Archive for the ‘rose gardens’ Category

1.1 -Entrance-Gate

Entrance to Queen Mary’s Rose Garden

Our visit to England this past June was timed so we could enjoy the rose gardens, none of which were in bloom on our previous trip when we traveled to London to see the Chelsea Flower Show in May. This time our timing was perfect — the 3rd and 4th week in June.


Map of Regent’s Park

One of the gardens we planned to see was Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park, located in northwest London near Baker St. and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The 410 acre park is also home to the London Zoo, numerous playgrounds, a boating lake and Open Air Theatre. But our primary destination was the Rose Garden, created in the 1930’s, which is located in the Inner Circle of the park.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, surprisingly one of many rainless days we enjoyed while in England, when we arrived by taxi which dropped us off at one of the gated entrances to the Rose Garden. Our entrance through the gates led us to a circular path through the rose garden. While we had anticipated an impressive June Bloom, the garden exceeded our expectations.


Ingrid Bergman

The winding paths led us from rose bed to rose bed and with approximately 12,000 roses on display, the numerous (85) single varieties planted within the garden was overwhelming. Each rose bed had mass plantings of one variety and the effect was stunning. I find that photographs don’t always capture the impact that can be seen only in person. Such was the case with not only Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a whole, but with the massive bed of Ingrid Bergman, a dark red hybrid tea in full flush, that created an eye-catching display.


Double Delight

We saw some familiar roses like ‘Double Delight’ that was at its perfect stage of bloom and showed off its lipstick-edged petals perfectly. There was a large bed of roses that we recognized as ‘Hot Cocoa’, which we grow in our garden, but labeled as ‘Hot Chocolate’ in Queen Mary’s Garden. ‘Hot Cocoa’ was hybridized by Tom Carruth when he worked for Weeks Roses in California and we were pleased to see an American bred rose among those on display in Queen Mary’s Garden.


Hot Chocolate aka Hot Cocoa


The rose bed that attracted the most attention — everyone wanted to have their photo taken in front of — was the bed of ‘You’re Beautiful’. We had to wait and wait until people finished posing in front of these roses before we could have a clear view. Mike finally got the photo below. The bed had close to 50 rose bushes of ‘You’re Beautiful’ and each was in bloom!


You’re Beautiful


I was attracted to the colorful bed of ‘Tintinana’, a rose I had never seen, but if we grew hybrid tea roses, I wouldn’t mind having in our garden.



Another unfamiliar rose I photographed is ‘Jam and Jerusalem’, displaying such a beautiful spray of roses too perfect to ignore.


Jam and Jerusalem

There was a large bed of assorted David Austin Roses that contained many familiar DA varieties and I was able to capture this beautiful bloom of Lady Emma Hamilton.


Lady Emma Hamilton


Some roses on display, like ‘Gorgeous’, a Poulsen rose, are not available in the United States. From information I gathered on-line, it is available for sale on web sites in the UK. This rose has amazing, multi-colored (orange, pink and yellow), very large blooms with dark green foliage. My research said that ‘Gorgeous’ needed no pesticides because of its disease resistance. We can hope that some day it will be introduced in the US, although it may be under a different name.




The park was filled with families and couples lounging on chairs, ready to spend the day. Benches were available, too, but many people had brought blankets to spread on the grass as well as picnic lunches. There are several cafes and kiosks available within the park and Mike and I stopped at the Boat House Cafe to get a cold drink (and ice cream) before we made another tour of the rose garden.


Hot Cocoa, Easy Going and Me

As we strolled through the park, we were impressed, given the size of the crowd, with the cleanliness and order in the park — no litter nor stomping through flower beds — Londoners and tourists just enjoying a Saturday in the park.

The vast collection of roses and the obvious upkeep to keep them looking their best made Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s park one of the most impressive rose gardens we have seen and definitely one of the highlights of our time in London.

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Mille Miglia – Siena Italy

Sometimes the most memorable moments of traveling are those that are unexpected and spontaneous. Even though Mike and I enjoy planning our trips and organizing our travel itinerary, we find it’s often the unanticipated and unplanned events that are most rewarding.

1.-Pizzeria-Trattoria-on-ViOne was an impulsive decision that took us into a trattoria on Via Cavour in Florence. When walking back to our hotel, we saw a small sign that said Pizzaria Trattoria on a very plain looking storefront. We decided to go in. The place was small and charming with covered tablecloths. As we stepped inside, we were greeted warmly by the owner who spoke only a little English. We spoke even less Italian but communicated enough to convey that yes, we’d have his gluten-free pizza and a carafe of wine. We watched as he poured the dark red Chianti from a wooden keg on top of the bar. We lingered over the delicious wine as we enjoyed a very tasty gluten-free pizza. We still reminisce about this Trattoria on Via Cavour especially when drinking a glass of Chianti.

When we visit different cities, we are always on the lookout for rose gardens to visit. Even if the gardens won’t be in full bloom, we go any way and manage to find some aspect of the garden to enjoy.

We set aside an entire day to visit Le Parc de Bagatelle located in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement. With no easy access by metro or bus, we took a taxi. Our goal was the Roserie de Bagatelle – a very famous rose garden we had heard so much about; but it was late September so we knew that most of the roses had “gone by.”


Sole e Luna at Bagatelle

While we were wandering around the garden, we came across a rose bush that had clusters of fresh, bright yellow roses surrounded by red buds. It was a variety we had never heard of – Sole e Luna. The hybridizer was an Italian rose breeder named Barni and the variety, not available in the United States, is one I would never have seen had I not gone to Bagatelle. What a treasure it turned out to be. Even though this rose is not for sale here in the US, my photograph of Sole e Luna is hung where it brings back memories of our trip to Paris and Bagatelle.

Roses aren’t the only unexpected treasures we experienced while traveling. While driving from Rome to Florence through Tuscany, our driver Marco stopped in Siena. After lunch, we took a leisurely walk through this ancient Tuscan hill town and wandered into the Piazza del Campo, the historic Siena square, looking for some gelato. As we enjoyed our Italian ice cream, a parade of magnificent vintage sports cars roared into the Piazza. We were luckily in the right place at the right time to see part of the famous Mille Miglia Classic Car Race, a 1000 mile race that goes through cities in northern Italy like Siena and Florence. (See photo above.)

5.-Thatched-Cottage-Adare-IOne thing we hadn’t planned on seeing when in Ireland were the famous thatched cottages which  are rapidly disappearing. But while driving to Limerick where we were to meet up with Mike’s cousin, we made an unplanned stop for lunch in the town of Adare. As we walked about the town after a quick lunch, we spotted a few of the remaining cottages with picture-perfect thatched roofs. Definitely a bonus to our Irish adventures.

While we’ll always remember the iconic attractions we’ve seen like the Louvre, the Colisseum, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Vatican, it’s the unplanned and unstructured components of our trips that are the most vivid and memorable.

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1-Longwood-GardenLast spring, Angelina and I chose to skip the hassle of TSA and the rigors of a long plane flight and instead decided on a long-awaited road trip. We packed up the car and headed south on a two-week journey, first to the Brandywine area outside of Philadelphia then on to Washington, DC followed by a meandering ride back home with a stop in Gettysburg. The first leg began with a visit to Longwood Gardens located in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, 30 miles west of Philly.

12-Longwood-Garden-EntranceLongwood had its beginnings in 1906 when Pierre S. DuPont purchased a neglected farm in order to save its arboretum from lumbering and began converting it into what would become one of America’s leading horticultural display gardens.

We arrived early on a sunny Tuesday morning in mid May, got our tickets and headed for the rose garden first. This garden was one of the smaller gardens in Longwood but was well maintained with a dozen beds of bush roses, each bed featuring a single variety. Most were in bud stage with peak bloom still two weeks away. One exception was a dazzling bed of Sparkle & Shine, a bright yellow floribunda.


City of York – Back of Stone Wall

Just behind Sparkle & Shine was a feature that I especially liked, the unique way the Longwood rose gardeners displayed a row of climbing roses named City of York. These climbers were planted along the back side of a six-foot stone wall and then trained to grow up and over the wall and cascade down the front side. Since both sides of the wall received enough sunlight, they grew beautifully with thousands of tight buds tumbling down the front of this handsome stone wall waiting to open. The bloom must have been stunning.



As a backdrop to the rose garden was a Topiary Garden that contained over 50 specimens of yews in various shapes such as spirals, cones and animals.

We took a break here for a few minutes to enjoy the bright sunny morning then strolled over to the Conservatory, an enormous greenhouse with four acres under glass — twenty rooms of plants from around the world. The day we were there, gardeners were removing the displays of spring flowers soon to be replaced with summer annuals which in turn would be followed by fall plantings. Even though the conservatory was in seasonal transition, room after room featured showy floral displays. Very Impressive.








Mummy Pack

The conservatory even had a Rose Room – one that had several rows of rose bushes. What interested us was the IPM measures employed to control insects. No pesticides were applied but small packets of “mummies” were  scattered among the roses. Tiny wasps emerged from the mummies, looking for aphids on which to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch and the new wasplings eat the aphids which keeps them in check. While not a perfect solution, it seemed to work well enough and avoided chemical pesticides.


Rose Room

After lunch we wandered over to a section of flower beds that were also in transition from spring to summer. One team of gardeners were digging up clumps of spring bulbs, piling them up into carts then hauling them off to the Longwood compost site. All vegetative matter was converted into compost and nothing was discarded.

Another nearby bed had already been cleared and a gardener was raking it out for planting the next day. According to the gardener, no soil amendments were added at this point but each bed would be amended with compost in the fall when spring bulbs were planted. She went on to say that each section of gardens had dedicated teams that maintained those same beds season after season.



Nearby was the Wisteria Garden in full bloom. What a display of Japanese wisteria in lavender, purple and white. It was a major attraction and provided visitors with a unique photo op.

By now the weather was getting very warm and we were growing weary so we started back to the car, which was when we noticed the Rose Arbor. This circular arbor surrounded an area which is often used for concerts. We were too early to see the arbors in bloom which would have been a spectacular sight of American Pillar roses chosen by Pierre du Pont himself.


Rose Arbor

Like other great gardens we have visited throughout the United States and Europe,  Longwood Gardens had clean, modern facilities and the gardens and structures were neat and well maintained with plenty of staff. We had expected a very high degree of horticultural excellence — the ultimate hallmark of every great garden — and were not disappointed. Longwood Gardens should be on every gardeners bucket list.

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La Rosaraie

La Rosaraie

Spending a weekend in Montreal is the next best thing to visiting Paris. Where else can you get that European flavor without getting on an airplane? We usually visit Montreal during the last weekend of June to visit with friends and see La Rosaraie, the rose garden at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. But often we find that the rose garden peaked the week before we arrive, so this spring we made plans to go a week earlier to catch the garden at its best and take some rose photos for a new book we’re working on and guess what? Their peak bloom, like ours in New England because of a cool spring, was at least a week late!

Still there were plenty of beautiful roses in bloom and, as an added bonus, the Quebec Rose Society was holding their annual Rose Show at the MBG the same weekend we were there – a week earlier than in the past. Mike was invited to judge, so while he was judging the show with our friend, former Rose Garden Director Claire Laberge, I strolled through the garden.

LionIt was a perfect day to be in the garden. The temperature was in the 70’s, there was a nice breeze, and the sun went in and out, so I didn’t broil. By tradition, I always take a picture of the big bronze lion that guards the entrance to the rose garden, and this time the Sea Foam roses were just beginning to bloom.

While many of the shrub roses were still in their bud stage, I found plenty of roses were in a perfect stage of bloom – roses that during past visits had already gone by. I took plenty of photos – over 100 – and can’t begin to describe them all, but here are a few that I think are worth mentioning.



The climbing rose Compassion, winding its way up a wrought iron trellis, was one of the first roses I saw. Its orange pink petals had a touch of orange-yellow inner petals and a noticeable fragrance. This rose was introduced in 1972 and I can see why it’s remained popular.

Honey Dijon

Honey Dijon

A bed of Honey Dijon roses caught my eye because of its unusual golden brown/yellow blooms. As you can see from the photograph, this rose was aptly named because it has the coloration of honey mustard. It also has beautiful form.



One of my favorite roses, a rose we used to grow in our garden and I have on my wish list to grow again, is Europeana. This floribunda has been around since the 1960’s and has received many awards. I was impressed by its true red color and the disease-free foliage. Another rose that I’ve added to my wish list is the luscious deep golden yellow rose South Africa. This rose from Kordes, a German hybridizer known for producing disease resistant roses, has dark green, shiny foliage – a perfect backdrop for this rose.
While visiting the Rose Garden was our major goal, Mike and I extended our stay a few days so we could experience Montreal, the city. In the late afternoon and early evenings we explored Ste. Catherine Street, a major shopping area of the city, a half-block from our hotel. In the mornings, we’d walk down rue de la Montagne to a small café, called M’s, which had the best croissants I’ve had since Paris.

One afternoon we went to the Beaux Arts Museum that had a special exhibition of Faberge eggs. We felt right at home when we saw the Chihuly glass sculpture displayed outside one of the Beaux Arts building. The Beaux Arts is comprised of several buildings on opposite sides of busy Sherbrooke St. that is accessed through a tunnel going under the street.

Chihuly glass sculpture

Chihuly glass sculpture

The exhibit included four Faberge Easter eggs created for the Romanovs as well as other Faberge creations and that alone was worth the trip. After a short break we explored some of Beaux Arts’ permanent collection including a fantastic ceramic and glass collection and some Impressionist art.

FabergeAlong with our visits to the garden and the museum, we enjoyed some delicious meals in Montreal. One night we ate at La Societe, a restaurant in our hotel that was reminiscent of a Paris bistro. Another night we took a cab to Vieux-Port Montreal, the “Old City”, and enjoyed walking down the crowded streets lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. Remarkably, we walked into one of the first restaurants that we had eaten at when we had come to Montreal 16 years ago! We decided fate had placed us at the door of Vieux-Port Steakhouse and we decided to have dinner there. Good decision. We had the best steaks we’ve had in a long time.

Sometimes a plan comes together, and our weekend in Montreal was one of those times. Great roses, great art and great food, all without the hassle of hopping on a plane. I can’t wait to go back again.

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Giardino della Rose

Giardino della Rose

Florence was the second leg of our recent trip to Italy. Angelina and I had spent five days in Rome along with several million other Americans visiting most of Rome’s famous attractions. We enjoyed great Bernini sculpture at the Borghese Gallery and discovered ancient Rome at the Coliseum and Palatine Hill. We stood in the Sistine Chapel awestruck by the art on the ceiling and on the wall behind the alter. Later, we toured St. Peters Basilica and then wandered through St. Peters Square, both exactly like we had seen countless times on TV only much bigger and far grander.

Florentine Skyline

Florentine Skyline

But Florence was different.  While crowded for sure, it wasn’t as frantic as Rome. Where we took cabs and public transportation to get around in Rome, we found Florence to be very walkable.  We walked everywhere – to museums, restaurants, down to the Arno River over Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace – all an easy stroll from our hotel.

Giardino della RoseWe did, however, need a cab to get to Piazzale Michelangelo located on the other side of the Arno atop a hill with a stunning view of Florence’s terra cotta skyline dominated by the massive Duomo. Piazzale Michelangelo features impressive copies of Michelangelo’s famous statues including a full-sized replica of “David.”  But this is not why we went. The real reason was the Giardino della Rose, a rose garden tucked in below the top of the hill, out of sight and even the cab driver was unaware of its existence.

Bronze Sculpture

Bronze Sculpture

While the piazzale was packed with tourists, a stone’s throw away the Giardino della Rose was almost empty when we arrived. It sits on the side of a rather steep hill surrounded by old buildings and trees.  Like other rose gardens we saw in Italy, the roses were not planted in beds, per se, but each bush planted individually surrounded by lawn. I wondered about this as it struck me as wasting space. Was it a design feature or was it the only way to plant a garden on the side of a hill and not have it wash away?

Angelina and "Chat"

Angelina and “Chat”

The paths were a combination of cobblestones and field stones traversing the hill allowing complete access to the roses and the large bronze statuary placed throughout the garden. These big quirky bronzes were created by Belgian surrealist Jean-Michel Folon and add a uniqueness that makes this rose garden special. I’m not crazy about surreal anything but these bronzes looked just right in this setting and I was even okay with a piece titled “Chat”, a large slumbering cat in the middle of the garden. I’m not crazy about chats either.

Paul's Himalayan Musk and Mike

Paul’s Himalayan Musk and Mike

It was mid-May and the garden was in full bloom. A mature bush of Paul’s Himalayan Musk was espaliered nicely along a stucco wall along with a row of New Dawns as we walked in. Quite a few David Austin varieties as well as other modern roses were planted along the hill as was a single plant of viridiflora, the ugly Green Rose, which was a waste of space.  On the other hand, I also found several bushes of Crested Moss with fresh pungent moss-like growth on the calyx, a variety that I don’t often see at home.  Each plant in the garden was properly labeled which impressed me as many municipal gardens lack this important detail.

Crested Moss

Crested Moss

We sat and people-watched for awhile which included a young bride and groom posing for their wedding photos, obediently following directions of a no-nonsense photographer.

The sun was getting hot signaling that it was time to leave. So we headed back up to the top of the piazzale to catch another cab. This meant a very long climb up some very steep stairs. So steep that we almost hired a Sherpa to help us get to the top. But we made it back to the old city and went to an intimate trattoria that we had discovered the night before and split a fabulous gluten-free pizza and a bottle of Chianti, a decadent treat in the middle of the afternoon.

Trattoria with great gluten-free and chianti

Trattoria with great gluten-free and chianti

In many ways Florence with its deep Renaissance roots was more enjoyable than Rome. The scale was much smaller, the crowds seemed less unbearable; the nights were quieter; the gelato was better; and even the bad wine was good.

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View from the Top

Roseto di Roma

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since our trip to Italy, but the best part about travel is reminiscing about all the great sights we have seen long after the trip is over. I keep a travel journal, knowing that with passing time I’ll forget details. But we won’t forget the sights in Rome (the first leg of our trip) such as the Trevi Fountain, ancient Roman ruins and our inspiring visit to the Vatican and the incredible Sistine Chapel. Plus there was the delicious Italian food and wines. But especially memorable and unforgettable is Il Roseto (Rose Garden), Rome’s Municipal Rose Garden that contains over 1100 roses in bloom and the ruins of the Circus Maximus as its back drop.

Sign Primio Roma Rose We had planned our itinerary, hoping the weather would cooperate, and scheduled our visit to Il Roseto after a tour of Ancient Rome, knowing it was a short walk from the Colosseum. Before leaving home I did some research and was fascinated to learn that this rose garden, which originally was located closer to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, has ties to the United States. An American, Mary Gayley Senni from Pennsylvania, married to an Italian Count, gave a gift of 300 roses to the city of Rome in the early 1930’s to create Rome’s first public rose garden. Unfortunately, that rose garden was a casualty of World War II, but it was later resurrected in its present location on the slopes of Aventine Hill across from the Circus Maximus.

Upper Garden

Il Roseto is a garden divided into two gated sections with each section separated by the road, Via di Valle Murcia. The upper section holds the garden’s collection of roses from European countries as well as countries from all over the world including the United States and Canada. The garden has quite a history as it sits on a site that was once a Jewish cemetery dating back to 1645. The cemetery closed in 1895 due to road construction and the graves were moved to another cemetery. It then became a public park and in 1950 the home of Il Roseto when the city of Rome was looking for a new location for Countess Senni’s original rose garden. The garden paths are laid out in the shape of a menorah and the ancient cypress trees from the old cemetery still grow as reminders of the garden’s history.

Paul's Himalayan Musk

Paul’s Himalayan Musk

Another distinctive feature of this garden is the way the roses are displayed. There are no rose beds per se. Instead roses are planted one by one on the broad grassy slopes of the garden as well as along fences and on trellises. It was peak bloom time in Rome and in the upper section we saw magnificent roses such as Paul’s Himalayan Musk, growing skyward with a profusion of blooms. An amazing sight. We saw many familiar varieties such as Austin’s Crown Princess Margareta and were pleased to see other varieties that were less well-known like Jean Cocteau from Meilland, Purple Rain from Germany’s Tantau and Poulsen’s Lea, one of their Renaissance varieties. Il Roseto’s collection also includes a small section of species roses such as Rosa phoetida and Rosa chinesis mutabilis.

Throughout the garden were many benches where visitors could rest and enjoy the view and peacefulness of the garden. What made this garden truly special, though, was that from the top of the garden we had a spectacular view of not only the rose garden and the very old cypress trees below us, but ancient Roman ruins as well. To us, this was Rome at its best, away from the hustle and noise of the busy streets and the reality of Rome in the 21st century.

Lower SectionUnfortunately, the lower section of the garden was closed the day we were there because it was being prepared for the Premio Roma Rose competition, the second oldest in the world, which was to take place two days after our visit. But if we had been able to view this section, we would have seen not only the roses entered in this year’s competition, but also a collection of previous winners. However, I was able to fit my camera in between the bars of the fence and at least take some photos.

We wished we could have gone back to see the winners of the competition, but our time was limited and we were off to Florence – Firenza – for the second part of our Italian journey and another fantastic rose garden. But that’s a post for another day.

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St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

Mike and I are going to Italy in a few months so we have been following the Papal election with great interest. We’ll be in Rome for 5 days and had planned on spending an entire day at the Vatican. When the surprising news of Pope Benedict’s retirement blanketed the news media, we eagerly focused on all the news footage and every photo knowing that we would be in those exact same places in a matter of weeks. We were fascinated with the quick renovations to the Sistine Chapel as it was modified for the election. We waited patiently, along with the massive crowds in St. Peter’s Square, for smoke to appear out of that little chimney. All this made us even more enthusiastic, if that was possible, for our first visit to the Eternal City.

Swiss Guards

Swiss Guards

One of the tours we’re especially looking forward to is the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I’m sure there are many disappointed tourists who were not able to view the spectacular murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when it was closed during the Conclave.

Besides the Vatican, there is plenty for two visitors from New England to see in Rome. We’ll spend most of a day in Ancient Rome, visiting the Coliseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. We discovered that Rome has a Municipal Rose Garden that is open daily from early May to late June while the roses are in bloom; it then closes for the year. (It may open again during the second bloom cycle, sometime in August, but this is not always the case.)  From what I can find out about this rose garden, it was built in 1931 and open in 1932. It was Rome’s first roses-only garden and has over 100 varieties. It’s opposite the Circus Maximus near Palatine Hill, although my understanding is that it’s on Aventine Hill.



We’ll let you know after we visit and will share some of our photos. We will also keep an eye peeled for small intimate gardens that are nestled into courtyards, churchyards, and tiny public spaces. In the past we have discovered these little gems by chance but now we are on the look-out for this sort of matchbox horticulture in our travels, especially in old European cities. If anyone knows of any special gardens we could visit while in Rome or Florence, please let us know.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

We will do all the “touristy” things when in Italy and take in the must-see sites such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We’ll also visit the famous Borghese Museum with Bernini’s iconic marble statue of David and works by Caravaggio, Titian and Rubens. We’ll shop at the Campo de’ Fiori, a fruit and vegetable market that opens every morning. In the evenings, we plan to stroll about town eating ice cream – excuse me, gelato – and then have delicious meals in small cafes. We will be Romans for a week.

Now that the excitement generated by the selection of the new pope has started to abate, Vatican City and the rest of Rome will be back to normal when we arrive and we’ll have it all to ourselves – well, almost all to ourselves. We’ll post details of our Roman Holiday after we head off into the Tuscan sun towards Siena and Florence through the vineyards of Chianti onto the second leg of the trip.


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Winter GardenLast week, on the 35th anniversary of the “Blizzard of ‘78,” Mother Nature socked us again with the “Blizzard of 2013.” If you lived through that great snow tempest of 1978, you’ll recall it snowed for three days with accumulations of 2-4 feet with drifts up to 8 feet. It shut down the entire state for a full week, but throughout that epic storm power was never lost.

We had plenty of notice for this year’s blizzard. We wondered if the weather men’s predictions would be accurate, since we remembered that last year on the same weekend in February, every local TV and radio station was predicting heavy snow. Mike and I were scheduled to present a lecture on that weekend, but because of the weather forecast, the event was cancelled. We woke up that Saturday morning to find that nary a single snowflake had fallen. As Mike’s father used to say, the storm had suddenly “turned left and gone out to sea.” This year we were again scheduled to present a lecture, and again it was cancelled. This time for good reason.

Since this year’s forecast for extreme weather was so certain, we checked the batteries, gassed up the snow blower, and even remembered to disconnect the electric garage door opener in case we lost power. Then we hunkered down, making sure we had milk, bread, popcorn, wine, good books and movies. Friday night we listened to the wind howling, blowing snow sideways and tearing a large limb from our neighbor’s maple tree. Then the lights went out.Split Tree

While this year’s blizzard dropped less snow (we had about 18” with drifts up to 3’), than the Blizzard of ’78, the real threat was the loss of electricity – much of RI and MA was without power while the temperature plummeted to single digits. We lost our electricity about 10 pm Friday night and woke Saturday morning to temperatures inside the house in the low 50’s. Mike spent several hours clearing the snow and I surveyed the back and front yards, taking pictures.

Measuring SnowOur roses created an almost surreal winter landscape with their canes poking through the snow, a dramatic departure from what the gardens look like in June. Since snow is an excellent natural insulator, it provided additional winter protection to the winter cover we had already applied a few months ago. The landscape was completely white with the only color from the garden art Mike created two years ago and hung on the side of our shed – a lonely reminder that spring will come eventually.

Garden Art - Winter Roses

Garden Art – Winter Roses

By suppertime on Saturday, the house had gotten very cold and it looked like it was going to be a three-dog night. We were bundled up in bed like two caterpillars when the lights finally came on late Saturday night. The power was only off for 24 hours but seemed a lot longer than that. We’ll have to wait until spring to determine what damage, if any, was done to the rose bushes by the weight of all that snow. The real lesson learned here was how vulnerable we were without power in the middle of the winter – modern technology didn’t keep us warm. But our roses, like us, are hardy and we all survived the Blizzard of 2013.

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Because it was mid-May and a few weeks early for roses in northern France, garden visits were secondary to the wealth of other Parisian attractions on our recent trip to Paris. However, we did plan one major out-of-Paris foray to La Roseraie du Val-de-Marne (aka La Roseraie de L’Hay) located in L’Hay des Roses in the municipality of Val-du-Marne, about 5 miles south of Paris. This meant a train ride.

Angie and I like to use public transportation when we travel overseas – the buses and metros are reliable, clean, safe, and the best way to discover a city. But the only way to get to Val-du-Marne was on the train, a new experience for us. Off we went on a Friday morning with directions from the hotel concierge and our Paris Visite travel passes.


We boarded the train to Bourg-La-Reine, the stop closest to the rose garden, and enjoyed stopping along the way in small towns with charming French names. We felt like Bogy and Bacall in one of those WWII movies. The trip took only 30 minutes and we arrived at Bourg-La-Reine and walked to a nearby bus stop.

Then a hard realty set in. We had found that English was widely spoken everywhere in Paris, especially after we made good faith attempts to speak French. But once we were outside of the city, it was French-only and that would provide additional drama to the trip.

We got on what we thought was the right bus to the rose garden and promptly got lost. How do you get lost in a small French town? Well, we did. We kept travelling in circles until the bus driver finally asked us where we were going, in French of course. We just said, “Roseraie de L’Hay” in our best New England accented French. He laughed and understood immediately our dilemma. He instructed us in passable English to sit by the door and not move until the bus got to the rose garden stop and he would let us know. We then went on another loop around Bourg-La-Reine; only this time we made it to the garden.

The Roseraie de L’Hay was built in 1899 by Jules Gravereaux and was considered a collection of every known species and cultivated rose variety of its time. They claimed at that time to be the first single species – roses only – garden in the world.


This formal French garden features 13 sections arranged geometrically around an ornamental pool with long allées leading visitors from one section to the next. One area of the garden has collections of historical and old garden roses; another highlighted collections of modern and French roses. The garden also included a unique collection of special botanical varieties.

The garden had started to bloom on the day we were there but the big display was still 8 days away.  But what caught my eye straight away were the structures employed throughout the garden, adding elegance and providing vertical elements necessary in every great rose garden.



Roses were woven along stylish festoons, graceful, long looping wires and over arches. Pillars scrambled up ancient wrought iron obelisks and ramblers twisted up and around tall iron towers. Classic statuary and urns abounded and roses were cultivated in large decorative containers.

The garden paths were sand-colored pea stone, each step a pleasant crunch and each bed was bordered with a slow growing dwarf boxwood hedge. One little detail that tickled my fancy was the clever way the rose gardeners fastened canes and stems to garden structures. No twine or twist-ties for


these pros. They use what they call “osier” which translates into wicker and every connection is made with this product of the willow tree. I later found out that this is a very old gardening technique dating back to the 13th century when grapes were tied off the same way in French vineyards.


Then there was the trellis – tall dark green panels with climbing roses that provided a simple yet strong and practical backdrop for the ornamental pool in the center of the garden. This trelliswork, repeated throughout the garden, effectively tied the entire garden together. I have never seen another garden like it.

La Roseraie de L’Hay is a perfect example of what the French do so well. They meld form and function into art in their architecture, fashion, food and certainly in their gardens.

When we were ready to leave, we went to the ticket stand to get information and buy something to bring home. The lady on duty spoke absolutely no English and my poor French only added to the confusion. We finally succeeded by using universal sign language and writing on an imaginary blackboard. She was a great sport and we still chuckle about this.

On our trip back to Paris we laughed at ourselves and marveled about the garden. Our adventure at La Roseraie de L’Hay became one of the highlights of our Paris trip.

What a great trip!

What a superb rose garden!

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Graham Thomas

I don’t remember exactly when I planted Graham Thomas where he is now. It must have been during a reconfiguration of the back rose garden close to twenty years ago. I planted and replanted him twice until he settled into the cozy spot as a specimen plant in his own private bed that he occupies today in front of the garden.

This star treatment has agreed with him and over time he grew to 8 feet by 8 feet – some years I let him go, growing easily to ten feet. And star he is. Each June he produces a massive display of buttery yellow, cupped flowers with a distinct tea fragrance – 4 to 6 blooms on each long arching stem, perfect for cutting. The June bloom is so heavy it requires a half dozen stakes to support the major canes to prevent them from breaking under the load.

Graham Thomas with "hole"

In April before the foliage breaks while I can clearly see the bones of the bush, I prune Graham back to five feet or so, thinning out dense growth from the previous season and sometimes removing one or two gnarly old canes to encourage new basal growth. Several years ago, a “hole’ developed on the north side of the bush where I had pruned out a heavy old cane but no cane grew back to replace it. I tried nudging nearby canes over to fill the void with mixed results.

I remember my mother recalling her father, an Irish estate gardener who immigrated to this country in 1914 from Scotland, pegging roses back in the day when she was a child. The goal then was to propagate more of the same variety by bending canes still growing on a bush over into contact with the soil and pegging them down, hoping they would take root.

Hmmm…why not take the long rogue canes that Graham typically throws off at mid-summer that grow to 12 feet or more and yield nothing and, instead of pruning them back in the fall, bend them over the hole and tie them off low to a nearby cane? By changing the orientation of each long cane from the vertical to the horizontal, the potential lateral stems along each cane would grow longer and stronger next season much the same way climbing roses are more floriferous when trained horizontally. Thus the hole is filled.

Selecting canes

Placing cane

Tying Off
Pegged cane

I first tried this technique three years ago and the results were excellent, but temporary, with the effect lasting only one season. The bent canes did indeed develop longer stems with roses that filled the void but the rebloom was sparse. The best results were achieved when pegged canes were pruned back and fresh canes replaced them each year.


Pegged Rose



I pegged Graham again last week and look forward to another flashy display next summer.

Graham Thomas is the senior rose in the garden and, like me, is not only growing older but growing better.

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