San Diego Floral Association
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January/February 2012 Volume 103 No. 1
Thanks to Early Pioneers, Julian is Home to Heritage Roses
By John Blocker
Thomas Christopher’s book, In Search of Lost Roses, written in 1994, made celebrities of the Texas Rose Rustlers. The rustlers scoured the Lone Star State for roses planted by early settlers, roses that had been long lost from the nursery trade.
San Diego has its own rose rustlers, Jack and Mary Ann Olson. They have been mapping and identifying old roses in Julian since 1996. Many of these roses were bred more than a century ago and, as in Texas, were planted by early pioneers.
In 1983, the Olsons contacted Miriam Wilkins, founder of the Heritage Rose Society, seeking assistance in identifying a couple of roses they brought to California when they moved from Minnesota. Wilkins was never able to identify the roses, but she kept in contact with the couple and finally convinced them to establish a Heritage Rose Society chapter in San Diego. In 1989, the Olsons called a small group of rose lovers together at their house in La Jolla. They have been the leaders of the Heritage Rose Society of San Diego ever since, arranging garden tours and lectures for members.
At a Heritage Rose Conference at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in 1996, Fred Boutin, former botanist for the institution, drew a map for the Olsons showing locations of old roses in Julian. He spent weekends in the old mining town during the late 1960s and early ’70s while employed at the Huntington. Since then, the Olsons have arranged several “rose rustles” in Julian to view and photograph the roses Boutin mapped, to see which roses were still there, to locate others, and perhaps to take a few cuttings home for rooting.
Heritage rose expert Fred Boutin points out some hybrid perpetual roses at Vanona Jones' antiques shop in Julian.
'General Allard' rose, bred around
1835, is still growing in Julian.
Photos: John Blocker
This 'Louie Juch's Rose' was named after the owner of the Julian house where it was found.
The Olsons arranged to have Fred Boutin lead a special tour of Julian’s old roses last July. Boutin had not been there since the 1970s when he left the Huntington to move to his present home in Tuolumne. I met up with the group on a drizzly Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. on Julian’s Main Street in front of the historic Bailey Bakery. In front of the building was a large spiny rose bush with fire yellow flowers. Boutin identified the rose as ‘Persian Yellow’. He believed the rose was planted by Mrs. Bailey sometime between 1900 and 1920. The Bailey family had helped found the town during the 1870s.
Across the street at Vanona Jones’ antique shop, Boutin pointed to a sprawling red rose bush. He could not determine its name, but he knew it was a hybrid perpetual. Hybrid perpetuals were a class of roses prized by Victorians for their use as cut flowers. This red rose could easily be another remnant of Julian’s early history.
Boutin looked for an old purple Boursault rose along the side path at the Julian Pie Shop. No one saw this rose during this visit, although the Olsons reported seeing the flower growing into the shaded foliage of nearby trees on previous excursions. Boutin told us, “This rose is also known as ‘Old Mining Town Boursault’ and has been found in mining towns from New Mexico to California.”
In front of the Western Art Gallery on Main Street, Fred looked for two roses ‘La Sylphid’ and ‘General Allard’ that he remembered from his weekends in residence. Both roses now are gone. ‘La Sylphid’, an early tea rose with light pink to salmon pink flowers, was bred in France in 1838. It is still available from specialty growers. “All ‘General Allard’ roses for sale today,” Boutin told us, “came from a cutting I took from the rose planted here.” Earlier, beside the Drury House, he had shown us a plant grown from a cutting of this rose that survives today. ‘General Allard’ has carmine-pink globular flowers. It was bred around 1835.
Behind the Julian Hotel, Boutin looked for another rose he remembered, but it also was gone. Jack and Mary Ann Olson said this rose had been a favorite of their members on the previous rose rustles. In 1996 Fred had identified it on the map as a hybrid china with a green center. Today it is known by its study name, “Ruth’s Steeple Rose.” Other examples of this rose were found on the East Coast by Ruth Knopf of Charleston, South Carolina, and named to honor her. Knopf is a “Great Rosarian of the World” winner, an award sponsored by the Huntington Gardens. The rose had a tight, double magenta flower with a gnarly green eye in its middle. No one knows the origin or original name of the rose. It is categorized by rose lovers as a “mystery rose.”
Jack Olson has rooted cuttings of the “Steeple” rose at his home in La Jolla. He hopes to make more cuttings to return the rose to Julian, possibly working with the Julian Garden Society to find an appropriate planting site. He also hopes to give one of the cuttings to a collection of “found roses” from around California at the Sacramento Cemetery Historic Rose Garden, so Julian will have a rose represented there. The Sacramento garden currently has no “found” Southern California roses.
Up the street from the Julian Hotel in the front yard of an old wood house is another of Julian’s pioneer roses. Boutin took a cutting of this rose to the Huntington Gardens while employed there. It can still be seen in their heritage rose planting next to the Tea Room. They called it “Louie Juch’s Rose,” after the owner of the Julian house where it was found. Louie Juch’s father, Arthur, was Julian’s Apple King. The pale yellow blousy flower hangs on a nodding stem.
Boutin eventually determined that this rose is ‘Souvenir de Pierre Notting’. It was bred by Soupert and Notting in Luxembourg in 1895 and not released for sale until 1902 after Notting’s death. Boutin said, “Roses like this one were most likely purchased in San Diego and brought to the mountains.” Around the turn of the twentieth century, Ernest Benard Jr., a French immigrant, owned a nursery in San Diego’s Mission Valley. He imported roses from his family’s nursery in Orleans, France, as well as from nurseries in California and Chicago. Records maintained at the San Diego History Center confirm Benard sold ‘Souvenir de Pierre Notting’ at his nursery.
If you want to take cuttings of these or other old roses, the Texas Rose Rustlers have established a strict code of conduct: (1) always ask permission before taking a cutting; (2) never damage the rose; and (3) always leave the plant healthy and viable.
– John Blocker worked with the agricultural industry in San Diego and has attended garden conferences and viewed gardens around the world during the past 20 years. From 1998 to 2008, he was on the board of the California Garden and Landscape History Society.
Meet Two 'Rose Rustlers'
Miriam Wilkins founded the Heritage Rose Society in 1975 at the age of 55. Through Miriam’s efforts, rose lovers created heritage rose societies all over the country. She is also credited with inspiring the formation of rose societies in Australia, New Zealand, England and France. Miriam began “The Celebration of Old Roses” in her home town of El Cerrito, a popular event held every year since 1980 the weekend after Mother’s Day. In 2008 through the Huntington Gardens, Miriam Wilkins was presented the "Great Rosarian of the World" award. She died November 6, 2009, at 91. Her annual “Celebration of Old Roses” continues.
Fred Boutin is a well-known collector of “found” roses in California, many of which are no longer propagated or sold by the nursery industry. He donated roses to the Huntington Gardens Heritage Rose Collection to help establish their old rose collection. In 1992, Boutin donated more roses from his collection to establish the Sacramento Cemetery Historic Rose Garden. Volunteers now maintain the roses and have enhanced the collection. In 2009 the Sacramento garden was distinguished as one of the Great Rose Gardens of the World by the Great Rosarians of the World.
Mission: To promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and floriculture in the San Diego region.