I love that the world of roses is so diverse.  Those of us who consider ourselves “Rosarians” often are totaly ignorant of the broader world around us.  Who knew that there was a world of rose pastries?  

While in New York for the Great Rosarians East lecture in early April, Priscilla and I had breakfast with an artist friend of Priscilla’s.  For those not acquainted with my life, Priscilla is my house mate and someone who is very important to me.  

Carol is an artist who specializes in painting French pastries and has a blog entitled Paris Breakfasts.  Carol, lives in New York, and travels frequently to France to explore the streets and bistros of Paris for subjects to paint.  She specializes in French pastries, yes it is a niche, but she fills it with élan.

Priscilla and I met Carol at Artie’s Delicatessen around 83rd and Broadway on the upper East side.  Artie’s is one of my favorite places to have breakfast. Try the bagels and lox.  We had a great conversation that morning and Carol directed us to a number of places to visit on our free day in the city.  But the important   thing for this blog is that Carol, who paints pastries, and I discovered we shared a connection over roses and specifically the rose ‘Ispahan.’  Go figure, who would have thought that a rosarian and and a Francophile pastry artist would make such a connection.  Carol shared her recent Paris adventure and it became evident that we had much in common — rosewise.

Her blog, Paris Breakfasts is a charming stream of consciousness on her trips and experiences in Paris exploring the world of French pastries.  In search of her art, Carol explores and samples the art of French baking and then renders her subjects in water color…consuming the product once it is rendered to paper.

Carol’s current facination with the world of pastry is Pierre Hermé, whom Vogue magazine called “the Picasso of Pastry.”  The topic of Carol’s most recent visit to Pierre Hermé is the Ispahan series of pastries. Her blog of April 11, 2008 explores in depth these delectable delights. Carol was as unaware of the rose ‘Ispahan’ as I was of Pierre Hermé’s pastries!  What a delight to learn and share our mutual experiences!

Do check out Carol’s blog Paris Breakfasts and explore Paris as few have experenced it and discover this hidden world of roses.  She also reveals a world of French florists that I had never seen and one we all can learn from.  The French have a way with flowers and these boquets bring a fresh Parisian charm to the table.

The next time you sit down over breakfast with a stranger don’t be reluctant to bring up your love of roses…you never know where roses will take you.


Illustrations by Carol Gillott.


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Into the Unknown

Face it, it happens to every gardener at one time or another, you order a rose from someone and it turns out to be something else.  Sometimes you recognize what it is and make the decision to keep it or ‘prune it with the shovel.’  But every now and then the unknown rose is just interesting enough and the detective in you just has to find out what this mystery rose is!

I am in just such a situation with a rose in the Shakespeare Garden, it was ordered years back from Canada, Pickering Nursery I think, as ‘York and Lancaster.’  ‘York and Lancaster’ is a rose that should be in every Shakespeare Garden (isn’t in yours?), it tells the story of how the Tudors came about to end the War of the Roses and combine the York and Lancaster clans in the dynasty founded by Henry VII and exemplified by his son Henry VIII and granddaughter Elizabeth I.  

The problem is that the rose I planted has single petaled, red flowers.  Decidedly not ‘York and Lancaster’. The mystery plant is tall, growing to eight feet or so, with reddish brown canes and small hooked, wicked prickles at the nodes.  The foliage is rough, with almost quilted ribbing and dark green.  The flowers appear in early spring and open to medium red, single flowers, with prominent yellow stamen.  They are lovely, but continue to elude identification.  

The closest I have been able to come to an ID is Rosa cinnamomea (R. majalis), the “Cinnamon Rose.”  The problem here is, that species should have red-purple flowers and this mystery rose is true red.  The “Cinnamon Rose” got its name not because of any fragrance of cinnamon in the flowers but because of the reddish brown bark of the canes.

Now, you may ask, why all the bother over a simple rose ID? Well, I work for a Botanical Garden and we are supposed to have our plants identified and correctly labeled.  In most cases a mystery plant like this rose would have been discarded long ago and replaced with the correct cultivar. It’s just this unknown is so lovely and generates a lot of interest from visitors that I can’t harden my heart and dig her up!

It’s not like I plan to exhibit this rose in a Rose Show and could only do so with the approved name.  No, but we do have a collections policy and at some point I do have to come to a decision to keep or discard.  So far I have leaned towards keeping her and planting the true ‘York and Lancaster’ in another part of the garden.  

Who would have thought a rose curator’s job could be so difficult?


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Digital Photo Workshop

This past Wednesday I met up with my friend Syl Arena at the International Rose Trials located in Rose Hills Rose Garden in Whittier, Calif.  We are both on the permanent panel and were not able to join our fellow judges for the first scoring of this year’s batch of roses.  The International Rose Trial is a two year program and this year’s crop is nearly 60 new cultivars from breeders from around the country and abroad.

I noticed several themes in this year’s crop:  more Shrubs than Hybrid Tea roses, and a significant increase in the number of tan or coffee colored roses.  The increase in the Shrub class entrants reflects the decline in popularity of Hybrid Teas and the rebounding popularity of disease resistant shrub roses for the landscape.  It will take some time to see if the new coffee color roses gain more than just novelty status.

Syl is an outstanding horticultural photographer who has an eye for roses.  As part of the celebrations around The Huntington Rose Garden Centennial this year Syl will be presenting a Digital Rose Photography Workshop at The Huntington on Sunday, May 18th.  

Workshop participants will spend two hours learning to develop their photographic skills and are encouraged to pre-submit up to five samples photos for in class review and comments.  After the classroom session Syl will be available for an hour in the rose garden to help participants hone their skills.

The workshop is limited to thirty participants and is filling rapidly.  To register email Clair Martin at or call at 626.405.3507.  Registration fee is $25.00 for Huntington members and $30.00 for non-members.  Entrance to the grounds is free to members, non-members will have to pay the additional entrance fee.

Syl has put together an information sheet on the class which you can view by clicking on this Link.

If we reach the class limit (and it now looks possible) we will open up a second session for that morning.  I will inform registered participants as soon as we reach that number and they can then chose either the morning or afternoon session.  

Digital cameras have opened up a whole new world of enjoyment for gardeners allowing us to record and instantly share our gardens and love of The Queen of Flowers with our friends and the world.  



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A Start

The idea of blogging is new to me and setting up a blog daunting.  This new   electronic media presents challenges but on the other hand creating a place where others who share my interests and the love of roses can come together and exchange ideas is an exciting one.

The idea of the Great Rosarians of the World Annual Lecture originated in 2000 as a way to bring together the men and women who have made substantial contributions to our understanding and love of the rose and to provide these outstanding rosarians a venue to share their work with a wider audience.  Beginning in 2001 and continuing through this year we have recognized a grand total of ten Great Rosarians. And now with the expansion of the series to the East coast and our partnership with the Manhattan Rose Society and the New York Metropolitan Rose Counsel we have a truly national reach.

My hope for this blog is not just to continue the discussion of the Great Rosarians program but to expand its outreach and create a community of like-minded people to discuss issues and ideas to help promote rose growing around the world.  Eventually, I hope to expand this blog to other writer/editors from other regions to make regular postings and share their experiences growing roses.  

If I could distill a theme from the past eight Great Rosarians programs it would be “Roses are Easy” which confronts the standard wisdom that “roses are difficult.”  Those of us who love and grow roses know in our hearts the truth:  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grow healthy, fragrant, ever blooming roses with a minimum of effort.  Today’s gardeners, with all the time constrants of job and family, have little time or patience with difficult plants that require heavy doses of chemicals to keep growing and survive the onslaughts of bugs and disease.

It took nearly two hundred years to select the rose as our national flower and less than thirty years to bring down the Queen of Flowers to a less than popular garden plant.  Our world is changing all around us and if rose growing and the love of roses is to thrive we must find new ways to promote growing and our love of roses with a new generation of gardeners.



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