Thursday, April 28, 2011

Old Cemeteries: Where Roses Keep On Living

Like so many other things, roses often fall victim to changing tastes: a certain variety, or color, or class comes into fashion, and all else is forgotten, sometimes for years and years. The unfashionable varieties may quickly go out of commerce, and disappear for good. But sometimes, if we are lucky, they can be still be found growing near old homes, or in old cemeteries, often surviving in complete neglect, without water, or fertilizer or pruning or any of the cosseting we tend to give the plants in our gardens.

R Fortuniana growing in an old cemetery in Northern California
Recently, we took a trip to an old cemetery located along El Camino Real, the King's Highway connecting Alta California's Spanish missions. I made the trip because I wanted to see an over 100-year old specimen of Devoniensis, a beautiful Tea rose with lovely cream blooms and a strong tea fragrance.

A Tea rose believed to be Devoniensis
How awe-inspiring it was to see such a gorgeous old rose that became a tree taller than I am with a gnarled moss-covered trunk and blooms weeping all the way to the ground.



Looking at these delicate blooms nodding at the graves beneath them I was thinking of the person who planted this rose over a century ago. It was comforting to know that something might endure so long after we are gone.


This cemetery has several other old roses, but one more I was delighted to see is Rosa Fortuniana, a vigorous once-blooming rambler that is often used as an understock for grafting.


This rose has beautifully shaped creamy white blooms with a strong fragrance of violets.


It is a very big rose (it is the one in the first picture) and can be easily grown scrambling up a tree. It would eat my whole house and garden in one gulp, so I dare not grow it, but it is a treat to see it rambling unrestrained and blooming with such abandon.


While rosa fortuniana is well-known and still widely grown, not all found roses can be identified right away. Many of them still only have "study" names, such as a beautiful family of hybrid perpetual roses, 'Grandmother's Hat', 'Larry Daniels' and 'Tina Marie'.

'Grandmother's Hat' (Hybrid Perpetual, found)
Their real identity may be discovered one day, or perhaps they will live on with their study name, appreciated by discerning gardeners for their unique beauty enduring beyond the whims of fashion.

38 comments:

  1. Thank you Masha for a lovely visit to see these wonderful old roses. They are my favorites. They are more hardy, have lovely shapes and forms and delightful scents.

    FlowerLady

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  2. Old cemeteries are great places to go and see heritage plants. These old roses really are special and big too. They just seem to be right at home in the cemetery. Beautiful images, Masha.

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  3. Masha, Your compositions of the roses are wonderful. Of course the roses are beautiful too. Over here, we usually see plumeria in some cemetries.

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  4. I bet the old rose would have a few stories to tell if it could talk. Long live the rose...

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  5. There is somthing so peaceful about an old cemetary...like time has stood still..almost the feel of a ghost town...and to find these stunning roses is wonderful

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  6. Great post! Looks like it was worth the drive. I love the fragrance of old roses.

    I have a friend who has taken trips to the local cemeteries in the spring to take rose cuttings. He just names them by the name on the gravestone near by (ex. rose 'Anna Margaret'). He certainly has a lot of diversity in his roses!

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  7. How beautiful! I planted a rose at the cemetery this weekend. I hope it lives (I will, of course, help it along). My worry is mostly of deer. But seeing these roses give me some hope that the rose will live a long life.

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  8. FlowerLady, thank you, and you are right, the old roses are the prettiest.

    Donna, you are right, people go to cemeteries to get cuttings of heritage plants, there are some that call themselves "rose rustlers" that go looking for forgotten old roses.

    One, thank you for your compliments. It is strange for me to think of plumeria in cemeteries, but you live so far away... Thank you for telling me this fact.

    Greggo, that's right, if only it could talk...

    Donna, you are right, it does seem as tough time has stood still. This makes a visit there so special.

    Thank you, Julie. I bet your friend has some interesting and beautiful roses.

    HolleGarden, I hope the rose you planted will grow and bloom for many years to come. Good luck.

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  9. How absolutely beautiful! I love old cemeteries for many reasons, and this is one of them.

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  10. Thank you, Ginny. You are right, there is so much beauty there!

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  11. What a lovely post about roses growing at old cemeteries! Thank you! That 'Devoniensis' is g o r g e o u s ! To me there is something quite moving to see a rose that is more than a hundred years old and still pleasing us with its beauty. I haven't visited any of the old cemeteries in the US yet, but your post certainly motivates me to finally start doing it!
    Christina

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  12. Thank you, Christina, I am glad you liked it. You are right, that Devoniensis is gorgeous. An old cemetery can be a beautiful place to visit, I think you will like it if you decide to take such a trip.

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  13. Really a "Romantic" walk... I also think that old cementerys are often fascinating.
    I was expecially amazed by the rose tree!

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  14. Thank you, Dona. I was amazed too!

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  15. What beautiful roses. I agree - how amazing that something we plant may endure for 100 years +!

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  16. You know that cemeteries used to be a destination place to go to like going to the park is now.

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  17. Such beautiful photographs and a lesson to rose growers everywhere. There are gorgeous varieties of roses that flourish in our zones. We need only to look at our local cemeteries to find roses that thrive on no spray and water only the Lord provides......

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  18. Christine, thank you. I am glad you liked them.

    Thank you, greggo.

    You are so right, RR. Thank you for this comment.

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  19. Lovely post, Masha. Thanks so much.

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  20. I wished the cemeteries in Europe were so beautiful... Very beautiful photos, Masha !

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  21. Thank you, Sherry and Isabelle. I am glad you enjoyed this post.

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  22. I cannot get over that specimen of Devoniensis. I have the shrub form on the east side of my house which has recently been reduced to a one-cane wonder from canker, presumably... I have never seen a rose have a form like that. It looks like a Camellia tree.

    It would be lovely to think of our gardens persisting in some form for over a hundred years wouldn't it..

    Those rolling hills of California are beautiful too.

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  23. Thank you, Sweetbay. Some people say most Devoniensis clones now in commerce are weakened. Maybe the vigorous plant from the cemetery will be propagated and offered to the public one day.

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  24. They are absolutely breathtaking - thank you for sharing these beauties

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  25. Thank you, Klaraau01 - I am glad you liked them.

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  26. Fabulous tour! Thanks. I feel as if I have been there. If only the fragrance came through the monitor!!
    Sandra

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  27. Thank you, Sandra, and I agree about the fragrance... Maybe some day :).

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  28. Lovely post, Masha !!!
    How beautiful. These old roses really are special and big too. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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  29. A rose that became a tree, wow!

    In my area, it's usually a lilac that marks the place where a house once stood. The lilac blooms on every spring, long after the house has melted back into the land.

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  30. So it was where I was born. But roses love it here and live a long time.

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  31. These old roses are to be treasured. Thank you so much for all your knowledge and bringing these old roses to our attention.

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  32. Hi Masha!
    Fortuniana is indeed an amazing rose. I grow it in a big container - because of lack of space, but despite it's desire to get HUGE, it can be reasonably contained this way... mine sends up very tall canes which arch down over the balcony forming a cascade. originally she was ment to be planted in ground but now that I've seen it performing quite well in a pot I would not want to be without it...

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  33. Masha -- I just stumbled across this site, and enjoyed every bit of it. You caught that cemetery in a beautiful season -- I haven't often seen grass growing in that area, but it sure is beautiful.

    I have here a Fortuniana, grown from a small cutting, taken from one of two in that cemetery. She stretches most of the way up our hillside, now, covering a derelict old fence. Here, as in that cemetery, she can repeat her bloom, and I think she's as special in her own way as that lovely Devoniensis.

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  34. Jeri, thank you for leaving a comment. I am so glad you liked this post. I would love to see your Fortuniana going up the hillside, it must be a gorgeous sight.

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  35. mother and I used to go and ramble in the cemeteries to see the old roses that were blooming...it is amazing to see how hardy these roses are when most of the time they receive very little water...In a drought they get no water at all...thank you again for sharing these beauties.

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