Roadtrip- Great Rosarians Weekend

Part 1- Getting there is half the fun

It’s a long drive to Pasadena from Santa Cruz.But this year the weather was perfect, and the scenery is beautiful. For company I had some NPR podcasts, and continuing “Fall of Giants.” I left home about 8:30 am. First stop- Surf City Coffee in Moss Landing. I still had money on my card from a couple of years ago, when I came through here weekly for my job. At that time, they had a daily trivia question. If you got it right, you got a free cup of coffee. They had a bunch of easy ones (for me, anyway), so I never used up the money on my card. The card is so old now, he had to type in the number, as the magnetic stripe is no longer magnetic.

Then through Castroville (Home of the Giant Artichoke!) and Salinas to Hwy 101. The Salinas Valley runs between two beautiful mountain ranges: the Santa Lucia range on the west, and the Gabilan range on the east. So for the next couple hours I just kept looking to the right, looking to the left, repeat.I have a lot of memories of driving through this valley- in the late 60s I went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, so I have 40 years of seeing some of these sights. There are Mission Bell markers here and there along the way. Once or twice I’ve tried counting them for something to keep my brain occupied. I think I counted 100 between Salinas and UCSB some years ago.

Just north of San Lucas, I pass a barn. The highway used to run on the other side of the barn when it was a two-lane road. The other side of the barn had an ad painted on it: “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco”.  A few years ago, I drove the old road and the ad was still visible. This year, the barn has just been rebuilt. Guess they probably won’t repaint that ad.

The next sight is the oilfield around San Ardo. The pumps always reminded me of grasshoppers with heads bobbing up and down. One used to have eyes painted on it. For those who’ve never seen one, I found a photo online here:

Eventually I get to the Bradley Rest Area. This is important because of the previous stop at Surf City Coffee. Last year I had friends with me, and promised that there was a rest stop at a convenient distance down the road from the coffee stop. But CalTrans was rebuilding the rest stop. Fortunately, just a few more miles down the road we found an open wine tasting room, so we got to taste some very nice wines as well as use the rest room. They had a fabulous Late Zinfandel, but out of my price range. I think one of my friends bought a bottle. The new rest area is very nice. Has automatic flush and automatic water in the sinks. They also have vending machines for snacks, coffee and ice cream bars. I expect in the summer the ice cream ones are really popular.

The next sight is Mission San Miguel. I spent part of the summer of 1969 living at a motel in San Miguel, and working at the base exchange at Camp Roberts. Another ten minutes or so, and I’m near the headwaters of the Salinas River- the ranges on each side of me converge to be Cuesta Grade in front of me. Just short of the summit, I see smoke from a chimney to my right. That’s the isolated house where, about 40 years ago, Marianne and Navnit and their adorable and energetic toddler lived. I wonder where any of them are today. At the summit, there’s a dirt road heading north. If you were to drive along it, first there are spectacular views. A bit farther there’s an ecological preserve where varieties of manzanita grow in the serpentine soil. Farther still is an old chromite mine. I still have a piece of lizardite (a form of serpentine) from the tailings. There is also a road heading south, and from it, there is a trail you can use to hike down through a forest to Lopez Lake. Once when we were hiking down, we met other friends hiking up. They gave us the key to their car, so we could drive it back to San Luis Obispo for them, and we wouldn’t have to hitchhike back.

I love driving down the grade into San Luis Obispo. A few years ago they widened the road, so it’s a lot safer, now. Near the base of the hill, the roadcuts are in serpentine- big cuts in green rock, really pretty. I bypass the town and beach towns beyond it by taking the back way to Arroyo Grande. This route used to be ranches, but now much of it is vinyards with tasting rooms. Traveling with friends last year, we stopped at several, but as I was by myself, I didn’t stop. Here is a picture of the scenery in this area:

San Luis Obispo hills

San Luis Obispo hills

In Arroyo Grande I always stop in at Cafe Andreini. They make a sugar-free, fat-free, blended frozen mocha that is really good. They also have internet access, so I was able to check my email. There is also a nice antique store across the street, so I was able to stretch my legs for a while, and resisted the urge to buy anything.

The scenery for the next hour of driving down 101 is rolling hills dotted with majestic oak trees. Since that’s my favorite scenery, this is my favorite part of the drive. A quick stop in Buellton for gas, then into Solvang. I was hoping to find a fabric store with quilt fabric that would go well with the fabrics I already had from Santa Cruz. I’d been to all the stores near home and hadn’t found enough suitable patterns. It took some effort to find it, but upstairs in one store was a fabric store, and better yet, I found suitable materials for finishing the quilt.

San Marcos Pass has beautiful views of the Transverse Ranges, and I really wish I could drive slowly and stop at rock outcrops. From the top, I can see south to Santa Cruz Island. Somewhere around Carpenteria I see a beautiful sunset over the ocean. The rest of the drive is in the dark, but there isn’t that much nice scenery driving through cities and suburbs. I stop in Newbury Park at Cafe Aroma and pick up some food to go, then check into Motel 6 near the Stagecoach Inn and unwind.

Part 2- Saturday

Wake up, shower, breakfast, pack and on the road. At the Starbucks in San Marino I discover they have a Light Java Chip Frappacino. Yum! After I got to the Huntington, the first person I see is Kim Rupert. We chat for a while, register, and chat with some other early arrivals. Then we walked through the old roses, the new roses. The best one we saw (it is January after all, and we weren’t expecting to see much) was La Marne, blooming as if it were spring. We wandered over to the Desert Garden and slowly walked through the amazing collection of cacti and succulents, me taking dozens of pictures because my younger daughter likes to grow them.

Desert Garden

Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

Over at the teaching greenhouse, Clair Martin, Peter Kukielski (of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in NYC) and Karl Mckoy (of the same garden) were talking about compost, mulch and transitioning to organic rose growing. I had missed much of it because the Heritage has always been no-spray, and now we don’t use fertilizer, either. But during their break, I met a few people I hadn’t met before, and visited with many friends. After the discussions, I walked around with Mike and Jean Shoup and Ruth Knopf. We explored the relatively new Chinese garden (where the rose study garden used to be) and looked at the Camelias and Japanese garden on the way to the rose garden. We were all impressed with the huge pergola covered with four plants of the rose ‘Mermaid’. Here they are under the Mermaid pergola:

Under the 'Mermaid' Pergola

Under the 'Mermaid' Pergola

I went on to look through the museum in the mansion while they waited to meet up with Ruth’s daughters, Caroline and Karine.

I checked into the Best Western and lugged some of my stuff up to my third floor room. I was amazed it was a 2-room suite! For not much more than the Motel 6 in Thousand Oaks had been. I had 2 TVs, iron and ironing board, blow dryer, mini-fridge. I ironed my dress and got ready to go back to the Huntington for the banquet.

View from my motel room

View from my motel room at sunset

I sat at a table with my Sacramento friends on one side and my San Diego friends on the other. The food was good, and the desserts were made by a couple of volunteers, Judy Pollinsky and Myriam Hu, who make rose-water for putting in cookies, cakes and other goodies. I tried them all- yum! After dinner there were some short talks and presentations- a preview of the presentations on Sunday.


My table at the banquet

Dessert Table

Dessert Table

Part 3- Sunday

Beautiful weather, again. A shame to spend so much of it indoors. The day’s events kicked off with Gregg Lowery giving a talk about Mystery Roses. Ruth Knopf was one of the original rose rustler’s, and several of her finds are in commerce. Gregg has worked with Ruth for many years, and sells a number of the roses she found.

Peter Kukielski is curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in New York City, which this year was added to the Rose Garden Hall of Fame. He gave a presentation about the restoration of the garden, and of current efforts to make it a sustainable rose garden- replacing disease prone roses with resistant varieties, so chemical sprays won’t be needed.

A new book has just been published by the Manhattan Rose Society: The Sustainable Rose Garden. It is a compilation of articles by 38 authors, including me. All articles relate in some manner to growing roses without chemical sprays and fertilizers. Methods include selection of roses, breeding for disease resistance and soil improvement methods.

We had lunch on the patio. I had a delicious grilled vegetable sandwich. After lunch, Mike Shoup, of Antique Rose Emporium gave a short talk and introduced this year’s Great Rosarian honoree, Ruth Knopf. Ruth speaks softly, and had a lapel microphone. She asked if people could hear her, and someone in the back said yes. I was in the front and could hear her just fine, but apparently people in the back really couldn’t hear her very well, but were too polite to say so. Her talk was interesting. She showed places she had found roses, and then some years later, the place would have been “developed”. She went back to her old house, hoping to get cuttings of roses she hadn’t been able to take with her, only to find that the landscaping had been bulldozed. The lesson has been repeated many times: If you find an old rose, ask for cuttings and propagate it now. Spread it around among other rose growers. You never know when it will disappear. She has been doing these things for many years, and Charleston’s Rose Trail and Hampton Park are the beneficiaries, as well as nearby Boone Hall. Some of her mystery roses are commercially available, and we have several at the Heritage Rose Garden.

Me with Ruth Knopf

Me with Ruth Knopf

There was a reception on the patio after the talk and presentation of the award. The reception included a raffle:

Reception on the patio

Reception on the patio

Afterwards, thirty of us went to dinner at Il Fornaio. Janelle had made the arrangements, for which we are all grateful! (It’s somewhat like herding cats. Determining a suitable restaurant, making arrangements for a room, figuring out how many are coming…). The food was excellent. I sat at the table with Ruth and her daughters Caroline and Karine, Malcolm Manners and Jane Waring. I knew all of them from International Heritage Rose Conferences over the last 10 years, and it was great to be able to spend time with them. It’s too bad there wasn’t an extra seat at each table so we could go visiting. Maybe next year we can make that arrangement. What most of us like about these events is visiting with people we rarely get to see in person, and there never seems to be enough time for all the visiting we want to do.

Dinner at Il Fornaio

Dinner at Il Fornaio

Part 4- Going home

This will be much shorter a story than getting here was. The route was almost the same (including the stop at Cafe Andreini in Arroyo Grande). I took a few pictures around Lake Cachuma of the mountains and the oak-studded hills near Hwy 101 on Hwy 154.

Mountain view near Lake Cachuma

Mountain view near Lake Cachuma

Rolling hills and majestic Oaks

Rolling hills and majestic Oaks

In San Luis Obispo, I went into town to The Network, where several local artists own a gallery. I have a print by one of them (of oak-studded hills near San Luis Obispo)- Rosanne Seitz, and wanted to see any new work she had there. I was hoping she had cards for sale, but no such luck. Her website is: . I just realized that my photo just above here is identical to one of her paintings!

On my way back to the car, I stopped in an art supply store because they were having a big sale on frames and canvas. I didn’t buy any sale items, but got a couple things I thought my daughter would like. While I was waiting to pay, the woman in front of me had a huge photo print on the counter to have them dry-mount it. I asked where the picture was from, and she said Hearst Castle. I could see some roses on standards, and mentioned that a friend of mine had done the grafting for the new standards for the garden restoration. Turns out this woman, Victoria Garagliano, was familiar with the restoration project, and had even had some of her photos published in the Rosa Mundi article about Hearst Castle a few years back. Small World!

Back home at a little past 7pm, somewhat exhausted, but very happy!


About Jill Perry

Since 2005, I have been the Curator of the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, a part of Guadalupe River Parks and Gardens near downtown San Jose. I write about the Heritage Rose Garden, my garden and my travels when I feel inspired and have time. Since I have no regular schedule, if you'd like to know when I write a new article, please subscribe to this blog.
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4 Responses to Roadtrip- Great Rosarians Weekend

  1. theresa doss says:

    The hills here are so beautiful. I hope my son goes to Cal Poly. I’d love to make this drive to go and visit him there. Thank you!

  2. Jill,

    I have registered with your blog and this is the 2nd post I have read. Thanks so much for sharing! I so wish I could have been there too as Ruth is a friend of mine. It is not easy to fly from florida these days. Your description was the next best thing!

    I did get to go to the Huntingdon for the ARS Palm Springs National last November where I met Gregg and jeri jennings, and Ann Belovich for the first time. Also Clair and got to experience the beautiful gardens. I drove the same route from san Fran as my husband and I flew there first and made our way down the coast. My husband James had gone to school in santa Cruz when he was in college and he has always talked about the place of the Giant Artichoke. So of course we had to stop in that town and eat a bunch of fried artichoke hearts and a giant artichoke, something I will never forget!”

    I have been making a list which keeps getting longer to send to you for cuttings for when you have time. i will send that soon. I am also sending some donation money real soon. Thanks again for all your wonderful thoughts!

    By the way, since I spoke to you I have started a North Central Florida Heritage Roses Group in our area as a local satellite of the national HRG. We have been given land to design, plant and maintain a new Memorial garden at our local Haven Hospice. We will have the groundbreaking in february. I will be posting pictures on my blog when it happens. Take care, Pam

  3. Heya superb blog! Does running a blog like this require a
    lot of work? I have no expertise in programming but
    I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future.

    Anyways, should you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners
    please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I simply needed to ask.
    Many thanks!

    • Jill Perry says:

      Nice to hear from someone in Cornwall. It’s my ancestral homeland (Eddys from St Just and Tredinnicks from St Agnes and St Austell.) Just write your blog whenever you’re in the mood to write. You don’t need to know any programming.

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