harbord-Hamond and married the second Lord Hillingdon. As a wedding present her father gave them property in Norfolk, where they built Overstrand Hall, according to Pevsner 'one of Lutyens's most remarkable buildings, at the time when he had reached maturity but still believed to the full in his own inventiveness', but Lady Hillingdon reportedly preferred London, for the society.
It is said that in her journal for 1912, or in a letter to her mother (which sounds rather unlikely), Lady Hillingon wrote: 'I am happy now that Charles calls on my bedchamber less frequently than of old. As it is, I now endure but two calls a week and when I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England.'
Sadly, her journal has been lost. Perhaps on purpose. But whether or not it was hers, what a gift that phrase has been.
The picture above is her portrait by Bassano, who photographed all the ladies of the day, from the National Portrait Gallery.