Rosemary Miss Jessopp’s Upright (AGM) – Who Exactly was Miss Jessop?

Rosemary Miss Jessopp’s Upright was propagated by the renowned plantsman and horticultural author, Edward Augustus Bowles (1865 –1954) who gardened with great success and acclaim at his lifelong home, Myddelton House at Bulls Cross in Enfield, Middlesex. The garden is open to the public where many of his quirky innovations and introductions remain, including a wild rock garden; a corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) and two clumps of (well-contained) Japanese knot weed.
After reading divinity at Jesus College, Cambridge, Bowles returned home and “devoted himself to social work, painting, and natural history, particularly entomology” though these domestic interests did not prevent him from exercising another great passion – international plant collecting including frequent alpine trips in the spring to escape the hay fever season back home and more adventurous visits to Greece and North Africa. By the turn of the century, his collection included over 130 species of colchicum and crocus – and a lot more besides.
Bowles was mentored by the respected amateur horticulturalist and author, Canon Henry Nicholson Ellacombe (1822–1916), Rector of Bitton, Gloucestershire. Bowles’ progress and achievements were soon recognised and he was elected to the RHS Council in 1908. He was a Vice-President from 1926 until his death. In 1916 he was awarded their highest award, the Victoria Medal of Honour. He is remembered by the Society with a memorial garden at Wisley.
By the end of his life, Bowles had named around forty plant varieties after himself and several more after others. A hellebore ‘Gerrard Parker’ was named after a local art master, the Crocus tommasinianus ‘Bobbo’ after the boy who first spotted it and, in the 1920s, our Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ after a neighbour, fellow gardener and spinster, Euphemia Jessopp. Euphemia had presented him with a cutting of the plant that he then propagated and distributed. They must have got on well for she is also remembered in one of his beloved crocuses, the small white Crocus x jessoppiae (1924) that, as Bowles wrote: “appeared in some seedlings and offsets I gave to my neighbor the late Miss Euphemia Jessopp.” The exchange of seeds and cuttings has always been one of the more companionable features of gardening, but few friends can have instigated such productive swapsies.
Unfortunately nothing else is known about Euphemia, other than she predeceased Bowles. It is, however, generally accepted it was to the plant’s bearing, rather than to that of Miss Jessop herself, that Bowles was referring when he added the word ‘upright’.
Incidentally, in 1957 a cutting from a Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ growing at Sissinghurst Castle was taken by the plantswoman Elizabeth de Forest and propagated in her Santa Barbara, California, garden from where it entered the American nursery trade.
Bowles horticultural books include My Garden in Spring, My Garden in Summer and My Garden in Autumn and Winter, all published in 1914 and 1915.