Press Pause

This week has been manic. It looks like the vast majority of my work will remain at home for the foreseeable future. Our service is adjusting to remote working, but it has its challenges. As we prepare for schools partially opening, we are trying to work out what this means for our service and the children we support.

I am thankful for moments of quiet. In between meetings, I open the window, and breathe.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

I press pause.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, bud opening, with full blooms behind.

The David Austin English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ helps me in this. She sits outside the window in front of my desk.

These three blooms have been capturing my attention when I look away from my computer screen. They are like three wise women.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

As the week has gone on, the first two or three blooms have been joined by more. I can see blooms in all their stages of maturity, from tight little bud to full-blown bloom.

In bud, you get a hint of the beauty to come. The petals are slightly ruffled at the edges. They turn back a little, as they start to unfold. Deep inside the bud, there is mystery. How are all those petals folded inside, so close?

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ in bud.

I have been consciously practising my breath awareness. I extend my out-breath, because this tells my nervous system to relax. It shifts gear from ‘fight or flight’ into ‘rest and digest’.

You can try this for a moment. Breathe in for a count of 4, and out for a count of 6.

(You can find a pace that works for you. So long as you extend the out-breath).

Try this for a minute or two. How do you feel?

By practising extending the out-breath, I have become aware of the capacity of my lungs. There is always a little more to relax, to empty out. My body follows. Muscles can let go a little more.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

‘Princess Alexandra’s petals remind me of this. She is only partially unfurled in this photo. The inner petals are still quite tightly coiled, and the outer petals can reflex and turn back further and further. She will exhale, relax… exhale further, relax more.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, unfolding.


English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, showing her beautiful rosette.

The inner petals make a beautiful pattern. They are mingled, but there is a swirl, radiating outwards from the centre. It is like the opposite of a black hole. Beauty, bounty, spreading outwards.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

Each bloom is beautiful from every angle. The petals take up their own space, without encroaching on one another.

You can see here how the inner petals still have a springy bounce, whilst the outer petals have relaxed backwards. This rose shows us how to throw back its shoulders, and open its chest to the day.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

The petals have a soft nap, like the most delicate velvet, or aged silk. The texture becomes even softer, impossibly soft, in the warmth of the sun. It is like the whole bloom sighs, and relaxes even more.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, basking in the midday sun.

The blooms of ‘Princess Alexandra’ are enormous. If I cupped one in my hand, it would be wider than the spread of my five fingers.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

There are downsides to this rose. Its growth habit is not the most beautiful. It is rather upright, and not so leafy or rounded as many other English roses. The solution is to interplant it with geraniums and poppies, which hide its ugly ankles.

I am enjoying this poppy, variety unknown, though it may be ‘Mrs Perry’. It was growing near the compost heap when we moved here. I have since split it several times and moved it here to the rose garden, where it complements the pinks and peaches of roses and peonies.

Oriental poppies transplant easily. You can dig them up and divide them after flowering. I would always recommend you cut the foliage back to the ground after flowering because the plant goes very scruffy. By cutting it right back, it will produce fresh foliage for the rest of the summer. Sometimes it might even flower again in late summer.

Bees love poppies. Poppies are rarely without a bee for company, smooshing its tummy against all the ticklish stamens.

Oriental poppy, variety unknown, but possibly ‘Mrs Perry’, with a bee friend.

You can see how well the poppy gets on with ‘Princess Alexandra’ here. They are sharing a moment. I like the poppies neat pleats against the rose’s soft silk. You can see the ticklish stamens in the poppies. No wonder the bees are so happy.

Oriental poppy, variety unknown, but possibly ‘Mrs Perry’

I do not find ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ to be the most fragrant of English roses. I have it planted next to the heady rugosa hybrid ‘Hansa’. ‘Hansa’ has a powerful, intoxicating scent. It is old rose, with deep, musky depths.

Rosa rugosa hybrid ‘Hansa’. One of the most fragrant roses I grow.

If I am going to breathe in the scent of ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, I will resist the urge to smell ‘Hansa’ first. If I sniff ‘Hansa’ it is like my smell receptors have been saturated by Hansa’s deliciousness. Instead, I breathe in ‘Princess Alexandra’ first.

There is an art to rose-breathing. You have to exhale fully first. Then bury your nose in the bloom. The rose has thoughtfully created a space for your nose in the centre of the bloom. It is as if nose and rose were made for one another. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Keep going. You will notice different scents at different stages of the inhale.

You might get old rose, tea rose, musk, damask. Depending on the rose, there are any number of fruit scents: lemon, blackcurrant, damson, pear, apple. Many roses, especially rugosa roses, have sweet spice scents of aniseed and cloves.

Then exhale. Exhale like ‘Princess Alexandra, and just enjoy the moment.


That is what the garden teaches me.

Pause for breath.

Pause for thought.

Pause for a moment.

Pause: a temporary stop in action or speech.

Pause: a period of silence between musical notes.

Pause: an opportunity for reflection.

Pause: a reminder not to react.

Pause: a space, a gap, an opportunity, a luxury, a need.

This week is one of my favourites of the year. It is the week the roses reach their zenith.

It can feel as though it is all moving too fast. The poppies, the peonies, the roses, all getting more and more beautiful by the day.

I struggle to capture it all for my blog.

But maybe I just need to pause.

I don’t need to capture everything.

Just this moment, this opportunity to pause.

And breathe.

And relax.

If you want to make more time for pausing, you might like to spend time with me in the garden. You can ‘follow’ The Mindful Gardener by clicking on the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of this page. You will receive a notification when a new post is published. I will share with you what is happening in the garden this week. I try to reflect upon life, and what the garden can teach us about living a more peaceful, sustainable life.

35 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thankyou lovely blog as ever beautiful Roses as ever and good breathing excercise .Please keep safe so enjoy reading your interesting blogs.

    1. Thank you so much. I am glad you like the breathing practice. It’s such a simple thing to do, and can be used in any situation.

  2. Ann Mackay says:

    A lovely pause by these beautiful roses and poppies! 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed them, Ann.

  3. What a beauty she is Ali! I can think of no better pleasure from working at home than to have Princess Alexandria of Kent right outside your window.
    We’re still working from home too, and I’m trying to enjoy my gardens as much as possible before they lock us back up in an office. It is a nice break from the computer to take a stroll in the garden.

    1. That’s a good point, Cindy; lockdown is more free than working in an office in many ways! I hope that some of these freedoms stick, beyond lockdown. I think we all need more natural daylight and fresh air.

  4. bcparkison says:

    If we can’t pause and enjoy the garden why have one? I do need a David Austin rose…or two or three.

    1. Oh yes, Beverley, and it is so hard to decide, but so fun choosing!

  5. susurrus says:

    Lovely pictures of one of my favourite roses.

    You don’t need any pressure from your blog at the moment – we will be delighted to enjoy whatever snippets we see. You do have a wonderful place to work from.

    1. I am glad you approve, Susan, I know you have so much experience with DA roses. I really appreciate your comment about taking the pressure off. What a kind thought.

  6. Ahhhhh, Princess Alexandra of Kent, you are so beautiful. Two other things I especially enjoyed about this lovely post: 1) They way you linked different kinds of pauses to gardening. 2) The idea of something being the opposite of a black hole, with beauty radiating outward. How lovely!

    1. I love this feedback, Shelly, it is so nice to know exactly what resonates. And kind of delightful. It’s like having a conversation that really excites you when you realise you are inspired by one another.

      1. Hurray, Ali! This makes me happy.

  7. Heyjude says:

    Princess Alexandria of Kent is very similar looking to Gertrude Jekyll. She smells nice too, but I stupidly planted mine where I can’t get very close. Fortunately her scent wafts through the air. I tried your breathing exercise. I find I count much faster on the breathe out part 😄 but seriously I did find my shoulders relaxing. You have a lovely office Ali.

    1. I love Gertrude Jekyll too, but alas, no more planting space, and the greed must stop somewhere.
      I have done the same thing with Tuscany Superb, planting it where it requires acrobatics to get to the blooms. The scarring from thorns and the slightly trampled plants are all worth it when my nose finds those blooms!

  8. Kellie says:

    Lovely post, thank you for the reminder to pause, I have found more awareness of this lately in my new normal and really enjoying these moments.

    1. Thank you Kellie. It is so interesting that this seems to be a universal feeling. It is like a collective awakening to what is important.

  9. Cathy says:

    Another lovely post Ali. I think breathing exercises are what I need as I have been feeling a bit panicky recently. So thank you so much for the tips. My roses aren‘t open yet -wish I could smell yours!

    1. I am so pleased to be able to help in a small way. I think most of us have disordered breath to some extent. I have a tendency to gasp at air, but over the last year I have really been more aware of my breath. This and going vegan has worked wonders for my breathing. Cutting out dairy completely cleared my nose of chronic congestion so that I can nose-breathe, and breath awareness is continuing to help me feel balanced and calm.

      1. Cathy says:

        I am so glad to hear you are vegan Ali. (We have been vegan for some years now). Good for you and for the animals you save! 😃

  10. Suzanne says:

    Beautiful array of roses. Good thing I have a healthy imagination as I could smell those roses (from memory). The art of relaxing is important even more so now.

    1. That is so lovely to hear. It is a wonderful ability to be able to conjure up scents.

      1. Suzanne says:

        I think so and I love roses. For me there isn’t too many flowers that aren’t lovely.

  11. Cathy says:

    I was going to say you excelled yourself in this post, Ali, but then realised that of course it was ‘just’ a typical post – you don’t call yourself the ‘Mindful Gardener for nothing! Thank you then, as always, for encouraging your readers to be more mindful too ps I was reading yesterday that David Austin is substantially reducing the varieties of roses they sell, and will no longer sell roses like Lady Em and Munstead Wood…

    1. Oh Cathy! I just signed up to ‘Horticulture Week’ just so I could read the article about David Austin cutting down their range. Of all the varieties to cut, ‘Munstead Wood’ and ‘Lady Em’ are my favourites!! I could possibly understand ‘Munstead Wood’ because there are other crimson varieties (though none with quite such divine blooms and scent). ‘Lady Em’ though. She has everything! Growth habit, foliage, health, quite a unique colouring, especially combined with the maroon foliage. We will have to take cuttings!

      1. Cathy says:

        I read it in Which? Gardening – it was just a small paragraph but I was quite shocked with these 2 being speficially mentioned. I am not sure if this means they will not be available anywhere else now as I don’t know what the laws are in this respect. Munstead Wood always stops visitors in their tracks here, and I found Lady Em through you and she has quickly become a favourite too, and I know other bloggers have gone on to buy her too. The range available to choose from is what has made the company my go to place for roses – I suppose it must be an economic decision, but I wonder if David Austin senior will be turning in his grave…

      2. I don’t think we will be alone in being surprised.

  12. Peg says:

    Wonderful blog post! Lessons for relaxing from a rose…and one of the most beautiful roses I have ever seen! Don’t think I have ever seen one with petals like that, at first I thought it was a peony. Absolutely stunning!

    1. Thank you Peg! Yes, it has the fullness and frill of a peony, and almost the size.

  13. Jewels says:

    Thank you for this beautiful pause Ali 💕

    1. Thank you too for appreciating it! ❤️

  14. Rupali says:

    Lovely post with such beautiful roses.

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