by Anita Clevenger, Sacramento, CA
What better place to hold a Heritage Rose Foundation (HRF) meeting than Texas, the land that coined the phrase "rose rustling"? About seventy-five heritage rose devotees converged in Dallas on Oct 11-13 for several days of rustling lore, updates on rose preservation efforts, information about Texas A&M's Earthkind roses, and visits to gardens old and new.
The HRF president, Stephen Scanniello, opened the conference by announcing that HRF membership has reached 409, up one hundred members from last year. Mr. Scanniello told about progress in establishing the Heritage Rose Foundation Garden at Shreveport's American Rose Center. They've removed English and other non-heritage roses, pruned the existing heritage roses, and moved hundred of antique jonquils into the garden. There is a planting party planned for November, featuring roses best suited for Texarkana and the Gulf Coast. Mr. Scanniello also described the HRF Chambersville Heritage Rose Foundation garden, which will include species roses, Noisettes, teas and Chinas, with special sections for Bermuda roses, Texas found roses, and a complete collection of found Musk roses. and the best heritage roses for East Texas, including rustled roses. The first five acres have been planned and 145 roses have been planted.
One of the constant threads of the conference was the usefulness of roses as landscape plants. Mike Shoup, owner of the Antique Rose Emporium, said that there has been an explosion of acceptance of heritage roses. From the beginning, he has concentrated on their gardening beauty. Mr. Shoup mused that the word "rose" connotes to the general public a plant that needs a lot of care. He suggested that heritage roses should instead be called "The Ultimate Garden Plant," notable for their diverse forms, fragrance, and quality. Mr. Shoup showed photos of the ARE gardens, which have roses in them, but feature many other kinds of plants. He says this takes the pressure off of the roses to be "prima donnas." Mr. Shoup advocated such interesting, colorful planting beds in lieu of prim evergreen foundation plantings, dubbed "mustache landscapes" by legendary rustler Pam Puryear. "After all," Mr. Shoup reasoned, "your neighbors are going to talk about you anyway."
Dr. William Welch shared photos of many found roses, and talked about their diversity and usefulness in the landscape.
The toughness and adaptability of roses was another constant refrain throughout the conference. Mike Shoup quoted a rustler as saying, "If dead people can grow them, anybody can." Dr. Steven George, Texas A&M's Director of Research for Earthkind Roses, has been testing roses to find "bullet proof" landscape shrubs that you do not have to spray, rarely need to be pruned, and which are drought and heat tolerant. The initial list of Earthkind roses, tested and approved for Texas, has grown to fifteen roses, including many old teas, chinas and polyanthas as well as modern roses such as 'Belinda's Dream' and 'Knockout.' Dr. George stated that he has never found another group of plants that gives more enjoyment and satisfaction. The tea roses, he said, didn't look like much in the first year of the test. In the second year, they looked OK. In the third year, he said, they "stopped my heart." Dr. George is testing another list of twenty roses for the South, which includes many more teas, noisettes, and polyanthas. He is also testing a national list, which excludes these tender roses, as well as rugosas and other roses that need winter chill. The national list's roses are exclusively modern (the oldest rose on it was introduced in 1924), and heavily weighted toward roses hybridized by Dr. Griffith Buck in the second half of the 20th century. Mike Chamblee, of Chamblee's Roses and Gifts, Inc., said that Dr. Buck developed these roses because "people in the midwest deserve roses that they don't have to work so hard to grow."
While everyone appreciated Dr. George's efforts, which are leading to better growing practices and greater acceptance of roses in the landscape, many meeting attendees questioned whether a national list of roses would identify roses best-suited for their individual areas. They were more inclined to agree with Thomas Christopher, author of "In Search of Lost Roses," who talked about the regional quality of roses. Mr Christopher suggested that anyone considering growing heritage roses should go look at a nearby cemetery to see what grows well in their specific area. "Everyone trying to grow the same rose is a big mistake," he said.
This regional emphasis is reflected in the HRF's future meeting plans. In lieu of a national meeting in 2007, HRF will hold several regional workshops and seminars which will be open to everyone. In these workshops, participants will learn about roses suited for their areas. In February, Stephen Scanniello plans to lead a pruning workshop in Shreveport. In March, a pruning workshop about climbing roses will be held in Anne Belovich's garden in Washington state. In the spring, an ID workshop is proposed for Ohio State's Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance in Wooster, Ohio. Additional events may be added.
The meeting also included presentations which discussed preservation efforts at two internationally renowned rose gardens. Etienne Bouret updated us on the efforts to preserve the Hybrid Perpetuals at Roseraie de l'Hay. Once the site of 2,000 varieties of HPs, there are now only 180 varieties. Two more varieties were lost last year. They are now taking steps to preserve these remaining roses. A new rose garden is being created at Parc des Lilas in Vitry-sur-Seine, and two of each three HPs will be relocated there. In the l'Hay, they have agreed to not prune them this year, to test wood for diseases, and to undertake a treatment developed in Australia. Efforts are underway to propagate rare specimens, but healthy budwood is not always easy to find. M. Bouret thanked the HRF for their support, and offered cautious optimism about the fate of these roses..
Marily Young told of the Fineschi Roseto Botanico, and efforts of the World Federation of Rose Societies to preserve the roses in Dr. Fineschi's collection. This private garden of more than 8000 roses, over 6000 of them unique, may not survive because Dr. Fineschi's heirs have no interest in the roses. Four hundred cultivars are undocumented as existing anywhere in the world. The WRF owns the roses, but not the ground in which they grow. They are leading efforts to propagate about 100 cultivars a year, and hope to complete all of the roses within the next 3-4 years.
Closer to home, Mr. Shoup talked about rustling as a mission to search and rescue endangered roses. He stressed our obligation to save roses for our children, and reminded us that roses that are ours today, should be theirs tomorrow. Mr. Christopher encouraged attendees to keep on rustling. "The cream has been skimmed off the milk," he acknowledged. "Still, more beautiful roses remain to be found."
There were several opportunities to purchase unusual roses in a variety of auctions. Vintage Gardens offered rare climbing roses propagated from Anne Belovich's garden.
The meeting ended with tours of gardens in Dallas and country gardens in Eastern Texas, where we saw many of the Texas found and Earthkind roses, grown with great charm in several well-tended gardens set in the oak-studded rolling hills. We also visited and dedicated the Chambersville garden, which was inspired by HRF board member Claude Graves, and donated by Dean and Carol Oswald. This garden is being planted on a grand scale, with roses widely spaced so that they have room to grow as big as possible.
This HRF meeting was timed to link with the ARS national convention. Past and present ARS presidents Steve Jones and Marilyn Wellan were in attendance, as were other people who are members of both the ARS and HRF. Friday's tours were joint affairs, and mingling was encouraged at the evening's joint reception. Getting reacquainted with old friends, and making new ones, was the best part of an enjoyable few days.