English and European Rose Travels

English and European Rose Travels, An Overview 

By John Clements

Feeling a little like a prospector of 1849 I set of for England and Europe to find the best of both old and new rose varieties for future introduction via our catalog. I found lovely treasures and had a wonderful trip. I spent a busy thirty days visiting rose growers, rose nurseries and gardens, but first I attended the seventh International Heritage Rose Conference in Cambridge, England. (Louise will tell you more about the conference in her article.) Following the well attended conference, I joined the American Rose Society tour of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg for the eleventh World Convention of Rose Societies. Dr. William Campbell of High Country Roses was my roommate for the tour. One of our first stops was the world famous Aalsmeer flower auction near Amsterdam. Nearby were the Historical Gardens, owned by a retired president of the Aalsmeer auction. In this garden were many old garden roses as well as a glass house containing the florist rose varieties of early this century, many of them rarely seen today. Then a nice lunch at a small Dutch Restaurant on a nearby canal where they grow their own vegetables. The food was plainly wonderful. Next day it was on to Luxembourg by bus where the opening ceremonies of the convention were held at Casino 2000. The ceremonies were opened by the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. The next morning we visited the very moving and beautiful American World War II Cemetery where General George Patton lies at the head of his troops.

Awaiting us at our stop in Brussels, Belgium was the large old town hall absolutely filled with roses. At the hotel I had lunch with Della Balfour, whose namesake rose we are introducing in this catalog. The Queen of Belgium visited the rose displays and asked for several 'Della Balfour' roses to be planted in the Royal Gardens. That afternoon when we arrived at Mechelen we were treated with wine and cookies which were unique to Mechelen. The beautiful rose gardens there contained dozens of Louis Lens introductions among many others. Our last stop for the day was the Antwerp Rose Garden where we were greeted by the Mayor and a brass band playing for us. The large gardens contained hundreds of rose varieties. Surprisingly in both England and Europe you rarely see an American Rose variety.

The next day there were several rose lectures, the best of which, in my opinion, was Steven Scanniello's talk on climbing roses. He said he had ordered five plants of 'La France' from five American nurseries and they were all different (I will touch on this later when I mention my visit to Lyon, France.) Attending the conference were nearly fivehundred people from thirty countries. I had the pleasure of meeting rose lovers from as diverse locations as India, Japan, Sweden, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay and Greece. We left Brussels bound for The Hague and its world renowned rose gardens. We attended a reception at the town hall. The Mayors of this and various other cities we visited made very long welcoming speeches. I imagined that it must be in their job descriptions. At the reception were most of the world's nurserymen and rose breeders: Sam McGredy, Cohn Dickson, Robert Harkness, Gareth Fryer, Chris Warner, Mogens Olesen of Poulson Roses, Mr. Kordes and many others. I even ran into my neighbor Phil Edmunds of Edmunds Roses.

The next morning we arrived at the rose gardens of the Hague. That day the judging for the Golden Rose of The Hague was taking place. Barbara Mars (Editor of the Rose Hybridizers Association Newsletter) and I walked through the gardens taking photos and judging the roses for ourselves. My choice for the Golden Rose Award was an unbelievably fantastic bed of 'Rock 'N' Roll' bred by Sam McGredy. However, 'Wann Wishes' bred by Gareth Fryer of England, won the prize. This rose is known as 'Sunset Celebration' in the U.S. and has already won the All-American award for 1998. I learned later that 'Rock 'n' Roll' had already won the award and thus was ineligible to win - so I felt vindicated in my choice. It was a wonderful feeling to be at the awards dinner in the presence of so many who loved the rose. I can liken the cheering and applause, as the various awards were presented, to something like being at the Academy Awards or at the Superbowl. The next evening, at the farewell dinner, the rose garden of Hex Castle near Brussels was given the award as the world's finest rose garden (Note: six rose gardens were nominated including the Portland, Oregon Rose Garden).The next award was for the world's most popular rose. The winner was 'New Dawn'. A beautiful watercolor painting of this rose was presented to Dr. James Hering, President of the American Rose Society, and his gracious wife who were among the 25 people on our shared bus tour.

From the Hague we once again boarded our bus. Destination: Paris. After a day of travel, the Eiffel tower came into view and we had arrived. We visited, and thoroughly enjoyed, the world famous gardens of Bagatelle and Roseraie de l'Hay. I spent the following morning photographing Monet's famous flower garden at Giverny about 60 miles.

The next stop was the city of Lyon, France, 200 miles to the south. Lyon has been the center of French rose production for over 150 years. Known today for its fine restaurants, it has one of the loveliest gardens in France in Tete d'Or. South of Lyon a short distance are Meilland's growing fields. Here we saw some beautiful new varieties especially the Romantica roses, some of which are introduced in this catalog. The rose nursery owned by the Laperriere family was our next stop. We toured the rose field and saw the new rose 'Hillary' that Hillary Clinton had chosen to be named for her when she visited Lyon. Monsieur and Mine Laperriere hosted our group with a champagne lunch in the gardens at their home.

The leader of The American Rose Society tour was Dwight Newton of Washington D.C. He did an outstanding job of planning the gardens and hotels we were to visit and in taking care of the twenty five member tour group.

After flying back to London, I spent the next eight days driving around England visiting rose nurseries and rose gardens. (It took about two days to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road again. I had lived in England for four years so it was not as difficult as it might have been.) At David Austin's I spent two days meeting with the Austins, John Elsley, Vice President of Wayside Nursery (whom I have known for years and by coincidence was also there). John and I accompanied Tony Slack, Austin's Director of Production and Licensing,, to look over the rose growing fields. I was particularly interested in a block of Austin's new test varieties that he does not plan to introduce in England since they are not his usual English-type roses. There were many varied, and beautiful roses in that group: climbers, shrubs and some exquisitely beautiful single roses. I made a list of seven varieties that I was most impressed by and asked to obtain plants of them for testing. Part of my second day was spent observing David Austin's very extensive breeding program and tens of thousands of new seedling roses in bloom. It was a very enjoyable and enlightening visit.

The following day I visited Chris Warner, a great rose breeder whose roses have won many awards (many are rated highly in the Royal National Rose Society's publications). Chris is an innovative and exacting breeder and a hard taskmaster in judging his own varieties. When he introduces a rose, you know it will be a good healthy one. We spent the day evaluating his seedlings. I was very fortunate to meet Mr. Scrivens, breeder of 'Baby Love'. He brought some seedlings for evaluation. We are testing a number of Warner introductions.

At Fryer's rose nursery in Knutsford, Cheshire, I was greeted by the owner, Gareth, who is the breeder of 'Sweet Dream' and 'Sunset Celebration', the new All-American winner. This enormous nursery includes a restaurant. A striking display of hundreds of potted plants of 'Sweet Dream' in full bloom caught my eye. We spent the morning discussing roses and strolling the rose growing and test fields. I saw several seedlings that interested me and hope to be testing them here at Heirloom.

Turning south, I headed for St. Albans and The Royal National Rose Society's rose gardens where I was scheduled to meet with Robert Harkness of Harkness Roses. Upon arriving at the RNRS gardens, camera in hand, I was eager to see everything. I spent a couple of hours looking through the gardens taking notes and photographs until the time I was to meet Robert Harkness. With him was Mr. Timmerman, owner of a large wholesale rose company in England with whom I had dinner in the Hague. It was a delightful and enlightening time as the three of us toured the very large rose trial gardens. I noticed 'Jude the Obscure' performing excellently in the trial grounds. I was both pleased and surprised when I was approached by Gerta Gray, the show secretary of the RNRS, and asked to help judge their National Miniature Rose show that was being held that weekend. This nice honor brought to a close a wonderful trip where I learned a great deal and arranged to import many roses for us to evaluate.

I left London on August first and a week later was enjoying the second Rosefest sponsored by our nursery back in St. Paul, Oregon.