Dr. Wang Guoliang, China Roses and Quarry Hill Botanic Garden

A month or so ago, Virginia Kean called to arrange a good time for Dr Wang to visit the Heritage Rose Garden. I promptly forgot what date. On Tuesday a couple weeks ago, I saw an announcement from the Guadalupe park office that Dr Wang would be there on Wednesday. Good thing I didn’t have other plans! He was a lot of fun to watch in the garden. First I showed him Rosa laevigata because it is a Chinese species, and happened to have some bloom on it. It’s not supposed to be blooming in the fall. He was fascinated. David explained that it had been pruned about a month before, and we all agreed that might explain the out of season flowers. I next showed him Cerise Single China, a seedling that came up in the garden quite a few years ago. He was fascinated with that one too, although we had trouble explaining the concept of bird-drop seedling. Finally we got to the China section of the garden. He dropped to a squat, started taking more pictures. and writing down notes. He said our plant labeled White Pearl in Red Dragon’s Mouth can’t be, because anything labeled dragon is a climber. Also our Sanguinea has been mislabeled for 16 years. It was obvious, but I’d never checked. “Smith’s Parish’ apparently really is Fortune’s Five Color Rose. Odorata understock is not Fun Juan Lo.

Dr. Wang and China Roses

Dr. Wang and China Roses at the Heritage

After meeting him and hearing him talk about our Chinese roses, I thought it would definitely be worthwhile to go up to Quarry Hill on the 25th to hear his talk there. I’ve been to Quarry Hill a couple times before, and went with my friend Tamara, whose brother lives in Sonoma. I also knew that Tamara would enjoy the talk as much as me. So I emailed Tamara and left a message on her phone. And waited almost a week to hear back. She and her husband had taken a vacation. Yes she wanted to go too. So I emailed Quarry Hill
about tickets, and she tried to get in touch with her brother. We both batted out. No answer on the brother’s cell phone, and they’d sold out of tickets. It was only a few days until the talk by this time. Anita emailed that a friend had a spare ticket. I explained that I needed two, then wrote Quarry Hill and asked if they could squeeze in one more if I couldn’t find another ticket. Yes they could! And then Anita emailed again and had found a second ticket, so we could go. Except that the brother turned out to be hiking near Lake Tahoe and not answering his cell phone, and it was the 24th. So we decided to go regardless, and if she still couldn’t find her brother, we’d drive home after the talk.

The morning of the 25th, Tamara’s husband dropped her off, and she told me she finally got hold of her brother, he was back home and looking forward to us coming and spending the night. Everything had worked out! First stop- the Heritage’s nursery to pick up 5 of our left-over sale plants to give Anita for the Sacramento Cemetery Historic Rose Garden. Second stop Pete’s coffee in El Cerrito. Then straight through to Glen Ellen. I finally know how to find where the entrance to Quarry Hill is. It’s practically across Hwy 12 from the end of the road through Glen Ellen. A left on 12, then a right almost immediately. I’m not
writing that for you readers, but for me to refer to next time I go there. I don’t have a GPS device. Or a smartphone.

For those not familiar with Quarry Hill Botanical Garden, it is full of Chinese species grown from seed collected in China. Wandering through a botanical preserve is always fun. Tamara has a degree in horticulture, so while I’m mainly looking at the rose species, Tamara is looking at EVERYTHING. With a running commentary: “Is this a Beauty Bush? My Emmenopterys isn’t anywhere near this big! Oh my God look at this Idesia- I’ve got to get one of these. Smell that Cercidiphyllum? This looks like a little crabapple. Where’s the tag?” This goes on whether I’m still within earshot or not. (By the way, I just picked out random Latin names from the brochure. I really don’t remember the ones she said.) There are many pathways covering the walls of the old quarry, and we walked them for 3 1/2 hours, occasionally running into friends who had also come for the talk, but mostly we appeared to have the place to ourselves. Here are a few pictures, mainly rose species:

Rosa moyesii hip

Rosa moyesii hip

Rosa longicuspis

Rosa longicuspis

Rosa roxburghii  covered in huge yellow hips

Rosa roxburghii covered in huge yellow hips


Rosa roxburghii hip

Rosa sweginzowii

Rosa sweginzowii has some of the nastiest looking armature in the rose world.


R. willmottiae has small bottle shaped hips, and needle like prickles.


View overlooking the lower pond at Quarry Hill.

Eventually, we went to the Visitor and Education Center where many friends were gathering, and we found the person with the spare tickets and reimbursed her, then went in and reserved seats. Dr. Wang’s talk was on the ancient roses of the Song Dynasty (1000 years ago). He has found 3000 records of roses from this period, some of which still exist, including White Pearl in Red Dragon’s Mouth. I took several pages of notes. There are paintings in China from this period of roses such as the ones we call Rosa Roxburghii
and Fortune’s Double Yellow. At that time the people enjoyed growing roses in large pots. He has found paintings of gardens showing the large pots with roses in them. I wish he could have talked for several hours. He knows so much about the history of rose growing in China, and here in the West, we know so little.

After the talk there was the exchange of roses- Alice had a “Rustler’s Gold” for me to take to the Heritage. I had grown one from a cutting several years ago, and it was planted at the Heritage, but died after less than a year. I’ll hang onto this one until it’s a good-sized 5-gallon plant before we put it in the ground. And I gave Anita the 5 plants for Sacramento. Many of us then headed into Sonoma, where Katherine offered us Rosegrowers ( a drink started by the Virtual Rose Society, made with cheap vodka and frozen Pink Lemonade) in her motel room. While enjoying this refreshment, we worked out a plan for dinner. Tamara was advocating the Swiss Hotel on the square in Sonoma. Ten of us walked from the motel to the square, and it turned out that the Swiss Hotel just happened to have a table set for 10. The food was great, and I gather the wine was, too, and the prices were reasonable. It’s so much fun to go out to dinner with rose friends from all around, and chat about roses and gardens. Here is a picture of my dessert:

chocolate cake

Chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream-YUM!

Eventually Tamara and I made our way to her brother’s house, where we had a nice visit before going to bed. In the morning after coffee and picking figs by his house, we went to the Basque Café for breakfast. It’s on the square, and supplies the bread they serve at the Swiss Hotel. I bought two loaves of sourdough to bring home.

One more stop on the way home- Cactus Jungle in Berkeley. Tamara and her husband love succulents, and so does my younger daughter. They have some rare ones at this nursery which are fun to look at. I pickup up a few oddballs for my daughter as an early Christmas present. Tamara got a few plants, including a nice present for her husband.

I’ve included links for all the places in this blog in the list on the right, in case you want to go to any of these places.


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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