Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cemetery Roses

The education of an Old Garden Rose fanatic is not complete until they've initiated or participated in a rose rustling event.  To my knowledge, rose rustling was initiated by the Texas Rose Rustlers group (http://www.texasroserustlers.com/), an honest-to-god group of people who are dedicated to preserving and propagating roses that have survived decades without help on old homesteads or in older cemeteries.  Think of rustling as allowing Mother Nature to select which roses we're going to grow and distribute through a brutal 100 year Darwinian exposure to a specific area climate.  Talk about your minimal care roses! 

I became aware of the Rose Rustlers through Thomas Christopher's excellent book, In Search of Lost Roses (yes, we used to actually learn things from hours of reading printed material instead of searching the Internet).  I'm convinced that all it takes to hook someone on OGR's is to provide them a copy and give them a few uninterrupted hours of reading time.  Soon, they'll be grabbing a pair of pruners and looking for the car keys to start their own rustle.  For new rustlers, the rules of etiquette are pretty firmly established;  1) don't do anything that risks damage to the original bush, 2) ask permission before you rustle someone else's rose. Those two simple rules are sufficient to preserve the bush for others to admire and to keep you from getting arrested for trespassing, or worse, shot.  Additionally, I always view it as good karma to give the original bush a little organic fertilizer or a deep watering after I've taken a cutting or two.

I have rustled a few roses myself over time. Old, unkempt local cemeteries always make a good source for possible roses and my 'Cardinal de Richelieu' is actually a cemetery cutting that I'm absolutely sure is correctly identified.  I also have two other roses from local cemeteries, one a perfect white non-remonant rose with light green foliage that I've been unable to identify, but which is heavenly-scented.  The other, found on an 1850's grave in the cemetery of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church (google Henry Ward Beecher for the history) is a very double pink Alba that was being smothered in shade and that I'm pretty sure is 'Konigin von Danemark'.  The original rose has since succumbed to the shade, but it lives on in my garden.  What the 1826 German-bred Konigin was doing in Kansas by the 1850's, I'll never know, but I bet the rose could tell a great story of its travels.

For those attracted to both beauty and history, try a little rose rustling.  Or read Christopher's book.  I promise either one will give you an afternoon to remember.

3 comments:

  1. What a timely post. Right now, I'm working on a presentation about cemetery roses and rose rustling for presentation next spring. Congratulations on your cutting of Koenigen von Danemark. I am 0% successful rooting Albas.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good to read your article and I would like to hear from you!

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  3. I am looking for the source of my great-grandfather's rose that he supposedly brought from Germany in the 1850s. It is a white shrub with small blooms. They are not single, but not very full either. The leaf is small and the foliage is turning red this fall. I really enjoyed your post and hope to get the book "Lost Roses". It might help me identify Grandpa's Rose.

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