Entrance to exhibit

Entrance to exhibit with a bowl of dried rose petals for fragrance. Photos by Olson Visual

2008 was the 100th anniversary of The Huntington Rose Garden and my 25th anniversary as the Curator of the Rose Collection. This time last year I was rapidly ramping up for the exhibit “La Rose Impériale”which ran from early February through April in the Boone Gallery. As part of the celebrations around the Rose Garden Centennial we hosted a year long series of programs and lectures focused on the rose collection which proved to be popular with our members and visitors. It is gratifying to realize that there is such a dedicated and loyal corps of rose lovers out there!

We explored such diverse topics as rose photography with Syl Arena to garden design with Michael Marriott. Our Great Rosarian lecture series featured William Radler, the hybridizer of the world’s besting selling rose cultivar, ‘Knock Out.’ Bill presented his lecture at the Huntington in late March and New York in early April. The selection of Bill as our Great Rosarian was intended to focus on new trends in rose gardening. We hoped to emphasize the trend towards growing healthy roses and new breeding lines which are intended to take away the focus on the “problems” gardeners have perceived in growing roses and emphasize the idea of growing disease resistant new cultivars. The non-rose growing public sees roses as difficult plants requiring copious spraying to remain healthy and flower. Those of us who grow roses know nothing could be further from the truth, true in some regions we do face major disease problems, but proper cultivar selection these problems can be minimized or eliminated totally.

Chinese Port Mural

China rose section with a mural of an 19th century Chinese port on the wall.

As part of the GROW East program in New York the Manhattan Rose Society sponsored a panel discussion on Sustainable Gardening. Many on the panel spoke of the need to focus our energy on the health of our soils and not on using chemicals to provide a short term solution for the problems of disease. These panel discussions have proved so popular that Pat Shanley and her Manhattan Rose Society decided to continue the discussion at the GROW East program again this year, and we have decided to join them with a similar panel at our event GROW West event coming up on February 8.

This Great Rosarians weblog is nearly a year old. I started blogging in May of 2008 and the first year anniversary is just around the corner. It has been fun but I haven’t been as faithful at posting as I could have been and that will have to be remedied. In my defense it wasn’t as easy to blog from the road as I had thought during our road trip and curently rose pruning is sapping most of my creative energy right now.

Parkinson's Roses

Applying a vinyl panel of Parkinson’s roses to the wall.

“La Rose Impériale was my first opportunity to produce an exhibit at The Huntington. The exhibit gave me the opportunity to display nearly 250 of our rare and modern rose books and tell the story of how the rose became one of the world’s most popular flowers and tell the stories of the men and women who worked to produce our modern remontant roses. Many of the books on display  had not been on public view in my 25 years at The Huntington. The act of gathering them into one exhibit and telling the story of the rose was a daunting challenge but well received by our members and visitors.

There were so many parts of the exhibit that stand out in my mind but I think the sections that received the most visitor comments were the section on the China roses, the story of Empress Josephine’s contributions along with the interactive display of Redouté’s Les Roses on the touch screen monitor, the section on rose fragrances, and the time line of the modern rose, ‘Double Delight’ where we visually traced its parentage back through the decades to the time of Josephine in the early 19th century. That alone took up an entire wall of the exhibit!

Double Delight Genealogy

The genealogy of ‘Double Delight’ and Rose Fragrance Room.

For those new to roses I think it was a surprise to realize how connected the rose is to human history and for those of us familiar to roses it was a treat to see some of the most wonderfully beautifully illustrated works on display in one place and time. I love telling stories and being fortunate enough to have a great research library at my disposal gave me the opportunity of a life time to tell this story.

I wish more of you would leave comments following postings as that would help me focus on what you want to see in this blog but I do thank all of you have taken the time to leave comments and I do read them and try to improve and focus the blog for future readers.

Rose Hedge

The section of modern rose books, surrounded by a hedge of rose foliage.

(Originally posted January 31, 2009)