05. 31. 2008
Green tech: Roses old and new at the New York Botanical Garden
On my recent jaunt to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx to see the Darwin garden, I was too early for more than a few of the blooms in the Botanical Garden's huge formal rose garden. It's named for Peggy Rockefeller, source of the river of gold required to keep it going, but the rose garden's true designer is landscape architect Beatrix Ferrand.
Ferrand worked her garden magic early in the 20th century. A woman in what was at the time a man's profession, Ferrand is not as well known as she should be. No Wikipedia entry! A perfect project for some feminist green soul out there. Ferrand is not mentioned on the Botanical Garden website either -- I learned that she designed the rose garden from a recorded tour guide.
A formal rose garden may not be your style. Not mine either; I like my roses rambling rather than clipped and managed to a fare-thee-well. But June in this enormous rose acreage is the best possible time and place to plan your own rose growing.
Go there to check out what the garden catalogs can't tell you about bloom color and shape and fragrance. But prepare to be swamped by inspiration. It's not possible that every one of the many thousands of roses in the world is on display here in the bountiful Bronx. But the Botanical Garden claims there are at least 3,000, and I wouldn't argue. You'll see roses commonly seen in our own gardens, along with their wild rose ancestors. But you'll also see their recent descendants, created by cloning and other human plant-breeding technology.
For example, there are dozens of the David Austin roses that do such a good job of bringing 19th century bloom shape and divine fragrance to glossy green-leaved multi-petaled marvels that are completely free of 21st century black spot and mildew. The photo pictures my favorite, the Austin rose named Abraham Darby. It's not a bad likeness. But the real thing, sitting on the desk next to my computer, is . . . different. Creamy peach. Pink with the slightest touch of blue. Pale, pale yellow. And scented.