Ben Nevis Sunrose

'Ben Nevis'
Sun Rose

"The rose remembers
The dust from which it came."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay


The "Ben" series of Sun Roses (Helianthemum x nummularium) includes Ben Hope, Ben More, Ben Nada and so on, named for mountains, for in Scotland & Ireland a mountain or high hill is called a ben.

A ben is also a large room or apartment, for the mountains & hills were long believed to have hollow interiors which were secretly the homes of divinities & fairies. It is only quite recently that the belief has waned in "hill magic" orchestrated by the beings that dwelt therein.

"Ben" Sun Roses are old cultivars, numbering seventeen in all, created by John Nicoll (d. 1926), about whom little is known except that he was a jute merchant in Monifieth near Dundee, Scotland.

SunroseOf his seventeen original "Ben" Sun Roses, a few have become rare from the nursery trade, but others are among the best known of all Sun Roses. It is so curious that almost nothing should be known about a hobbyist plant breeder beyond his name & nation, & yet several of his creations would nevertheless remain garden standards never improved upon.

The variety shown here is 'Ben Nevis,' has bright orange flowers which resemble single wild roses. It is named for the highest mountain in Great Britain, in Scotland, its summit first reached in 1892. The name "Nevis" is probably from an old Gaelic word meaning "venomous" & may have been the name of some demonic supernatural being associated with that mountain.

Folklore makes Ben Nevis the home of sleeping giants. As the tale goes, a weary hunter caught out in a storm took refuge in a black cave of Ben Nevis. He found therein a weird ivory horn from some fabulous beast.

When he blew upon the horn, he was suddenly able to perceive giant warriors standing stone-still in niches all along the cavern walls, though a moment before no such niches were visible. He sounded the horn once more, & the stone warriors stepped forth, placing their enormous hands on the hilts of their swords.

The hunter fled the cavern of Ben Nevis in terror, never again to hunt thereon. To this day people say that forgotten heros of the Gaelic age of myth rest within Ben Nevis. Perhaps they will rise from their long slumber in the time of Armageddon, when even King Arthur will return for the final cosmic battle.

'Ben Nevis' is a fast-growing evergreen subshrub that thrives in poor dry soil with deep drainage. We have a roadside sun-garden which is difficult to reach with watering hoses, so everything chosen for down at that end can get by without much more than normal rainfall to keep it healthy.

We've several sun rose cultivars along that curb edge, where they sprawl prettily in a low-growing eight or ten inch tall, wide-spreading groundcovers, floriferous from mid to late May through most of the summer. When they finally stop blooming at some point in summer, they can be sheered a bit, which induces new growth & a re-flowering in autumn.

Foliage varies from variety to variety, ranging from green to blue-grey. The foliage of 'Ben Nevis' is shiny green. it is also a tighter more compact little shrub than any other variety we've planted, & less capable of cascading off a stone ledge.


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