I’ve been celebrating the arrival of my roses here in my Lewes, UK, garden and today it’s the turn of my rose, Mortimer Sackler, a delightfully vivid pink that grows profusely on the most vigorous of all my climbing roses. It is early days with just a few blooms but soon the bush will be covered in pink. I have to admit that I had never heard of Mortimer Sackler, the man after whom this David Austin rose was named, I chose it for my garden by its appearance.
People often ask what this rose is called and I have to wrack my brain to remember the name Mortimer Sackler. So now seems a good time to find out just who he was and why he had a rose named after him.
Actually, Mortimer Sackler (1916- 2010) was an interesting man. A pharmaceutical doctor, born in Brooklyn, New York, who established chemistry companies in the US and the UK, did important work on the use of drugs in psychiatry and who made a millions of dollars fortune which he used for a long list of philanthropic activities in the world of science and the arts. He was an American anglophile who spent a significant part of of his life in Britain and who married an English woman, Theresa Sackler, who is an enthusiastic gardener and who was behind the naming of this rose in 2002, in honour of her husband. It is now one of his many memorials. Theresa Sackler explained her choice of this rose because, she says, it reminded her of him: “The blooms give the impression of delicacy and softness but are, in fact, very tough and little affected by bad weather.” She wasn’t wrong about the roses in my garden.
If I had known more about Dr. Sackler, I might well have chosen the rose in his honour too as his philanthropy included the creation, in 2010, of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, just down the road from here at Sussex University where they study the biological science of consciousness itself leading, we can only hope, to a deeper understanding of the brain and the way consciousness works and even finding new treatments for mental illnesses such as dementia, depression and schizophrenia. As a trauma brain injury survivor, it seems appropriate that I have a Mortimer Sackler rose in my garden.
Mortimer Sackler also donated large sums of money to two of my favourite arts institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where the Sackler Wing (architect Kevin Roche) has been the spectacular setting, since 1978, for the ancient Egyptian temple, The Temple of Dendur (15th Century BC) given to the US in 1963 when it had to be moved because of the construction of the Aswan Dam. On my first visit to New York, I was astounded by many things but one abiding memory was my first time in this thrilling space. I love New York so I’m more than happy to have this connection with the US in my little English garden.
The less obviously named Room 34 at London’s National Gallery was also the beneficiary of a substantial donation from Mortimer Sackler. I have often wandered through, and lingered in, this room that houses a great collection of paintings by 18th and 19th Century English painters.
I am not the only Englishman to have found myself sitting contemplatively in this tranquil space set in the middle of London. If you find yourself there then spare a thought for Dr Mortimer Sackler. I shall think of him now whenever I’m out there in my garden. The James Bond connection is a bonus but he’s welcome out there too along with the admirable Dr. Sackler. I can’t leave you without showing you that scene when Bond meets the new Q (Ben Whishaw) in Room 34:
It is now available as a paperback or on Kindle (go to your region’s Amazon site for Kindle orders)
…or from Amazon: