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Roses from A to Z Column 27
August 2, 2008

Remembering friends with each bloom.

Roses and Memories

G. Nabonnand photographed in Marilyn Wellan's garden.

By Carolyn Parker

While hand-watering and admiring the deep red rose Barcelona, I thought fondly about where it came from.

Barcelona–along with La Marne, Village Maid, and G. Nabonnand–was a pass-on from my friend Jean Vieth. In her quest for ideal plant combinations in her garden, these roses didn’t make the grade.

I’m grateful she took the time to dig them up and cart them over, because they fit in beautifully here. And my rose memory cache is richer. A rose is a rose, and much more.

For me, admiring rose beauty is one pleasure, and remembering where they came from is another.

My husband, Leroy, planted the pale pink Tea G. Nabonnand this morning. It was the last of Jean’s roses to make it into the ground. I have bonus memories for this one.

Suited to a Tea

The South is famous for its Tea roses, and while in Louisiana I had ample opportunity to study them in Marilyn Wellan’s garden. These robust roses push out new growth from every possible place, and they are rarely out of flower, in both the South and in California. In Marilyn’s garden I fell for G. Nabonnand, and wished I had it in my own garden.

When I returned home I took a careful look at five Teas, in gallon cans, waiting to be planted. I studied pictures of their blooms on the internet, made plans for their placement, and wistfully thought of G. Nabonnand. Then one day, I looked at the label on a Tea, in a 15-gallon can, that Jean had brought over. I had assumed it was something else––it was “G. Nabonnand.”

Blossoming Memories

Memories of Jean, Marilyn, Louisiana, friendship, and other good things will be with me as I watch this rose progress into bloom. A thriving rose garden is a community of more than the plants themselves. And it takes more that one gardener to develop a diverse collection. The experiences and learning along the way are part of the magic.

When I first laid my eyes on James Mason–a startling bright red Gallica hybrid–at the Celebration of Old Roses, I had to have it. The only source I could find was Peter Beales in the United Kingdom. I saw it on the display table, a year later, and my heart leapt again. I did nothing about it though. Then while visiting Nanette Londeree’s extensive Marin County rose garden, I asked, “Do you know anything about the rose James Mason?”

“Yes, I have it, do want some?” she replied.

She warned me that it has invasive suckers. "Watch where you plant it," she said.

It's now thriving in an open area of our garden — it only blooms once, but what fun to enjoy its beauty and remember its story.

Thankful for friends

Susan Donley told me I had to grow Pink Gruss an Achen. She was right, and I think of her when this thrilling pink rose overextends itself into masses of ruffled blooms.

Gregg Lowery, owner of Vintage Gardens, comes happily to mind when I'm admiring Madame Antoine Rebe. I asked him the names of good red roses. This one's a stunner. Actually, I think of Gregg often. Thanks to him and Phillip Robinson, so many of the old, historic roses are available. Paquerette, the first Polyantha and countless other treasures fill out our garden.

In pouring rain, I happily gathered buckets of darling pink roses from the Bonica hedge in front of my friend Karen Talbot's home. She was giving an impromptu tea and needed decorations fast. We joyfully crammed the house with charming posies. A week later, I found a Bonica rosebush on my porch as a thank-you from Karen.

All in a name

Then there are the roses named after people I've met that bring so many memories — the great English rosarian Graham Thomas, renowned Bay Area rose women Barbara Worl and Miriam Wilkins, Peggy Martin andher Hurricane Katrina rose. Their namesakes are thrilling additions to the garden, and excellent roses as well.

These days, before I plant a rose, I thoroughly vet it at for looks, size, and other information I might gather. I'm finished with impulse planting, but I always look forward to the next rose acquisition and its tale.