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The Heritage Rose Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1986, founded and developed to preserve and disseminate education and information about old garden roses and their origins and history. Between May 12th and 15th 2005 the convention and annual meeting was held in El Cerrito, California. Of the three hundred and fifty members almost half attended. There were about one hundred and eighty attendees. In addition to US citizens there were attendees from Australia (speakers and others), Bermuda, France (a speaker) and Canada.


The opening day was a tour to two localities south of El Cerrito, which is located across the bay from San Francisco. The first garden visited was the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden which is located under the approach flight path to San Jose Airport. This garden is formally laid out on a circular basis and an excellent catalogue is available. Some roses arefound roses rescued from various locations in California. As the number of climbing roses structures were limited in this garden by the airport authorities many were moved from shrub locations to the campus of Santa Clara University which we visited in the afternoon. The garden designers weren't allowed to put up arbours which would have nearly doubled the number of climbers in the main garden.


At Santa Clara the climbers are used to disguise the fence round part of the campus. The fence is a steel fence set in panels between stone pillars. Each panel is numbered and there are four roses per panel which is the reference used in the catalogue.


Registration for the conference commenced in the evening and was followed by a wine bar and buffet supper which gave us a chance to greet old friends and make new ones. We were also able to view the display of old and classic roses which had been arranged chronologically by type and by date of introduction. These were also a reference for the story of roses in California.


The next morning (May 13) started the main conference. After the welcome from Stephen Scanniello the theme for the morning was History and Sources of the Rose in California introduced by Gregg Lowery of Vintage Gardens. Alice Flores described the Wild California Roses (pre 1749). These roses include Rosa california, Rosa Woodsii var ultramontane, Rosa nutkana, Rosa pisocarpa and finally the very rare Rosa minutifolia. Following Alice Flores was Tom Brown on A History of Roses in California (1750 to1950) Tom revued the story of cultivated roses in California starting with the early Spanish mission gardens. Going on to the California Gold Rush and the development of commercial rose growing and breeding of roses in California. He reviewed the work of the Lesters, Will Tillotson and Dorothy Stemler who started the appreciation for old roses.


Following a break Alice Flores returned to introduce the theme ofHistoric Rose Sites in California: History and Preservation. Mention was made of the heritage rose collections open to the public and the rescue operations by groups often referred to as the California Rose Rustlers who collect cutting material from areas where the variety may be lost. These they propagate and endeavour to identify as to the variety.


Alice first introduced Frances Grate who spoke on Cooper-Molera Adobe and San Juan Bautista State Historic Park In both places the gardens have been restored and preserved. 


Following on Rusty Rolleri spoke on Gold Rush Roses (1849 -1900). Rusty has lived in Angels Camp, a gold rush town, for many years and has been involved with the finding and rescue of roses in this area.


Following a buffet lunch Barbara Oliva spoke on Sacramento Historic Rose Garden in the Old City Cemetery. The original rose plantings in the Victorian cemetery have been expanded to include roses found in many cemeteries and historic sites round the area. Jeri Jennings then spoke onRancho Camulos a national historic landmark which preserves a California rancho dating from before California gained statehood. Following this the conference split into 6 regions to discuss California Rose Rustlers and their stories.


Following the mid afternoon break Cass Bernstein introduced the themeIdentifying and Collecting Roses in the Field. First Greg Lowery gave an overview of the classification of Roses. This was followed by a introduction and practicum on The Field Guide of Rose Characteristics. This has been authored by three rosarians. Their publication provides the facility to enter data on found and known roses in a systematic manner using standard scientific terms. These terms are defined in a simple and understandable manner in an excellent way. Anyone needing this type of definitions is recommended to connect the authors to enquire about copies from Lynne Storm, email:


The evening was pleasantly spent at the dinner which was followed by members of the Tea Rose Group of Western Australia speaking on Tea Roses in Australia, their forthcoming book catalogues and examines all the tea roses known to be grown in Australia.


Day two of the conference stared early with the Heritage Rose Foundation meeting. Following this Mel Hulse introduced the themeHeritage Roses in Western Gardens Historic Favourites. Dan Russo then spoke on the American bred Ramblers, many developed by the Brownells of Rhode Island, and the preservation of ramblers in the US. The next talk wasRamblers: the Irrepressible Roses by Ann Belovich, a collector of ramblers who has the largest collection of Barbier rambling roses in the world. She has photographed and documented climbing roses in Europe and America.


After the break Jim Delahanty and Barbara Gordon spoke on the Polyantha roses and reviewed their history and showed examples. They were followed by Phillip Robinson, the partner in Vintage Gardens, who spoke on Historic Hybrid Tea Roses.

After lunch Gregg Lowery introduced Western Gardeners in Four Climate Zones. Four rosarians described rose growing in the four main climatic zones ( North Coast, Central Mountains, Central Valley, and the Desert Southwest of California) and the challenges involved. After the break Gregg Lowery introduced Etienne Bouret (Amirose) who described Jules Gravereaux work creating the rose collections at Roseraie de l'Hay near Paris, France. He has done photographic cataloguing with emphasis on the Hybrid Perpetual collection. This was followed with the wrap-up of the formal section of the conference.


On Sunday May 15 there was an optional tour of the Berkeley Botanical Garden. This was guided by Peter Klement and Elaine Sedlack and included a tour of the Garden of old roses and species roses. The garden gave vues of the San Francicisco Bay. In the afternoon the East Bay Heritage Roses Group hosted attendees and the general public to a non competitive showing and sale of old roses. The sample blooms were sold as flowers or cuttings for a quarter each.


On the Monday we took part in the second bus tour. This was to the north of the bay area and started with visits to two adjoining private gardens set in the vineyards of the Napa area. Lunch was taken in the spectacular garden of Gregg Lowery and Phillip Robinson with time to spend wandering through their roses. Once the rose appetite was stimulated we traveled to Vintage Gardens where those able to take roses home were keen to indulge themselves on a day when the nursery was normally closed to the public.


Finally we visited Garden Valley Ranch which is one of only two growers of cut roses in the US.


A Journal of the Heritage Rose Foundation 2005 Conference has been published which includes papers by speakers and others on the theme of the conference. Copies, whilst they last, are available, check one of the contacts on the HRF web site at


We really enjoyed this conference, well organized, well run and extremely friendly. There are International Heritage Rose Conferences held biennually, the next being in December 2005 in New Zealand ( We will be there, how about more from the USA and Canada. Any one interested should check the web site or contact us at:


Prepared for the Canadian Rose Society 
by David & Crenagh Elliott
Victoria BC
May 2005

(used with permission of authors)

photos by Malcolm Manners, Capt. Eddy, and Kent Krugh

Heritage Rose Foundation 2005 Conference   Post-conference review


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