Dr. Guoliang Wang to be honored as the next Great Rosarian of the World in June 2016

A Brief Introduction of Dr. Guoliang Wang

Dr. Guoliang Wang

Dr. Guoliang Wang

As a rose researcher and expert, Dr. Guoliang Wang has been investigating, collecting, identifying, breeding, and utilizing rose species and heritage roses in China for over 30 years.

In order to obtain first hand live materials, he has carried out over ten field investigations though out China, especially in the remote mountain areas of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the natural distribution center of the Genus Rosa, where the Chinese repeat blooming roses were born 1000 years ago. Through his research, nearly 100 rose species and over 200 Chinese heritage roses, derived from Song Dynasty, were collected, morphologically preserved, and systematically identified. Among them, some species or forms were his own discovery.

Some of his fabulous discoveries or rediscoveries, such as the origins of ‘Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China’, ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’, Rosa laevigatae, with bristles on the flower-branch, Rosa fortuneana without bristles on the peduncle are precious contributions to the world.

Based on his long-term research results, Dr. Wang first presented the viewpoint of the distinct “Six Stages of Evolution of Chinese Ancient Roses”, from the initial stage of remote leaflet fossil, excavated in Shandong, and dated to 20 million years ago, to the final stage of introduction to the West, with abundant, incredible, historical evidence that rose lovers, the world over, might never have read before.

In order to fulfill his rose breeding dream, that new varieties could grow well without any care just like a tree, Dr. Wang has been breeding an unusual series of roses for environmentally friendly planting.  His breeding program utilizes wild Chinese species roses as well as modern and old varieties. One strongly perfumed example of his work is the recurrent climber named ‘Fragrant Butterfly’. This cultivar is widely grown and praised highly in China, Japan, Italy, France, and Germany.

Among his many accomplishments he has demonstrated the historical value of old roses in modern time, showcasing his idea that the best old rose conservation is to use them in the present. As an enthusiastic rose landscape gardener – Dr. Wang has designed four old rose gardens in China to show the world the miraculous, revolutionary story of Chinese ancient roses and diversified beauties. This was accomplished by artfully combining different old rose varieties with traditional Chinese gardening elements. In doing so, he has successively created a new model for the conservation of old roses both in public parks and private gardens in China. One of his Heritage Rose Gardens, created using this new concept, was awarded World Federation of Rose Societies Award of Garden Excellence 2012.

Dr. Wang’s first book, Old Roses in China, which has been prefaced by outstanding foreign rose experts, is a complete and comprehensive rose resource. It was published, in Chinese, by China Science Publishing & Media ltd. This volume of over 460 pages, includes nearly all of the Chinese ancient roses and some varieties found abroad. It will soon be translated into English and Japanese, for rose lovers all over the world. This book covers the cradle, or exact location of where the first repeat blooming rose occurred and the exact time it was “born” and the emerging peak of remontant China roses, which took place during the Song Dynasty.  These events formed the Tu Mi (Banksiae group) culture, the spreading routes of the rose to the west, the enjoyment of rose paintings in various dynasties, the auspicious meaning of various roses, the arrangement of Chinese roses in the traditional garden, and the identification of nearly 200 old roses through cross-identification of living specimens with ancient records and images. All this and more can be found within its pages.

Dr. Wang has also worked to further the knowledge and importance of the varieties of Chinese ancient roses. He continues to present programs and lectures for rose lovers, at home and abroad. He has spoken to audiences in the United States, France, Germany, Japan, etc.

Born in Yixing, in the beautiful Taihu Lake district in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, the cradle of Chinese ancient classic landscape gardeners, Dr. Wang graduated from the Nanjing Forestry University, and completed his study and co-operation research in Chiba University, Japan. As a professor, today he lectures both at Nanjng University and Nanjing Agricultural University, and continues with his rose research with irreplaceable rose passion as he has done for most of his life.


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The Great Rosarian?

GROW lJust what is the Great Rosarian? One answer is the program was conceived to honor the men and women who have enriched our knowledge and enjoyment of the Queen of Flowers and provide a venue for rosarians from around the world to have the opportunity to discuss their life’s work and present it to a wide audience of the gardening public.

Over time what it has become is a bit more complex. After this year’s programs on the West and East Coasts I took the opportunity to reflect and delve deeper into how the program has evolved over its 14 year span. It has become clear that we have also focused on presenting diversity in the rose world. By that I mean we haven’t simply focused on one phase of the rose growing hobby, but we have attempted to present a broad representation of the rose. Instead of a focus on just hybridizers (and we have presented a number) or nurserymen, we have evolved into a program that purposefully hunted out new trends and delved deeper in discovering what is a rose, culturally.

It is patently clear that a number of our choices for the award have raised the hackles of the organized rose elite. How could we honor someone  they’ve never heard of? How could GROW skip over the usual suspects and select someone who, in their eyes, has a much shorter list of accomplishments? While I must acknowledge that a number of our honorees have not been at the forefront of the world of organized rose societies, the goal has been to dig a bit deeper and discover those people who have made significant contributions in our understanding of the diversity of the rose.

While we have honored hybridizers, photographers, authors, nurserymen, scholars etc., we have attempted to present rosarians who may not be household names but who have made positive contributions to our love of our National Floral Emblem.

One honoree in particular was strongly criticized by many in the West Coast rose world. My answer remains that his roses have been a way for us to bring back into the fold many who abandoned growing roses because they felt the rose was difficult to grow. While those of us in the know understand that the rose is among the simplest of garden flowers to grow, and that the right rose can outbloom just about any other flowering shrub you can name, a large number of potential rose growers reject outright the rose from their gardens.

In our enthusiasm to promote rose growing we have complicated how we present our information to the public to the point where the average home gardner is convinced that growing healthy roses is just too time-consuming and difficult. We feed this belief by just about everything we teach, and write. We present rules for spraying to control pests and diseases that seems to be beyond what any sensible prospective home gardener would want to take on. On the other hand, our GROW honorees have presented  positive advice on reintroducing roses into the modern landscape. Demystifying the rose has been a constant theme over the years of GROW.


DAni Hahn copy

Our current honoree, Dani Hahn, of Rose Story Farm, is a positive influence in this new model of rose growing. She has developed a business model for a small rose family farm that many are attempting to emulate. Her positive attitude towards rose growing is contagious. Over the years she has expanded her business beyond field grown cut roses into rose tourism, weddings, rose-themed gifts, and rose-related events. She is in the forefront of presenting gardening to young children as something special. With her positive outlook and presentations, she just may be influencing the next generations of rosarians.

Our wish is that GROW has and will continue to demonstrate the diversity and joy we all find in the rose. Each of us holds in our mind a different vision of what a rose is. There are many aspects of the rose yet to be explored and how exciting that is!

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Great Rosarians of the World™ XIV

DAni Hahn copy

Great Rosarians of the World XIV to honor Danielle Hahn of Rose Story Farm.

Click on link  for details:   http://greatrosarians.com

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Great Rosarians Blog Has Moved

Thanks for checking in!  I have moved this blog to a self-hosted site at http://greatrosarians.com/weblog/

This new site will be linked from the Great Rosarians of the World website at http://www.greatrosarians.com/

Thanks for checking in!  Please visit the new site and bookmark it.  Lets work together to start building a community of worldwide rosarians.

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Twenty-five Years and a Big Surprise!

This blog is about the Great Rosarians and is not supposed to be about me, but here I go again.  This year The Huntington Rose Garden celebrates its Centennial and January 1st I celebrated my 25th anniversary at The Huntington!  As one person put it, “it has been a momentous year!”  January was consumed with the installation of the rose exhibit and the next three months the exhibit itself took over my life.  Now in May the Rose Docents and Volunteers put together a surprise anniversary party and to say they surprised me is an understatement.

The plot was hatched in the Rose Garden one day when Judy Polinsky, Myriam Hu, and Priscilla Wardlow (all RG volunteers) started planning for an event.  They eventually put together a Byzantine plot to trick me into meeting friends for lunch and then going back to the gardens to give our friends a tour of the Rose Garden. Now realize I am usually clueless, and it doesn’t take a complicated ruse to get me out of the office to lunch! But I was truly surprised to the point of being nearly speechless!  No easy task in itself.  As we came back from lunch and approached Banta Hall (the main entrance to the Botanical Center and my office) everyone suddenly fell back and the doors parted and all I could see was a table of food and cake and I’m told, something like 80 co-workers, Docents, Volunteers, and friends greeting me and demanding I say something.  I had to actually walk up and read what the cake said to understand what it was all about.

Judy and Myriam along with Martha Burkard produced the food.  Judy specializes in 18th century recipes and bakes authentic period cakes, cookies, and other goodies.  Her rose bundt cake, rose cookies, and rose biscuits were nearly gone before I could even make my way to the table!  Part of the problem was that we were a bit late getting back from lunch, well you drag me to one of my favorite local resturants and I’m not going to cut my lunch short!

Here Katarina Eriksson, the head gardener for the Rose and Perennial Gardens at The Huntington, is ladling out our secret rose punch.  Judy Polinsky, Emina Darakjy, and I came up with the idea for this unusual punch which is no more than ginger ale, ice, and our very secret ingredient, a commercial rose water, Sence Rare European Rose Nectar.  There are other rose waters on the market but Sence far exceeds them in flavor and elegance.  Mix three two liter bottles of ginger ale to two 250 ml. bottles of Sence.  Judy and Myriam also came up with the idea of freezing a red rose in a block of ice for decoration.  Freeze about an inch of water in the bottom of a clear quart cottage cheese container then place a red rose on top and fill the remaining space with water and refreeze.  Float the ice blocks in the punch and as the blocks melt the rose is exposed.

Little did I know that when I started volunteering in the Rose Garden in 1980 that I would end up becoming a full fledged rosarian and still be in the same job twenty-five years later.  The support of staff and and friends over the years has been gratifying.  I’ve had the great fortune to work with a group of supportive volunteers who love roses and The Huntington.  They are the ones who make me look good!

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Redouté Knickknacks


Pierre-Joseph Redouté is called the Raphael of flower painters but one thing is certain you can still see his art every where you look.  Reprints of his paintings decorate walls, note cards with his images give thanks and deliver get well messages, tea cups with Redouté roses decorate a luncheon table, Redouté calendars keep us up to date, and his images sell rose scented cosmetics.

In fact it’s hard to escape his illustrations even now more than 180 years after the publication of Les Roses! To help impress this idea into the minds of exhibit visitors we came up with the idea of presenting modern objects with his images in a case we called the Ubiquitous Redouté.

Over the months of the planning stage I and others collected household objects with Redouté images at discount stores like TJ Max, Marshals, and Ross.  Over time we discovered a tea cup here, and a set of boxed note cards there.  One factor in this collecting is that I refused to spend more than $4.95 for any one thing, call me cheap but I have standards.

Jane Tsong (our show designer) discovered a set of inexpensive (cheap) cosmetics at one place and and over a number of months we built up quite a collection of knickknacks.  After price our other criteria was these objects should have a recognizable Redouté image prominently displayed.  So quite often when faced with a Victorian rose pattern china, even a quite lovely one, I had to force myself to reject it.

Jacqueline Dugas, the Art Division Registrar for art exhibits, and known on campus for her love of maroon fabrics, noticed our growing collection and asked about it.  She then volunteered to sew a pillow with a fabric printed with a Redouté image she had collected and donate it to the exhibit.  Her husband only insisted that she not bring it home after the show!

Myriam Hu who helped us with the fragrance displays, had visited Bulgaria a few years back and there had purchased a jar of rose scented face cream with a heavenly perfume.  You could even smell it through the case during the show.

We added two modern reprints of Les Roses to the case just for effect and Jane did an artful display of the various objects which did seem to catch the eye of our visitors.

At one point during one of the many openings for our member groups a very stylish lady confronted me an politely demanded that The Huntington Bookstore sell a squarish shaped coffee cup in the display. Unfortunately I had to inform her that I had purchased the cup in question recently at Marshals, a store I doubt she frequented, and that as well as I could recall they were sold out of them.  She took the news well enough but expressed her disappointment that she could not enjoy her daily cup of café au lait in such a cup!

Redouté who suffered under financial difficulties in his later life would no doubt have enjoyed the income from his work unfortunately artistic rights don’t extend quite that far back.  And I think his patron Joséphine would get quite a chuckle over the range of influence her court flower painter still holds sway today.


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La Rose Impériale

Maybe this is telling the story backwards, but my first exhibit La Rose Impériale:  The Development of Modern Roses came down last week after a three month run in the the Boone Gallery.  The exhibit was a huge part of my life from the planning stage and final installation in January through all the special tours and dismantling in late April.

Pictured above are our Rose Docents after touring the exhibit as part of their continuing education program. These dedicated volunteers daily greet visitors, answer questions, take photographs, and provide that missing human touch when visitors tour the gardens on their own.

The biggest shock was watching my “words of wisdom” being scraped off the wall and landing in random piles on the floor!  It isn’t easy on an author to see his words wadded up in a sticky ball.

Visitors were curious about how we produced the large wall panels like this “Genealogy of a Rose” chart outlining the ancestry of ‘Double Delight.’  The text panels were printed on self-adhesive vinyl strips and applied like wallpaper.  An effective and artistic way to present visual messages to visitors.  Jane Tsong, the show designer, designed the panels and matched the background colors to the paint she had selected for the walls by taking a light bulb from the Boone and comparing the color samples in a booth at the printers.

From the beginning when I started thinking about the exhibit I was concerned that we would be just displaying dusty old books in dusty cases.  The visual panels were a great way to set the stage for the books.  Jane and I developed ideas to present the story and bring visitors into the story including engaging them with scent and touch.

The books, like this second edition of John Gerard’s The Herball, or General Historie of Plants printed in 1633 with hand-colored illustrations, have been returned to the vault.  One fact that surprised visitors was that all the books in the exhibit were from The Huntington Library’s collections.  We did not borrow books, partially because we did not have the budget for loans and mainly because I wanted to demonstrate the depth of our library collections. The great majority of the books on display had not been exhibited in the 25 years I have been at The Huntington.  It was a great honor being asked to curate the exhibit and seeing visitors enjoy our efforts was equally gratifying.  

Now that the books are safely back in the vault it looks like the exhibit may have an extended life.  The Huntington has asked me to write a book on the exhibit and the rose garden centennial and the exhibit may travel to the Chicago Botanic Garden next summer.  They have made an informal request and are now looking into the practicalities of moving the exhibit to their institution. 



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