Saturday, June 30, 2018

Red roses in the green vineyards


Roses planted in a vineyard??
If you are from rural Italy or France or California you probably know about this tradition.
But it was news to me when our tour guide pointed it out on June 12, just as the scene was quickly  disappearing from the bus window.
We were traveling through the Jerusalem Hills, west of Jerusalem.

He explained the roses as an early warning system.
Roses are more susceptible to the same type of fungal disease (e.g. powdery mildew and downy mildew) than the grapevine. 
So if there are signs of trouble on the roses the farmer knows that action needs to be taken soon or the grapevines will be infected next. 

I later read on a European website

Another reason I have heard is that in addition to being a ‘canary’ when the vines were worked with draft horses or oxen,  roses encouraged them to turn properly at the end of the rows because of their thorns, ensuring that the working animals weren’t tempted to cut a corner and damage the last vine.
Or this from Australia:

". . . many a vineyard manager would smile at this quaint romantic notion. Their job is more sophisticated than watching the roses bloom. In these days of modern technology roses are planted at the rows end for purely cosmetic reasons, but don't let that spoil another great story...
Some time ago in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales I quizzed one of the “old timers” in the area about the same issue. His response left me wondering whether or not he was “having a lend of me”.In the early days of grape growing, before any mechanisation, the vineyard work was completed using horses and horse pulled equipment. The best source of strong “draught horses” were the local coalmines where any pulling work involved horses.Sadly the distance underground was so far that the horses used were stabled in areas deep underground and, while they were very well cared for, their eyesight eventually became a casualty of the environment. The period horses were kept underground was mercifully short but permanent damage to their vision occurred. As the horses were “traded out” the local farmers and grape growers sought to utilise their great strength and stamina, particularly working with ploughs in vineyards where the rows were quite narrow.
Now the reason for the roses at the ends of the rows, as explained by this particular veteran, was to let the ‘blind’ horses know when they reached the end and it was time to turn. Roses in the Hunter Valley constantly bloom almost all year. I was never able to convince myself either way with his story; Australians can be very straight-faced when “spinning a yarn”. I will leave it up to you to decide."
UPDATE: See more in the Comments section  about the "pit ponies," the horses, mules, and ponies which worked in the dark coal mines of many countries for more than two centuries.


William Kendall said...

Ah! That makes sense.

Gosia k said...

lovely photo and greetings from Poland

Sandi said...

That is so sad about the horses losing their sight!

Dina said...

Shalom Gosia and William.

Sandi, today I started to read about those "pit ponies," and learned a lot which MERCIFULLY I never knew. If you have the heart for it, read the links below, or at least look at the old photos.
Horses, ponies, and mules worked underground in coal mines in Canada, USA, England, Wales, Europe, Australia, etc. from 1750 until the mid-20th century.

“Blind ponies were not allowed [by law] to work in the mines,” says Priest. “Working in the dark did not make them blind as such. Ponies’ eyes were damaged due to injury from falling rocks or sharp objects hitting them. Old age sometimes caused blindness. They had lung problems with the coal dust, as did the miners. The Coal Mines Regulations Act of 1887 offered the first proper protection for working horses and ponies in the form of mine inspectors to monitor how horses and ponies were treated underground to the extent that the roadways should be big enough to allow ponies to walk along without rubbing against the tunnel. The Coal Mines Act of 1911 was more effective and the section dealing with ponies became the ‘Pit Ponies’ Charter.’”
--- from

A shorter article:

Alice said...

Very interesting Dina

Hels said...

Cute story :) "The reason for the roses at the ends of the rows was to let the blind horses know when they reached the end and it was time to turn". Roses in the Hunter Valley may well bloom almost all year long, but it would have been far cheaper and easier to stick in a single stalk of lavender.