EuroDesert Roses and a Generous Stranger

If I was someone who knew me, I’d say to me, ” Are you out of your friggin mind!!!??!?” At the Heritage Rose Garden, we’re trying to get it looking good for the Autumn in the Heritage Rose Garden event coming up on September 24. The weed problem was absolutely awful this year due partly to the wet spring. There is also ongoing pruning of the once-bloomers and deadheading of the repeat bloomers. So no one who volunteers at the garden has time for another project right now.

Now, if you are involved with Heritage Roses, you are probably aware that EuroDesert Roses, owned by Cliff Orent, is going out of business. If you’re on his mailing list, you’ve seen many emails with beautiful pictures of roses. There are many I wish I could have ordered. But if you’ve seen the nursery at the Heritage lately, you’re aware that it is absolutely full of plants waiting for rain so we can plant them. Last year it was worse. Many of the volunteers had a number of potted plants in their home yards, waiting for space in the nursery. We got a lot of roses planted last year, and now all those loaned-out roses are back. This year we planned to get all the ones that have been waiting into the ground, and have space in the nursery before ordering any more.

So, out of the blue, I get an email from a woman in Missouri. She bought as many roses from Cliff as her yard can hold. She wanted to give him some financial help in closing out his stock and was looking for a public garden that would order roses from Cliff, if she made a donation to the garden. None in her area were set up to take rose donations. She looked online at gardens in California because that’s where Cliff is, and thought it might be easier for him. She didn’t know that Cliff and I know each other, and that he wanted to get some of his roses in our garden. She didn’t know I wanted his roses. Just picked us because we were in California and she’d heard about us on forums.

They say timing is everything, and it certainly was in this case. Well, timing and the fact that we are set up to do exactly what she wanted to do- give us a donation and have us spend it at the nursery of her choice. Even have it on our website. That’s why the nursery is full- donations to buy from Vintage Gardens. There were a couple of timing issues involved with this donation. The first timing issue was that I had just done my first inventory of the Courtyard Garden miniature roses (it’s just across the trail from the main garden). It had been a major undertaking, as most of the original signs had fallen apart, there was no real map of what rose was where. Just a database of what had been there around 2004. But I’m no expert on minis, so even if I had a sign, I couldn’t tell if it was by the correct rose. I made maps of each bed, made a separate database for the courtyard with a place for a photo of each. I found pictures online and used them to help figure out which roses were there and which weren’t. I was just finishing up the inventory, and knew that about 50 minis and mini-floras had died. So I thought, this donation could help me get replacements for the roses there as part of an overall rehab of that area which would include more effort to control weeds, and getting new better signs. And it happened that Cliff was about to release a list of his remaining mini and mini-floras, and I found 22 suitable roses on his list.

As these roses would soon be arriving bareroot, I decided I would fix up an unused weed-patch of a big vegetable garden in my yard, put the roses in until we had some rain, then plant them at the Heritage.  This bed had weeds two feet tall- clumps of dried grass, with bindweed everywhere. The soil was clay-rich and dry and lumpy, some piled up, some low areas. and the soil was also full of oxalis bulbs. But we’d already started clearing it, because we planned to make it into a winter cold frame for my daughter’s succulent collection. I promised my daughter the roses would be out of there before frost, and proceeded to spend a good part of three days working it over. I tossed out the surface weeds and as many bindweed roots as I could,and some of the larger oxalis bulbs. By the time i had it loosened, watered and cleared of weeds, boxes were arriving from Cliff. I dug trenches in the garden bed and lined up the roses and fill in the dirt. That kept me busy for the next several days. So here’s a picture of me working in the trenches to preserve rare roses:

planting roses in trenches

The author in the trenches with the new roses

Entranched roses

The garden bed with 26 roses planted in trenches.

At the time I ordered the minis, I didn’t know just how generous this donor was. It turned out we could also order a large number of older and some rare Hybrid Teas, some Polyanthas, a few old roses. Each list Cliff sent  to me had a number of roses on our ‘want list’, and this was the only chance we were going to have to get them from Cliff. I’d hoped we could postpone getting them till after our event, but timing was not in our favor on this. There was a time limit to getting orders, as Cliff was going out of business. Before our event on Sept. 24. If we were going to accept this kind and generous offer, we were taking on more work at a time when we had enough to do already. I don’t have room for more. I posted about the situation to our garden volunteer forum, and they, as always, stepped up to the plate, making suggestions as to how and where we could pot up these mature roses. Let me add a BIG “Thank You!” to any of our volunteers who might read this.

And there are more- Cliff has some recent imports in pots. Those can wait till after our event, thank goodness. So thank you Cliff for sending the roses and working with me in their selection. And especially, thank you to the donor in Missouri. You are making a big difference for a garden you’ve never seen. I hope you can come visit it someday.

And if anyone reading this lives near San Jose, and is fairly able-bodied, we can sure use your help this fall, because we have to get these roses planted. Use this link to see how to volunteer: And Thank You!


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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3 Responses to EuroDesert Roses and a Generous Stranger

  1. This is absolutely wonderful!! Isn’t it amazing how generous people are? Twenty of Cliff’s roses live here now, with a couple more on their way that I ordered from one of his final updates. If I had the means, there would be very little left for him to have to liquidate … because I would bring it all here.

  2. Masha says:

    I am very glad the garden is getting all these rare roses, and thank you for all the hard work you have been doing. I have a few noid minis for the garden that can be planted out (5 I think), and can take more to babysit at home. If you get any band plants from Vintage I can take some of those to grow on.


  3. Cliff says:

    I want to thank Jill for somehow finding a way to take on this project just before the big event next week and for her cheerful and prompt responses to the lists I sent (and sent and sent!). Thank you also to the volunteers at the Heritage who are and who will be involved in caring for these (fairly large) mature roses and in planting them at the Heritage. And thank you so very much to our generous donor in Missouri. Life has a way of connecting the dots, and the fact that she chose the Heritage to be the new home for these roses is absolutely amazing. I can’t think of a better choice — anywhere!


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