Ideas for some appropriate roses for botanic garden

I recently met the director of a local botanic garden which is attached to a local college. It is small, and the Landscape Technology students contribute quite a bit of time and effort both in its’ development and as a learning center. We did not have much time to chat, but he gave me his email address and suggested that I set an app’t with him to discuss some points. This is the email (very informal) I sent him.

Subject: The Rose Garden at ------------,

I have an interest in the rose garden portion of the “---------------”. I am newly retired (from a landscape related business) and also am an amateur rose hybridizer. I have wondered a number of things about this garden, among which is, what is the direction and intention of the end goal for the rose garden? It is evident that there is a low water and environmental emphasis amongst the rest of the garden, but I notice that the selection of varieties within the little rose section is not in any particular genre, except maybe quite modern. I would like to suggest that perhaps an emphasis on low maintenance, perhaps low water, and especially low chemical dependence would be a more appropriate way to express a modern rose garden.

I would like to meet and discuss this (not a proposal, but a suggestion) at your convenience. I believe that I have the acquaintance with enough hybridizers across the US and Canada to come up with roses that could be introduced as an educational adjunct to the ------------ and fulfill a much needed public education in what direction modern roses need to take, as many parts of Europe, Canada and perhaps eventually the USA bans carcinogenic chemicals and makes our environment safer for living things. Please reply if you are interested, or if any other direction for the rose garden has been indicated that I might be interested in.

Thank you for your attention,

He has replied and wants to set up a meeting when he is back in town after the 10th of June, and I wanted to know if there was any suggestions as to any great sources that I might review before meeting him. And are there any suggestions on anything in addition to what I stated in abbrieviated fashion in my email to him? This is not a big budget garden, and they do use their on site green house for propagating, etc.

What exists now are representative groupings of three each of pretty modern roses. The only rose that looked good,(this was mid May-the height of the rose blooming period in SoCal) was Julia Child. Suggestions, anyone?

I don’t know about suggestion on specific varieties. But I do think a good botanic garden should have some native plants from around the area. So what ever is native to that area of california I would expect to find species representing that area.

I would also if I was vistiting would expect to find some endangered varieties that they would be safe guarding. And most good botanic gardens either have a good collection of a few classes or they have the better members of several classes. But I will leave suggestions to others because I am not very familiar with the California climate.

There really aren’t many “native roses” to southern California other that Californica and Minutifolia. Neither are really suitable for “landscape use”. You could be funny and suggest the “natives” Dr. Huey, Iceberg, Sally Holmes and Cecile Brunner, mainly climbing. Perhaps having them obtain examples of the Mexican and Californian variations of Minutifolia and propagating them for fund raising sales might be of interest to them. The Mexican one seems the only fertilze version. California’s doesn’t set hips and the pollen doesn’t seem to work on anything. It only spreads itself by tip rooting. The Mexican form sets hips and is theoretically fertile. Tree of Life and several others offers the California version. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden sells them, and is, I believe, working to make the Mexican form available.

I am happy to share pieces of my R. Californica. Barbara Oliva generously shared their “choice selected form” from the old Historic Sacramento Cemetery with me. Perhaps collecting some of the found roses which have succeeded around California might be of interest? They all propagate easily and generally grow quite well in most of our environments. Grandmother’s Hat, Portland from Glendora, Crestline Mulberry and many from the Gold Country cemeteries make excellent landscape plants in many areas. Most are nearly ever-flowering and nearly all are quite fragrant. I grow Grandmother’s Hat and can easily obtain cuttings of Portland from Glendora for you. I’m also “connected” with a number of people who grow many of the found roses and who would, I’m sure, be thrilled to provide propagating material (perhaps even rooted cuttings with sufficient lead time) to insure their continued survival.

I think that the roses that they did have that looked decent were Iceberg, Climbing Cecile Brunner, and Julia Child. Some of the others that were very hurting for either lack of water/or over pruning was Black Magic, Artistry, About Face and Double Delight. Most of these have probably been donated or recommended because someone has them at home, and I believe all of the roses possibly were AARS winners. But they were all big thorny stems and very little flowers, and since they have so little space, it seems to me that some really reliable blooming, low disease candidates, i.e., Carefree Beauty, Bukuvu, Apricot or Peach Drift, Easy Going, Marmalade Skies would be appropriate, as well as any low disease proven performer that anyone may have developed as a member of RHA. Usually there is little to no blackspot here, and rust resistance is probably the most important. Oldies like Grandmothers Hat fit in well with the showy theme. They do have some areas where a Minutifolia or California or Woodsii would actually work well, but outside the rose garden. I am not sure anyone even knows it, but they have a rosa california on a rear fence that is 95% covered by Distictus (blood red trumpet vine, a weed if ever there was one).

What is probably needed is roses that work for this area, not roses that won some beauty contest, but now can’t hold up without special care. Carolyn Parker has the best attitude about what comprises a type of rose for cutting. Most people want a good 12-15" stem with a symmetrical flower on top. This is a good opportunity to educate the general public about how good a landscape rose can look, rather than trying to force formal rose garden subjects into a low maintenance area.


Your idea about ‘found cemetery’ roses is really good-and it is historic. I did not think about Sally Holmes and the ubiquitous Dr.Huey, Californias’ adopted native rose, it is in full color here now, and quite pretty for the next few weeks, I might add.

Long ago, maybe 25 years, a professor of horticulture asked me to provide some roses for a newly established garden at our university. There had been a formal garden that got displaced for a hideous box for the college of education, and the new location was out on the growing edge of campus next to the greenhouses. I tried to get some representatives of common classes of roses such as moss, centifolia, shrub, Brownell, miniature . The idea was to help people ID different classes, and also recognize specific ones that grow fairly commonly and easily in our intemperate climate. I did include Dr Huey which ended up on an archway and grew at least 10 ft tall all over it with good feeding. Also included the R. multiflora carnea that had been used as a rootstock and that I had found in abandoned farm foundation. I put in at least one version of La France, maybe two. One came from Roses of Yesterday; the other from the Reinsch Rose Garden in Topeka.

I did something similar for our city rose garden as the request of the landscape gardener, but bought the ones placed there.

Unfortunately, in both cases, someone who thought they knew more, moved things around so that labels got scrambled. So, I’d say count on that kind of interference. And if you plant suckers, expect suckering. I used our local prairie rose and of course if flourished all over the place. So did the moss and centifolia.

Take a look at the Earthkind list from TX if you want drought tolerant ones. But yes, emphasize your natives.

One which should do well there if they can handle a climbing rose, and is “historic”, though not necessarily to your location, is the Atmore Lamarque. It is Lamarque, but this particular plant is documented as having come from Placerville with the Atmore family around 1859 by wagon, when they migrated to Fillmore/Santa Paula. I grow this particular one because my best friend’s family has been in that area for about six generations and his family knows the Atmores. The thing supposedly can get large (the century-plus old plant IS), but my cutting grown plant won’t stop flowering long enough to grow. I hate to disbud it as it’s Lamarque, so it’s just flat out gorgeous. We were very fortunate that the great wealth throughout the state brought new European introductions of fashion, furniture, and horticulture here very soon after they were introduced in Europe.

There is also a found rose called Ladyfingers, which appears to be Manda’s Triumph. It grows at Empire Mine State Park. I grew it but had to find another home as I have very limited room for once-flowering ramblers and prefer to plant my own creations instead. Manda’s Triumph was offered commercially here in the Nineteenth Century.

I would imagine Teas, Chinas, Noisettes, Hybrid Musks would be the most durable, colorful, healthy and tenacious there, wouldn’t you? Fortunately, those classes have been well represented in the “found rose” class.

When maintained, Rosa primula and Rosa roxburghii are the most beautiful species I have ever seen. The blend in well with modern plants very easily.

Jackie, you might enjoy this catalog of all the varieties in the Sacramento Cemetery. It is beautifully done and may help you give him some ideas of the types of things which should do quite well there.

This is something I have been thinking about for over here… something I would LOVE to pitch at all the local botanical gardens in Australia.

Perhaps do as Adelaide Botanical Gardens have done and make it a trial ground with an emphasis on healthy roses bred by local hybridisers. This does many positive things for the gardens in that the gardens are in a cycle of change (managed by someone else in cooperation with the gardens), as new varieties are submitted for trial each year and the public get to see something different and new each time they visit. It encourages people to come and see the gardens to see what has been entered and what is doing well. They can introduce further interactivity by having people’s choice awards. It raises revenue for the gardens as submission includes a fee from each hybridiser (per variety). They can award prizes for what does well there and have a formal presentation (also a fund raiser for the gardens) to present breeders with their awards with reps from commercial growers present to help connect growers with hybridisers (like ok I won a gold medal in the trials now what?). It creates a level playing field for big breeders and small breeders alike. It helps to show case local breeder’s work and maybe more importantly helps to document their work as botanical gardens as as much about good record keeping as they are are about their gardens. It could end up as a formal association between the gardens and RHA even by having reps from RHA (there are enough of you in the area to make it work), where RHA help to determine the assessment criteria and supply reps to assist with the judging over a period of say three years per variety. You would reach a critical mass of roses in a few years to make it an established cycle of events and a model might then be established that can be ‘taken on the road’ to introduce into other botanical gardens to help breeders all over the place. In addition it would help to piece together a thorough ‘suitability map’ for new varieties and helps to spread the environmental sustainability ethos that underpins most of our breeding.

It’s ok for me to dream isn’t it puts on my rose coloured glasses again

Does California have a Rose Rustlers organization? The Texas Rose Rustlers here is a great resource here for historical roses. I would guess that the proposed location would need to be heat tolerant? Drought tolerant? Here in hot, dry Texas, Caldwell Pink and Phaleonopsis perform quite well.

There is a losely organized group who frequently collect from various cemeteries, homesteads, old cities, etc. Much of what there is has already been collected and documented. One couple regularly travels around the state and report back on the major finds. Rustling here began over thirty years ago and “finds” are now more of the rarity than rule. But, yes, should historic, “found” roses be desired, I believe we could probably choke them with them! LOL!

Many of the found roses here have been well documented and offered commercially by Vintage Gardens. Many are grown in the Sacramento Cemetery and San Jose Heritage Garden. Quite a few used to grow at The Huntington. I have also sent a good selection to Bierkreek in The Netherlands in hopes of someone being able to grow them near their potential identifications. The great wealth which has existed in this state from the beginning has drawn the newest, best of everything here from very early times. You would choke on what has been sold commercially here in the first century of development. Surely these foundlings have names and should be identifiable?

Thank-you for your opinions and two cents worth (even the rose-colored glasses one) because they all give me good ideas on different approaches, and points of departure. This is a multi layered project involving a director, students, design aspects, donations, volunteers, and many limitations (mostly space and $$) . I intend to suggest several possibilities, and see where these could fit in with the gardens’ educational and maintenance philosophies. In a world where we are all wearing rose colored glasses, wouldn’t it all be possible (except maybe getting suckering roses to stay in their allotted spaces)?