Growing Roses and Rosarians

by Jerry Cinnamon

All photographs by Sari Hou, unless otherwise noted

John Cabot’s Spring Flush in the Secret Garden

My Father’s Rose Garden

My father grew roses in neat rows next to the limestone slab wall behind our house. He grew almost everything else too. Starting in the 1940’s and continuing for almost 20 years he tended a Victory Garden – Victory Gardens flourished during the years of World War Two into the late 1950’s. The garden was atop a hillside reached by a dirt path a long way up. Of course, this is from the viewpoint of a boy trudging up the path to tend the crops on weekends. Dad had a board shanty up there where he kept all his tools so we just had to carry ourselves up the hill, getting water from a spring on the hillside. On Saturdays we would break the soil, hoe rows by hand, and weed, with only a little time out for talking or the rare visitor. In my thirteenth year my participation in the Victory Garden reached a high point, although I did not know it at the time. I turned over a quarter acre of soil and planted it all in corn as part of an effort to obtain a Boy Scout Merit Badge in gardening. The corn grew tall and ripened, and we carried bushels down the hill to share with family and friends at the end of summer. While in College, I remember asking my father about his roses out of curiosity. They were mostly hybrid teas and one of them was the Burbank Rose. The pioneering plant inventor hybridized this rose in 1900 and is still remembered each spring in Santa Rosa, California in the Rose Festival named for him. The Burbank Rose has a giant very double pink bloom and a strong fragrance that makes an impression, and my father was especially proud of this plant, its history, and its flowers.

A Woodland Rose Garden

Sari Creating a Rose Garden – photo by Jerry Cinnamon

After completing my education, I moved to Maine and Sari came to the forest around my home. By this time my only plant was the tall Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobes, soaring to heights of 130 feet above my home. These beautiful trees made for a spectacular landscape around my converted summer cottage, but provided far too much shade to make a garden. First we built a raised bed on our sunny lake shore and grew Cherry Tomatoes that reached six feet in height, along with one small rose – a Queen Elizabeth that has long since been transplanted and is still thriving. The following year we cut a few of the older pines to make the Central Garden and the Courtyard Garden. The next year, we created the Secret Garden from a hole in the woods hidden behind the fence that marked the yard boundary, and in the next year extended it. Then came the Hill Side Garden, the Nursery since converted to the Hill Side Old Rose Garden, followed by the Lower, Middle, and Upper Terrace Gardens – each named after Mom, Dad, Sari, Jerry, and others for whom we hold fond memories. The pines still stand as sentinels over the gardens, sometimes visited by eagles, osprey, and many squirrels, but now sunlight streams into the garden and lights up our newly built greenhouse from early morning to sunset. We celebrate each season with an almanac of events in the garden.

Inspiration in the Woodland Garden – photo Jerry Cinnamon

Rose Queen Elizabeth thrived in the Courtyard Garden, but most of the remaining roses purchased at Wal-Mart or Home Depot died each year. Remembering the healthy bushes of my father’s garden this did not seem right. Sari’s father was a wonderful gardener growing grapes, orchids, and Elephant Ears in his tropical garden in Taiwan, but he never succeed in growing roses in the heavy clay and humidity of the island. Now began the journey of reading about roses to understand those things my father knew, but I was too busy and not oriented to learning about from him. We learned about the bud union, digging holes and providing the roots with triple phosphate, about fertilizing, about insects and diseases, and about spraying, about fertilizing, about exhibiting, and most of all about making friends who loved roses as much as we did. I learned to move railroad ties by myself inventing ingenious ways to drag and roll the heavy beams probably in the manner that the early Egyptians built pyramids. I made friends with Clair, our soil and compost man, who supplies us each spring with ingredients to maintain and expand the garden. We learned about zones and how to survive on the boarder of zone 4 and 5. This last winter, we seemed to migrate into zone 4 along with the rest of New England judging by the winter dieback that we experienced.


Rose Queen Elizabeth

Roses first became a passion, planting groundcover roses like Sea-Foam and pink and red Fairy in the Hillside garden. Climbing walls added vertical accents covered with the raspberry colored and scented Zephirine Douhin. William Baffin and John Cabot laughed at the harsh Maine winter, Heritage and Mary Rose pruned by winter winds and cold came back each year to give delightful blooms, Scarlet Glow brightened spring with large single petal blooms, and so it went until we now have 440 plants and 286 cultivars.

Rose Heritage

Our Local Society – the Maine Rose Society

A new chapter opened in our gardening life when Sari saw the need for us to join the Maine Rose Society, and for the Society to have a web page, now at http://www.mainerosesociety.com. Along the way we joined the American Rose Society. We met Steve, Clair, Joan and Roger, Frank, Margaret, Rita, Carol Ann and Steve, Art, and numerous others smitten by this passion of growing and enjoying roses. Shopping for plants at local nurseries became our past time until we learned about ordering bare root roses and shopping through catalogs. In our second year as Maine Rose Society members, we became exhibitors for the first time at a local rose show and with the sage mentoring of Clarence Rhodes who showed us how to prepare the rose Moonstone, won Queen of Show in a brilliant display of Clarence’s knowledge, beginners luck, and the innate qualities of the rose. We had taken one more step toward total commitment to a lifetime passion of loving roses.

Moonstone Queen of Show

Becoming an ARS Consulting Rosarian

The ARS Yankee District was sponsoring an upcoming CR seminar in Elizabeth Park in Hartford CT. Sari and I had visited this beautiful park, containing the nations oldest municipal rose garden, a year earlier at the height of bloom and were anxious to return. The ARS Yankee District website, http://www.arsyankee.org, contained the requirements to become a CR, but most importantly it put me in contact with District Chair of Consulting Rosarians Carol Ann Rogers and her husband Steve Rogers, who were friendly and inviting and eventually became two of my three sponsors. Specific requirements for becoming a consulting rosarian include 1) being a Member of the ARS for 3 years, 2) growing roses for 5 years, being an active member of a local society, 3) living up to the Consulting Rosarian guidelines, 4) exhibiting a willingness to share knowledge of roses, 5) having recommendations from 3 active Consulting Rosarians, and 6) attending a Consulting Rosarian Seminar and passing an open book test. This all seemed pretty simple, except for the recommendations of 3 Consulting Rosarians, since Maine is so sparsely population, with few active CR’s. In the end, Maine Rose Society’s Clarence Rhodes wrote a recommendation and Carol Ann and Steve Rogers each wrote a recommendation based on emails, meeting them at the Yankee District Annual Meeting held in Nashua, NH in March, and the Maine Rose Society Web site where they could see my work on meeting reports and the discussion forum.

Participants at the CR Seminar in Elizabeth Park

Sari and I attended the daylong seminar and had fun. The seminar was free to participants, with a small fee to cover the ARS test. Lunch could be purchased as a boxed lunch or participants could eat at the adjacent restaurant. The ARS Yankee District paid for use of the Pond House as a service to members. Workshop Sessions covered the Consulting Rosarian Manual, available from the American Rose Society, and dealt with the CR code, Soils, Fertilizers, Diseases and Pests, and Pesticides, all presented in an interesting manner, often with humor, by friendly rose lovers from around New England. ARS Yankee District Director Art Emmons added to the humor! He made sure that we all paid attention to important information that we might need to know during the test at the end of the day, engaging in arm waving motions much like ground control gives to a parking aircraft whenever an important subject came up! This helped, but attending the workshop and reading the manual was the key. The Consulting Rosarians Manual reads well and is available from the ARS home office for $15 with a binder and $10 without.

I think the part of the seminar that impressed me most was the presentation by David Berg of the Connecticut Rose Society on insects and diseases. Instead of lecturing, David moved systematically from disease to disease and table to table to call on members of the audience. Members of the audience, most often more established Rosarians, clearly and accurately described each disease and corrective measures. This was an impressive demonstration of the audience’s knowledge compared to my partial knowledge of each subject, and helped inform me in this my weakest area of CR knowledge.

Twenty-two people took the CR test and all became CRs. The youngest member of the group appeared to still be in high school, with older attendees displaying graying hair. At the end of the test, our District Chair of CR’s went over the questions to review our successes and mistakes. As usual, I overlooked my successes and concentrated on my mistakes that were mostly dumb ones. District CR chair Carol Ann was especially oriented to correcting the pesticide questions, since she spends so much time and effort in education on this subject. In addition to the 22 people taking the test, 18 established Consulting Rosarians sat through the day-long workshop and re-certified based on accumulated credits. Re-certification by credit is a new ARS program that holds promise.

Five individuals audited the class, including Sari, and enjoyed the day too. Sari hopes to become a CR and will need to wait for three or four years to take the test in the Yankee District, or attend a workshop in neighboring Districts. Consulting Rosarian seminars are posted on the ARS website. Currently the closest seminar to New England posted there will be held in Niagara Falls New York in September. Not only was the workshop informational, but we also got to walk around Elizabeth Park and were able to verify that roses all over New England suffered serious dieback in this cold winter. The horticulture specialists wrapped the magnificent climbing roses with burlap to protect them during the harsh weather, so they stood tall, without dieback, and were beginning to leaf out.

Now that I am a CR what has changed for me? In a way, not much, but in a way, very much indeed! I answered questions about roses before on the Maine Rose Society web site and with local rose lovers, and will continue to do so. I did learn additional and useful information about roses, enjoyed being part of the educational process and making a commitment to helping others enjoy our hobby. Sari and I enjoy being part of the community of Rosarians from New England, making new friends including Greg from down on Cape Cod, seeing pictures of his new greenhouse and learning of its story, meeting Carol Ann and Steve, hearing Art’s stories, sitting with Clarence and hearing him describe rose diseases with his outgoing manner, and meeting all the other enthusiast. I will need to remain active continue as a CR. I need to attend a Consulting Rosarian Seminar every 4 years, submit an annual report by Feb. 1 of each year, and be available to have my name or method of contact listed in references. Sari and I are looking forward to continuing the process, learning new information about roses, and meeting new people.

Established in 1904, Elizabeth Park is the Oldest Municipal Rose Garden in the US.


Formal Rose Beds and Arches at Elizabeth Park – June 2002.

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