Wednesday, June 25, 2008

John Cabot: Explorer and Rose

There is some measure of speculation as to who 'discovered' North America (that is, who was the first European to land here). Many academics will concede that it was not necessarily Christopher Columbus in 1492. At best, his voyage can be credited with successfully navigating to the Caribbean. The 1497 voyage of Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), sponsored by King Henry VII of England, is increasingly accepted as the first North American landing by a European explorer. Some evidence from archaeology and folklore also fuel speculations favouring the Irish seafarer Brendan the Navigator (between 520 and 530), and the Viking explorer Leif Erikson (ca. 1003).

That Cabot reached the North American coast is not in question; precisely where he landed is. Newfoundland, Cape Breton, and Maine all claim the honour. Officially, Canada recognizes Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland as the landing site.

Between the 1960s and the 1990s, agronomists and horticulturalists at the University of Ottawa Experimental Farm bred and developed a series of roses that would be resilient enough to withstand a harsh Canadian winter. They dubbed these hybrid roses the "Explorer Series," naming each after a landmark Canadian explorer or 'trail blazer'.

Pictured at the top of this post is the John Cabot rose growing in our backyard. Bred in 1978 at the U. of O. Experimental Farm by Dr. F. Svedja, this hearty rose can be a climber or a shrub rose. A perfect choice, perhaps, for gardeners with a 'black thumb', this rose is resistant to some of the most common rose infections.

Photo Credit: The Jack of Hearts blog.

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