Hamptons gardeners get a ‘bodacious’ Bette Midler rose

|    Amanda Gordon    |

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) – Marjorie Rosen, the wife of Wall Streeter Jeffrey Rosen, was roaming the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden Wednesday night when she happened upon a striking new flower, ivory coloured with a pale golden centre.

Luckily for Rosen, she was standing with her personal gardener, Stephen Scanniello, who assured her it could thrive at her home in the Hamptons.

The rose has quite the pedigree. Its parents are Sunny Sky and Pope John Paul II. “He’s the father and he is high maintenance,” said breeder Brad Jalbert. “That’s where it gets the size of the bloom.”

But perhaps more important is the person after whom it’s named: Bette Midler, the actress and singer who made her motion-picture debut 40 years ago in the film The Rose.

The idea for this honour came from Amy Goldman Fowler, a friend of Midler’s who was looking for ways to support the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), which Midler founded to plant community gardens and trees in the city. When the rose becomes available at retail – which won’t be for at least 18 to 24 months – USD1 from each sale will go to the NYRP in perpetuity.

The Divine Miss M, a hybrid tea rose
Marjorie Rosen and Stephen Scanniello
Amy Goldman Fowler. – PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG

Fowler, an expert on vegetables who has a book on melons coming out in September, isn’t an authority on roses. So she turned to Scanniello, who not only has clients in the Hamptons but is also the botanical garden’s chief rosarian.

“I was told by Bette, ‘I want something that’s sexy’ and I was like, ‘Help!’” Scanniello said. “And then Brad told me about this one. What caught my eye is that it flattens, and it has a twist in the middle.”

For now, the Divine Miss M, as the rose is called, has found a home at the botanical garden, sharing a bed with a light pink Wedding Bells variety. Nearby are hybrids named for Julie Andrews and Maggie Smith.

“I’ve always wanted to have a rose named after me,” Midler said as she got ready for an NYRP dinner celebrating those who had a hand in getting the rose named for her. “When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a book of roses and the way they described them – Madame Bluh bluh bluh, Princess This. That must be the most beautiful, the scent must be overwhelming.”

Scanniello said the tradition of rose naming really took off when Empress Josephine (Napoleon’s first wife) began giving the flowers at Malmaison names like Cuisse de Nymphe emue.

“She made roses fun, and all her girlfriends suddenly wanted their name on a rose,” he said.

When Midler saw her namesake, she was quite pleased. “Its petals are curly; that’s wonderful because I’m a very curvy gal. They say it’s bodacious. I’ll accept that.”

The bloom has a citrus fragrance or, as Midler put it, myrrh and lime.