The “Home & Garden” section of today’s New York Times features a story on a group of horticulturalists who have dedicated themselves to a unique gardening project that combines antiquarianism, botany, and a bit of banditry to preserve the heirloom roses of New York City.
According to the article, roses “captured the hearts of early New Yorkers” prompting many amateur rosarians in the city to breed and cultivate their own varieties, many of which gained world wide popularity during the late nineteenth century. But while horticulturalists one hundred years ago took the availability of a wide variety of cultivars for granted, more recently the mass production of the more profitable “hybrid tea roses,” to the exclusion of everything else, has drastically decreased the available selection. Now, rose enthusiasts like Douglas Brenner, Stephen Scanniello, and Betty Vickers—the so called “rose rustlers” featured in the NYT article—have made it their task to seek out and re-propagate the antique species, often by raiding old estates and cemeteries and to take cuttings of feral plants.
Back in 2002 we reprinted the classic story of antique rose collectors and their crusade in Thomas Christopher’s In Search of Lost Roses. Detailing the heritage of 2,500 years of breeding and gardening, and the eccentric personalities determined to preserve and protect it, In Search of Lost Roses offers a fun and edifying tale perfect for spring reading.
To find out more about the book read this excerpt and an interview with the author.
Read the rest of the article about the resurgence of New York’s heirloom roses on the NYT website.