The Sweetheart Rose

Most people say it “Cecil Brunner”, and some are quite surprised to find out it’s “Cécile”. Formally she is known as ‘Mlle. Cécile Brunner’.  I’ve tried to call it that ever since I was giving a talk in the 1990s, and called it “Cecil”. Miriam Wilkins, founder of the Heritage Roses Group, was in the audience and said, rather emphatically, “Ahem… It’s Madamoiselle CéCELLE Brunner.” I feel that if I were to say “Cecil” now, she would hear me in Heaven, and I would be struck by lightning.

My first encounter with this popular rose was when I rented a house in downtown Santa Cruz, and a previous owner had planted one of the climbing forms on either side of an arch over the entrance sidewalk. Every year from the top of the arch, it would put out ten-foot long canes. Everyone had an opinion on what to do with them: cut them back to a short length, train them back down and along the top of the adjacent hedge, etc. The next homeowner removed the plants completely, which was the wisest thing to do. The climbing form can be a monster, best suited for covering entire fences or climbing tall trees.

The rose comes in several forms. The shrub form was originally bred by Marie Ducher in 1880. She was the widow of the well known French breeder, Claude Ducher, and is often referenced as Vve. Ducher, meaning Widow Ducher. They lived in Lyon, where there were many rose breeders at this time, and many of their creations are still popular. It was introduced by her son-in-law, Joseph Pernet-Ducher in 1881. The parentage of ‘Mlle. Cécile Brunner’ is usually listed as ‘Polyantha alba plena’ × ‘Madame de Tartas’. But there is apparently some doubt, as Weeks had listed the parents as ‘R. multiflora’ x ‘Souvenir d’un Ami’. Of course, there is also doubt about the identity of the roses currently sold under the names ‘Mme de Tartas’ and ‘Souvenir d’un Ami’ as well.

Ulrich Brunner was a nurseryman in Lausanne, Switzerland. I can only assume he was a friend of Vve. Ducher or Joseph Pernet-Ducher. Ulrich had a son also named Ulrich, and a daughter Cécile. Ulrich Brunner fils also had a daughter Cécile, so it’s not absolutely certain the rose was named for the first or the second Cécile, or if Ulrich Brunner has been confused with Ulrich Brunner fils. Another rose was named ‘Ulrich Brunner fils’ bred by Antoine Levet, another resident of Lyon.

The climbing form grown in the US was discovered by Franz P. Hosp in 1894. (In Australia, a climbing form was discovered by Richard Ardagh in 1904.) This is the form that remains popular in my area. Just in taking walks in my neighborhood, I know of more than a dozen plants of it. They cover arches, fences and climb trees and old poles.

There is a third form called ‘Spray Cécile Brunner’, which was discovered by someone at The Howard Rose Company, and sold starting in 1941. This sport of the original blooms more. Somehow it also became confused with another rose, ‘Bloomfield Abundance’, and was sold under that name for many years. Two recent developments should put an end to the confusion. DNA analysis shows that it is a sport of ‘Mlle. Cécile Brunner’, and Judy, my friend in the Sierra foothills, found a plant that appears to be the real ‘Bloomfield Abundance’.

The point of this article is really just to show all the plants of it that are blooming this spring in my neighborhood. I took them all within half a mile of my house. Had I walked a different route, I could have taken as many pictures of plants in other directions within the same distance. In spring when they all have their best bloom, they seem to be everywhere.The plant is as popular now as it was more than 100 years ago. Enjoy!






















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Great Rosarians of the World 2013

Part 1- before the talks

Every winter since 2001 there has been a Great Rosarian honored at the Huntington Library in San Marino. This year two were honored- Dr. Walter Lewis and Dr. Malcolm Manners. I hadn’t heard of Dr. Lewis before, but I’ve been friends with Malcolm since the International Heritage Rose Conference in Charleston, South Carolina in 2001. (I wrote about that conference here.) More information on the speakers can be found at: This year’s event was on Saturday, Feb. 2.

The drive down on Friday was pretty much the same as other years, and I wrote a blog on that a couple of years ago, which can be seen here. The weather was nice and sunny as I neared San Luis Obispo. I even had the air conditioner on, and was looking forward to a frappé at Cafe Andreini in Arroyo Grande. But by the time I got there, a cool, foggy wind had come up, and the temperature dropped to about 60. I decided to get the frappé anyway, and drive with the heater on. I also got a chocolate treat at the chocolate store, and some chocolate dipped shortbread cookies at the bakery. I love all the little shops in this old downtown section of Arroyo Grande. Unfortunately, the one with gifts and wine is now gone. I could easily waste an hour looking at the things they had.

Friday night was spent in Camarillo with Jeri and Clay and their three very friendly and beautiful long-coat Dalmatians. I had picked up some cheap wines at  Von’s before leaving Santa Barbara, and we went through the better part of both of them. It’s amazing how good some really cheap wines can be. For dessert, I shared the cookies from Arroyo Grande.

On Saturday, I arrived at the Huntington when it opened, and checked out the giftshop, as I always do. Part-way through, my friend Anita from Sacramento greeted me, and we finished looking together, then headed to the succulent garden. I think I’ve already photographed every plant there to show my daughter who has quite a collection of succulents, so this year I mainly took super-close-ups that I can use to make her a calendar for next year.

One of my close-ups.

One of my close-ups.


Parrots pulling fluff out of kapok pods. I love seeing the wild parrots when I’m at the Huntington.


Another of my close-ups.

Another of my close-ups.

As we came back from there to the entry area, I saw Malcolm and Dr. Lewis, so we had a bit of meet and greet. After lunch, we also had exchanges. Anita had a book that David Ruston had given her in Japan to give to me, and I was very excited to get it. Malcolm brought me a plant of Maréchal Niel for the Heritage Rose Garden that he thinks is a good cultivar, and grafted on Fortuniana rootstock. The Heritage lost its original plant after only a few years, and the second died in the nursery. I have high hopes that this one will flourish.

Part 2- the talks

Here are my notes written down during the talks, plus a few things added for explanation:

Dr. Walter Lewis’ talk on North American Species Roses

He studied rose species for his PhD thesis in the 1950s, but has not worked in them in his career at Missouri Botanical Garden and teaching at Washington University  in St. Louis. Recently, he wrote the rose section for North American Flora, which will be coming out soon.  For this talk he covered native species (16 Rosa, 1 Systylae), related species, 6 introduced naturalized species and naturally occurring species hybrids. Several of us later wondered about the use of the term systylae, rather than synstylae, with which we are more familiar, but both are valid botanical terms, with the meaning that the styles are fused. The following is what I wrote down, and nowhere near all he talked about.

Species affiliated with Rosa:

Minutifolia may be the oldest rosa-type species in N. Am.

Stellata has several sub-species. The map shows several separated areas, indicating the range was once inclusive of all of them, and separation accounts for the sub-speciation.

Diploid species of Rosa:

(For those not familiar with genetics, diploid means the plant has 2 sets of chromosomes, which is typical for rose species. Attendees without a science background realized how informative the talk was, but much of that information was lost on them.)

R. blanda- no prickles

R. woodsii- 6 sub-species.

R. foliolosa- the only white native. He plans to name a newly recognized sub-species of this for his wife. He said this species is a parent of Bayse’s Purple, but Kim told me later that recent tests have shown it is all rugosa, and I should tell Dr. Lewis to get in touch with Dr. Byrne about it. However, the Texas A&M site still lists the rose the way Dr. Lewis said.

R. palustris- serrulate leaflets, edges look almost smooth.

Tetraploid and other ploid roses:

R. carolina-  4x, derived from blanda and palustris

R. virginiana- 4x, derived from nitida and palustris. Used to be R. lucida

R. arkansana- in blanda/woodsii group, possibly autoploid (doubling of chromosomes occurring during meiosis.)

R. acicularis is 8x, some species are 6x. This is when he was talking about naturalized European amd Asian species.


R. setigera is the only native, and has the largest known chromosomes in genus rosa.  He showed a comparison photo of chromosomes, and setigera’s were about twice the size of the other.

R. wichurana or R. wichuriana has been dropped in favor of calling it R. luciae.

R. caninae- was used in ancient Greece to treat dog bites. Multiple ploidies and sub-species. An ancient cross oincluding species no longer existing.

Me with Dr. Lewis after the talk.

Me with Dr. Lewis after the talk.

Dr. Malcolm Manners talk on work he has done with roses

Part 1. He started with an overview of rose projects he has been involved with.

The musk rose, partly a DNA study, as the musk rose was a parent of the Noisette class. Three types have been found. R. moschata, R. moschata “plena”, and “Temple Musk” which appears to be a more double form of “plena”.

The Bermuda Mystery Roses. A note about Maggie, which has been found in India, Bangladesh, Florida and Bermuda. It might be Eugène E. Marlitt.

Heritage Rose Foundation (Malcolm is a board member) is involved with the New York Heritage Rose District. Putting historic roses at historic sites in New York City, teaching Girl Scouts how to propagate roses. Many roses for the project were grown at Florida Southern College.

Part 2. Rose Mosaic Virus

RMV is several diseases with the same symptoms. The most common form somehow came from a prunus. Perhaps someone was experimenting with trying to grave a plum to a rose rootstock. That kind of graft would not work, but perhaps the stock was reused after being infected. By the 1970s, 90% of roses grafted to rootstock were infected, through a combination of propagating infected rootstock, and grafting scions from infected roses.

He explained how he got involved with heat treatment of infected roses, and how the process is done.  Treated roses are also tested to ensure they are virus-free, and he explained how that is done. The testing is called virus indexing (VID) and several nurseries carry VID roses. UC Davis also does this. Each of the types of tests has been tested to be sure of no false positives or negatives.

Some findings about RMV from other tests: it cannot be spread by pruners, or aphids. Roses planted nearby aren’t likely to get it, but roots touching roots of another plant can spread it. It required very close planting to get the root to root contact required.

Me with Malcolm Manners after his talk.

Me with Malcolm Manners after his talk.

Part 3- the rest of the trip

Saturday evening, I joined Malcolm, Anita and her husband Walt for dinner at San Marino Seafood restaurant. The clam chowder was excellent- we each had a cup. Lots of bits of clams, not so much potato as most. I can’t remember what all we talked about, but we were there for 2 hours. Poor Walt. He just smiled and was pleasant the whole time, but has no real interest in roses.

Sunday morning was free time, so I went to Descanso Gardens, and had a nice long walk all over, then went to see the exhibits at the Boddy House and annex. I reached the Boddy House entrance at the same time as Anita and Walt. There was a whiteboard just outside the door with notes from the previous evening’s meeting or fundraiser. The notes were ideas for what to do about the rose garden. We hope they don’t implement any that we saw. I like the garden the way it is currently laid out, and they have a lot of roses that aren’t anywhere else in the US. A couple of years ago, they sent me budwood/ cuttings from half a dozen Japanese and other roses I wanted for the Heritage. I’m hoping we can get them planted in the Heritage this spring.

Sunday afternoon was a continuation of JDs garden dismantling. (I wrote about the first part of that here.) This time the weather was perfect, and we didn’t have the crowd we had in December. I also was by myself, with the back seats removed, so I had room to take 7 potted plants from JD as well as a good-sized batch of cuttings. Kim also brought me cuttings and 4 plants from his garden. Anita also came, not planning to collect anything, but she ended up with some cuttings as well. (Walt took a bike ride for the afternoon.) As in December, we finished the afternoon by sitting around the table with JD and his wife Jane, eating snacks, drinking wine and talking about roses. We, of course, had to keep talking until the wine wore off before driving, so although the event was supposed to go till 3, I didn’t hit the road till 4. Pismo Beach has the cheapest Motel 6 on the coast, so I drove till I got there. I was just in time to see the end of the Superbowl. Oh well. At least it was close.

Monday morning, I first stopped at a cafe in San Luis Obispo to have coffee with my friend Pete, and ended up spending the whole morning catching up with him. We were friends from when we were students at Cal Poly, so when we get together, he tells me about the friends he still keeps in touch with, and I tell him about the ones I still keep in touch with.

After that, it was just the rest of the drive back up 101 and over to Santa Cruz. An altogether great weekend.

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High Tide, Low Tide

This gallery contains 22 photos.

One advantage of living within walking distance of the ocean, is that I can go look at it whenever I like. When there is a minus tide in the afternoon, it becomes a community event. Parents bring their kids to … Continue reading

Gallery | 3 Comments

A Quick Trip to LA

A few months ago, a friend near Los Angeles, JD, decided it was time to downsize his garden. He can’t keep it up anymore, and he has an amazing collection of polyantha roses, many of which aren’t available anywhere in the US. He invited a group of rose enthusiasts to come between 1 and 4 pm on Dec 1 and take cuttings. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I asked the friend if he had a list of his roses so I could decide which ones we wanted before coming down. He sent a list from several years ago, but expects that 10% have died. First I deleted the ones on the list that we already have at the Heritage. I marked “yes” for those already on our “wanted” list. Then I used Helpmefind to see which of the others were available from several nurseries and took them off the list. The remaining ones I marked “rare”. This got the list down to about 100. This was still WAY more than I was anticipating, and I decided to also delete those less than 20 years old, which took me down to 74. Even with attrition, there may still be more than 60 to collect. Although the Heritage already has a large number of polyanthas, and little space to plant more in the beds assigned to them, I decided I should go collect what I could, and after we propagate plants, we can decide which to keep and where to plant them.  The Courtyard garden next to the main rose garden has been for miniature and patio roses, but there is enough room to accommodate a number of polyanthas, and no reason not to plant some there. Once propagated, we may also auction duplicates and some that we don’t have room for, and that way, spread them around to ensure their survival. The South Bay Heritage Rose Group agreed that it was important to get these roses while we can, and agreed to reimburse my gas cost to drive down there and back. Terry, another member offered to come with me and help collect cuttings. Friends in Camarillo offered their guestroom. Other garden volunteers offered to process the cuttings- getting them in bands in terrariums which they will care for.

Nov. 29

Getting ready.  I’ve been making a packing list so I don’t forget anything. Tamara dropped off a plant for me to give to the friends in Camarillo, so I don’t dare forget that. I need supplies for collecting cuttings- gloves, clippers, labels, newspaper, buckets, my large cooler, 2 copies of the list of 74 roses to try to collect, pencils to write on the labels.  The plan is to try and get 4 cuttings of each, and along with a label, wrap them in a sheet of newspaper like a burrito, dip it in the bucket of water, wring it out and place it in the cooler. But I also need to pack a few changes of clothes, various electronics and chargers and other travel items. Maps and directions. Clean out the stuff I don’t need from the car.

Nov. 30

Terry arrived from San Jose about 9am. I’d been worried that the rain might cause problems, but the highway was open. So we got her stuff into the car and took off for points south. I’ve written about this route before: HERE, Part 1. This time, we stopped in Moss Landing for some fruit to eat over the weekend, but not for coffee. It was raining most of the drive. We made the usual stop at Bradley Rest area, and then Cafe Andreini in Arroyo Grande. Their hot mocha is just as good as their frozen one. There is a sandwich place nearby, and we discovered a chocolate shop between the two. The Black Forest truffle I bought was expensive, but big and really good. I told the owner about Kobasic’s port wine truffles, and she wrote it down, as she was thinking of making an alcoholic truffle. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to get those twice a year, instead of only when I go to Sacramento?

Continuing south, the weather got a bit better, so we drove over San Marcos Pass. We pulled in at the view area. The bushes have grown larger, and they are now obstructing much of the view, but here is one pretty picture of the Transverse Ranges:

View from San Marcos Pass

View from San Marcos Pass

No more stops until we arrived at Jeri and Clay’s house in Camarillo, where we were greeted by their three very friendly long-coat Dalmations. Jeri was thrilled to receive the plant- a Rosa chinensis spontanea. Then a lovely evening of food, wine and pleasant conversation.

Dec. 1

A rainy morning. Terry and I arrived at JDs house at exactly 1pm. There were already about a dozen people there. The main problem was that most roses weren’t labeled, so all of us were asking JD where various plants were, and there was only one JD to go around. In the end, I only got 4 potted plants and cuttings of 17 others on my list. Terry also got cuttings of around 6 roses. But I also arranged for a friend in that area to help JD label the remaining ones from my list, and left them with plenty of labels. I can then stop by on my way to or from Great Rosarians in February to collect more plants and cuttings.  Here are some pictures from the event. First Jeri Jennings’ collage of pictures she took. The rose in the middle is Topsy Turvy (everybody asks):

Jeri's collage of pictures from JD's garden

Jeri’s collage of pictures from JD’s garden

Now my pictures after everyone was gone from the garden:

The deck over the garage

The deck over the garage

The hillside behind the house

The hillside behind the house

Back of the house

Back of the house

Afterwards a group of us sat around the table where there were way too many tempting food items:

Sitting around the table after collecting the cuttings

Sitting around the table after collecting the cuttings

When we got back to Camarillo, the four of us went out to a Mexican restaurant, “El Tecolote” that has been there since 1946, then back to for another evening of wine and dogs. Jeri got a good picture of Becket and me:

Becket and me.

Becket keeping me company as I checked email.

Dec. 2

The weather reports were bad- lots of rain, and wind. And getting worse to the north. Terry and I ate breakfast and packed up the car. We thanked our hosts and petted the dogs some more, then headed out. No driving over San Marcos Pass this time, we just stayed on 101. But we were lucky. It stopped raining long enough for our stop in Arroyo Grande (the chocolate shop was closed on Sundays, but the bakery was open), and our stop for gas in San Luis Obispo. It was rainy and foggy going over Cuesta Grade, but at least we were on the inside. I don’t like being on the outside (with the steep dropoff) in bad weather. It also poured and got windy near King City, which I also didn’t like, but the weather steadily improved after that and was fairly nice by the time we got to my home.


The 78 cuttings from 17 polyanthas have been stuck into bands and terrariums by John and David, wonderful volunteers at the Heritage Rose Garden, and the potted plants are in the nursery there. I also have a couple of new friends I met at JDs who are interested in cuttings exchanges. There are always exciting things to look forward to in the world of roses!

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Loose Screw list

I started this list nearly 30 years ago. We have all heard various ways of saying that someone’s cognitive abilities are lacking, or at least suspect. The most common way is “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” I heard some other sayings with the same meaning, and started writing them down in my notebook. Once in a while someone would tell me another they had heard, and I’d add it to the list. Once the list got fairly long, I started checking it when I heard one to see if I already had it, and I usually have. When I was checking on one the other day, I decided I would share the list in this blog. If you know of any really good ones I don’t have, please add a comment.

The lights are on but nobody’s home.

He’s a few bricks short of a load.

His dice don’t have all of their spots.

His solar panels are facing north.

He has a loose screw somewhere.

He’s playing with half a deck.

He’s driving without his lights on.

He’s always home but the lights aren’t always on.

A few sandwiches short of a picnic.

A few pickles short of a barrel.

His engine’s not firing on all cylinders.

There are fewer marbles than advertised.

His elevator doesn’t stop on all floors.

Starting up the car with the garage door closed.

His train of thought is still boarding at the station.

One tree short of a hammock.

Rowing with one oar.

He’s definitely not walking with the rest of the ducks.

Someone went to Australia, and brought back these for me:

There are kangaroos in the top paddock.

He has white ants in the top attic.

A British one:

He’s tuppence off the shilling.

A friend heard these:

Backs like Mules, Minds like tractors.

His golf bag doesn’t have all its irons.

A few spark plugs short of a running engine.

I heard Robin Williams said this one:

“One taco short of a combination plate.”

Jesse on Full House said this (I did say I started this list a LONG time ago.)

“Two grapes short of a fruit salad.”

Joe Bob Briggs said this:

“I think he lives out there where the bus don’t go no more.”

Shann Nix said this one back when she had a radio program on KGO:

“A few French fries short of a Happy Meal.”

The ‘Capitol Steps’ while doing a parody song about Ross Perot said this (and I don’t remember if they were saying this about Perot or someone else.)

“One chewy short of a Whitman’s Sampler.”

Local historian Sandy Lydon said this:

     “Half a bubble out of plumb.”

Can’t remember the source:

    [Some Washington, D. C. congress members]  “don’t have their tray tables in the full     upright and locked position.”

The reason I was looking at the list yesterday is that I was on Facebook and saw a picture of a level, slightly tilted, and it was titled “half a bubble off.” I would have put the picture here, but I can’t scroll down far enough to find it again. I decided to Google images for ‘half a bubble off,’ and found lots of pictures of tilted levels, and this definition, which you can buy on T-shirts and mugs (from Urban

“not all there, mentally speaking. A couple of sentences short of a paragraph, a few shards of pottery short of a full anthropological theory, a few wafers short of a communion, one’s belt doesn’t go through all of the loops, one’s driveway doesn’t quite make it to the road…I THINK YA GET THE PICTURE!”

So now I have five more for the list.



From harborrose: His rose has lost its petals.

William N.:  One can less than a six pack.

Dwight S.: A few lights out in the marquee.  A passenger on the Disoriented Express.  Not the sharpest tool in the chest. Not the brightest penny in the till.

Cissy F.: Not a long ball hitter. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. A couple eggs short of an omelette.

Elaine L.: He ain’t wrapped too tight.

Pat P.: He’s not rowing with both oars in the water.

Seen on Facebook: More horse than sense.

Pat P. again: Some people are one noodle short of a stir-fry.

Found these on Facebook- supposedly comments about students:

1. Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

2. I would not allow this student to breed.

3. Your child has delusions of adequacy.

4. Your son is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot. (my favorite…)

5. Your son sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

6. The student has a ‘full six-pack’ but lacks the plastic thing to hold it all together.

7. This child has been working with glue too much.

8. When your daughter’s IQ reaches 50, she should sell.

9. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming..

10. If this student were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week.

11. From “Golden Girls”: He’s lost the stuffing in his comforter.

12. From Facebook:


13. It’s impossible to believe the sperm that created this child beat out 1,000,000 others.

Comic strip ‘Pickles’: “His grandpa wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”


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Roses in Cemeteries on the Dia de los Muertos

I got a call from Judy, the friend in the Sierra foothills I wrote about a couple of years ago (Foothills Roses post). She was in Gilroy visiting her father, and wanted to know if I’d like to look at some roses in San Juan Bautista and Hollister with her on Friday, Nov. 2. That’s All Souls Day for Catholics, or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to the Hispanic population, an excellent day for visiting cemeteries. My friend Tamara joined us. We met up at the cemetery in San Juan Bautista. I was pleased to see that conditions for the roses hadn’t gotten any worse since the last time I was there (I wrote about San Juan Bautista last year). I know that sounds negative, but some roses were cut back during the spring and summer, and the poor rose we used to think was Devoniensis looks like an 10′ popsicle after a windstorm last spring took off a third of what was left on top. Fortunately, several of us have managed to propagate new plants from it. When we realized it wasn’t Devoniensis, we started calling it “Jesse Hildreth”, for an old nearby headstone. It must either be an ancestor or seedling of Devoniensis, and that makes it much more interesting. There are no known plants of its parent Smith’s Yellow. Unfortunately, there are also no really good descriptions or accurate drawings, so it’s hard to say if it could be that. There are also some seedlings of Devoniensis that seem to be extinct as well, such as Cornelie Koch. I showed Tamara and Judy around all the other roses in the cemetery, with Judy collecting cuttings to propagate. [I should emphasize here, that if your aren’t skilled at propagating from cuttings, please don’t collect cuttings in old cemeteries. You may do more harm than good for the roses there.] One of my favorite roses in this cemetery is “Jose A. Africa”. I’m not sure what class it is in, perhaps Large-flowered Climber. Since it grows without support, it has lovely cascading arches of deep pink blooms in spring, with good rebloom later in the year.

Jose A. Africa

After the cemetery, we drove by some other roses, the “Honeymoon Cottage Purple” and White Maman Cochet. Judy wanted a cutting of that. I have never talked to the home owner, as I never wanted to get cuttings of it, but Judy went to ask permission. The owner, an elderly woman named Mary, said the roses were planted by her mother, so they’ve been there a very long time. I had never noticed there were two other roses up the driveway from the White Maman Cochet. One might be Pink Maman Cochet, not sure about the other. I’ll have to look again in spring. But things got even better- around the corner on the other side of Mary’s house was another driveway, also lined with roses. Most are Hybrid Teas, but one was the Rose of Castile (Autumn Damask). Then Mary asked if we’d like to see the roses on her patio, and invited us to walk  through her house to go out the back door. Again, several Hybrid Teas, but one older pink rose. It’s probably a Hybrid Perpetual. When we left, we thanked her profusely, and promised to visit again in the spring.

After lunch (a table at the restaurant, Jardines, had a nice display of decorative skulls for the Dia de los Muertos) we looked at the roses in the State Park, where Carol still comes weekly to care for the roses and other plants. Since I wrote about the roses there last year, I’ve realized that the roses that pre-date Frances Grate’s plans of about 1990, mainly came from Roses of Yesterday around 1950. (I had been hoping they were from when the Zanettas were still there.) The musk rose on the Castro-Breen Adobe fence has been identified as Rosa brunonii, which was sold as the Musk Rose until the real one was rediscovered- Rosa moschata. Roses of Yesterday was selling that when they was still Roses of Monterey.


Rosa brunonii at Castro-Breen Adobe

Francis E. Lester created many musk hybrids, and after he died, his widow and business partners named their favorite for him. The rose Francis E. Lester grows on a fence behind the stables. In back of the Zanetta House is a rose labeled Rosa multiflora ‘Carnea’, but it’s actually Laure Davoust. It’s not a common rose. The one at the Heritage was found in Fiddletown, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We only identified it a couple of years ago. Laure Davoust was sold by Roses of Yesterday under the name Marjorie Lester, for Francis’ wife. They had found it on a trip to the foothills, and didn’t know what it was, so they renamed it. Very likely they had found that same plant in Fiddletown. Several other roses found in the park were also sold by Roses of Yesterday, and very few nurseries at that time were selling old and species roses. With this nursery so close, and the clear links for some of the roses, I suspect that after part of the town became a State Park, the nursery made a donation of a number of older and species roses. I discussed that theory with a ranger a couple of months ago, and she plans to look into it when she has time. Apparently they kept good records of that sort of thing. One rose still hasn’t been identified. It’s an early and beautiful Bourbon rose, with a strong Damask scent.


“Zanetta House Bourbon”

Here’s a picture of another rose at the Zanetta House. It’s labeled Mme de Tartas, but Vintage Gardens thinks it’s actually General  Tartas. When I was there a couple of months ago to help Carol, I gave it a good dead-heading. This is how it greeted me the next time I was there a month later:


The rose labeled Mme de Tartas much improved over last year.

I also showed Tamara and Judy the possible Bloomfield Courage in front of the Castro-Breen Adobe, still the tiny struggling plant it was when I got cuttings five years ago. But one of those cuttings produced this plant at the Heritage. This year I collected cuttings from our plant and rooted them. I gave a couple to Carol last month, so one can be planted next to the original, and hopefully cover the fence there again.

bloomfield courage

Bloomfield Courage at the Heritage Rose Garden, grown from a cutting of the one in San Juan Bautista

After seeing all the roses of interest in San Juan Bautista, we headed to Hollister. I love Hollister. The Calaveras fault runs right through many houses in one neighborhood, and I enjoy seeing the effects of fault creep every few years. The sidewalks are warped, the curbs offset, and the old houses are getting more skewed all the time. We noticed one for sale that mentioned “new foundation”. They didn’t mention the fault, but then it didn’t go through that house. It went through the one next door. I’d looked at the fault in the cemetery many years ago, but didn’t realize it was the same cemetery we stopped at until afterwards. The previous time I didn’t notice the roses. This time I didn’t notice the offsets from the fault. What you see is certainly affected by what you are looking for. There are a dozen or so roses in the large cemetery. The first rose we looked at was the bush form of Lady Hillingdon. You rarely see the bush form, while the climbing form is fairly popular. It took me a minute to recognize it, even though the climber grows outside my front door.

Lady Hillingdon

Tamara and Judy with Lady Hillingdon

Another rose we found interesting was a pink Hybrid Perpetual. Paul Neyron comes to mind, complete with the rust-covered foliage, but the only bloom was spent and falling apart.

pink Hybrid Perpetual

Judy examining the pink Hybrid Perpetual

In the back part of the cemetery we found a very interesting plot, although not for roses. It was decorated with mortars and pestles and some shell fossil rocks, and instead of headstones appeared to be round rock concretions with names and dates carved on them.

Fossils, mortars, pestles and concretions

Fossils, mortars, pestles and concretions

There is another cemetery across town, so we drove over there and looked around, but there aren’t very many roses, unless you count the plastic ones, in which case there were a lot. It’s a newer and active cemetery, and there were lots of people visiting the resting places of their loved ones for Dia de los Muertos. We need to visit these places again in the spring to find out what the other roses are. And we’ll stop and visit Mary in San Juan Bautista on the way.

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New Hobby

Sunday morning, 9:30am. I put my wallet and coffee mug in my tote bag with the other things I need, get in the car and drive about a mile to a free parking place on the cliff above Capitola Village. Capitola is the quintessential “Quaint Seaside Village”. The morning fog is still pretty thick, and I’m wearing several layers of clothing, just in case the fog blows away before I come back. As I walk along the cliff, I can see the wharf through the fog. Despite the cold weather, there are people on the beach, and kids playing in the water.

Cliff View

The view of Capitola Village from the cliff on a sunny spring afternoon.

A cyclist passes me, rings his bell and waves. Someone I know? Ah, I see that attached to his bike are the same things I keep in the totebag. He’s one of us. I walk down the hill past the Venetian Court condos. They’re the cutest part of the village, and on the National Register of Historic Places. The pink one on the end  (visible in the above photo) is in practically every painting, photo or postcard of Capitola. Some are lived in year-round, others rented to summer vacationers. Then I walk over the Stockton St. Bridge. In September, at the Begonia Festival, floats come down the creek, covered in begonias, and must be short enough to pass under the bridge so they can float around in the lagoon. The bridge will be solid people, and the beach  crowded, too, for that event.  Today, it’s just the usual summer tourists. At the end of the bridge is Stockton Bridge Grille, my favorite restaurant, where I always go for my birthday dinner.

Stockton St. Bridge

The view from the Stockton Street Bridge. The Stockton Bridge Grille is the one to the left , and all the other buildings are restaurants on the Esplanade. They all back up to Soquel Creek Lagoon, a nice place to watch seabirds.

I continue walking along the Esplanade. The first block is all restaurants. I cross the street to the Mercantile Building, and fill up my coffee mug. Something to keep me warm. Then continue along the Esplanade. The next block is all benches overlooking the beach.


Capitola Beach along the Esplanade.

I’m starting to see people I recognize. Someone is getting a stand-up bass out of his vehicle. There’s a small park at the end of the Esplanade, and artists are setting up booths.

artist booths

I pass them and head to the bandstand, climb up where the others are assembling, as it’s nearly 10 am, and start pulling things out of the totebag. First the music stand. I’ve had it since I played clarinet in 5th and 6th grade. Then the music book, and finally… the ukulele. Yes, I’ve taken up ukulele!  Santa Cruz has a HUGE ukulele club, and they get together frequently. I first saw them perform at the Museum of Art and History last winter. They were having a blast! And I knew all the songs they were playing! I decided this was something I’d like to do. I used to play guitar in High School and College, so learning the uke chords was easy. Finding a cheap used uke took some time- they get sold fast around here. But in May, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Pacific Grove, and I found a cute one in an antique store down there. It even has “Hawaii” painted on it. I downloaded a PDF of the songbook, and started learning some chords. My friend Carly told me about the group that plays in Capitola on Sunday mornings. She’s been playing for years, and has a really nice uke. There’s also a group (called “Sons of the Beach”) that meets at another beach on Wednesday late afternoons, but I do Scottish dancing Wednesday nights, and at that same beach on Saturday mornings, but I’m at the Heritage Rose Garden then. And there are several other get-togethers every month.  The Sunday morning time is perfect for me. About 20 to 25 people show up. The bass player also plays kazoo and train whistle on the appropriate songs. Sometimes there’s a drum or guitar player. Tourists and locals gather nearby and listen to us. Little kids dance in front of the bandstand. The most confident players stand at the front of the bandstand. Those  who don’t know the harder chords yet, or can’t always change chords fast enough, tend to stand at the back. I’m getting to know all the ones in the back row.


The group at Capitola Bandstand one Sunday morning. You can see my music stand in the back row near the right side.

Everyone is very friendly. Those who have the music book share with those who don’t. Once we’re all set up, someone calls out a page number, and we all turn to the page and start strumming the first chord. The bass player gets us started- “One, two, three… ” and we all start singing and playing. There are a lot of old rock n roll tunes, some old cowboy and country music tunes, surfing songs, folk songs, Hawaiian, some gospel. People call out numbers and we play the songs and sing for an hour and a half. Then they call out #222. That’s the last song- “On the Road Again”.  So after that, we all pack up our things and get on the road again.

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PVC Greenhouse, Part 2

Since my readership has double after posting about building my greenhouse, I’m adding a follow-up post about the finishing touches. The original post about designing and building the greenhouse is here: First Post

At first I used duct tape where I needed to tape things. Duct tape doesn’t stand up to weather, but it’s cheap and readily available. In a comment I received, I learned that polyethylene tape is available online, and is made for such uses as greenhouses. It’s also pretty expensive online. I stopped at Ace Hardware in Los Gatos last week, and they had poly tape for $8. a roll. My daughter helped me replace all the exterior tape, by putting her hand on the inside of the wall so I had something to press against. The total cost for the greenhouse, by the way, was just about $200. That includes about $30 for shipping. If you can figure out everything you need shipped in one order you can probably cut that part of the cost by half.

The poly walls flap a bit with any amount of wind, and flap quite a lot when it’s gusty. They aren’t loose enough to put clamps on the posts along the walls. I’m not sure if it would be better to have clamped it at each post when I installed it, or had someone help me make it tighter. The diagrams I found online only showed clamps on the corner posts. I have plenty of clamps left, so in a few years when this poly needs replacing, I may try making it loose enough to put clamps on every post.

I wrote that I intended to make a velcro closure for the door, and it’s working very well. So here’s how I made it. I had some leftover strapping from making a handle for a tote bag, and cut two strips of it a foot long long. I bought some sticky-back velcro. Onto each piece of strapping I stuck 6 1/2 inches of the fuzzy side to one end of the strapping pieces. Then I stuck the same length of the prickly side of the velcro to the other end, other side of each strapping piece.

door with velcro

Door post wrapped with velcro covered strap.

I cut a slit in the poly by the door frame post, and one at the same height on the door post. As usual, I lined the cut piece of plastic with duct tape so the poly wouldn’t tear. Then I pushed the velcro through the hole and around the posts so that the fuzzy side was on the outside around each post until the prickly part connected with it, and the rest of the prickly part stuck straight out from the frame post, and straight in from the door post. That way, I can hold the door shut whether I am inside or outside.

I also have a brick just outside the door. My daughter moved some soil around and placed a couple pieces of scrap wood outside the front of the greenhouse to make it level with the edge of the raised garden bed where I built the greenhouse. That’s a big improvement over stepping over the wooden frame.


Door with velcro tab near top, and brick below. The clear poly tape has replaced exterior duct tape.

I put in a thermometer. On warm days (70s), it gets over 100 degrees, so I leave the door ajar during the hottest part of the afternoon. On cool days (high 50s to low 60s) it gets into the 80s inside. I can’t wait to try growing some basil and a tomato plant or two in there!

June update: Everything is working well except the roof poly. Because the roll was folded, the fold lines are weak. I’m making a new roof, covering all the fold lines with poly tape. Only one piece of a fold line has ripped on the wall poly, so I’m going to tape a scrap piece over it. If you can avoid the folded rolls of poly you shouldn’t have this problem. Today, I found that a nursery/farm supply store about 15 miles from me carries poly 10′ wide, and clamps to hold it on the PVC pipe.

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Building a PVC Greenhouse

Part 1- Framing

I’ve been needing a new greenhouse for years. The old one on the property was designed for starting seeds, not any long term plants. It was built in the 60s or 70s, and it doesn’t get enough sun. It is wood-framed, down to the soil, so it is slowing rotting away at the bottom, and termites are eating the rest. The door is permanently open. I considered many options for a replacement, but the ready-made or assemble-it-yourself types are expensive, and usually smaller than I’d like. Last summer, I decided that we could probably make one out of PVC, and told my daughter we’d get something built for her to protect some of her succulent in during the winter. We decided to use the raised 8×12 bed that we used to grow vegetables in until it became too weedy. That’s the same bed that a couple of weeks later, I re-worked to get it ready for the roses coming from EuroDesert Roses, still promising my daughter that I’d get them out before winter. You can see that bed with the roses in it in my previous blog here: EuroDesert Roses blog. I did get the roses out, but it still took quite a bit of time building the new greenhouse. First, to stop weed growth in the bed, I covered the ground with the cardboard boxes the roses had arrived in, and covered that with the black plastic bags the roses had been in, and laid some old pipes and boards on them so the wind wouldn’t blow them away. Then I looked online for plans that I could adapt to this location. If I’d found all I needed to know, I wouldn’t be writing this. Most plans I found were for large hoop houses, or small framed ones. Nothing for 8×12. Using what information I did find, I proceeded one step at a time, carefully measuring and planning as I went along.

Step 1 was to put in rebar posts where the bottom row of PVC pipe would go. I bought pre-cut 3′ pieces at Home Depot. For this design I needed 11 of them: one in each corner, one on each side of the door, and at 4′ intervals on the sides. I pushed each as far into the soil as they would go, just inside the wood sides of the raised bed. Orchard Supply Hardware sells 1″ PVC pipe pre-cut in various short lengths, at $1 for 3′ pieces. They had 5 in stock, so I bought them and several 4-way connectors.


Detail showing the rebar against the edge of the raised bed, with the PVC pipe over it and resting on the bed edge.

I put the PVC on the rebar posts and put the 4-way connectors on top of them, and then measured the length I needed the horizontal pieces to be before going back to Home Depot to buy and cut 10′ poles to size.


Detail showing a 4-way connector fitting with 1″ PVC pipes

The man working in that part of the store that day loves cutting PVC pipe, and cut all the pieces for me. (You can also borrow a cutter in the store and do it yourself if they are too busy to help you.) I also got more 4-way fittings and a couple of T- fittings for the doorway. I put 2′ pieces above the 3′ pieces, but with the 4-way fittings, the sides are about 5 1/2′ tall. Not all of the fittings are available at OSH or HD. I needed 4-way corner fittings. Those I ordered from Greenhouse Megastore.


Here’s the corner 4-way connector that had to be ordered online.

half way

This is how it looked after my first trip to Home Depot.

I thought for a long time about how to do the roof. If I just used 1″ PVC and the available 45-degree fittings, the 8′ span would make the greenhouse nearly 10′ high, and use a lot of PVC. I didn’t need that height. I asked at Home Depot about arching the roof, but the woman I talked to said I couldn’t do that much of an arch with that size pipe. I looked into using a different angle, but those fittings are hard to find online, and odd ones like that are expensive when you need 8 of them. I took my husband back to HD with me, and we played with the 10′ PVC pipes. We couldn’t really bend the 1″ at all. The 3/4″ would bend, but not enough for an 8′ span. The 1/2″ worked well, so we bought 4 poles, and 8 of the 45 degree fittings, as well as a few more 10′ x 1″ poles to cut at home for the door end. There  was also some piece-work to do. We had plenty of short scraps of 1″ PVC. To connect the 45-degree fittings to the top of the 4-way fittings, we cut 3″ pieces of scrap and set them between the fittings. Then, to narrow the other opening of the 45-degree fittings for the 1/2″ pipes to go into, we put 6″ long scraps of 1″ PVC into that end.

piece work

Here you can see the small piece that connects the 4-way to the 45 degree, and the 1″PVC piece used to reduce the opening for the 1/2″ arched PVC

My husband thought the outward and upward force of the arched pipe would push the walls apart, but it didn’t. Just in case, we tied a rope straight across one of the sections at the base of the 45-degree fitting. We put one end of the 1/2″ pipe in a fitting, and bent it till it was at the correct angle to go into the other end, and marked it. Then we cut off the rest of the pole. I waited to put the roof together till I finished the door end.


The end wall showing how the 1/2″ pole slides through the 4-way corner connector that ties the roof ridge line to the wall framing.

The door was another issue that took some thought. I considered trying to find a small used aluminum screen door, and my husband considered framing a simple wood door but in the end the framing, given the raised bed edge, would be a problem. I did find plans online for making a door with PVC, and decided to use them with some minor modifications. Here is the link to the plan, which is part of a complete hoop greenhouse plan with door and window. DOOR PLAN. For the hinges I bought 1 1/4″ connectors and glued two pairs of them. One part was screwed to the frame before the poly cover went on the greenhouse.  For the center of the door, I couldn’t find a reducing T that would slide over the vertical poles, and allow a 1″ pipe in the horizontal, so I got 1 1/4″ Ts, and a couple reducing fittings to go into the horizontal part that the 1″ pipe goes into. Since the T slides on the vertical poles, I used some duct tape and plastic to widen the poles where the fitting was to stay. Then I taped the fitting to the pole as well.  The door hinges are the only part I have glued. (My husband sanded a flat surface where the glue was going for a broader glued area.) The PVC sticks into the fittings pretty well, so it stays in place without glue. I like the idea of being able to move it someday if we were to prepare a better location. Another way to secure it is to drill pilot holes through fittings and PVC, then put in screws. I did this wherever a piece came loose,using stainless steel screws, 5/8″ long.


The door on its hinges. The Hinges hadn’t been screwed to to door frame yet when this was taken.

Once the door end was done I could measure what PVC pieces were needed to attach the roof ridge line. Like the sides, it is made of 1″ PVC and 4-way connectors. The 1/2″ PVC arches slide through the 4-way connectors. Other connectors and 1″ PVC connect the ridge line to the end walls. Little pieces of PVC were added to the top of the door frame and are attached to the arch with duct tape.


The upper part of the door framing showing the roof ridge line and connections to the door frame. The door isn’t quite in the center of the end wall, so the 1/2″ pole is a bit higher on one side than the other. The slip connector will be screwed to the door frame.


The complete PVC framing except for some screws.

Part 2- Covering

So once all the framing is put together, it’s ready for the clear polyethylene covering. 6-mil is what’s recommended for greenhouses. This sort of thing used to be available in small amounts at OSH, but I can’t find anything like it there now. Home Depot didn’t have small enough boxes of it, so I looked online. The best deal I found was on a roll of 6′ wide by 100′ long. That’s more than enough, but not so much I won’t eventually use it all making repairs probably. There may be other hardware stores that also sell that size box.

To hold it on the framing, there are clamps you can get at Greenhouse Megastore for about 50 cents apiece. I bought about 60 of them.



By the way, that article on door and window framing recommended using one of those clamps glued to the door frame as a latch. I discovered the clamps fit pretty tight onto the PVC pipe, so I think it would put too much stress on the door and frame to be pushing and pulling on it as much as my daughter and I are likely to be doing. I’m just going to use a velcro strap. Where holes need to be made in the poly cover for the door hinges and latch, duct tape will hold it in place and cover the cut edges of the poly so it doesn’t rip.

To cover the greenhouse, I first made one long piece wrapping all the way around, starting and ending at the door frame. I put 4 clamps on each door frame side and each corner. I temporarily duct taped the top of the poly to PVC. When the roof piece goes on, both can be clamped to the horizontal wall tops.

The arched part of the end walls was cut and fitted, then taped onto the arches. A large rectangle was clamped onto the door frame. Again, duct tape covered each cut piece of the poly to get around the hinges. The roof was made of 2 twelve foot long pieces, overlapped by about 8 inches, and taped for the full length on both edges. I used a step ladder to get up there with the poly and clamped it to the ridge line where the two poly sheets overlap. Then I cut 4 of the clamps in half. Remember those little pieces of 1″ PVC I put the arched pipe into? Perfect for clamping the roof poly onto. Clamps were placed wherever poly overlapped the 1″ PVC, so the structure should be fairly sturdy.

half clamp

Half-size clamp holding roof poly in place.

Here are a few pictures of the complete greenhouse. Duct tape was used to hold pieces of poly in place where there was nothing to clamp. I’m sure there is a better tape for that purpose. I’d appreciate it if someone would tell me the best tape for holding polyethylene together. By the way, the poly has to be a bit loose for the clamps to go on, so you have to allow for that, and it’s best not to put the clamps close to other fittings, as the poly shouldn’t be stretched.

back wall

The back wall, showing duct tape holding poly in place.

door end

The front wall and door.

finished greenhouse

The finished greenhouse. I reused some black plastic bags, taping them to the PVC inside the north side to absorb a bit more heat.

By the way, if any of you readers try this and have improvements, or know of other products or sources that would be useful, please add a comment. By the way, I recommend a white tarp, UV coated, and a bit bigger than the roof to tie on over the greenhouse during stormy or winter weather. With the lower sun angle, it doesn’t really cut down on light, and will help your plastic cover last longer.

I’ve added a follow-up post here: PVC Greenhouse, Part 2

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San Juan Bautista

This is a wonderful small town for historians, geologists and lovers of heritage roses. Being all three, I’m glad it is so close to Santa Cruz. It is the site of one of the early Spanish missions, and later became an important stage-coach stop throughout the 1800s. Part of the town is now a State Park, and because 4th graders study California history, more than 40,000 of them visit the Mission and surrounding area every year. In front of the Mission is a square plaza.  Next to the Mission and plaza is an escarpment- the trace of the San Andreas Fault. On one side of the plaza is the Plaza Hotel, built by the Zanetta family,  and the Castro-Breen Adobe. And across the plaza from the Mission is Plaza Hall, built by the Zanettas as their home. I’ve visited San Juan Bautista many times. Twenty five years ago, I used to be an aide in some 4th grade classrooms, and accompanied them on their field trips there. Once, I was explaining to my group of students about the fault and how the Mission was on the Pacific tectonic plate, and the field below was on the North American tectonic plate. One of the boys went running down the escarpment and called up about being on the North American plate, then hopped back to the Pacific plate, then back to North American, etc., etc. In the 1990s, there were some Scottish- Victorian balls held in the upstairs hall in Plaza Hall. I remember it being very hot in the hall during the dance, but they were held in the winter, so going out on the balcony at night was freezing! That hall isn’t used anymore, as the exterior stairs are in bad shape, and I’m told there are other structural upgrades needed to meet modern codes.

More recently, my visits there have been in regard to roses. There is a treasure-trove of heritage roses around the town. The biggest plant of Niles Cochet anyone has ever seen is in a private yard in town. A White Maman Cochet is along a driveway near a local park. La Reine grows in an alleyway near downtown. And the cemetery has many roses, some identified, some not. On the fence in front of the Castro-Breen Adobe is a beautiful Musk rose, similar to “Secret Garden Musk Climber”, and a small, struggling plant of Bloomfield Courage. In 2007 we didn’t know what rose it was, but State Parks allowed us to take a few cuttings to propagate for the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. The plant at the adobe was trying to grow back from what had at one time been a large plant- the stump is still there, but the location gets a lot of shade from a nearby tree. The rose there now is no bigger than it was four years ago, but the cuttings grew very well. The one we planted on the toolshed fence has completely covered its part of the fence, and would like to add to its territory at the expense of the other fence roses.

bloomfield courage

Bloomfield Courage as it looked when I collected cuttings. It looks about the same now.

The Zanetta family played a large part in the rose history of the town. They had a  garden behind their house which included the Rose of Castile. I have a copy of the obituary of the Zanetta’s daughter, Mariquita (Mary), who died in 1942 at the age of 89. As a child, when someone in town died, she and her mother planted a rose on the grave. Her first husband was Patrick Breen, whose family had been in the Donner party, and who lived at the Castro-Breen Adobe. He died soon after, and she later married P.E.G. de Anza (whose mother was a Castro). Both de Anza and Castro are well-known names in this part of California, being descendants of the earliest settlers from Mexico after the establishment of the missions, and owners of much of the Central Coast area land before Americans swindled them out of it. I love this quote about the wedding from the newspaper (San Juan Mission News, Aug 14, 1942):

” During the impressive ceremony, Indians strewed Castilian rose petals, as was the custom in those romantic days, for her to tread on from the Mission across the Plaza to her parential home, the “Zanetta Home.”

By the 1980s, the Zanetta’s garden had deteriorated, and State Parks removed many of the old once-blooming roses. Then they decided to make a new period garden there. Frances Grate was a consultant on this project and made recommendations for roses, and a site plan. It wasn’t strictly followed, but a rose garden was made there, with nice brick pathways and underplantings of herbs and perennials. There are also some very old trees.

Souvenir de Mme Leonnie Viennot

Souvenir de Mme Leonnie Viennot on the back porch of Plaza Hall

Elie Beauvillain

Elie Beauvillain

Lady Banks

Lady Banks, taken sometime when I was there at the right time to catch full bloom. This plant is still very happy.

Frances also consulted on the nearby Spanish era garden, a picnicking area with resident chickens. That area also has large old trees and many heritage roses, many of which were from Frances’ plan.

San Juan Settler

“San Juan Settler”, a rose found growing here and named by Frances Grate. This picture is of the plant at the Heritage. It’s thought that it might be the original Rosier de l”Ile de Bourbon, the beginning of the Bourbon rose class.

I wish I could say that the roses of San Juan Bautista were thriving, but sadly, many are not. A State Park with a limited budget can’t afford to hire professional gardeners to care for the gardens. The safety of the more than 40, 000 4th graders a year is a concern in a rose garden- the roses can’t be allowed to grow into the pathways and drape over the fences. Pruning and other care is mainly done by park maintenance workers, and State Parks can’t afford to provide the training for the special care of own-root heritage roses in central California. Most people think all roses are treated the same way, and I wouldn’t expect maintenance workers to know that once bloomers and repeat bloomers or modern roses and heritage roses should be treated differently. But it has been to the detriment of the roses. In the cemetery across town, maintenance is done as cheaply as possible, resulting in some roses being lost to weed-whackers and mowers. In both areas, people have cut off new canes, probably thinking they were rootstock suckers. So many roses are on their last legs (or canes) because of such misguided workers.

But don’t lose hope. I was there Tuesday at the invitation of Alan Kemp. He is part of San Juan Bautista Mission Plaza History Association, a 501-c3, a non-profit, cooperating agency. His hope is to restore the garden, get a regular group of trained volunteers to maintain the garden, and make it into a place that can be used as a money-maker for State Parks, such as a wedding and music venue. Frances Grate was also there Tuesday. The rose restoration group is up to 4 people- Alan, Carol- a volunteer gardener who was there Tuesday, and is anxious to learn the proper care of the roses, another member who is described as “a recovering heritage rose addict” and now Alan’s wife has decided to get involved.

Alan and Frances

Alan and Frances by the two trunks of what was once a glorious mass of Mutabilis. This pruning/hatchet job is very sad to those who remember it as it was.

Alan, Frances, Carol and I spendt much of the day discussing the roses in both the Plaza Hall garden and the Spanish era garden, how and when to prune, and providing much needed and much appreciated guidance. Frances often added comments about why certain roses were selected, and reasons for planting certain roses or other plants in certain locations. I really enjoyed hearing those comments.

After lunch, I drove Alan around, pointing to large old roses around town, then to the Cemetery, to introduce him to my rose friends there. First was “La Dama Blanca” as Mel Hulse had named it. I’ve since realized that it is Gloire Lyonnaise. We have propagated it and grow it at the back of the Heritage, where it can get as big as it is in the cemetery.

La Dama Blanca

Mel Hulse standing by the rose he named “La Dama Blanca” in 2007. This rose is still doing well at the cemetery.

Then “Jose A.  Africa”, a light red rose of undetermined class, which we now grow near “La Dama Blanca”. Nearby is Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, which Jeri Jennings reported as doing poorly in the spring, but it’s doing well now. I made sure Alan smelled that one. I looked at where we had once found Harison’s Yellow, but it has given up. Weed-whacked too many times. The rose we used to think was Devoniensis is a highlight of the cemetery. It has one cane-turned-tree-trunk and 2 small new canes at the base. It had two small new canes four years ago, but they got cut off. Man I wish I could keep well-meaning people with no knowledge away from old rose plants! They can survive being ignored, but they can’t survive ignorance. Nearby is a small Hermosa, doing very poorly- more deadwood than living at the moment.


Devoniensis like rose


Hermosa back when it was happy.

And finally a visit to “Flagpole” a hybrid perpetual by the Veteran’s Memorial plot. It rusts terribly, but the flower is a beautiful, very double deep pink, and quite fragrant. We also have this at the Heritage, planted just this year with the other found HPs. On the way back to town, I stopped by the lot where “Honeymoon Cottage Purple” should be, but didn’t see it. Jeri said it was large and happy in the spring, so I’m hoping I just missed it in the weeds. [Update- yes, it’s doing just fine.]

In the two days since my visit, I have sent several emails to Alan and Carol, with pictures of how the garden used to look and a good selection of rose books for the State Parks library (they actually have some money in their budget for books). Anyone interested in joining their efforts should contact me, and I will forward your email address to Alan. A small but dedicated group of trained volunteers can bring back the beauty of these roses.

Posted in Rose Stories, Travels | 5 Comments