Othello rose
Many varied pictures of the David Austin rose Othello, along with an article from Regina discussing this 'wonderful' rose and why rose thorns are correctly called prickles.


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Othello rose.File# 100_1116

Varietal name: AUSlo; David Austin 1986; large blooms, classified as medium red ?? with a powerful old rose fragrance. Parentage:Lilian Austin The Squire;

Othello has been a wonderful rose in my garden in Reno NV. I had chosen the spot carefully. Because of its exceptionally nasty armor, it needed to be well away from all regularly traveled paths, and it needed plenty of room to spread out. In a spot like that, the ranginess of the canes works to its advantage, soaring high and wide. In my garden, a few smaller roses are tucked up underneath Othello's arching canes to further protect visitors from accidental incursions, and to soften the visual effect.

Othello's flowers open a deep cerise, and age gracefully to a blowsy heliotrope - a purple toned shade which I particularly love. In my climate, Othello blooms well throughout summer though that is probably not the case in all climates - I believe that this is one of many Austins which need a winter chill to bloom well.

I have also seen Othello work well in a small garden where it was pruned very hard every year, but I am happy to have been able to give it all the space it needs to really show its stuff, where it can be every bit the magnificent beast.

Othello,larkspur, calendula and hollyhock
with New Dawn on the archFile#  

Othello's huge blooms commanding the landscape. File#p5150004

Gardens are in a continual state of evolution. This old photo (above left) with Othello in the foreground reminds me of that in a most amusing way. If I were to try to photograph from that position today, I would be inside a ten foot fortress of Othello canes. And I cannot think of a more dangerous place for one's body.

But what is most amusing about this photo is the whole concept of New Dawn being "on" the arch. In the photo, New Dawn is draped artfully over the wooden arch; today New Dawn is quite literally "on" what is left of the arch - now buried under a twenty foot mound of New Dawn canes. This spring I finally managed to pull out the once upright portions which were flattened and twisted. The top is still caught under the rose and is likely to stay there in perpetuity, not that anyone would ever notice, apart from the hapless gardener who has to crawl around underneath to attempt to clean out the old dead wood.

Rose thorns correctly known as 'prickles'. File#d2784  

Othello blooms File_#F1119  

The first - and hopefully last - serious encounter I had with the "prickles" on Othello caused such a rip of skin that I have pussyfooted around this rose ever since. The prickles are massive, sharp, and firmly attached to the heavy canes - my tender skin was simply no match for this monster.

In fact, the use of the term "prickles" for what Othello comes armed with really borders on the ludicrous. In the interior of a plant stem are the vascular tissues - the plant's circulatory system. On the exterior are the dermal tissues - the skin. From a botanical perspective, a thorn is a modified branch which contains xylem and phloem - the plant's vascular tissues. Thus, a thorn is an outgrowth of the interior of the stem.

A prickle is part of the external portion of the stem - a dermal appendage which lacks vascularity. This is easily demonstrated with rose "thorns". Give them a little sideways pressure and they pop right off. So the armor of roses are properly called prickles.

But we also hear such words in a non-botanical, more emotional context - the connotation of the word, as opposed to the denotation - the literal meaning. A prickle sounds to us like a minor irritation, and a thorn sounds like something more serious. There is nothing about these appendages on Othello which one should not take seriously.

Many rose prickles are flexible, and many pop off of the stems quite easily. These are rigid, thick, and strongly attached. When one snags one's own dermis on these dermal appendages, there is simply no doubt about the "winner".

Fortunately, Othello is also a winner in my garden in much more positive ways. It is a dramatic and very beautiful plant when the location has been well chosen, providing a focal point of both color and structure. And evidently, I am not alone in this assessment - at one time David Austin had moved Othello to his list of superseded roses. He has since reevaluated and once again offers Othello as part of his US Main Collection of English Roses.

Othello Rose Bush.File#d2617  

Finally this shot of an Othello rose bush, taken one lovely misty morning in Dianne and Ross King's garden in the Sierra foothills.

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